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

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


30 June, 2011

Government regulation puts childcare centres out of business

CHILDCARE operators have begun to sell off their businesses to avoid a barrage of new fines and regulations that are expected to force fees up by an average $13 per child per day, more than 20 times what the government had predicted.

Kerry Lada, who ran the Hardy's Road Early Childhood Centre at Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast for 12 years, sold up two weeks ago. "It was too hard, I was going to have to increase fees by at least $13 a day," she said.

Under national reforms to start on January 1 childcare centres will have to decrease the ratio of babies to carers from various state-mandated levels to four to one.

The full cost will not be felt until 2016, when centres will have to be hiring one staff member for every five children aged 25 to 35 months, and one carer for every 11 children aged three to school age.

Ms Lada said her 55-place centre would have had to drop eight childcare places or hire two extra staff next year as a result of the new regulations.

Nerida Campbell, who trained as a teacher and has two young children, runs a centre in Katanning, Western Australia. She said she could not find the extra qualified staff she needed to meet the regulations in a rural area and her fees would have to rise by $10 a day next year. "In the next six months we'll be thinking about selling," Ms Campbell said.

Staff who had worked in childcare for years were also considering resigning ahead of new regulations that will make staff and centres subject to fines if they did not meet new standards, Ms Lada said.

Childcare Minister Kate Ellis insists independent modelling from Access Economics shows the reforms will have a minimal cost impact of just 57c per child a day in 2012 and $8.67 in 2014-15. But a new survey of 414 private and community-based childcare centres shows operators will raise their fees by an average of $13 a day after the new regulations are introduced.

One in five of those surveyed was contemplating rises of $25 a day.

The survey found 70 per cent of proprietors were not fully aware of their responsibilities under the new laws and 64 per cent said they would have to cut the number of places they offered.


The pay debacle at Qld. Health continues

A star example of bungling bureaucracy

QUEENSLAND Health is under fire for botching calculations of wage overpayments amid claims at least one bill was sent to a deceased employee. Health workers caught in the long-running payroll debacle yesterday detailed a litany of problems with the troubled department's attempts to recover overpaid wages.

One retired nurse, who did not wish to be named, was issued with a bill for 1c - well below the supposed $200 waiver and dwarfed by the $66,000 Queensland Health spent posting glossy repayment brochures to staff.

Some said they did not even work on dates the alleged overpayments occurred. Others believed they were slugged for debts they had already fully or partly repaid.

For Gold Coast Hospital nurse Susan Dale, a letter claiming she owed almost $7000 in overpayments has added "insult to injury". The 50-year-old was last year awarded compensation for psychological injury after being bullied by management but is still waiting for about $1600 of her subsequent payout.

In a further blow, each of the alleged overpayments occurred weeks after she stopped working for QH last April. "All that stuff that I've already gone through with them, it's just like it's never going to go away," she said. "I shouldn't be owing them anything, they should be paying me."

Ms Dale is on stress leave but said she "won't go back" to Queensland Health. "Why would you go back to a company that treats you so bad and then does something like this on top of it all," she said.

Mudgeeraba MP Ros Bates said the latest bungle was "just another assault on nurses". "There seems to be no end in sight; the Government seems to have no idea," Ms Bates said.

Health workers were incensed by QH human resources deputy director-general John Cairns's assertions on Tuesday that the overpayments were accurate as the payroll system had now "stabilised".

A Brisbane payroll worker yesterday told The Courier-Mail that was "totally incorrect". She said she knew at least one letter was sent to an employee who had passed away, while another staffer had paid all but $2 on an $800 debt but received a letter asking her to repay the full amount. "It's horrible for us . . . we've seen what people have gone through, we're just starting to get the trust back and then they go and do this," she said.

Mr Cairns yesterday defended the process, saying figures quoted in letters included only repayments made before May 15 and staff could tick a box to show more had subsequently been repaid.

He said test runs were done to check accuracy and 10 per cent of the 38,000 letters were also manually checked before being sent to staff, with no errors detected. He said an overpayment reconciliation process was done fortnightly during the year and overpayments were "explicitly stated" on all payslips.



Four current articles below

Attempts to silence Monckton

A CONTROVERSIAL climate change sceptic who likened chief climate adviser Ross Garnaut to a Nazi will deliver his Perth lecture tonight despite fierce opposition by academics.

Lord Christopher Monckton is in Perth to deliver the Lang Hancock Lecture at Fremantle’s Notre Dame University with a speech titled The Climate of Freedom. The lecture is sponsored by Australia’s richest woman and Mr Hancock’s daughter, Gina Rinehart.

Lord Monckton is also addressing the Association of Mining and Exploration annual conference at Burswood this morning.

He is also booked to deliver a lecture at the University of WA on Monday at the Wilsmore Lecture Theatre.

The British aristocrat’s views have divided the science community and more than 50 Australian academics have signed a letter calling on Notre Dame to cancel the lecture. The letter was organised by University of Western Australia political science postgraduate student Natalie Latter, who is studying climate ethics.

Ms Latter said the letter started as a “modest gesture” but she now had 56 signatures. “I just wanted to express my disappointment with the university and I sent it around to some colleagues and realized there was a lot of anger out there,” she said.

“Monckton has consistently undermined the work of lots of scientists. He’s misrepresented their work, misquoted their work, basically has no respect for the scientific or academic process, and so for a university to then be endorsing him is quite a betrayal of the academic community. “He undermines and abuses the values of academic integrity and I think it's important for us to defend that.”

Curtin University sustainability professor Peter Newman labelled the upcoming lecture “disgraceful” and said Lord Monckton had no credibility. “It’s not offensive to have differing points of view, its offensive for a university to put him on as though he were a scientist, as though he’s representing the kind of thing that universities stand for which is that you do try to find the truth in things rather than just opinion,” he told 6PR.

“He’s never published anything in a refereed journal. “To have a university say this is a distinguished person who is representing a point of view that needs to be heard, this is not right. “It gives credibility to a point of view that is purely representing a reaction to change, it’s not actually looking at evidence.”

Notre Dame defend Monckton booking

Notre Dame business school dean Chris Doepel said the university was happy to host Lord Monckton because it wished to provide a forum where "rigorous discussion of contentious public issues can take place".

He told ABC Radio that the university acknowledged that Lord Monckton's views on climate change were widely contested and he expected a vigorous question time at the end of his speech. "The university does not take a view one way or the other on the positions advocated by Christopher Monckton," Professor Doepel said.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said he would be attending the lecture. “This will be a controversial lecture and I will be there to challenge him on the facts,” Mr Pettitt wrote on his blog. “While Lord Monckton has the right to his own opinion, he does not have the right to his own facts.”

'We did not invite Monckton' - UWA vice chancellor

The University of WA has also distanced itself from the controversial speaker, and vice-chancellor Professor Alan Robson has said an event booked for Monday at the campus with Lord Monckton in no way reflected the views or values of the University.

Prof Robson said UWA had not invited Lord Monckton to speak at the University, he had simply booked the venue for a lecture. “I reject the position put by Lord Monckton and find his anti-science stance and related comments offensive,” Prof Robson said. “His views denigrate the values of universities, such as ours, where the quality of evidence-based and peer-reviewed science is paramount.

“However, in any one year, hundreds of non-university activities are booked by groups or individuals who are looking to hire a venue for their events. “This is a service the University provides to the community and in no way does it mean that any of these events are endorsed by the University.”


Academic study demolishes the coral reef scare stories

The reefs have been going to hell in a handbasket for years -- according to the Greenies
Disturbance and the Dynamics of Coral Cover on the Great Barrier Reef (1995–2009)

By Kate Osborne et al.


Coral reef ecosystems worldwide are under pressure from chronic and acute stressors that threaten their continued existence. Most obvious among changes to reefs is loss of hard coral cover, but a precise multi-scale estimate of coral cover dynamics for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is currently lacking.

Monitoring data collected annually from fixed sites at 47 reefs across 1300 km of the GBR indicate that overall regional coral cover was stable (averaging 29% and ranging from 23% to 33% cover across years) with no net decline between 1995 and 2009.

Subregional trends (10–100 km) in hard coral were diverse with some being very dynamic and others changing little. Coral cover increased in six subregions and decreased in seven subregions. Persistent decline of corals occurred in one subregion for hard coral and Acroporidae and in four subregions in non-Acroporidae families. Change in Acroporidae accounted for 68% of change in hard coral.

Crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) outbreaks and storm damage were responsible for more coral loss during this period than either bleaching or disease despite two mass bleaching events and an increase in the incidence of coral disease. While the limited data for the GBR prior to the 1980's suggests that coral cover was higher than in our survey, we found no evidence of consistent, system-wide decline in coral cover since 1995. Instead, fluctuations in coral cover at subregional scales (10–100 km), driven mostly by changes in fast-growing Acroporidae, occurred as a result of localized disturbance events and subsequent recovery.

PLoS One. 2011; 6(3): e17516.

Greenie leader's economic xenophobia will cost us dearly

FOR a man who so warmly embraces every foreigner seeking asylum in Australia, Bob Brown is strangely xenophobic when it comes to foreigners who want to lend us money or invest here.

Yesterday, at the National Press Club, Brown did his best to stoke up anger against investors from "Switzerland, London, Calcutta, Beijing" and foreigners who, according to a study commissioned by the Greens and released yesterday, own 83 per cent of Australian mining companies. It was not a pretty sight.

Economic debate in Australia will take a turn for the worse once the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate. Brown may have good intentions but he is economically illiterate. That illiteracy is likely to cost ordinary Australians dearly; many will lose their jobs and their standard of living is likely to fall. It is surprising given their well-developed economic policies that the Greens have managed to avoid careful scrutiny of their party platform. Their industry policy should worry many Australians.

The Greens have long run a campaign against the mining industry and particularly the coal industry. In fact their stated party policy is no new coalmines and no expansion of existing mines. They fully intend to close down the Australian coal industry. Sooner rather than later.

Brown makes two arguments in defence of this policy. First, that renewables would replace coal. Second, that the Australian mining industry is largely foreign owned. Presumably that means the Australian government can destroy foreign investments with impunity.

Economic illiterates make several mistakes in their analysis. Because of his anti-foreign bias, Brown overlooks the benefits of interaction with foreigners. Unfortunately, he is not alone in exhibiting "capital xenophobia".

Australia has long had to borrow money from the rest of the world to finance our economic prosperity. The local economy has grown and foreign investors got their money back. This arrangement has benefited everybody; Australian savings are simply too small to finance our economic growth and standard of living. Foreigners invest in those economies with good prospects and low levels of sovereign risk.

Australia has a good reputation as an investment destination. But Brown is placing that hard-earned reputation at risk. Suggestions by a major political party, in a formal partnership with government and holding the balance of power in the Senate, that foreign investment can be taxed with impunity, or even shut down, raises perceptions of sovereign risk. What's worse, he is not alone. The ill-fated resource super-profits tax also raised serious concerns about sovereign risk.

Remarkably, Brown admits that Australia gets "jobs, export income, royalties and company tax" from mining. But that is not enough; he wants it all. He seems to object to foreigners, in return for their loans and investments, getting "profits, dividends, [and] capital appreciation". There is also a bit of double counting going on; dividends and capital appreciation amount to profits. Or perhaps Brown doesn't know that.

Brown is worried that foreign investors will earn $265 billion from their Australian investments over the next five years and, of that, $50bn will leave the country and $205bn will be reinvested.

Putting those figures into context, the Australian Taxation Office reports for the 2008-09 financial year that the mining industry paid $13.3bn in corporate tax. Of that amount coalmining paid nearly $3.6bn. So the industry paid more in tax in one year than the $10bn Brown suspects will leave the country in dividends each year.

What Brown imagines is that all that money going to foreigners could be diverted into a Norwegian-style sovereign wealth fund. It's not clear what he thinks will happen to the jobs and export income once foreign investment has been withdrawn because it no longer earns any profits, but Brown imagines that Australia could then be like Norway. However, unlike the Norwegian government, the Australian government does not hold large ownership stakes in the minerals industry. So the establishment of a minerals sovereign fund would not mean the diversion of existing government revenue into a fund but rather higher levels of taxation, discouraging work, saving and investment. After all, why do these things if the government is just going to tax away your money?

Economic illiterates believe that with some tweaking the world can be made a better place. In Brown's case the existence of a carbon tax and the demise of the coal industry would make the world a much better place. Yet he has given little thought to how that world would be powered. It's all very well talking about "renewables", but which renewables and how much would they cost?

As the Productivity Commission recently flagged, renewables are expensive; wind power costs $150-$214 a megawatt hour, solar costs $400-$473 a megawatt hour. By contrast, coal-fired electricity costs less than $100 a megawatt hour.

A coal-free Australia would be a lot more expensive, with lower standards of living.

Brown quoted the UN statistic that for every year of delay on climate change $1 trillion of costs will be incurred. What he hasn't explained is how undermining the Australian economy would reduce that cost and why Australians should bear that cost when the UN hasn't managed to convince its members to act in concert on climate change.

The biggest problem Brown faces is that you can't intervene in the economy on the scale he desires without a massive reduction in our economic wellbeing. The problem Australia faces is that Brown doesn't understand that point.


Sydney council's Greenie policies are sending businesses away from the CBD

CLOVER Moore's crazy council policies has big businesses fleeing the Sydney CBD. As they poach billions of investment dollars from the City of Sydney, western suburbs councils are urging business to forget the "weird leadership" and move on.

Parramatta won more than 21 business headquarters in the past five years and is now home to the Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte, Suncorp, Sydney Water, QBE, Westpac, St George Bank, NSW Police, the RTA and the Attorney-General's Department.

Further west, the Blacktown Council area drew Sony, Sharp, Aldi, Asics, LG Electronics, Coca-Cola, Arnotts, Myer and Fujitsu. And 800 national and global groups, including Woolworths, Price-WaterhouseCoopers and IBM, have fled for The Hills.

"Forget about the CBD and move to The Sydney Hills. Forget about the weird leadership. Forget about the extreme agendas. Come to where your council looks after your interests," Hills Mayor Mike Thomas said yesterday.

Owner of CBD lingerie store Arianne, Douglas Reedy, pays thousands of dollars in rent but cannot vote for the council as a business. He said Ms Moore's council was "killing" Sydney with controversial policies such as the bike lanes. "The little people are going broke everywhere over the (CBD). She's disrupting traffic and trying to get people out of the city," Mr Reedy said. He said this year was a "shocker" for revenue - the worst in 25 years: "She's just driving money out. All the developers have left."

Urban Taskforce CEO Aaron Gadiel blasted the council for driving business to despair with red tape, preventing development, and failing to represent all the community. "People want to invest in other places to save themselves the difficulty in dealing with the City of Sydney."

Parramatta Economic Development Forum CEO Christopher Brown said business realised the encumbrance of working in the CBD. "Parramatta is a willing player. It's not only laying out the welcome mat, it's knocking on people's doors," Mr Brown said. "Gone are the days if you didn't have your office in Martin Place it wasn't a real office."

Meriton managing director Harry Triguboff said Sydney's councils had a reputation for stalling projects. "Sydney is notorious for being hopeless, the planners do not want development, the aldermen do not want development, the politicians do not want development," he said.


29 June, 2011

How an Australian Leftist government looks after blacks

A Leftist State government is abandoning poor children who have vision and hearing problems

There has been only passing mention of this in the media so I thought I might flesh it out a little.

Ever since 1911 Queensland has had specially trained nurses going around all the schools testing children's vision and hearing and keeping an eye out for any other health problems that they might detect.

This has been especially important in lower socio-economic areas where parents are often not alert to such problems in their children or do not have the confidence to do anything about problems that they are aware of. In such communities the nurse can often galvanize action on a child's vision or hearing loss at an early age and thus remove very large roadblocks to the child's educational progress.

This has been particularly so where Aboriginals (native blacks) are concerned as hearing loss is something of an epidemic among Aboriginal children and the parents are usually far too timid to do anything about it.

So what is the latest from Queensland Health on the centenary of this invaluable service? They are cancelling it. As a substitute they have agreed to pay local GPs a small sum to carry out such testing on anyone who comes in for it

So for a start they have just lost the Aborigines. Many Aborigines won't be alert to the problems concerned and in any case will rarely have the confidence to approach local GPs about such problems. The people who need the assistance of school nurses the most are now having it taken away from them.

And few GPs have the experience and equipment to do a job as good as the job that the specialized nurses do.

And it will just lengthen the already long waits to see a doctor in lower socio-economic areas. In such areas it can take a couple of weeks to get an appointment with a GP. So Queensland Health is just putting a new burden onto already overstretched GPs and stretching out waiting times for appointments even further.

So why is Queensland Health doing this dastardly deed to the poor families of Queensland? Budget cuts. They have spent hundreds of millions on getting their botched payroll system working and the money has got to come from somewhere.

But why take it away from frontline services? 20 years ago the school nurses had only a couple of employees in addition to the nurses themselves. Now there is a great bureaucracy that is more numerous than the nurses. If there have to be cuts, why not cut back the bureaucracy to what it was 20 years ago? The sevice ran perfectly well for many decades without a huge bureaucracy on top of it and could easily do so again.

But Leftist goverments regard their bureaucracies as sacred for some inscrutable reason so that is the last thing they will consider. I guess it gives them a feeling of power to have so many people dependant on them. Pity about the poor, though.

The Minister for Health in the Queensland State government is Hon. Geoff Wilson MP

You can email him here

The unfixable bureaucracy again

Queensland Health in more payroll trauma

FURTHER angst over the Queensland Health payroll system has erupted after complaints over cases of inaccurate overpayment letters distributed to staff in the past weeks. The state government has spent $90 million fixing the system, which left thousands of workers overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all.

But the saga is not over yet. Affected nurses have been sent letters asking them to look at their pay records and determine if they owe Queensland Health any money.

Department Deputy Director General John Cairns defended Queensland Heath's payroll system, saying it had vastly improved since the trouble last year.

"You can appreciate there's been a lot of water under the bridge since what happened last March, our systems are vastly improved on where they are and we're confident about the data in our pay roll system - keep in mind the complexity of what we're talking about 80,000 staff," he said.

"For our staff who do have concerns and wish us to explain it in more detail, we will sit down and talk with them about what the issues are. "When we stopped recovering overpayments last year at the request of our staff and the Queensland Industry Relations Commission - we always said we would have to engage in this process so there should be no surprise with where we are."

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle says an already sensitive issue is now completely out of hand. "In the light of what happened in the last 15 months, now forwarding out these letters is traumatic for many people and their families," he told ABC Radio on Tuesday. Health Minister Geoff Wilson must clarify what documents should be used to establish a debt to Queensland Health, how debts would be negotiated, if mediation would be offered, and who would pay for it, Mr McArdle said. "The language in the letter is very poor," he said.

"Anybody claiming money is owed to them has a legal obligation to establish that claim. "It's not up to the person that money is being sought from."

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle said it was unfortunate workers needed to scour their records but there was no other way. "We are strongly urging our members to check what Queensland Health is claiming," she told AAP. "They're going to have to because I wouldn't trust them with the system the way that it is, given that it was so unstable." She said staff should be allowed to make those checks on work time.

Ms Mohle said union members had been urged to record their work hours since last year to match with what they'd been paid. "They could have been underpaid as well," she said. "And Queensland Health has given a commitment that they'll correct the underpayments before they recover overpayments."


Saving the planet will destroy the economy

MARGARET Thatcher's one time right-hand man Nigel Lawson is not so much a climate sceptic as sceptical of the necessity for action, let alone the ways we are tackling climate change.

Lawson will be in Sydney in six weeks to expound his views at a public debate on the proposition: "We need a carbon tax to help stop global warming."

The combatants themselves should raise temperatures. The former British chancellor of the exchequer and energy secretary will lead a negative team comprising former Keating government minister Gary Johns and University of Adelaide geologist and author of the sceptic's bible Heaven and Earth, Ian Plimer.

The affirmative will be put by two former opposition leaders, John Hewson and Mark Latham, backed by University of NSW climatologist Benjamin McNeil.

Lawson says it is scientifically established that increased carbon dioxide emissions will warm the planet, but adds, "it is uncertain how great any such warming would be and how much harm, if any, it would do". He urges governments "to consider the damaging economic impact of blindly following the climate change agenda".

He dismisses as "complete nonsense" the argument that Australia has a special responsibility as a carbon-intensive economy and big coal producer to show global policy leadership.

"If China wants to develop and wants to increase productivity through, among other things, increasing electricity output rapidly and has been building coal-fired power stations and wants to import the coal to fuel them from Australia, I think you would be mad if you didn't supply it," he tells The Weekend Australian.

Lawson sees continuing strong demand for Australian coal despite promises by China and India to reduce their energy intensity, calling the pledges "cover". "Economic development happens because of increased economic efficiency," he says. "That means increasing labour productivity and that also means increasing the productivity of the other factors of production of which energy is one of the most important."

Lawson adds the development of a less energy-intensive services sector is one of the characteristics of economic development. But he adds: "That doesn't mean energy consumption will decline. Energy consumption will rise. Carbon consumption will rise because economic growth will trump the lesser amount of energy used for each particular unit of output."

He calls energy intensity promises by China and India "convenient cover for their saying, quite rightly, 'no way are we going to impede or in any way slow down our economic development by having restrictions on the use of carbon energy'. They go for carbon intensity rather than carbon emissions, which they can be perfectly confident is bound to decline through a process of development as it has in every country in the world."

Lawson warns our politicians not to hold up his own party's policies as exemplars.

Julia Gillard regularly points to British Prime Minister David Cameron's environmental plans to embarrass the Coalition, but Lawson says Tory backbenchers "are increasingly uncomfortable and indeed hostile to policies [that] are being proposed on the climate change front, which mean higher energy costs, which are bad for consumers ... and bad for British industry".

He points out Cameron and his ministers have a plan B. "The government has said it will review the matter in January 2014 in the light of what other European countries are doing and this is clearly a get-out clause, this is clearly new, and it was clearly put in at the behest of the Treasury as both the Treasury and Treasury ministers are very concerned at the cost of going it alone."

Economics and energy security are at the core of Lawson's critique of the climate policy debate. "The world relies on carbon-based energy simply because it is by far the cheapest available source of energy and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future," he says. "The major developing countries, in particular, are understandably unwilling to hold back their development and condemn their people to avoidable poverty by moving from relatively cheap energy to relatively expensive energy."

Lawson heralds new developments that permit extraction of gas from shale in an economic way as "one of the most remarkable technological developments there has been", saying the shift from coal to gas that is set to follow will cut emissions.

"This is carbon energy but the amount of carbon dioxide produced per terawatt of energy generated from gas is half that from coal," he says. "You don't eliminate carbon emissions but you reduce them quite considerably by moving from coal to gas. Of course the environmentalists are appalled by this because they believe that carbon energy has to be eliminated altogether but that's not going to happen."

Lawson returns once again to the cost of renewable energy. "If renewable energy is cheaper than carbon energy, then that's fine," he says, "but for the present time and in the foreseeable future most forms of renewable energy are massively more expensive."

Lawson dismisses as economic illiteracy claims of a green jobs boom powered by renewables that will mop up unemployment from the structural adjustment to a low-carbon economy, recruiting one of the great classical liberals to back his case.

"The French 19th-century economist Frederic Bastiat said you might as well go round breaking windows saying you're creating jobs for glaziers. The fact is you can't look at just one sector. The government can create jobs by employing large numbers of people to build statues of prominent politicians. You can always create jobs in a particular area.

"What you've got to be concerned about are jobs in the economy as a whole and you don't create jobs in the economy as a whole by promoting something [that] is wholly uneconomic and has to be subsidised."

Lawson has strong views about what decarbonisation means. "The plain fact is the total economy will be harmed. A lot of these green jobs will be in China. The Chinese can see there is a market in the West for solar panels and other things so they are producing them very much more cheaply. In so far as there are jobs they will be there, not in the consuming countries."


Fibre network to bring higher costs and new monopoly, Victoria warns

THE $36 billion National Broadband Network could saddle consumers with unnecessarily high internet costs and hold back competition, the Victorian government warns in a scathing assessment of federal Labor's broadband plans.

As pressure on the Gillard government grows from conservative states over the NBN, Victoria's Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips has warned that taxpayers could "pay multiple times" if the NBN duplicates existing fibre connections to schools, hospitals and businesses.

In a submission to the House of Representatives inquiry into the NBN, Victoria has warned Canberra that it appears to have given "excessive" protections to the NBN Co against competition and cautions about the risks of setting up the network as a large public monopoly.

"After over two decades of national economic and financial reform, the NBN proposal in its present form represents a very serious threat to the long-term competition in the telecommunications sector," the submission warns.

"The increasingly apparent risk is that the commonwealth could, over time, fully replicate a dysfunctional telecommunications market structure that has hindered investments in the current broadband market. This would be the result if it simply replaces Telstra's market power with an NBN Co infrastructure monopoly with all the attendant inefficiencies and constraints on investment, innovation and future policymaking."

Victoria describes information about the NBN rollout as "ad hoc" and says there was "minimal effective engagement" with the states in developing the National Digital Economy Strategy, even though they deliver key services such as health and education.

The comments are the strongest challenge yet by a state government to Labor's NBN plans, which represent a key plank of Julia Gillard's reform agenda.

They come as the conservative governments of Victoria, NSW and Western Australia challenge the Prime Minister on other reforms such as the carbon tax, the mining tax and health.

Late yesterday, Paul Broad, incoming chief executive of the new independent body Infrastructure NSW, pledged to do what he could to avoid a costly broadband rollout. "We understand that NSW has an enormous amount of fibre already," Mr Broad told The Australian. "We understand that NSW businesses, hospitals, schools are connected to fibre today. NSW will use that to the benefits of the NSW economy and access the NBN only to those parts where they are not covered today."

The office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last night insisted the government did not expect NBN Co to inefficiently duplicate existing infrastructure that could support high-speed broadband.

"It should also be noted that the definitive agreements between Telstra and NBN Co allow for re-use of existing infrastructure, which will avoid infrastructure duplication," Senator Conroy's spokesman said.

In its submission, the Victorian government stresses that ubiquitous high-speed broadband could deliver substantial benefits, that existing services are inadequate in some areas and that Canberra's objectives to reform the telecommunications market are important. But risks are emerging.

On cost, Victoria argues cheaper alternatives to Labor's fibre-to-the-premises model should be available where this would meet broadband needs.

On competition, the submission cites concerns about Telstra and Optus removing broadband services provided over their pay-TV networks as well as the ban on potential NBN rivals cherry-picking lucrative areas.

Victoria also argues that states and local governments have faced uncertainty about the rollout and its priorities.

NBN Co is conducting a study into extending the fibre rollout to Julia Creek in outback Queensland. The move comes after a backlash from residents angry that the main cable passes the town, but does not connect them because there are less than 1000 premises.

McKinlay Shire Mayor Paul Woodhouse said: "I appreciate they are rolling out a multi-billion-dollar program, but it comes back to our planning, our inability to plan. "It's just a nightmare as far as our future planning goes."

Senator Conroy's spokesman said it was "completely absurd" to claim there had been minimal engagement, while an NBN Co spokeswoman said it was "keen to engage with all levels of government to discuss our plans".

"This engagement is continuing and is likely to ramp up as the network rollout accelerates," Senator Conroy's spokesman said.


Abortion furore rages after church sacks hospital board

Sacked St Andrew's Toowoomba Hospital governors are planning legal action after the Presbyterian Church of Queensland abruptly removed them from their posts amid tensions over the hospital's abortion policy and the church's influence on operations.

The PCQ dismissed 12 of the hospital's governors last week.

Yesterday, former board members said they were planning a legal challenge to their dismissal and bristled at perceptions they took a pro-choice stance on abortion.

Former board member Paul McMahon said the sacked governors refused to back a motion suggesting the hospital not perform abortions unless the mother was threatened with immediate death. But he said the hospital's current position on abortion was "hardly a loose policy".

"The hospital already has very, very strict termination laws such that there were only two terminations last year," he said. "One related to a dead baby in the womb and the other related to a baby that would not survive outside the womb. "What's happened now is that the hospital and past governors are being painted as pro-choice. That sickens me."

Mr McMahon said the sacked governors were considering defamation proceedings and also believed the church contravened corporations law when it asked governors up for re-election to sign a nomination form pledging to act according to the tenets of the church. "[The law] says that a director's first duty is to the organisation, you can't have two masters," he said. "We said we couldn't sign them because in our view they contravene corporations law."

PCQ moderator Graeme McKay told ABC radio yesterday morning media reports of the sackings had focused too heavily on the abortion issue. He said the governors were removed last week because they were trying to limit the church's influence on the hospital. "The reason they were removed is some of these governors were seen to be taking steps to remove the church from the hospital," he said.

"The Presbyterian Church does have a statement on abortion and some of the board members took an issue with the church's position on abortion."

Former St Andrew's vice-chairman Jock Lambie said he still hasn't been notified by the church of his dismissal. He said he received a phone call from Mr Fairweather last Monday saying he had been sacked three hours before a board meeting he had expected to attend. Dr Lambie said he expected a review of the hospital's abortion policy to be the new board's first order of business.

However he defended the existing stance on abortion. "The only abortions that are done are when the baby is not expected to survive," he said. "They [the church] leave that up to God. That's alright except none of them are women, so they don't know what it's like carrying a monster in their belly.

"The two most recent terminations that were done, the babies had no heads. How would you like to carry that, knowing it was there, for an extra 20 weeks to go through a painful labour and produce a child that lives for five minutes?"

Yesterday, St Andrew's chief executive Ray Fairweather said the hospital would follow the wishes of the new board of governors, which is expected to review the hospital's abortion policy. Mr Fairweather said he would have no problem working with the new board appointed by the PCQ.

"[A change in abortion policy] is up to the board of governors," he said. "I have 35 years' experience working with boards of directors, I've established new boards, I've worked with any range of boards and this is just another situation that I have to work with."


28 June, 2011

Left-run City of Sydney officially declares white settlement of Australia an invasion

SYDNEY is rewriting the history books, declaring the arrival of white settlers an "invasion". After City of Sydney's Aboriginal advisory panel threatened to quit, councillors capitulated, wiping the words "European arrival" from official documents and declared the arrival of white settlers to be an "invasion".

During a long debate, Deputy Mayor Marcelle Hoff argued that the term "invasion or illegal colonisation" should be used in the council's official documents and statements. She read out dictionary definitions of invasion as "to take possession, to penetrate, to intrude upon, to overrun". "They came in and they did not leave," she said.

When other councillors described the term as offensive, Ms Hoff said: "It's intellectually dishonest to not use words that offend some people."

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she had tried to remove the word "invasion" but said she had underestimated the depth of feeling on the issue. She said Aborigines were the original custodians of the land and the term was important to them. "In respect to the Aboriginal community, it's something that is very important and needs to be used," she said. After a 7-to-2 vote in favour, the term "this invasion" will be used in the council's Aboriginal policy, which appears in many of its official documents.

Ms Moore read out the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statement which says: "In 1788 the British established a convict outpost on the shores of Sydney Harbour. "This had far reaching and devastating impact on the Eora Nation, including the occupation and appropriation of traditional lands. Despite the destructive impact of this invasion Aboriginal culture endured and is now globally recognised as one of the world's oldest cultures."

Ms Moore also deleted a paragraph she proposed last week which said: "British settlement of Sydney and its surrounds is interpreted by some people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, as invasion. For others it is colonisation. History is interpreted by people differently according to their experience of its consequences." Ms Moore asked a packed public gallery if they agreed with the new wording - and nearly all put up their hand.

However, councillor Phillip Black, who is on Ms Moore's team of independents along with Ms Hoff, said the council should moderate using emotive language. "Healing the past will not be achieved by alienating others. The word invasion has served its useful life. I do not believe it should be used in our documents," he said. He was lambasted for suggesting in emails that Aborigines were also migrants. [They were. They all but wiped out their pygmy predecessors]


Cool heads needed for climate talk

It's a case of double standards when it comes to Christopher Monckton

It's just two sleeps until Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, addresses the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies in Perth. The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, will open the conference today.

The Australian media invariably latches on to controversial individuals visiting from overseas - left and right, foreign-born and expatriate. This reflects the fact that Australia has a large and competitive media along with a relatively small population. Visitors enhance the opinion pool, for a while at least, and controversial ones tend to get covered in the print and electronic media.

Monckton, who is perhaps best labelled as sceptical or agnostic to the idea that global warming is generated by humans, received wide-scale coverage when he visited Australia in February last year. Commercial radio and television, along with the tabloid press, tended to report him seriously. However, he was ridiculed on some ABC programs and in parts of the broadsheet press.

For example, The Age ran a story that Abbott would talk to the visiting hereditary peer under the heading "'Mad Monk' Meets Monckton". This was accompanied by a large colour photo of Monckton's face from forehead to nose only, replete with protruding eyes. He suffers from Graves' disease. It is impossible to imagine journalists mocking a sufferer of breast or prostate cancer in such a way.

Monckton, a mathematician, understands that one sure way to get coverage in the media is to ham it up and, on occasions, throw the switch to hyperbole. Last week news reached Australia that, in a recent speech in the United States, Monckton had accused the Australian economist Ross Garnaut of exhibiting "a fascist point of view" with respect to climate change policy and commented: "Heil Hitler - on we go."

Monckton's trivial and ahistorical exaggeration was met by predictable - and justified - criticism. It makes no sense to compare Western democracies with the excesses of fascist totalitarian regimes - or indeed communist dictatorships of the Lenin/Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot varieties. Monckton has seen the error of his ways. On Channel Ten's Bolt Report on Sunday, he apologised for having made the point he was trying to make in "such a catastrophically stupid and offensive way".

Monckton's original comment was reported in depth on Lateline. Last Wednesday Tony Jones interviewed Professor Ian Chubb, who in April was appointed as Australia's chief scientist. Asked about the Monckton outburst, Chubb spoke out against the use of "emotive language" and declared that "calling people names … ought not to be acceptable in a flourishing democracy like Australia".

Fair enough, provided the reprimand is universal. In the lead-up to the 2007 election, Chubb was vice-chancellor of the Australian National University. On November 19, 2007, The Canberra Times ran an article by Dr Bruce Kent - then an ANU visiting fellow - in which he alleged that there were similarities between some of John Howard's policies and those of the Third Reich. In particular, he linked Howard with such mass murderers as Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels.

Kent's analysis was so exaggerated that he even saw aspects of the Nazi regime in the Coalition's policy on - wait for it - the Murray-Darling Basin. There is no evidence that Chubb - or any of his colleagues at the ANU - distanced themselves from Kent's rave in their local newspaper.

Similar double standards prevail today. Monckton is rightly bagged for linking Garnaut with Hitler. Yet there was virtually no outcry when Mark Dreyfus, one of the better performers in the Gillard government, wrote an article in March where he accused Abbott of "Goebbellian cynicism". In a calm moment, Dreyfus well understands that Goebbels's evil was not located in cynicism but rather in his advocacy for genocide.

In his Lateline appearance, Chubb targeted the likes of Monckton. However, when interviewed by Chris Uhlmann on 7.30 in April, he commented that "we lost a bit of civility in the debate from time to time" and appeared to blame all participants for such an occurrence. If this is what Chubb was trying to say, he has a point. Take Garnaut, for example. He is a paid part-time consultant to the Labor government. No problem here. However, traditionally, it was accepted that individuals on the government payroll - whether in a full-time or part-time capacity - would moderate their language in the public debate.

This is not a stance adopted by Garnaut. He addressed the National Press Club in May in his capacity as head of the Garnaut Climate Change Review. In this talk he accused "parts of big business" of having taken the "role of spoiler" in the climate change debate and implied that those who declined to embrace his views were neither informed nor thoughtful. Garnaut also suggested that his critics believe that Australia is a "pissant country" and then accused his opponents of "shouting ignorant slogans".

Such an outburst is emphatically not consistent with a call for moderation in language. It was more of the same when Garnaut was interviewed by Deborah Cameron on ABC Radio 702 last week. The presenter introduced her guest as "Australia's leading economist" and suggested that unnamed economists who disagreed with Garnaut had "sold their souls" and become "handmaidens to climate science deniers". This was followed by the leading question: "Do more economists need to get out and actually be honest?"

In response, Garnaut said that there was a tendency for economists "to tailor the analysis to what their client wants". In other words, Garnaut was suggesting that economists employed by business cannot be taken at face value. But, apparently, economists who are engaged as consultants by governments are completely credible. I asked both Cameron and ABC management why Garnaut's role as a paid consultant to the Gillard government was not mentioned during the interview. There was no reply.

Of course Garnaut says what he believes. However, so do most of his critics. Of course Monckton was irresponsible to link Garnaut with Hitler. But so were those who linked Howard with the Third Reich. Any cooling of the political debate will require contributions from all parties.


Christians not vilified by Islamic billboard

I see the billboard as a rare positive recognition of Christianity from Muslims

PROCLAIMING Jesus to be ''a prophet of Islam'' on billboards is a statement of belief and does not discriminate against or vilify Christians, the Advertising Standards Bureau has found.

The billboard, one of several in an awareness campaign by Islamic group MyPeace, was the subject of a series of complaints to the bureau on the grounds that the statement was insulting to those who believed Jesus to be the son of God.

Other complaints included the charge that Jesus ''must not be associated with such [an] aggressive religion'' and another claiming the advertisement was upsetting to children. ''What [my child] knows of Islam she has learnt from watching mainstream news broadcasts and to have her saviour identified as being part of this malicious cult was very traumatic!'' one complaint stated.

But the bureau found that while some members of the community would be offended by the statement, which would be inconsistent with Christian beliefs, ''such a statement does not, of itself, discriminate against or vilify people who hold different beliefs'' and was not a breach of the Advertiser Code of Ethics. ''The board acknowledged that the Islam faith does consider that Jesus is a prophet of Mohammed,'' it read.

It found the billboards did not suggest violence or contain frightening material ''and that it is not unreasonable for children to be exposed to a variety of information in their daily lives, some of which may conflict with the views with which they are raised''.

MyPeace founder Diaa Mohamed confirmed earlier this month that two billboards - one at Rozelle and another at Rosehill - had been vandalised.

Another reading ''Mary and prophet Jesus: read about their lives in the [Koran]'' was erected on Fairfield Road, near the M5 at Padstow at the weekend, he told the Herald.

In a written response to the Advertising Standards Bureau, he said misunderstandings about Muslims and Islam prompted the campaign, which aimed to reduce discrimination and vilification of certain sections of the community - and in particular Muslims.

''[The advertisement] conveys the message that, like Christians, we the Muslims also regard Jesus with extreme reverence,'' it read. ''The idea being that the people will see beyond the words in the advertisements and recognise that Islam and Muslims are not much different from any other ordinary Australian.''


Half a million dollars to build a roof over a BBQ area!

Governments never stop wasting the people's money

IT'S the mother of all barbecue stoppers - a $542,190 bill to construct a roof on a gourmet barbecue area so that federal public servants are protected from the glare of the sun. The Attorney-General's Department has confirmed a roof has been built over the entertainment areas, but said this was necessary to "address potential OH&S issues''.

Staff will now be able to enjoy their snags and steak in comfort, instead of being subject to the elements including "reflection of light from the pavement''.

The Courier-Mail can reveal a further $66,000 has been spent on an aluminium shelter over another "BBQ patio'' used by the A-G's Department.

According to the department, tender documents said the contract awarded last August was to cover a "BBQ area'' at the department, located just down the road from Parliament House in Canberra.

As well as enjoying their gourmet meals, the A-G staff will be able to use the outdoor area for training and other "functions''.

But one public servant familiar with the barbecue site suggested it reflected a "spend, spend, spend'' culture within the A-G's portfolio.

The Opposition has been pursuing the high costs of the barbecue area through parliament. In response to questions, the A-G's Department said staff were unable to use the area "due to the extreme hot or cold conditions, reflection of light from the pavement and exposure to the elements''.

But Eriz Abetz, the Opposition's Senate Leader and Workplace Relations spokesman, said a highly paid QC must have been hired to come up with the "spin'' on this story. "Chances are that even Kevin Rudd would say 'fair shake of the sauce bottle' on this one,'' Senator Abetz said. "One wonders how this is justified at all,'' he said. "The spin that surrounds this is just phenomenal. "Clearly this is for their recreational use.''

In a statement, A-G's said it had taken the "opportunity to convert'' the outdoor space to an area that can now be used for training, meetings, staff inductions and functions. And it stressed taxpayers only forked out about $340,000 of the total cost with building owner Melbourne-based ISPT picking up more than $200,000.


27 June, 2011

Poll finds only 41 per cent of Australians think climate change is a serious problem

A LEADING climate change advocate maintains public sentiment for climate change action is improving despite a poll showing support has dropped to a record low.

According to the Lowy Institute poll, 75 per cent of Australians believe the federal government has done a poor job addressing climate change. Just 41 per cent think the issue is a serious and pressing problem, down five points from last year and 27 points since 2006. Australians are also much less willing to pay a price to tackle climate change, with 39 per cent not prepared to pay anything extra.

John Connor, chief executive of The Climate Institute, a non-partisan and independent research organisation, said the polling was undertaken in April. "It's a worrying trend but not a surprising trend," Mr Connor said. "We've picked up at least a change in the momentum since we launched the Say Yes campaign."

Analysis of talkback radio by the institute showed an improvement in support for climate change action since February, Mr Connor said. "I'm not at all relaxed but I think we are seeing a turning point."

The polling had tracked the decline of the debate over the years into one that is now extremely partisan. "There was bipartisan support for action and the emissions trading scheme and an international legal agreement (in 2007)," Mr Connor said.


U.S. no help to Gillard and her carbon tax

JIM Sensenbrenner, the most senior Republican in the US House of Representatives, is a long-term friend of Australia but he has just delivered the most lethal external blow yet to the Gillard government's plans to introduce a carbon tax.

The Gillard government has gone to vast and expensive lengths to convince the people of what is essentially a fiction: that the rest of the world is taking action on greenhouse gas emissions commensurate with that which Australia would take if it introduced the biggest carbon tax in the world.

As all the legal international frameworks for carbon pricing agreements have collapsed, the Gillard government has had to resort to taking the vague aspirational ambitions of nations as if they were concrete, settled policy.

In the US case, the Obama administration failed to get a cap and trade system through Congress in 2009. The US Democratic Party then lost nearly 100 congressmen and senators in the next congressional election in 2010.

The Obama administration, having abandoned cap and trade, has made a general pledge to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its 2007 level by 17 per cent by 2020. No one believes that will happen, unless the US is going through such a catastrophic depression that emissions fall as a consequence of a collapsing economy. As Sensenbrenner told The Australian: "As the US economy comes back, emissions will rise."

Sensenbrenner has held a series of key congressional committee chairmanships and has been a central figure in the politics of climate change. He believes that any attempt to price carbon in the US is now dead.

The state-based initiatives for carbon pricing in the US are either collapsing or cover only a small section of the economy, with little impact. Sensenbrenner believes there is no prospect of carbon pricing coming back in the US.

In this critical judgment he is borne out by Democratic strategists who believe neither Barack Obama nor congressional Democrats will campaign for a cap and trade scheme at the next election next year. Dozens of pro-cap and trade Democrats lost their seats at the Republican slaughter of 2010.

This begs the question: if all the big resource-producing countries that compete with Australia are not going down a carbon tax route, and if the US and Canada are not going down a carbon price route, how can it be that a carbon price would not put all Australian industry at a significant competitive disadvantage?


Senior police are demanding prosecutors appeal the aquittal of Carnita Matthews

SENIOR police are demanding prosecutors relaunch legal action against the veiled Muslim woman cleared of lying about being attacked by an officer.

Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas told The Sunday Telegraph new material had emerged about the case over the past few days and a fresh appeal had to be mounted against the acquittal of Carnita Matthews.

"The NSW Police Force is obviously disappointed with the outcome of the appeal," Mr Kaldas said. "The force will examine the judge's reasons for his decision and has requested the Director of Public Prosecutions consider another appeal. "NSW Police will examine further information that has come to light in the media since the appeal judgment."

Ms Matthews was sentenced to six months' jail in November for falsely accusing a policeman of attempting to rip off her niqab during a random breath test conducted in June.

An appeal court last week quashed the conviction on the grounds there was no proof she was really the veiled woman who walked into a police station to make the complaint, a few days after the alleged incident.

Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, who has been at a conference in Europe, will meet Police Minister Mike Gallacher this week to discuss possible law changes that could give police the power to fingerprint veiled women, or insist upon removal of headgear including helmets or veils.


Australian scientists in snakebite ointment breakthrough

Rubbing snakebites with an ointment that slows the functioning of lymph glands could boost survival times by 50 per cent, according to new research by Australian scientists.

In experiments on humans and mice, researchers showed a class of compounds called nitric oxide donors delays the entry of toxins from potentially deadly snakebites into the blood stream.

Nitric oxide (NO), a molecule involved in regulation of blood pressure and the control of brain activity, has been shown to lower blood pressure in patients who suffer acute strokes.

The new finding is of more than academic interest: every year, 100,000 people worldwide die from snakebites, and another 400,000 must amputate limbs that have been injected with poison.

It has long been known that many snake venoms contain large molecules that transit the human body's lymphatic system before entering the bloodstream.

Separately, scientists have also established that nitric oxide slows down a pumping mechanism within the lymphatic system, a part of the body's immune system that carries a clear fluid - called lymph - toward the heart.

Dirk van Helden, a researcher at the University of Newcastle, put these two facts together to suggest a possible treatment for snakebites.

"We hypothesised that a nitric-oxide-releasing agent applied topically would slow lymphatic transit time and entry of the venom into the circulation, delaying onset of toxicity," he and his colleagues wrote in the study.

To test their theory, the researchers injected a venom-like substance into one foot of 15 volunteers, and measured the time it took for the toxin substitute to reach lymph nodes in the groin.

The experiment was later repeated, except this time the drug-laced ointment was spread around the puncture within one minute of the injection.

The transit time dropped from an average of 13 minutes to 54 minutes, four times slower. Further experiments using real toxins in rats yielded roughly the same results.

Finally, the researchers compared the survival time in rats injected with venom that were treated with the ointment against those that were not, and found the nitric oxide rats kept breathing 50 per cent longer.

"These results point to a new method of snakebite first aid that may also be useful for bites to the torso or head," the researchers concluded.

Currently, the most common treatment is to immobilise the patient and restrict blood flow as much as possible until medical assistance is available.


26 June, 2011

Another day, another ban

Alexander Philipatos

Banning is supposed to be an extreme policy, used in severe circumstances with great caution. Today, however, it seems to be the first tool politicians reach for amid public protest. Our representatives are banning everything – from live cattle exports to cigarette advertising, from mortgage exit fees to swearing in public. In the time of focus group politics and governance by poll, the ‘ban’ is the new ‘in thing.’

While some may think this is harmless, the real economic and social ramifications of knee-jerk policies are repeatedly underestimated.

The recent ban on Spanish cucumbers thought to be contaminated with E. coli cost Spanish farmers $306 million per week. The suspension of live cattle export to Indonesia has already cost $10 million to the Australian Agriculture Company and threatens to shut down many smaller Aussie farmers. Melbourne’s 2am lockout trial in 2008 cost many bars and clubs thousands in lost revenue with no reduction in violence.

Of significant concern is the estimated $3 billion in lost revenue to be borne by pokies if Independent MP Andrew Wilkie gets to put limits on gambling, not counting the flow-on effects.

Apart from the retrospective economic costs of wrongheaded restrictions, there are social costs to individual liberty. Discussions of whether Ban A will reduce smoking or whether Ban B will reduce gambling ignore the fundamental issue of individual rights.

The real question is whether Australia is committed to a free society or whether we are prepared to have the government decide for us what we can advertise, how we may do business, how we manage risk and health, what mistakes we may make, and how we speak to each other.

The more the public offloads individual decisions and responsibilities to the state, the less say we have in governing ourselves.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 24 June. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

There's a bad mood rising for Julia Gillard

IT'S extraordinary that, a year after Julia Gillard stood in Labor's caucus room and introduced herself as the nation's 27th Prime Minister, engaged and interested people still ask who she is and what she stands for. But it is happening in streets around the country, during public meetings and forums and at dinner parties and in cafes.

There has been plenty of attention on Gillard - especially in this anniversary week of her becoming Australia's first female PM - but nothing she's been able to do or say has brought her any closer to the public she strives to lead.

Twelve months and an inconclusive election on, the public is in as bad a mood as the Labor Party. People are unsure of Australia's direction (although a clear majority think it's headed in the wrong way); they are grumpy about making the weekly household budget balance (even though for most, living standards have risen during the past five years); and they cannot understand the big issues that are supposed to matter. The carbon tax is as toxic with the public as Tony Abbott says it is; the mining boom is treated with suspicion; and a rational conversation about asylum seekers is as far away as it ever was.

It's easy to understand why Bob Katter launched his Australian Party - he is as good a barometer of a bad mood as anyone in politics - seeking to tap into the failure of political leadership, the sense of national drift and seeming financial pressure as well as a deepening and acknowledged community cynicism. Katter knows instinctively the public is crying out for leadership and direction.

The Economist's John Grimond said in the magazine's recent annual survey of Australia that the current crop of politicians couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding. "Many, if not most, of Australia's politicians, like those in other countries, now emerge from the murk of their party apparatus rather than from the wider world," he wrote. "When they rise to the top, they surround themselves with henchmen, read polling results and tea-leaves and subordinate policy to the art of winning elections. "If they happen to gain power, they do not seem to know what to do with it. If they take action, it is because they want to be seen to be doing something."

It is a harsh assessment and not only falls short of the truth but also denies the good work being done by many ministers in the Gillard Government. It is, however, an appraisal that is met with nodding heads and grumbles of agreement.

At the Noosa Longweekend festival last week, two forums on politics this columnist took part in revealed universal evidence backing the sentiments expressed here. Conservative voters think they've had their worst fears confirmed; Labor voters are in deep despair; and those in the middle range between frustrated bewilderment and annoyed disgust.

As well as questions about the character of the Prime Minister, people couldn't understand what the mining boom was about and had no idea what our politicians wanted for the future of the country.

At a breakfast on political leadership at Noosa Springs Country Club, there was a unanimous view in a packed room that we had none and people were sincerely despondent about where we might find any.

Of course, members of the Gillard Government believe they can find a way through this national bad mood if there's a perceptible change in economic fortune, and things such as this week's National Broadband Network deal with Telstra continue to get done.

The NBN deal, which represents one of the few really positive agenda items Labor has on its plate, can help Gillard in two ways. It counters the perception nothing gets done in Canberra because of the minority government propped up by the Greens and Independents; and it is about delivering on promises - many left over from the time when Kevin Rudd was leader.

The next big-ticket item is pricing carbon, a policy as unpopular as John Howard's deadly WorkChoices, which should be wrapped up as soon as next week or by the middle of July at the latest.

Bedding down some kind of agreement with Malaysia on asylum seekers is also essential, although the hard bargain being driven by the Government in Kuala Lumpur is making that more difficult than it should have been.

One Labor veteran this week suggested a comparison between the current national malaise and a similar period that ran from about 1994 to just after 2000 - reflected in big swings at three national elections in a row and the rise and fall of Hansonism. "If you think this gloom cycle really began in about 2004-05, benefited Rudd at the polls in '07 and then was given a booster shot by the financial crisis in '08, we could be nearing its end," says the Labor figure.

If that's the case next year could be one of turning the corner and the one after - the scheduled election year - even better again, both in terms of the mood and the economy.

Of course, a second global slump could blow all that optimism out the window and, with it, any faint hope Labor might have had.


Telstra forced to pay costs, compensation after worker Dale Hargreaves slips while working at home

Being blamed for something over which you have no control is a parody of justice

EMPLOYER groups are outraged by a legal decision that makes employers responsible for injuries suffered by staff working from home. Telstra will be made to pay legal and medical costs in a multimillion-dollar ruling by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Telstra worker Dale Hargreaves, 42, said she slipped down the stairs twice in two months while working on marketing campaigns from her Brisbane townhouse. Telstra denied liability because the falls occurred outside Ms Hargreaves designated workstation.

But the tribunal found the shoulder injuries she suffered were work-related. Telstra will also have to pay compensation for lost income.

In the first fall at 6pm on August 21, 2006, Ms Hargreaves was going to get cough medicine from the fridge in her sock-clad feet. In the second at 8.40am on October 9 the same year, she was locking the front door in line with Telstra's instructions following a break-in at her home.

The tribunal found both falls "arose out of Ms Hargreaves' employment with Telstra" which made them workplace injuries.

Legal experts said the ruling could force employers to conduct workplace health and safety audits in the homes of the one-in-four Queenslanders who regularly work from their private residence for lifestyle reasons.

The Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that would be "a bad outcome for everyone concerned". "An employer has no capacity whatsoever to determine and influence workplace health and safety arrangements at a person's home office," QCCI policy manager Nick Behrens said. "What the ruling essentially does is significantly discourage an employer providing workplace flexibility. It could be a catalyst for a significant change in employer behaviour."

Under the terms of the ruling, Ms Hargreaves could receive millions of dollars in compensation if she is unable to work again.

Solicitor Rachael James, of Slater and Gordon, said it was a significant win for her client who had left Brisbane to live with her parents in Victoria because of her medical and financial circumstances. "She can't dress herself for work. She is unable to do up a bra or a shirt, or carry a laptop," Ms James said. "She's going to get a whole back payment from the date of the injury up until today, and depending what the medical evidence says going forward, she could continue to receive those payments until she's 65."

A Telstra spokeswoman said the company was still examining the ruling.

Queensland University of Technology Dean of Law Michael Lavarch said employers "should not enter lightly into home work arrangements". "Homes are inherently dangerous places," he said.

David Miller from the Australian Industry Group said working from home had the potential to create problems for employers. "What the tribunal has done is extend beyond what the employer thought was reasonable in terms of their liability for an employee's safety. That's always going to be a difficult judgment," he said.


The delusion of human climate control

The Puyehue volcano in the Andes mountains of southern Chile blows up. It poses the question, whatever carbon tax we impose on industry in Australia - on businesses who pump carbon into air as a waste product - how are we going to fine the Andes mountains or the real culprit, Puyehue, for spewing all that carbon dust into the air as if it were a giant candle on Guy Fawkes night?

Bob Brown was rubbing his hands together in glee - as they also do in Tasmania with the purpose of warming them in the freezing cold of Hobart - when he extracted the last ounce of tax from red-bobbed Julia Gillard on the carbon issue. Then, after it had waited 50 long years to blow its top, Puyehue sent millions of tonnes of sulphur and ash teeming with carbon into the skies, where it continues to circle - disrupting flights and raising carbon levels in the atmosphere to choking point. In a final insult it is believed that no one in the Australian government, including Brown, was consulted before it blew its stack.

It makes a mockery of serious governments around the world who are seeking to pass significant legislation controlling the levels of carbon and sulphur that industry can pump into the air, when a dummy spit by Puyehue spoils everything.

Australia was going ahead with carbon taxing legislation, as a leading nation, when most of the world was not thinking that the atmosphere surrounding Australia might magically stand still and not wander around the rest of the globe where non-taxed carbon molecules frolic free in proportions dwarfing our taxed molecules. God is poking his tongue through the Puyehue volcano, whose carbon output dwarfs industry's.

Although Australian governments have an impressive history of being able to tax virtually everything - goods and services, imports, exports, mining, and super mining - it would test even Peter Garrett to tax the volcano for breaching emissions policy. The same thing happened when the unspellable volcano in Iceland decided to blow its top and send millions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, interfering with European air traffic. Iceland was bankrupt at the time and could have used the hefty fine but found it couldn't pay itself.

The Earth is not playing ball with its inhabitants, although we are practically family, having been created by God. It's like trying to fill the bath by the leaving the hot and cold taps running but someone has pulled the bath plug and no matter how much we turn the taps on, the water disappears down the plughole. Did God do this deliberately, playing a trick on Earth, or did he devise a huge reality game show called Survivor Earth?


25 June, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says Gillard's anniversary has been so sullied by her subservience to the Greens that there is nothing worth celebrating

Non-compete clause exposes flaws of fibre network

Consumers must not be told that a wireless connection could give them a better deal

THE entire basis of the National Broadband Network has been exposed as fundamentally unsound by the "wireless non-compete" clause in the deal between NBN Co and Telstra. At its simplest, it's a clause that is completely unacceptable and arguably illegal. What would be, what was, objectionable with cardboard boxes should also be so with broadband services.

Broadly, but simply and accurately, NBN Co and Telstra agree not to compete. Worse, NBN Co is actually paying Telstra for that agreement. Indeed the Communications Minister himself no less, Stephen Conroy, all but put it in exactly those terms on Melbourne's MTR radio yesterday.

He explained, indeed justified, the non-compete clause as being a "perfectly sensible corporate decision". "A commercial arrangement." That Telstra agreed not to "take NBN Co's money and sledge (the) NBN". Conroy was all but saying that NBN Co was paying Telstra not to compete with it.

Indeed. Where was Conroy when the late Dick Pratt needed him to explain that his Vizy group had a "perfectly sensible commercial arrangement" with Amcor for each not to "promote" their boxes as a "substitute" for the other's?

The relevant clause in the deal is that Telstra can't promote "wireless services as a substitute for fibre-based services for 20 years". But it otherwise remained free to compete in the market for the supply of wireless services.

Telstra explains this clause by saying that it can't put flyers in letterboxes saying buy our wireless broadband instead of NBN Co's fixed broadband. But we're perfectly free to put flyers in letterboxes saying buy our wonderful wireless broadband that can do all these wonderful things. And that further, it didn't see the clause -- insisted on by NBN Co -- as limiting in the slightest its ability to sell wireless. Except and absolutely crucially, that's wireless against wireless. Not against fixed.

Two points. Except of course it does limit its ability to sell wireless. And does so for 20 years. An awful lot of technology can be invented and developed in that timeframe. Right now Telstra might not want to sell wireless broadband instead of fixed fibre. But in 10 years?

The second point is exactly that. Telstra doesn't want to sell wireless instead of fixed broadband in the new world of the NBN. It wants to sell wireless and fixed together, in a package.

Why? Because it sees the NBN as finally freeing it to use its market dominance across the telco space in a way that it has been limited in doing under the existing competitive regulation. Given that the NBN is coming at it whether it likes it or not, it's perfectly happy to share monopolies, so to speak, with it. Rather than competing head to head with the NBN -- my wireless network against your fixed fibre network.

The combination of the fact that Telstra already has a pervasive national wireless network that really could compete head to head with the NBN in its slow 10-year build-out phase, and our increasing desire for mobile broadband, makes this anti-compete clause vital to NBN Co.

The promoters of the NBN keep saying that wireless just can't compete with fixed fibre, because of the immutable laws of physics and the way they play out with spectrum. That only fibre can give the sustained guaranteed speed; that wireless degrades quickly depending how far you move from the base station and how many are hooked up and what they are downloading.

That's all true. At least it is, right now. But in 10 or even five years' time? The science of physics might be "settled". But the technology of data compression might not be. But in any event, it's not the science of physics which is in play here. But the science of arithmetic and the social science of choice. Both go to the fundamental unsoundness of the fixed NBN.

What NBN Co and its CEO Mike Quigley are afraid of is what might be termed the Inverted (Kevin) Costner Effect. Build it, the NBN (at a cost of $40 billion going on $50bn and then they don't come. That huge spend requires NBN Co to set a certain minimum figure for wholesale access to the NBN. You then have to add the retail margin and costs.

It does not want the other elephant in the telco space, and the one with not only a huge existing cashflow but up to $11bn of its money, offering a pervasive and cheaper wireless alternative. Yes, it might not be a sustained warp-speed 100Mbps. But it might be a 4-20Mbps that is all most of the people want most of the time. Quigley doesn't want to spend $50bn and then find out. He doesn't want you to find out.

The fact that Telstra itself seems perfectly happy not to go down that path is hardly a cause for endorsement of the non-compete clause. It suggests that Telstra sees more upside in building a packaged mobile-fixed dominance.

That's to stress, more upside for Telstra profit. Which means one or both of: Telstra being able to migrate its market power to the 21st century world of the NBN, or the consumers of broadband services in the future collectively paying more than they would with real infrastructure-based competition as well as simply retail. As Henry Ergas pointed out yesterday, this is central to the deal and the whole NBN concept. Agreeing non-compete with wireless and shutting down Telstra's and Optus's HFC cables.

At core it highlights the two great flaws of the NBN. That we have a government (and an enthusiast in Quigley) mandating a technology and a service -- fixed fibre to a fixed location -- as the broadband for Australia for the next 20 to 40 years.

I wish I could be as confident as Conroy and Quigley, and in a different context Ross Garnaut, about knowing that far into the future.

Secondly, the $50bn has to be serviced. By definition that means paying more for broadband in the future, than if you didn't spend it.

By further definition, alternatives could deliver broadband cheaper. So you have to ban them.

So consumers will pay more than they would otherwise. It is entirely rational for Telstra to aim at its biggest possible slice of that.


Why rational optimism beats ephemeral happiness

Janet Albrechtsen

FASHIONABLE academics, activists and politicians presume to tell us how miserable we are to justify their notions about the sunny path to human happiness.

The British Office for National Statistics now asks people whether they are happy. British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to draw up a happiness index to govern policy, while a group called the Action for Happiness, launched in April by the Dalai Lama, has set down its own rules for riding the road to happiness. Bhutan, we are told, is the happiest place on earth, which is curious given that hordes of refugees are not crossing the borders into the small landlocked kingdom. These clever chaps promise to make us happy if only we would follow their clever ideas

Here's a better idea. Rational optimism beats ephemeral happiness. While there is something familiarly depressing about a grand leader promising to make us happy - Stalin did it, so did Hitler - the best form of contentment comes from learning some history.

Enter Matt Ridley. On a grey, wintry Sydney morning last week, the author of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves delivered a fast-paced, fact-laden history lesson about the extraordinary trajectory of mankind.

Speaking at the Centre for Independent Studies, Ridley quoted British historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, who once asked: "On what principle is it that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?" That was in 1830, even before the industrial revolution delivered vast improvements to the way we live. Two centuries later, after even greater innovation and progress, it is passing strange that rational optimism remains such a rarity.

Asked about this conundrum, Ridley points to the intelligentsia. Calamitous predictions about the future, not calm reasoning about the past, sell books and sustain careers. And "there's more of the intelligentsia around now so you hear more from them". The "apocaholics" predict doom and gloom from Malthusian population explosions, AIDS epidemics, bird flu pandemics, peak oil problems, depleting ozone layers, acid rains, deforestation, urbanisation, and over-consumption. The list is long.

By contrast, Ridley, a lanky, dry-witted Brit, an Oxford-educated scientist, former editor at The Economist, author of a string of books about evolution and all-round polymath, takes the rational road. Looking at the past to predict the future, he finds a rising line of glorious human triumph.

Start with one simple measurement. Appropriately fitted out with a CIS tie covered in small light bulbs, Ridley asks how long you have to work today to earn an hour of reading light. On an average wage today, half a second of work will pay for an hour of light. In 1950, the average wage earner worked eight seconds to run a conventional filament lamp; in 1880, 15 seconds of work was needed for a kerosene lamp; and more than six hours of work for an hour of light by tallow candle in the 1800s. In 1750BC, your average ancient Babylonian needed to work more than 50 hours to get an hour of light from a sesame oil lamp. That 43,200-fold improvement, says Ridley, signifies "the currency that counts, your time".

By any other measure, too, we are also better off. The world population has multiplied six times since 1800, yet on average we live twice as long and, in real terms, earn nine times more money.

Even in the space of 50 years, from 1955 to 2005, as Ridley writes in his book, "the average human being on Planet Earth earned nearly three times as much money (corrected for inflation), ate one-third more calories and could expect to live one-third longer. She was less likely to die as a result of war, murder, childbirth, accidents, tornadoes, flooding, famine, whooping cough, tuberculosis, malaria, diphtheria, typhus, typhoid, measles, smallpox, scurvy or polio. She was less likely, at any given age, to get cancer, heart disease or a stroke. "She was more likely to be literate . . . to have finished school . . . own a telephone, a flush toilet, a refrigerator" and so on and so forth.

All this when the world population more than doubled. As Ridley notes, the UN estimates that poverty was reduced more in the past 50 years than in the previous five centuries.

Anyone can recount the facts of human progress, even the doomsayers were they more curious. What marks out Ridley is his explanation of our success. After looking back at thousands of years of evolution, natural selection and culture, he finds that we started to prosper not when our individual brains grew in size - Neanderthals had bigger brains that we do - but when our collective brain grew. Ridley traces the start of our extraordinary cultural revolution to a time, about 100,000 years ago, when, unlike other species, we started to exchange goods and ideas with people beyond our own communities.

"At some point in human history, ideas began to meet and mate, and to have sex with each other." Culture quickly became cumulative. "Exchange is to cultural evolution as sex is to biological evolution," writes Ridley.

By a process similar to natural selection, sound ideas triumphed and will continue to triumph so long as we enable them to "meet and mate". Looking back on history, Ridley rediscovers the ideas of Adam Smith and Friedrich von Hayek, and adds evolutionary biology to explain why homo sapiens progresses at a much faster rate than any other species. Constant innovation comes from a free market for ideas - not to mention goods and services.

Look at your computer mouse, says Ridley. No single person knows how to make one. The factory worker who assembled it didn't drill for oil to make the plastic. "At some point, human intelligence became collective and cumulative in a way that happened to no other species."

That's Ridley's reason for being a rational optimist. At every juncture, humans have adapted, innovated and changed in the face of dire predictions. Prosperity depends on a bottom-up process from people learning from and sharing with others.

No wonder the happiness gurus, eager to impose their idea of happiness upon us, eschew history. As Ridley explores in his 400-page plus race through history from the Stone Age to the 21st century, government departments and bureaucracies, whether we're talking Egyptian pharaohs or British Rail, didn't drive innovation. People do.

And consider how technology has ramped up the pace at which people can share with and learn from others. Ridley, the rational optimist, predicts innovation will accelerate at a much faster pace than ever. Which is happy news if only we can steer clear of the Scylla and Charybdis of modernity, the imposers of happiness who favour top-down diktats about happiness and the apocaholics who shudder at technology, scoff at globalisation and regard free trade in anything - even ideas - as an abomination.



Three current articles below

Meltdown imminent, solar industry warns

The solar industry has warned it will cease to exist in New South Wales within eight weeks without action from the State Government.

Lobbying by the industry, along with disquiet on the Coalition's own backbench, contributed to the Government's backdown earlier this month on changes to the Solar Bonus Scheme.

The Government had announced it would retrospectively cut the tariff paid to households with solar from 60 cents per kilowatt hour to 40 cents. That plan was abandoned but the industry is still crying foul after the Government closed the scheme to new applicants.

Energy Minister Chris Hartcher says alternative proposals for keeping the industry afloat will be considered at a second solar summit in a week. He says one option would be for electricity retailers to pay for the solar energy they receive.

But John Grimes from the Australian Solar Energy Society says by then it may already be too late. "We've seen companies that have gone from 19 employees to two. They're holding on to see what's going to happen," Mr Grimes said. "If we don't get a one-for-one feed-in tariff in place in NSW immediately those companies will close altogether and that would be a huge tragedy."


World Government: Not a conspiracy it’s actually Greens policy

Like Germany but unlike most other countries, Australia has a "Green" party that is politically influential. Their policies (below) are therefore instructive

To the people who say that those pushing the global warming agenda are using it and carbon taxes for “World Government” is a conspiracy theory, I think should take a look a “The Greens” policy titled: Global Governance. (see here)

I want to basically abolish the UN or at least remove any legal powers it has. I want to ensure the sovreignty of Australia and want Australians to be governed by a democratically elected Australian government. The Greens want to strengthen the UN and want a world government. Here are some points their policy covers:

* The system of global governance must be reinvigorated.

* A stronger UN capable of dealing with threats to international peace and security.

* Support the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and ensure that all nations are subject to its decisions.

* Major structural reform is needed to provide stronger, more effective and more representative multilateral institutions.

* The leading role of the United Nations (UN) in the maintenance of International peace and security must be recognised and respected by all countries.

* The international financial institutions that govern aid, development, trade, and transnational financial movements require extensive reform to enable them to provide global economic justice
A stronger UN capable of dealing with threats to international peace and security.

* Support the establishment of an international environmental court and an environmental council at the UN, with similar decision-making powers to the Security Council to deal with environmental issues of global significance.

These very fighting polices must be kept in mind when they move to give land to the United Nation when they list “word heritage” areas, When they want open borders with some of their refugee policies and when our carbon taxes are paid to the United Nations.

And to those who will email me saying is says governance not government, here is the dictionary definition of both words.

Governance: The action or manner of governing.
Government: The governing body of a nation, state, or community
They are one and the same.


Blow for wind farms as senators push probe into noise and health fears

URGENT research should be undertaken into the potentially damaging health effects of wind farms on nearby residents, says a landmark Senate report released yesterday. In a dramatic win for residents' groups who have raised widespread concerns about the impact of wind farms on rural communities, the committee recommended that noise measurements be expanded to include low-frequency noise, or infrasound.

Campaigners welcomed the report and said there should be an immediate halt to wind farm developments until the potential health impacts were better understood.

According to the Clean Energy Council, there are 53 wind farms operating in Australia, with 1089 operating turbines that can reach the height of a 45-storey building and have blades up to 50m long. Wind turbine capacity has increased by 30 per cent a year over the past decade and wind now supplies about 2 per cent of Australia's electricity needs.

There are more than 9000 megawatts of large-scale wind farm energy projects proposed around the country, propelled partly by the federal government's Renewable Energy Target scheme, which subsidises power from renewable sources.

The majority Senate report yesterday called for tougher rules on noise, new rules to govern how close wind farms can be built to houses, and an independent arbitrator to hear complaints. It said arbitrary setbacks - the distance that a wind farm must be built from a residence - may not be adequate and each situation may need to be considered on its merits.

But the most dramatic findings were in the area of potential harm from low-frequency noise. The committee said the commonwealth government should initiate as a matter of priority "thorough, adequately resourced epidemiological and laboratory studies of the possible effects of wind farms on human health".

"This research must engage across industry and community, and include an advisory process representing the range of interests and concerns," the committee said. It said a National Health and Medical Research Council review of research should continue, with regular publication.

The committee recommended that the National Acoustics Laboratories conduct a study and assessment of noise impacts of wind farms, including the impacts of infrasound. It said the draft National Wind Farm Development Guidelines should be redrafted to include discussion of any adverse health effects.

The Senate inquiry was initiated by Family First senator Steve Fielding and attracted more then 1000 submissions both for and against wind farm developments. The inquiry was chaired by Greens senator Rachel Siewert and included Labor senators Claire Moore and Carol Brown and Liberal senators Judith Adams, Sue Boyce and Helen Coonan.

Sarah Laurie, medical director of the Waubra Foundation, a national organisation set up to raise awareness of the health effects of wind farms, said an immediate moratorium should be called for wind farm developments. "Given the Senate recommendations and strength of evidence to the inquiry, the precautionary principle should be adopted," Dr Laurie said.

She said the report's recommendations were exactly what concerned health professionals had called for. "Investigation of low-frequency noise, or infrasound, had not been properly conducted anywhere else in the world," Dr Laurie said.

The Senate committee was told that Denmark had flagged regulation of infrasound at wind farms and that Japan last year started a four-year study into the effects of infrasound from wind farms.

Sheep farmer Dean West and his partner Geri McHugh live in the shadow of the Starfish Hill Wind Farm at Delamere, 100km south of Adelaide, and often hear the turbines on a windy day. Mr West, whose sheep wander the paddocks under the 100m-high turbines, is in the paddocks daily, but has no concerns for his health. "I can't see that more studies would do any harm, though," Mr West said.

The couple moved to the farm 10 years ago, at the same time as the 23 turbines were being built on the grazing land. The closest tower is 500m away. Although they do not think they suffer because of the turbines, Ms McHugh has tinnitus and is sensitive to the turbine noise. "It's just a woof, woof, woof sound, you just can't tune out," Ms McHugh said.

Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh said the renewable energy industry believed the Senate inquiry report was a balanced review of issues. "It acknowledges the important contribution that wind energy makes to employment and economic development," Mr Marsh said. "There is no reason to slow the development of new wind farms based on this report."


24 June, 2011

Victory for freedom of association

Hells Angels bikie member wins challenge to NSW gang law

BIKIES have scored a victory over the New South Wales Government, securing a High Court ruling that a tough law designed to break up their clubs is invalid.

The High Court ruled today that a Hells Angel's challenge had been successful and the NSW law had been declared invalid, a registrar at the High Court in Canberra said today. The NSW Attorney-General's office confirmed the decision.

The NSW Government introduced the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act in 2009 following the death of Hells Angel associate, Anthony Zervas, during a violent brawl at Sydney Airport.

The law allowed the police commissioner to ask a NSW Supreme Court judge to declare bikie gangs criminal organisations and then seek control orders banning individual members associating with one another.

Derek Wainohu, a prominent member of the Hells Angel Motorcycle Club, launched a bid in 2010 on behalf of Sydney chapters of the club to have the law declared invalid.


Dial M for monopoly and send the bill to consumers

The NBN deal kills competition, trashes hardware and chains us to a white elephant

Henry Ergas

IT'S done, though not fully disclosed. And Telstra has done very well out of it. But the "dial M for monopoly" deal between the government, NBN Co and Telstra gives consumers and taxpayers nothing to cheer about.

Start with consumers. If the National Broadband Network is to be built, it should share Telstra's ducts and pipes. That reduces costs, making consumers better off. But eliminating competition is a different proposition altogether.

This is not merely a question of the retirement of Telstra's copper network. Ultimately, that would happen anyway, though scrapping it now is not especially sensible. But paying Telstra, and it appears, Optus, to cease providing high-speed data services over their hybrid fibre coax networks is nothing more than the NBN buying itself a monopoly.

As NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley recognised in Senate estimates, those networks provide effective competition to fibre optic networks in many advanced economies. Indeed, careful studies find that network competition reduces prices by 10 to 20 per cent while significantly enhancing the quality of service consumers receive.

The government's argument is that Australia is too small to accommodate multiple providers. But these networks exist already and their running and expansion costs are very low. Moreover, the agreement explicitly envisages their continued use to provide pay-TV services, so those costs will be borne in any event. Far from avoiding needless duplication, the deal merely prevents the fullest use of scarce capital.

Even more appalling is the prohibition on Telstra "promoting wireless services as a substitute for fibre-based services for 20 years". With few fixed networks in the world's most rapidly growing telco markets, investment is pouring into developing ever higher speed wireless services. This clause, along with others aimed at preventing those services from competing with the NBN, will therefore not only cement NBN Co's market power but also impede our access to cutting-edge technologies. None of this is to deny that NBN may be able to achieve scale economies by expanding its customer base. But let it do so by winning consumers over, not through sweetheart deals that pay rivals to shut down. The first is competitive rivalry, with all the gains it brings; the second is no better than price-fixing.

The government claims any resulting harms are offset by wider benefits. The greatest of these, it says, is that the NBN will be structurally separated, giving Telstra's rivals a competitively neutral platform from which to compete.

But this claim too makes little sense. After all, the government has repeatedly emphasised that regardless of any deal with Telstra, the NBN will proceed. The structurally separated platform will therefore be put in place quite independently of the restrictions on competition the deal mandates. Removing those restrictions would only make the consumer benefits all the greater. Indeed, the government fully knows its claim is bunk. That is why it has exempted the deal from the trade practices provisions of the competition law. Those provisions would allow the deal even if it created a monopoly, so long as NBN Co could convince the competition regulator, and the competition tribunal in the event of appeal, that the deal's competitive detriments really were outweighed by public benefits. It is the fact that such a claim has no prospect of success that has forced the government to grant NBN Co the unparalleled exemption it has now obtained.

But it is not only consumers who lose; taxpayers too will suffer. The government has negotiated policy changes valued by Telstra at $2 billion, without any pretence of adequate prior public disclosure or consultation. There also seem to be tax concessions, though these are undisclosed. But the damage to taxpayers goes even further.

NBN Co will be a government-owned monopoly. Freeing it from competitive disciplines means allowing inefficiency and cronyism to flourish. That the initial sites chosen for the NBN's deployment are largely marginal electorates is merely a sign of things to come. As such waste becomes the order of the day, it is taxpayers who will bear the losses.

Bad as all that is, the greatest victim is the quality of public policy. Exactly 20 years ago, the Telecommunications Act, 1991 marked a new era, opening telecommunications markets to competition, reducing cross-subsidies and setting clear bounds on political interference. Certainly, serious mistakes were made; but those broad policy directions have more than proven their value.

A sensible government would have used a Productivity Commission inquiry to identify options for addressing the mistakes while preserving the achievements. Instead, the Rudd government's grand promises degenerated into a stunt it announced before it had even been costed. The Gillard government then used backroom deals, lubricated by taxpayer-financed largesse, to bring a poor idea to poorer implementation.

That is this government's style. So too is trashing every principle of good governance along the way. Billions of dollars have been committed without even the semblance of a cost-benefit analysis, legitimating wasteful public spending decisions more widely. Inefficient cross-subsidies, painfully reduced over a long period, have not only been restored but are being locked in. As for consumers, they will be faced with a monopoly that the government, now back as both owner and rule-maker, has powers to manipulate at will. And future generations will bear losses that every study concludes could well be substantial.

Even worse, the deal includes break clauses forcing any government that reversed those decisions to make huge payments to Telstra. There is nothing wrong with ordinary commercial penalties, which only compensate for costs, legitimately incurred, that otherwise could not be recouped. But these clauses seem to go beyond that in shackling future policy.

As well as being constitutionally abhorrent, such clauses undermine fiscal honesty by creating liabilities that do not show up as government outlays. And to aggravate matters, they make rent-seeking more profitable by obliging future governments to honour their predecessors' tainted promises. So that is what we have come to: white elephant projects that squander the income from depleting our mining wealth; backroom deals that bribe firms to go along with bad policy; and penalty clauses to protect shabby bargains from the democratic process.

Yet this, the government tells us, is economic reform. With reforms such as these, can it be long before we are undone?


The cattle export mess continues -- maybe worsens

FOREIGN Minister Kevin Rudd has been recruited to help solve the worsening crisis over the ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia and has met with a key industry group several times this week.

As criticism mounts over the Gillard government's handling of the issue and deteriorating relations with our neighbour, The Australian has confirmed Mr Rudd has had numerous meetings with the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association.

The revelation of Mr Rudd's involvement comes on the first anniversary of his removal as prime minister and follows repeated calls by the opposition for Mr Rudd to take the lead on negotiations over the cattle standoff between the countries.

It is understood Mr Rudd is taking a supporting role, bolstering Australia's position.

The damage done to Australia's relationship with Indonesia is also expected to be one of the main topics discussed at a meeting today between Julia Gillard and West Australian Premier Colin Barnett.

Confirmation of Mr Rudd's involvement in the cattle dispute comes amid suggestions Australian officials in Indonesia warned the Department of Foreign Affairs about animal welfare issues as far back as six months ago.

DFAT has refused to confirm or deny the existence of diplomatic cables, citing long-standing protocols that it does not comment on the subject of internal correspondence. Mr Rudd's office has stated that he "has not seen any cables on this matter".

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig returned from Indonesia on Tuesday night after failing to secure an agreement with the Indonesian government on a timetable for trade to resume or agreed standards.

Senator Ludwig was initially criticised by animal welfare groups for failing to act when they first raised their concerns, and then by industry players for being heavy-handed and not allowing trade to continue with Indonesian abattoirs currently operating to Australian standards.

Nationals leader Warren Truss yesterday implored the Prime Minister to "release" her Foreign Minister and allow Mr Rudd to negotiate a solution. "The government must urgently send the Foreign Minister to Indonesia to patch up the damaged relations between our two countries," Mr Truss said. "The government's bungling of this issue has damaged our relationships with our important neighbour."

The foreign relations crisis was sparked when the Gillard government suspended the $320 million live cattle trade to Indonesia on June 8 following a community outcry over shocking revelations in an ABC Four Corners program of animal cruelty in the country's slaughterhouses.

Australian cattle exporters fear Australia could be pushed out of the Indonesian cattle marketplace, with the head of an Indonesia parliamentary agriculture commission Muh Romahurmuziy saying the country could push for a permanent ban on Australian cattle.


An unfixable bureaucracy?

Nurse docked thousands by 'fixed' Queensland Health payroll system

A NURSE has warned Queensland Health's disastrous payroll system is far from fixed after she was recently docked more than $14,000 for a HECS debt she repaid seven years ago.

While payroll bungles continue to dog the system, Queensland Health has referred some staff to police for claiming hardship payments during the debacle.

Payroll workers throughout the state are so incensed over the ongoing fiasco they will rally today demanding more recognition for the extra work and expertise involved in running the new system.

The nurse said she had been forced to work for an agency on her days off from Queensland Health and borrow money from family after being grossly underpaid for months. She said although Queensland Health had recently repaid her more than $30,000 in lost wages, $14,000 of that was taken out and paid to the Australian Tax Office in HECS that she did not owe.

"The payroll system is definitely not fixed and I think they're a long way from fixing it," she said. The nurse did not want to be named, but showed The Courier-Mail a copy of her payslip.

Her case questions Queensland Health's assertion to auditor-general Glenn Poole that the payroll system had stabilised since October and was now considered "business as usual".

A report by Mr Poole, released this week, found staff had been overpaid more than 47,000 times since the payroll system was introduced 15 months ago, amounting to about $43 million. Another $9 million was given out in emergency cash payments. Queensland Health began moves this month to recoup the money.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said he was concerned the payroll system was still causing grief despite the many millions of dollars that had been spent trying to fix it. "Yet another nurse has become a victim of the payroll debacle, suffering a crippling financial outcome," he said. "You have to wonder how many more people are in the same boat."

Queensland Health deputy director-general John Cairns said calls to the payroll hotline had fallen 80 per cent since last year, indicating the system had stabilised and reflecting the increased accuracy of the department's pay runs.

A payroll employee, who did not want to be named, yesterday confirmed the system was still far from fixed. She'll join other payroll workers at lunchtime rallies throughout the state today.


You call this even-handed? Refugee series is strictly for the gullible

Misleading series from Australian public TV broadcaster

One of the most passionate and enduring debates in this country has been built on a falsity, a false choice that is being carefully recrafted, repackaged and re-presented on SBS this week, at taxpayer expense.

A comment that sums up the falsity at the centre of this debate and the three-part series Go Back to where You Came from came from one of the six manipulated participants in the show, Darren Hassan, who complained that the group was being subjected to enforced empathy.

He had seen the loaded dice at the centre of the progressive argument about boat people: that if you believe in stopping the small number of asylum seekers who arrive by boat, you are lacking in empathy, lacking in compassion, and probably anti-Muslim. The entire series is designed to enforce this maxim. The participants are lied to. The audience is lied to. This is an empathy forced march.

In the first part, on Tuesday night, the unseen narrator said the participants had just ''survived a sinking, burning boat''. In fact it was an obvious charade. We were told that ''at the last minute, the stricken boat is spotted''. Again, only for the gullible. The rescue was as false as the emergency.

The narrator told us that only ''1 per cent of the world's refugees are resettled by the UN''. Again, a highly misleading statistic.

The empathy argument is easily turned on its head, something the producers carefully avoid doing. Far from lacking empathy, the decision to send a punitive signal to the people smugglers and their clients has been proven to stop the people-smuggling trade. Detention centres, instead of being opened all over the country, would empty out. Lives would not be lost at sea. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be spent on people instead of policing. More refugees could come to Australia under less stress and for less cost.

Because this debate is not about empathy. It is not about numbers. It is not about race. It is about principle: control the borders. The biggest beneficiaries of strict border control would be legitimate asylum seekers.

Much to the chagrin of the progressive side of politics, this argument is the one that has carried the day in Australia. After 15 years of being bashed over the head, especially by the ABC and SBS, the public has not budged. The Gillard Labor government could fall on this issue alone, given how badly it has been handled for almost four years. This year it will spend more than $750 million on illegal entries, an increase of 700 per cent over the final year of the Howard government.

The bedrock opposition of Australians to the empathy argument is quickly evident from the questions asked by some of the participants in Go Back to where You Came from. Adam Hartup: Why didn't the boat people stay in Malaysia or Indonesia where they were in no danger? Why do 99 per cent of them arrive with no papers?

Darren Hassan: Once they leave Malaysia, and then Indonesia, they become economic migrants. We need to send a tougher signal. People who are destroying documents, what are they trying to hide?

Raye Colbey (after visiting settled refugees from Africa who had come via the UN process): These are real refugees. They came the right way.

None of these basic questions were seriously addressed by the producers in their opening salvo. They had carefully sifted through 500 people before selecting the six for the program, and carefully chosen the refugees the participants would visit in Australia. But it would have been possible to randomly select six Australians, take them to a refugee camp, or to a newly arrived refugee's home, and see a ramp-up in empathy in most cases. This series is about something else.

While the quality of the filmmaking is good, the laudatory descriptions of the program as being even-handed are overstated. It is stacked with commentary, from the narration, to the structure, to the guide, Dr David Corlett, who is immersed in the refugee industry, is highly political, and in 2003 wrote a Quarterly Essay, ''Sending Them Home'', with Robert Manne. This is the producers' idea of dispassionate objectivity.

Last August, the ABC's Four Corners presented a searing program, ''Smugglers' Paradise'', which presented a far more accurate and confronting picture of the people smuggling trade to Australia. It was reality TV that was real. This new series has real people in real places, but it remains an exercise in manipulation for everyone involved.


23 June, 2011

Web censorship begins in Australia next month

MOST Australian internet users will have their web access censored next month after the country's two largest internet providers agreed to voluntarily block more than 500 websites from view.

Telstra and Optus confirmed they would block access to a list of child abuse websites provided by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and more compiled by unnamed international organisations from mid-year.

But internet experts have warned that the scheme is merely a "feel-good policy" that will not stop criminals from accessing obscene material online and could block websites unfairly.

The voluntary scheme was originally proposed by the Federal Government last year as part of a wider, $9.8 million scheme to encourage internet service providers to block all Refused Classification material from users as an optional service.

The Government dropped its funding for the scheme last month due to "limited interest" from the industry, but a spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said a basic voluntary filter was still on track to be introduced by Telstra, Optus and two small ISPs.

"The ACMA will compile and manage a list of URLs of child abuse content that will include the appropriate subsection of the ACMA blacklist as well as child abuse URLs that are provided by reputable international organisations (to be blocked)," the spokesman said.

System Administrators Guild of Australia board member Donna Ashelford said blocking these website addresses should not affect internet speed, but was only a "cosmetic fix" that was easily circumvented by criminals.

"The effectiveness will be trivial because you're just blocking a single website address (and) a person can get around it by changing that address with one character," she said. "Child abuse material is more likely to be exchanged on peer-to-peer networks and private networks anyway and is a matter for law enforcement."

Electronic Frontiers Association board member Colin Jacobs also expressed concern at the scheme, saying the Government and internet providers needed to be more upfront about websites being blocked and offer an appeals process for website owners who felt URLs had been blocked unfairly.

"There is a question about where the links are coming from and I'd like to know the answer to that," Mr Jacobs said. "We've been waiting to hear details on this from the Government. It they turn out to be zealous with the type of material that is on the list then we'd want to have a discussion about ways to introduce more transparency."


Fibre network a waste of money, says Abbott

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott has compared the national broadband network (NBN) to ripping up a freeway and replacing it with a toll road.

Telstra, the Federal Government and the builder of the $35.9 billion national broadband network, NBN Co, today announced they had signed definitive agreements for the rollout of the network across Australia. Telstra will receive $11 billion to decommission its copper network, shift customers to the NBN and allow access to its cable ducts.

Optus has also reached an $800 million agreement with the Federal Government to move its customers to the NBN.

Mr Abbott said the NBN was a "great leap backwards" and similar services could be delivered more cheaply with a mix of technologies. "What the Government is doing is analogous to closing down a freeway to make Australians use a toll road," Mr Abbott said.

"And it's typical of the incompetence and the ineptitude of this government that they are paying vast amounts of money not to create infrastructure but to close it down."

Mr Abbott said it showed a lack of proper economic priorities. "They are going to spend $50 billion plus on something which is not necessary at a time when Australia's road, railways and ports are completely clogged," he said.

Mr Abbott said a coalition government would announce "at the time" what it would do in terms of broadband services. "We don't know how far advanced the NBN will be, if and when we take government," he said.


Pathetic Australian public school leaves kids wearing blankets

WHILE most schools insist on ties and blazers, Greensborough College's new uniform policy is likely to be somewhat more unusual - blankets will be allowed to be worn in class. The school council will vote today to amend temporarily the uniform policy and allow students to bring blankets to school due to occupational health and safety concerns.

"The school is responsible for the well-being of children and this is the only way we can see we can meet their needs," said school council president Glen Martin.

Greensborough College's power supply is so inadequate, the electricity has cut out four times this winter, leaving students shivering in classrooms without heating. "It is always on bitter cold mornings … if the power goes out even the gas heaters don't work," principal John Conway said.

Year 9 student Nick Goldsmith said students were already allowed to wear beanies and scarves in class - provided they were in the school's colours of navy blue and white.

"Last Thursday the year 12s were doing a GAT [general achievement test] and the power went out," Nick said. "It does get pretty cold."

Conditions at Greensborough College, which was promised a $20 million upgrade by the previous government, are so Dickensian a corridor floor collapsed last year, trapping bags under the building. "The building has been sinking into the ground for over 40 years - the stumps are rotten," Mr Conway said.

An audit found the school needed a 400-amp power supply rather than the existing 300-amp supply. However, this would cost $187,000 and the Education Department told Greensborough College it would have to fork out for a quarter of the cost. "I've written a submission to the department, saying I can't pay that," Mr Conway said.

He said Greensborough College's enrolments had jumped from 355 to 986 in the past 10 years, and the school had to spend all its cash reserves on things like new lockers just to cope with the influx of students. "We had to spend locally raised funds on facilities development, including building a new kitchen," he said.

Mr Martin said parents were frustrated the Baillieu government had not committed funding to the school and hoped the blanket uniform policy would highlight the deprivation. "The government is spending nothing in the northern suburbs on education - we are the forgotten suburbs," he said.

Local Labor MP Colin Brooks said students at Greensborough College should not be punished because of the way their parents voted. "It's time that the Premier stopped dithering and intervened in this embarrassing saga," he said.

Education Minister Martin Dixon said the education department was working with the school to help overcome its power supply and facilities issues. "The department has provided more than $80,000 for internal electrical works at the school and is also currently undertaking an energy audit of the school site," Mr Dixon said.


Sugar doesn't make you fat

FOOD scientists claim that new federal draft dietary guidelines reflect nutritional "dogma" and perpetuate the "myth" that sugar is as dangerous as fats and salt.

"Sugar has been unfairly demonised in the national dietary guidelines," said consultant dietitian Bill Shrapnel, deputy chairman of the Sydney University Nutrition Research Foundation. Along with Sydney University nutritionist Jennie Brand-Miller, Mr Shrapnel is highly critical of the newly released draft Australian Dietary Guidelines prepared by a National Health & Medical Research Council working group.

A list of the key recommendations, but without their scientific justification, was posted recently on the NH&MRC website and discussed by the council last week.

Reflecting existing guidelines, the draft document recommends people limit their intake of foods and drinks containing fats, salt, alcohol and sugar.

"Unlike saturated fats, trans fats, salt and alcohol, sugar doesn't actually do any direct harm to the human body," said Professor Brand-Miller, author of The Low GI Diet and recipient this month of an Order of Australia.

Mr Shrapnel and Professor Brand-Miller argue a sweet touch at the end of a meal isn't a dietary sin. Sydney restaurateur Lucio Galletto couldn't agree more. "A beautiful dessert with different types of sugar makes you feel good. Sugar is not why you get fat."

Professor Brand-Miller says he's correct. Studies show that Australians are eating less sugar, but gaining more weight.



Four current articles below

Viscount Monckton hits out at ecofascism

Renowned climate change skeptic Lord Monckton has lashed out at the Federal Government's climate change advisor Ross Garnaut, labelling him a Nazi.

The 7News exclusive report shows Lord Christopher Monckton, Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, addressing the American Freedom Alliance Conference earlier this month.

Using extreme political labels to characterise the Green movement and climate change believers, Monckton singles out Australia's Professor Ross Garnaut and calls him a fascist.

"Let's look very quickly at a few eco-fascists speaking in their own words." says Monckton at the conference. "Professor Ross Garnaut ... that again is a fascist point of view that you merely accept authority without question, Heil Hitler! On we go." Monckton continued.

In response, Professor Garnaut says the climate debate is becoming increasingly bitter, "I think the tone of the current discourse is less civilized. It's noisier, more ignorant." says Garnaut.

Lord Monckton is due to appear at a mining conference in Perth next week which is reportedly being opened by Tony Abbott.


Peer review denial and the abuse of science

Can someone get Stephan Lewandowsky his medication? His new marketing message is that “deniers” don’t do peer review papers. There’s a curious case of acute-peer-review-blindness (APRB) occurring. It doesn’t matter that there are literally thousands of pages of skeptical information on the web, quoting hundreds of peer reviewed papers, by people far more qualified than a cognitive-psychologist, yet he won’t even admit they exist.

…most climate deniers avoid scrutiny by sidestepping the peer-review process that is fundamental to science, instead posting their material in the internet or writing books.

Dear Stephan, deny this: 900 papers that support skeptics. What is it about these hundreds of papers published in Nature, Science, GRL, PNAS, and Journal of Climate that you find impossible to acknowledge? (And do tell Stephan, if people need to publish peer reviewed material before they venture an opinion on climate science online, how many peer reviewed articles on climate science have you produced?)

Obviously, the real deniers are the people who deny the hundreds of papers with empirical evidence that show the hockey stick is wrong, the world was warmer, the climate changes, and the models are flawed.

Twenty eight million weather balloons show there is no hotspot. So in response, stumped for evidence, the establishment team rolls out a psychologist to deny the results, and issue unscientific pronouncements about how we all have to “trust the establishment” and use only its’ approved formats to further human knowledge.

Instead of sidestepping the process, articles by people who want to sidestep the issue give themselves away in the first line. We can always rely on Lewandowsky to solve our climate dilemmas by analyzing… something else.

“On 20 April 2010, a BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and creating the largest oil spill in history.”

Then if he does get to the topic at hand, you can count on him to stick to fallacies, like argument from authority and ad hominem attacks. No doubt, UWA will be renouncing Lewandowsky’s science degree (I mean, surely the faculty of science at UWA have higher standards than that don’t they?). Breaking laws of reason is an embarrassment for any science faculty, and to any psychology school.

Then when he gets past the fallacies and actually tries to make a socio political point, he reverts to a kindergarten black and white world view – me: good, you: bad. Humans in business = evil and untrustworthy. Humans in government = above question.

During peer review, by contrast, commercial interests are removed from the publication decision because journals are often published by not-for-profit professional organisations.

Obviously, commercial interests who advertise in journals, or own their stocks, their distribution, their publishing house, or offer jobs-for-the-boys never have any influence on angelic science publications**. And government interests are of course, obviously benign. No government has ever used it’s power to deceive its subjects. Right?

Even if private publishers are involved, they make their profit primarily via university subscriptions, and universities subscribe to journals based on their reputation, rather than based on individual publication decisions.

And universities make their money… follow that dollar… by appealing to government bureaus, ergo?* So government-paid-researchers vet other government-paid-researchers-papers which are published in journals which want to get more subscriptions from government paid entities. What could go wrong with that?

Very occasionally a contrarian paper does appear in a peer-reviewed journal, which segments of the internet and the media immediately hail as evidence against global warming or its human causes, as if a single paper somehow nullifies thousands of previous scientific findings.

Dear Stephan, that’s the point of science remember, as Einstein says, it only takes one experiment to prove a theory wrong, and your anti-science mind-set means if a skeptic proved man-made warming wrong (actually we already have) you would “know” the skeptic was wrong before you even read the paper.

In Stephens obey-thy-leader form of “science”, the answers to the universe can be figured out by counting the peer reviewed papers. It’s not about quality. It’s not about a chain of evidence. It’s not that some papers matter. It’s just the tally.

And if we only had a bureau of perpetual motion issuing papers, then we could finally solve the energy crisis. (In fact, why bother to do the research, just ask the government?)

Most of the Lewandowsky-carbon-tax-marketing-tactic is simply to confound his followers with a bread crumb trail of smears, which reinforces the neural pathways of pavlovian fans-of-the-carbon-cult so they too can issue reflexive insults against scientists, and warm themselves with smug superiority. And this man does it with your taxes.

John McLean corrected Lewandowsky’s points on the ABC site. Stephen apparently denys that too.


Climate debate 'appalling', says Australia's chief scientist

But he contributes nothing to the debate himself, just the usual unscientific appeal to authority. It would seem that it is criticism of Warmism that he finds appalling

AUSTRALIA'S Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, has lamented the quality of public debate on climate change, saying it "borders on appalling" and the level of scientific literacy among politicians is "not high".

In his first big speech since his appointment by the Gillard government in April, Professor Chubb rejected accusations that he was partisan because he believed that "the science is in on climate change".

"Well, I don't think that's partisan. I think that I can read English - as Ross Garnaut once said - and understand it. And I think that the evidence is overwhelming," he said at the National Press Club.

Recently, prominent climate scientists have reported receiving death threats, and actress Cate Blanchett was criticised for fronting an ad campaign in support of a carbon price.

"I think attacking people because they're giving a message is appalling. I think that some of the language that's used is bordering on the hysterical," Professor Chubb said.

He said the media often gave undue weight to the views of climate sceptics. "I think the media has an obligation to present scientific debates, including on climate change, in a proper and balanced and appropriately weighted way."

He said there were respectable people who held different views. "But when you get the overwhelming majority of people with real expertise heading in one direction, you have to take notice of that, because if you wait for proof, you wait forever."

Professor Chubb complained that despite its potential to cure diseases and deliver transformative inventions, science struggled to compete with football and celebrity gossip for public attention.


Warmist journalist wants skeptics gassed

You can't make this stuff up. Do I need to mention whom her wishes align her with? You won't be surprised that she made her career with the ABC, Australia's main public broadcaster. And, needless to say, she pays zero attention to any of the science concerned. In effect she just says "Heil Klima" while her right arm edges upwards. In other words, she accepts the Warmist faith without question ("Klima" is the German word for climate)

Jill Singer

While Tony Abbott has previously lent support to schemes including an emissions trading scheme and a carbon tax, you wouldn't know it today. The only real scheme he and supporters are currently backing is political interference.

It's a dangerous game they're playing with our future, but you've got to hand it to them, they're ruddy good at it.

Cate Blanchett pops up her head to support a carbon tax and Abbott's band of climate sceptics quickly lops it off because she's richer than most.

But when Gina Rinehart pops hers up, Australia's richest woman is touted as some kind of working-class hero.

Then there's David Murray, chair of Australia's $71 billion Future Fund and recipient of a $28 million golden parachute from his time running the Commonwealth Bank. Murray states there's no link between global warming and carbon dioxide emissions because carbon dioxide is necessary for life, colourless and odourless - and therefore can't be considered a pollutant. It's a popularly held view.

Andy Semple of the Menzies Institute claims it's "refreshing" for someone with Murray's standing to take on the global warming "scam" by expressing such views.

Really? I'm prepared to keep an open mind and propose another stunt for climate sceptics - put your strong views to the test by exposing yourselves to high concentrations of either carbon dioxide or some other colourless, odourless gas - say, carbon monoxide.

You wouldn't see or smell anything. Nor would your anti-science nonsense be heard of again. How very refreshing.


Carbon monoxide inhalation is of course rapidly fatal

22 June, 2011

Muslims can't help themselves

What they are comes out all the time: Aggressive and obnoxious

All causes need a strong narrative, and anti-Muslim and anti-burqa sentiment just got one. Carnita Matthews, 47, had a conviction for a false accusation against a cop overturned because the court could not be sure it was indeed her that walked into a police station and made the complaint.

It all started, and finished, with a burqa. Read all about it here, here and here.

So this hysterical woman started it all when she verbally abused the policeman who was just doing his job. He asked her to remove her niqab (her face veil) and she refused. "You are racist. all cops are racist," she said, and threatened to go to court.

She should probably have been a little more sanguine about the fine she received - it was far from her first, and she has a history of not paying them.

And just like that she is the woman who cried `racist', who makes it harder for genuine claims of racism and discrimination to be taken seriously, who ruins it for people who face serious obstacles.

She could have overcome religious laws in this one instance. If it was impossible for her to show her face to a male police officer, she could have argued quietly and reasonably for a female police officer to attend so she could prove her identity. She didn't.

The next culprit is the burqa-clad woman who walked into a police station with a statutory declaration saying the police officer had torn her burqa away from her face. A judge originally decided that woman was indeed Ms Matthews, at which point she was convicted of making a false allegation, of committing a "deliberate and malicious and, to a degree, a ruthless crime". This is the conviction that was overturned this week because another judge said he could not be absolutely certain it was Ms Matthews.

Whoever that woman was set out to bring down that police officer. What she did was commit a crime that gives far too much fuel to all those who hate the burqa with a visceral hate; who would ban it because it rouses the beast of their xenophobia. Who turn to arguments about security and identifying people to justify their desire to prohibit the full face veil.

She made it that much harder for every other burqa-wearer and their defenders.

Then we come to Ms Matthews' supporters, the angry and aggressive mob outside the court where the conviction was quashed. They apparently could have walked peacefully past the waiting media, but chose to swear and charge at them instead.

It's as though they decided to incarnate an angry Muslim stereotype, to deliberately shore up the negative images that haunt Islam. At the risk of sounding like a finger-waggling old nanna; they all ought to be ashamed of themselves.

The burqa should not be banned. Banning it is as bad as forcing someone to wear it.

It shouldn't be so hard to be sensitive in this debate without either side being hypersensitive. Clarify the laws. Ensure people know their obligations under Australian law, and that police can carry out their job sensitively, but unhindered by futile political correctness. Fingerprint people if you have to prove their identity. Or ensure female police officers are available. Or carry a device and take a picture.


Garnaut: Just another deceitful Greenie

An exponent of that old Green/Left skill: How to convey false impressions without actually lying

Professor Ross Garnaut recently compared Australia and Norway in the context of climate change policy and a carbon tax. It is both curious that he should choose this comparison and that no journalist, as far as I am aware, has thought to question it.

In his report, Prof Garnaut states that Norway is the "only other developed country with endowments of fossil fuels that are in any way comparable to Australia's" (The Garnaut Review 2011, p. 52).

He also set the stage during his speech in Perth at the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy breakfast meeting, 2 June 2011, by stating that Norway has a larger endowment of hydrocarbons per capita than does Australia, and yet exhibits lower per capita emission.

The argument then led to the fact that Norway has had a carbon tax since 1991, with the clear implication being that the lower emissions were due to the tax.

Is this point of comparison relevant to the debate? Should we make a comparison with a country that Australia may actually emulate? If so, Norway definitely is not the country of choice.

While Norway may be comparable in terms of fossil fuel endowment, it uses virtually none of this endowment to generate its electricity. It primarily exports its produced hydrocarbons.

By contrast, the electricity generation sector of Australia is heavily fossil fuel reliant. Perhaps more importantly for the thrust of Prof Garnaut's argument, Norway has not used its fossil fuel endowment to produce electricity since well before it introduced a carbon tax.

This is relevant for policy comparisons because the thrust (at least implicitly) of Prof Garnaut's argument is that Norway's introduction of a carbon tax has led it to be a relatively lower emitter than Australia.

Norway produces nearly all of its electricity from hydroelectricity projects. In 2008, 98.5% of Norway's electricity production came from hydro, and less than 0.05% came from fossil fuels of any form.

Just over 0.75% percent of Norway's electricity production came from geothermal, solar, and wind renewable sources, whereas these sources represented 1.6% of Australia's production. Neither country registered any geothermal, solar, or wind capacity in 1990. These numbers are readily available in the International Energy Agency publication Electricity Information 2010.

In terms of installed capacity by generation type, in 1990 (the year before the introduction of a carbon tax) hydro accounted for 99.1% of capacity in Norway. In 2008, the share was 96.6% of total installed capacity.

Given the relative status between installed generation capacity and actual production, the non-hydro installed capacity was relatively underutilized; 98.5% of production coming from 96.6% of the capacity.

Both coal and natural gas generation capacity increased over this period with the carbon tax in place.

It is also useful to note that Australia's population is about 4.5 times larger than Norway's. Australia consumes about 9.9 TWh of electricity per million population, while Norway consumes about 23.5 TWh per million population.

Finally, an article published in the peer-reviewed journal Energy Policy in 2004 (Greenhouse gas emissions in Norway: do carbon taxes work?", A. Bruvoll and B.M. Larsen) shows that total CO2 emissions in Norway continued to increase after the imposition of the tax. While CO2 emissions intensity declined by 14%, the carbon tax could only be credited for 2%.

According to this study, there were a range of carbon taxes, differing according to the type of fuel. In 1999, the highest tax was US$51 per tonne of CO2, which led to the carbon tax constituting 13% of the purchaser price. Coal was assessed at US$24 per tonne and US$22 per tonne for auto diesel.

Hence, with higher carbon taxes than those contemplated by the Australian Government emissions continued to rise and only a small fraction of the reduction in CO2 emissions intensity are be attributed to the tax.

The Norwegian carbon tax failed to produce a reduction in CO2 emissions even in a country with almost no hydrocarbon-based electricity generation.


Illegitimate government propaganda

Julia Gillard can keep the $12 million. I'll write the Prime Minister's carbon tax ads for free. Here's how they go. Cue suitably sincere, earnest voice over: "The carbon tax not only offers a better future for the planet, but also offers a better future for all Australians. Most of us will soon be financially better off. Businesses will be compensated, along with hard-pressed families. Dirty, filthy polluting industries will disappear, while a vast array of wonderful, new, environmentally clean industries will now have the necessary funding to flourish. New jobs will be born, as we enter a clean, happy, financially secure new world. The carbon tax. A better future for us all."

The visuals will feature "real" people, although they will of course be actors - but hopefully not ones you recognise from other ads. There's nothing worse than seeing an attractive young woman (representing our future) living in a bright, carbon-free world and then suddenly popping up with a heavy period or irritable bowel syndrome in the next ad break.

But one thing we all agree on. No Hollywood stars. We don't want a repeat of the Cate and Michael charade.

Finding a few familiar renewable schemes - windmills, solar panels and so on - will be important, although we might give Kevin Rudd's pink batts a miss. Instead, we'll have lots of fun showing the industries that will be created by the proceeds of the carbon tax. Because they don't actually exist yet, we have creative license to show pretty much whatever fanciful jobs we please.

And therein lies the problem. I'm sorry, PM, but I have to come clean. Our ad campaign ain't gonna work.

Why? Because you can't advertise the benefits of something that doesn't exist. Imagine if McDonalds were to come out with an amazing ad about their new, healthy, fat-free, low-cholesterol, awesome-tasting burger and then just when everyone was salivating like crazy the company admitted that the kitchen was still struggling with the recipe. Not only would they would be in breach of every aspect of the advertising code and ethics, but the punters would tear them apart.

The carbon tax ads would be every bit as dishonest. The multi-party climate change committee (comprised of Labor, Greens, and independent MPs) has yet to agree on any of the specifics of the tax, whether it be the cost of carbon or who gets compensated. Forget the recipe - these guys are still squabbling over the ingredients.

The brutal truth is that if you have to rely on advertising to persuade the public at this stage of the game, then you've already lost the argument. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the government's announcement that they have awarded $12 million to an advertising agency to spruik the not-yet-finalised carbon tax. It is - not to put too fine a point on it - a scandalous abuse of process, reminiscent of NSW Labor at their very worst.

Independent Tony Windsor was quick to bell the cat. Displaying a praiseworthy (and hitherto well-camouflaged) sense of propriety on the carbon tax debacle, the member for New England labelled the decision as "spending public funds for the purposes of propaganda". Rob Oakeshott also displayed hitherto equally unseen qualities of brevity and conciseness: "This is dumb."

Governments have every right to advertise. But the justification has always been the necessity to let people know specifically how certain projects or laws apply to their particular circumstances. This is the only acceptable criteria for government (as opposed to party political) advertising. There is no point introducing complex legislation that people either don't understand, or simply aren't aware of. Whether it be the ill-fated WorkChoices campaign, the more successful GST ads, campaigns about government rebates, tax concessions, health regulations or travel advice, government advertising is a worthwhile tool for imparting the right degree of information in a palatable format. Of course, the rules have been cynically bent over the years, by all governments, so that a political (or persuasive) narrative is allowed to creep in, blurring the lines between what is partisan political ideology and what is practical, objective information.

Depressingly, in what now appears to be an all-too-familiar pattern, Julia Gillard is doing precisely what she vowed in opposition that she would never do; waste taxpayers' money on expensive, superfluous ads - to promote a tax she vowed during the election campaign that she would never introduce.

The ethics are clear; government advertising must never be political. Up until now, the worst offenders have been the former NSW government, who time and again brazenly flouted this convention. Two years ago, I watched first-hand as Macquarie Street asked numerous advertising agencies in Sydney to pitch on a campaign to sell the wonders of the government's new multibillion-dollar underground Metro. This amazing piece of infrastructure would be a godsend to Sydney, ran the brief, and would change all our lives for the better. An amazing list of benefits were trotted out on beautifully art directed power point slides. The catch? The first clink of a shovel hitting bitumen had yet to be heard. We were being asked to sell the benefits of something that didn't exist. Sound familiar?

Describing in advertising terms why the consumer needs such-and-such a new piece of legislation is where that threshold from advertising to propaganda is crossed. The "why" is the job of the politicians, and to a lesser extent, of the media, to sell. The "how, what, when and where" is the legitimate job of government advertising to explain.

Party political advertising, on the other hand, is entirely about the "why". It is about forging an emotional connection to a candidate or a party, based on shared values and a vision for the future. "Kevin 07" was a marvelous piece of advertising because, much like Gough Whitlam's "It's Time" campaign in 1972, it managed to capture the spirit and euphoria of the times without actually giving away any policy details.

And this is what, inevitably, the carbon tax ads will do. They will seek to persuade the consumer why a carbon tax is a good thing, rather than how a carbon tax will work. Naturally, the ad agency would use all the tricks of the trade to dress up an overtly political message as an informative one, but in doing so they may be pushed by a desperate government into flouting the rules. And what our $12 million dollars may buy us is an emotional, feel-good message that unacceptably crosses the line from government information to political spin.


Recall elections for NSW?

A PANEL of constitutional experts will investigate introducing California-style recall elections in NSW to give voters a "safety valve" to dump unpopular or corrupt governments.

The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, yesterday announced he had appointed David Jackson QC, constitutional expert George Williams and politics academic Elaine Thompson to report on the issues around introducing recall provisions.

The Premier said 18 US states had a recall mechanism, including California, which saw Arnold Schwarzenegger become governor in 2003 as a result of a recall election, as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Mr O'Farrell proposed examining recall elections last year as voter anger with the former scandal-plagued Labor government intensified but there was no mechanism to force an early general election. "People across this state were desperate for an early election so they could throw out an incompetent, disastrous and corrupt government that NSW had," Mr O'Farrell said yesterday.

"While we supported fixed, four-year parliamentary terms, what became clear during the last parliament was the need for a safety valve to rid voters of corrupt, incompetent governments in NSW. "A recall provision would give power back to the people."

The recall provision would allow for the sacking of a government based on public petitions, triggering an early election.

The Premier said that currently the only way to allow an early election was a vote of no confidence in the government or the failure to pass supply.

Mr O'Farrell said the panel would be asked to consider the viability of introducing a recall provision in NSW and the relevant requirements to force an early election. The panel will report by September 30.

To establish a recall procedure in NSW, the Constitution Act 1902 would need to be amended by a referendum.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

21 June, 2011

Fat and happy Australians have long lives

The traditional Australian diet of meat pies, sausage rolls etc. could hardly be more "incorrect" but our life expectancy is high anyway. Time for a redefinition of "healthy" food?

THE number of people dying early because of chronic health problems is falling, boosting the life expectancy of Australians, a new government report has found.

The report, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) today, has for the first time come up with 42 indicators linked to chronic illness.

It found the number of people aged under 75 dying from chronic illness - like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental illness - had dropped by almost 20 per cent in the decade-long study period ending in 2007.

This has contributed to gains in the life expectancy of Australians, with males born between 2006 and 2008 expected to live to 79.2 years - an increase of three-and-a-half years since about a decade earlier.

Females born between 2006 and 2008 would live for 83.7 years - an rise of 2.3 years since 10 years earlier, according to the report, entitled Key indicators of progress for chronic disease and associated determinants. [In Greece, home of the fabled "Mediterranean" diet, the life expectancy for males is 77.36 years and for females 82.65 --LOWER than Australia]

Chronic diseases are usually long-lasting, persistent and may be associated with disability, the AIHW says.

"The indicators were developed as a first step to consistent reporting, which will, over time, be able to provide information about progress with preventing and managing chronic disease in Australia," said Ilona Brockway of the AIHW's Population Health Unit.

Researchers reported a mixed bag of results when it came to risk factors associated with chronic disease, such as smoking, unhealthy diet and inactivity.

"On the positive side, daily smoking continues to decrease, with less than 18 per cent of Australian adults now smoking daily, compared with over 24 per cent in 1991," Mrs Brockway said.

"On the other hand, almost a quarter of Australian children are currently overweight or obese. "For adults, the figure is around 60 per cent, and the trend has been increasing. "Excess weight is associated with many chronic conditions, so the increase shown in these statistics is of concern."


Scientists put out call for (unearned) respect

Respect for the facts? No. Respect for them is the underlying agenda. Who do they think they are? Clergy? I would be happy if THEY would show respect: The respect that all scientists are supposed to show: Respect for the facts. I'll happily respect the science but Warmism is prophecy, not science

AUSTRALIA'S scientific community will launch a campaign tonight aimed at redressing what it says is the damage to science which is being caused by climate change denial.

At its annual gathering in Canberra today, the Federation of Australian Science and Technological Societies will tell politicians that the campaign being run against scientific evidence of man-made climate change "is undermining the national building work of all scientists".

Its own campaign, respect the science, will seek to broaden the understanding of how science works. "The valuable and credible work of all scientists is under attack as a result of a noisy misinformation campaign by climate denialists. It's in the nation's interests that our political leaders now lead the community forward on this critical issue," the federation's chief executive officer, Anna-Maria Arabia, said.


Huge bureaucratic process finally gives kids the right to work after school

EMPLOYERS have claimed victory in their long-running quest to inject more flexibility into the Gillard government's workplace laws after Fair Work Australia overturned contentious employment restrictions and ruled that students could be employed after school for as little as 90 minutes.

After a 16-month battle over an issue that business claimed was emblematic of the restrictive work practices promoted by Labor's Fair Work Act, the nation's workplace tribunal eased the three-hour minimum shift requirement imposed on students wanting to work in after-school retail jobs.

Business groups said the decision would give employers operating in the current tough retail environment more flexibility to hire young workers, while handing students increased employment opportunities and valuable work experience.

Unions warned that the decision would encourage employers to cut back the afternoon shifts of adult workers and replace them with "kids working for $7 an hour". ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said cutting the shifts of adult workers could "tip them over the edge".

After three rounds of arbitration, tribunal vice-president Graeme Watson yesterday granted an application to reduce the minimum engagement period for secondary school students working in the retail sector from three hours to 1 1/2 hours, subject to certain conditions.

The minimum shift restrictions came to attention in February last year after The Australian revealed that six youths had lost their after-school jobs at a Victorian hardware store because their new award stipulated they had to be employed for a minimum of three hours a day, compared with the previous state award that had a two-hour minimum.

Then prime minister Kevin Rudd at first promised to address the situation, but Labor subsequently expressed satisfaction with an initial FWA decision upholding the three-hour minimum.

As workplace relations minister, Julia Gillard consistently defended the previous minimum shift requirements, arguing that they were not unreasonable.

Charlie Duynhoven, who employed the six teenagers at the Terang and District Co-operative, 210km southwest of Melbourne, said the ruling was "great news". "Common sense has prevailed," he said. "It gives us a chance to employ these students again and train them up, to give them experience in customer service, in how to handle money and product knowledge. The students will be rapt to hear this."

Leticia Harrison, who, along with fellow sacked youth Matthew Spencer, campaigned for the shift requirements to be eased, said the decision was a "really good thing". She said she had fought for the changes so other people would get more opportunities to have after-school work.

Under the conditions set out in the tribunal's draft determination, the 90-minute engagement will apply only provided the employee is a full-time student; that the hours worked are between 3pm and 6.30pm on a school day; and the employee and their parent or guardian agrees on the shorter period. The shorter period is also allowed only if employment for a longer period is not possible because of the operational requirements of the employer or the unavailability of the student.

Gary Black, executive director of the National Retail Association, which brought the application, said the ruling was "a victory for flexibility and common sense in the workplace relations regime".

Peter Anderson, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the decision would help retailers "struggling right now from a two-speed economy, subdued consumer spending and a restrictive regulatory environment".

"It's unfortunate such a sensible step took three rounds of national arbitration to achieve," he said. "That fact alone highlights restrictions imposed by Australia's workplace relations system, and award rules which are yet to become truly modern. Industrial tribunals must continue to actively review award conditions, many of which still reflect a time when the Australian economy was based around Monday to Friday, nine to five-style working arrangements. "That situation is a far cry from the current reality, with customer demands requiring a much more diverse and flexible array of business arrangements."

Mr Lawrence said unions were concerned the decision would encourage employers to replace adult workers "with kids working for $7 per hour". "Unions will work to ensure this decision does not impact on the jobs or incomes of adult workers in this industry," he said.

"These workers are already facing cost-of-living pressures and losing an hour or two off the end of their shifts could tip them over the edge. Unions are also concerned that this decision could mean children have to work for 90 minutes just to earn $11 - a wage that would barely cover the costs associated with getting to work. "In the end, market forces will probably mean that very few employers get away with offering short shifts."

A spokesman for Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans said the ruling reflected "careful consideration by the independent umpire, taking into account the need to promote youth employment and social inclusion".

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz applauded the decision, but said it was "cold comfort for the hundreds of after-school student workers who have lost their jobs in the 12 months it's taken to address the situation".


Misguided legislation puts the big chill into freedom of speech in Australia

By James Allan, Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland

LAST night nearly 600 people in Melbourne paid to attend an evening in support of free speech. The audience and speakers were also there to support columnist Andrew Bolt who has been taken to court for an opinion he voiced in the Herald Sun. The legislation that allows that sort of speech-stifling action is terrible legislation in my view, and so I was happy to be one of five invited speakers.

The gist of my remarks were that the fight for free speech and the liberty to speak up on public issues - issues not excluding who we want to receive affirmative action or group rights-type benefits that attach only to a special few in society - is a fight that will never go away. As former US president Andrew Jackson put it, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty".

And those who attended were not just supporting Bolt but freedom of speech and of liberty more generally. Because let me blunt. In my view this Racial Discrimination Act, the part amended by the Racial Vilification Act that gives us section 18C and in some circumstances makes hurting someone else's feelings, is awful.

Think about it. Someone's subjective sense of being offended or humiliated has been made determinative of whether an unlawful act has been committed, subject to a few exemptions in section 18D.

That's a terrible statutory provision. It ought to be repealed. Now. Yes, a judge may, perhaps, find the exemptions apply. Yes, there is some wiggle room. But even forcing someone to have to litigate constitutes a massive chilling effect on free speech. Let's face it. Not everyone has Bolt's cojones (and I know that may not have been the most felicitous way of putting the point). And not everyone has the resources of a big employer to back this sort of egregious litigation. These provisions create a sort of half-baked right not to be offended, a big mistake in my view.

So the fault lies with the legislature for passing these statutory provisions, not with the judges who have to interpret them. This is politically correct, pandering, group rights-inspired legislation.

The only sort of free speech that matters is the sort that offends some people somewhere. In a situation where all is agreement and harmony and people sitting in circles, holding hands, and singing Kumbaya, the concept of liberty and free speech does nothing. You will never have to fight for it meaning a freedom only to act or speak within the bounds of agreed opinion, good taste and proper decorum just isn't valuable. It doesn't carry with it any obvious good consequences.

The threat to our freedom of speech in the West today does not come from some Soviet-style secret police. No, it comes from turf-protecting bureaucrats who find themselves all of a sudden in the human rights game; it comes from people who want to create a right not to be offended.

Or at least not to be offended about the things that matter to them, because almost all the sorts of people who like the legislation being deployed against Bolt would be horrified to think that those in the US who are offended by the burning of the American flag ought to be able to prosecute the burners for their offended sensibilities. So what they really want is a right not to be offended, as long as it's the sort of things a good chardonnay-sipping member of the progressive elite ought to be offended about, nothing else.

But plain and simple that's a mistake. The only kind of free speech worth anything is the kind that leads to speech that offends people. And I say that knowing full well that none of us can be absolutists and there will always have to be some limits on speech, against counselling murder, say, or detailing how to make biological weapons.

But we ought to want as much scope as possible for people in a democracy to speak their minds. And precluding people from having and expressing an opinion on the problems with self-identifying as an indigenous person, or on who ought to be able to benefit from positive discrimination laws, well that's ridiculously inhibiting of free speech in my view.

I think that in any well-functioning democracy it is incumbent on all citizens to grow a thick skin. If you're offended, tell us why the speaker is wrong. Tell us why he or she is misguided or has defective moral antennae. Don't go to court and seek a court-ordered apology, or orders prohibiting publication of views you find offensive, or some two-bit judicial declaration.

And as a legislator under no circumstances pass statutes that allow for the creation of this mutant, half-baked right not to be offended. The very fact that people can be dragged through the courts - whatever the ultimate outcome - has a massive chilling effect on free speech. I know it. You know it. And our legislators ought to know it too, and do something about repealing this terrible piece of legislation.

At the end of the day those of us who want a considerable amount of scope for people to speak their minds are the optimists. We're the ones who are in the tradition of John Stuart Mill.

Recall the main ground that Mill gave for preferring very few limits indeed on what people can say. It was a consequentialist ground or justification. Leave people almost always free to speak as they like and in the ensuing battle of ideas truth will out, or in less hopeful terms, it is more likely to emerge than if people are silenced and issues are resolved by self-styled human rights experts or government appointees.

So for the benefit of getting at truth and true assertions we override hurt feelings, we ignore offended sensibilities, we discount the possibility of outright lies being spread, and we choose not to have our legislation accord with the world view of grievance industry mongers. Short of obvious, concrete, unavoidable harm to others, we let speech alone.

And underlying that rationale for lots of scope to speak our minds is a clear optimism about truth emerging in the tussle of ideas and ultimately an optimism about the views of the ordinary voter in a democracy.

In my opinion too many of the people who push these speech-limiting laws have simply lost faith in the views and beliefs of their fellow citizens. They have even lost a bit of faith in democracy itself.

Theirs is not the optimistic position. Ours is. We are the citizens of one of the world's oldest and greatest democracies; we are not a collection of victims too offended to muster up the resources to reply on our own behalf when we disagree with others.

It is a badge of honour to live in a society that protects differences of opinion, including ones with which we vehemently disagree. Which was why I was so delighted to have been asked to speak last night in Melbourne.


20 June, 2011

Murderous social workers

They did not commit the murders themselves but they might as well have

THREE Victorians have been murdered by parole violators after case workers failed to notify the Parole Board of new offences that would have put them back behind bars.

A police review of murders committed by parolees has blamed Corrections Victoria staff for at least three of the seven deaths investigated.

It has now been revealed another five murders have been committed in other states by Victorians who absconded on parole.

Victoria Police acting Chief Commissioner Ken Lay and Corrections Victoria Commissioner Bob Hastings have both admitted that procedural failures left parole violators on the streets.

An urgent review was ordered after the Herald Sun revealed in April that years of police bungling had left parole violators at large, because the force's LEAP computer system was not programmed to flag a suspect's parole status.

Now, it has been discovered that the Parole Board was not given the chance to cancel the parole of some reoffenders because community corrections case workers did not report the new offences.

The police review found that:

ONE parole violator, arrested and bailed three times without the Parole Board being advised by his case worker, was charged with murder two months after he was last bailed.

ANOTHER parolee was charged with murder only six weeks after he was bailed for the third time over assault and aggravated burglary charges.

POLICE first approached the then Labor government in 2002 to request access to parole information, but were refused.

SENIOR police were warned of the potential ramifications of the computer deficiency as long ago as 2007.

A SOLUTION to the computer problem was delayed for almost six months while police and Corrections authorities argued over whether giving parole details to police breached privacy.

The cost of an upgrade of the force's LEAP computer system to include parole status - finally done last month - is believed to have been less than $50,000.

The secret police report obtained by the Herald Sun in April identified seven Victorian murders committed by offenders whose parole might have been cancelled if police had known they were on parole.

The leaked report revealed that the seven were among 11 parolees charged with murder in Victoria between July 1, 2008, and November 17, 2010.

Further inquiries by police have now disclosed that in three of the seven cases the parolees had been arrested and charged with other serious offences before being charged with murder.

In all three cases, the parole violators' case workers failed either to check back with the arresting police or to report the new charges to the Parole Board.

Mr Lay said the failure to pass on information to the Parole Board had exposed people to risk, but it was hard to know how many deaths could have been prevented.

"Have offenders stayed in the community and not been breached as a result? Yes, there's no doubt about that," he said. "Have offences occurred as a result? Yes. "Could these murders have been prevented? I suspect not, but that will be up to the Coroner."

A police spokesman confirmed that five Victorian parolees had been charged with murders interstate. He said only one had previous contact with Victoria Police while on parole before being charged with murder in 2002.

Police would not reveal the names of any of the parolees.

Mr Lay said police managers at all levels had been told of the LEAP computer problem since 2007, but "for a whole host of reasons it hadn't been fixed". "We just need to work hard to get better at that, but there is a level of confidence that it's highly unlikely there would have been any different outcome in these three cases," he said.

He said the force still had some training issues with regard to the approach to the granting of bail to parolees by police, but he was confident all issues had now been identified.

Mr Lay said police had no idea how many other serious crimes had been committed by parole violators whose parole status had not been flagged to the officers who arrested them.


Christian group fears Federal government could back homosexual "marriage"

A CHRISTIAN lobby group fears the Federal Government could join the Queensland Labor Party and back same-sex marriage. The state conference of the ALP's Queensland branch yesterday passed a motion calling on both federal Labor and the ALP national conference to support same-sex marriage.

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is worried federal Labor could follow Queensland's lead when it meets for its national conference in December. "We have appreciated Prime Minister (Julia) Gillard's resolve to honour Labor's commitment but we are worried about elements of the party who are seemingly dismissive of the party's election promise and are following the Greens' lead on redefining marriage," the lobby group's chief of staff Lyle Shelton said.

"ACL urges delegates to the federal conference in December not to break Australia's bi-partisan support for marriage being between one man and one woman."

Ms Gillard last week reaffirmed in Parliament the Labor Party's commitment not to support gay marriage.

Federal Labor MP Shayne Nuemann, who represents the Queensland electorate of Blair, today backed Ms Gillard's comments, saying he did not support same-sex marriage. "But that's a matter for national conference (and) federal caucus at some stage in the future and I'll have my say there," he said.

Mr Shelton said the changing of federal laws in 2008 to give gay couples the same rights as de-facto heterosexual couples meant issues of equality had been dealt with under the law. "But equality under the law does not mean that marriage should be redefined," he said. "This debate would be understandable if there were issues of substantial inequality but there are none."

Mr Shelton said the Queensland Labor Party risked alienating mainstream voters by fixating on a small, activist component of the population instead of dealing with the issues most Australians were concerned about.


Thought crimes a bolt through the heart of modern democracy

By Paul Howes (The national secretary of the Australian Workers Union)

IN most public libraries you can read the most controversial things and no one bats an eyelid. In fact you don't even have to visit a library to access the most evil of tracts, such as Mein Kampf or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Just jump on to Google and you'll be able to download the entire texts.

You can wander into many bookshops and find weirdo ideas from groups ranging from the Moonies to the Mormons, or the early novels of L. Ron Hubbard. Or listen to preachers such as the Reverend Fred Nile, who tells us homosexuals will burn for a billion years in hell.Or take in the words of Danny Nalliah of the Catch the Fire Ministries and his ranting about Muslims and atheists.

So you can say a lot of things in our democracy and you can watch a lot of things - violence, pornography, cattle being clumsily slaughtered - and you can read.

Well almost anything. Increasingly it seems the "well almost anything" may involve two names, Andrew and Bolt.

Now as you might suspect, I actually disagree with many, if not most, things [conservative commentator] Andrew Bolt says and writes. But I am concerned that people in some of the circles in which I mix, on my side of politics, increasingly seem to think they should write, or invoke or resurrect, laws that will shut Bolt up.

A democracy is, at the very least, a free marketplace of ideas, and a free marketplace of arguments against those ideas. But it is never, ever a stifling or suffocation of ideas. Ideas will out, they cannot be contained. They are our better, or our worse, angels and they will be heard.

Now I do vehemently disagree with what Bolt says, and often says, about certain people being insufficiently black. There really is a silly idea here, of how black or white applicants should be for certain prizes and scholarships. Andrew grabs an idea and often follows his logic to wherever it may lead him; God help those who stand in his way!

Now while I really can't accept some of this stuff I will - unsurprisingly - defend to the death his right to run a hot-headed, half-cocked argument where he says he is now putting into his crosshairs all sorts of political, academic and media grandees. It is the Voltaire in me that says I don't like what you're saying - or about to say - but sure as hell I reckon you have the right, in our democracy, to run that argument.

Sometimes I hear about Bolt's latest outrageous challenge to orthodoxy and groan and wonder if he truly believes the words he has written. Or whether he merely loves the controversy and headlines it creates.

But despite all the bombs he regularly throws over the parapet at some of my mates in Canberra, I have to own up to liking Bolt. I have done media battle with him plenty of times and I know there is a real decency there, to which I would be proud to attest in any court.

So I am sorry to see him now dragged through the courts for possibly breaching - if he did - a law that, probably, should not be there, stretching out its fingers into the realm of what Orwell might have called a Thought Crime; because he impertinently asked the wrong questions, when all the right answers have been handed down from above - in tablets of stone - long ago.

This is not a cast of mind that I applaud. It smacks of the 16th century when William Tyndale was strangled to death while tied at a stake and his body then burned, all for translating the Bible into English. Or the 17th century, when Galileo was put in danger of the same fate for saying the Earth moved around the sun.

And the 20th century, when books were burned in the public square for being not quite the way a dictator preferred a book to be.

In each case a Thought Crime is said to have been committed, the accusation comes from an elite keen to assert its casting vote on what is reality, and who should decide what ideas are allowed and in what circumstances they can be promoted.

So we need to be very, very careful when we define vilification and what, by contrast, dissent is, or what can or cannot be accepted as a contrarian view.

I sometimes feel we are getting a bit too vigilant over words and ideas when many really vile deeds go unpunished.

I suspect I will always disagree with Bolt. On most things.

I will always fear his persuasive powers as an advocate of ideas that I will never agree with; but I will always be ready to meet him in vigorous debate over things that shape our country's future.

And I will always defend his democratic right, as a member of a free society, to say what he will, to exercise that privilege of dissent that has defined, since Federation, the Australia we all belong to, and all, with varying shades of caveat, believe in and remain proud of, a free Australia.

Our freedom of speech should remain unmitigated by this new quavering cowardice that some would impose.


Fascism and faith prove too hot for outdoor advertising giant

OUTDOOR advertising giant APN has refused to display two posters on government-owned buses for Ten's new prime-time TV show Can of Worms.

The posters that were rejected are based on questions that will be put to guest panellists on Ian "Dicko" Dickson's new show, due to air next month. The two questions that were rejected were: "Is it wrong to tell your kids there is no God?" and "Is it wrong to dress up as Hitler for a fancy dress party?".

Can of Worms producer Anita Jacoby told Media she was shocked the campaign had been rejected by APN Outdoor. "The marketing campaign has taken some of our fodder for the show and used it as a device to capture people's attention," said Ms Jacoby, who is Andrew Denton's partner in the production company Zapruder's Other Films. "We've put the key questions out there to provoke some conversation.

"I can't for the life of me see what's so controversial about putting out a question like: 'Is it OK to tell your kids there is no God?' "I mean, isn't that what we talk about around the dinner table every night? For one politically correct person within an organisation -- who is fearful of government -- to say we can't talk about these things is wrong."

Earlier this month, another outdoor advertising company, Adshel, was forced to back down on a decision to ban billboards on bus shelters in Brisbane promoting safe sex and the use of condoms. Adshel had been targeted by the Australian Christian Lobby, but the Can of Worms marketing campaign was rejected even before a single complaint from the public.

The Group Radio and Outdoor chief executive for APN, Richard Herring, was asked to comment on the ban, but did not return Media's calls.

The company's stance is in contrast to the acceptance of the campaign by every other advertising platform rolling out today, including radio, newspapers, magazines, and fixed and moving billboards. APN is a rival to EyeCorp, a outdoor ad company owned by Ten Network Holdings. Ten's marketing department did manage to get the company to eventually accept a third poster, which said "Is it OK to spy on your kids online?", which the company had originally rejected.

Ms Jacoby said the ban on bus panels had not ruined the campaign: "We've already opened our first can of worms and already people are talking about it."

A Ten source said APN had pointed to its guidelines, which say anything "political, sexual or offensive" was not acceptable. Ironically, another division of APN approved the artwork for government-owned trains.


19 June, 2011

Build a dam and then not use it??

QUEENSLAND'S newest dam is effectively a $350 million pond after the Bligh Government secretly shelved plans to connect it to the water grid to save money. The Sunday Mail can reveal the Wyaralong Dam will not be connected to the rest of southeast Queensland for another four years after the Government quietly delayed almost $400 million worth of connections planned for next year.

About 103,000Ml of potential drinking water will now sit idle and trapped in the dam until the 2014-15 financial year.

It will put more pressure on key storage facilities such as the Wivenhoe Dam to store drinking water at the same time as operators try to keep levels low and mitigate against more devastating floods.

The revelations of the delayed connection come after Treasurer Andrew Fraser failed to announce last year the postponement of the $385 million link between the dam, near Beaudesert, south of Brisbane, and the grid.

The water grid was designed to move water around the southeast so drier areas do not run out while others are saturated.

In November, the Government mothballed billions of dollars of the grid's infrastructure to cut running costs and save households $5 annually on soaring bills. Mr Fraser announced the shutdowns would include the $1.2 billion Tugun Desalination Plant, the $313 million treatment plant at Gibson Island and half of the $380 million Bundamba plant.

However, the Treasurer failed to mention that Cabinet had also decided at the same time to delay both the $235 million Wyaralong water treatment plant and the $150 million Cedar Grove pipeline.

Mr Fraser on Sunday defended the decision, saying the dam had not been expected to fill until 2014-15. It caught planners by surprise by filling so quickly during the unusually wet summer, after the connection had been postponed. "If it hadn't rained and hadn't been completed ahead of time, you would be asking why the Government was today spending money connecting a dam to the grid that was not yet complete nor projected to fill until 2014-15," he said.

However, Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney said the dam was just another example of Labor's failure to plan. "Labor's panic and poor planning has left us with a rusty desalination plant, a barely used recycled water pipeline, hundreds of millions wasted on a dam near Gympie that won't be built, and now a dam that won't be connected to the grid for years," he said.


RSPCA shifts spotlight to ritual slaughter

"Cruel" slaughter not banned in Australia itself

With Australia's live cattle exports to Indonesia still in limbo, the RSPCA is now calling for Australian abattoirs to be banned from ritually killing animals without stunning them first.

The national halal standard requires most abattoirs to stun the animals before their throat is cut, but several have been given approval to kill animals without stunning.

RSPCA spokeswoman Melina Tensen says it is a brutal practice and should be banned. "The RSPCA believes that it's unacceptable to cut the throat of an animal or sever blood vessels while the animal is fully conscious," she said.

"It's been shown that sheep can be conscious after the throat cuts for 20 to 30 seconds. "So that's quite a long time to be aware of the fact that the pain of the knife cut and the actual stress of the bleeding-out process.

"With cattle that have had their throat cut, they can remain conscious for up to two minutes. From an animal welfare perspective, killing an animal without stunning it first is unacceptable."

The Federal Government is reviewing ritual slaughter standards but is not pre-empting the findings.

Halil Haliloff owns a farm north of Adelaide which is one of nine abattoirs in South Australia that is allowed to kill without stunning. The Turkish-born Muslim has been running the small abattoir for sheep and goats for about seven years and has around 50 animals at any given time.

There were not any customers when the ABC visited, so the kill floor was clean and empty.

But Mr Haliloff says the sheep must be facing Mecca when its throat is cut and its blood drained. He says most of his customers would not buy the meat if it had been stunned. "I kill them for the religion, if not do for the religion then my customer [would] run away," he said.

He says many of his customers actually watch him slaughter the animals to ensure it is halal. "[They] want to buy fresh meat, because shops keep it in a cool room. [Here it is] from ice, it's halal."

Mr Haliloff's daughter Emine helps out with the farm, especially during the busy holy season of Ramadan. She is horrified by the cruelty in Indonesia broadcast on ABC's Four Corners, but she does not believe slaughtering without stunning is inhumane. "If it's done correctly, I believe there are no issues," she said. "But people who are doing it incorrectly, those are the ones that bring the rest of the Muslim community down, which is quite bad."

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils is the accreditation body for halal food. It accepts the stunning of animals but president Ikebal Patel says exemptions are needed to accommodate for religious freedoms.

"It's not necessarily more humane to have all animals stunned because the process of stunning itself is inherently painful to the animal on impact," he said.

"The jury's out, but I think [if] you talk to somebody who may be having a very strong belief that it should be all non-standard, you are denying them their right from a religious perspective. "It could be discrimination, it could also be belittling one of their fundamental rights to existence."

Back at the farm in Adelaide, Emine is worried about what a ban might do to her family's business. "It's like spitting in our face and saying it's all wrong. I will fight for it, and I'm sure others out there will actually help about not banning this procedure," she said.

She says as Islam continues to grow more and more people will want their meat killed according to their beliefs.


ABC and friends versus Svensmark

ABC belatedly reported (borrowing from AFP) on a study that suggests the sun is entering a quiet period similar to the Maunder Minimum, which was a 70-year period when hardly any sunspots were observed between 1645 and 1715, a period known as the 'Little Ice Age'. ABC's report provided reference to a recent study by Georg Feulner and Stefan Rahmstorf based on the results of climate modelling that indicated the potential affect on global temperatures may not be significant with just "a 0.3°C dip by 2100 compared to normal solar fluctuations."

In the interests of balance (lacking in the ABC's report) we decided to ask a real solar scientist. It seems the impact of reduced solar activity may be more significant than the ABC's one sided report suggesting more research is required. Correspondence below:

Dear Dr Svensmark,

ABC News cite a paper by Georg Feulner and Stefan Rahmstorf to suggest that a solar mimnimum would reduce global temperatures by 0.3 degrees by 2100. see GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 37, L05707, 5 PP., 2010 doi:10.1029/2010GL042710 On the effect of a new grand minimum of solar activity on the future climate on Earth

"Here we use a coupled climate model to explore the effect of a 21st-century grand minimum on future global temperatures, finding a moderate temperature offset of no more than −0.3°C in the year 2100 relative to a scenario with solar activity similar to recent decades. This temperature decrease is much smaller than the warming expected from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century."

I am interested in your opinion on the evidence for a future solar minimum based on recent results in the news and its effect on global temperature for a news story.

Dear Marc Hendrickx,

I have had a quick look at the paper, and as far as I can see the authors are only looking at solar irradiance changes, and effects like the one that I have been involved in -- like an amplification of the solar signal caused by clouds and cosmic ray modulation -- is not taken into account.

We known with good confidence that the terrestrial response to the solar signal is 3-7 times larger than from solar irradiance alone (see for example the work of Nir Shaviv, attached-Using the oceans as a calorimeter to quantify the solar radiative forcing-doi:10.1029/2007JA012989).

Now if such effects are taken into account the result would be very different (larger solar influence). So I do not think that the present work is particularly helpful in understanding the solar impact in the near future. It is only an estimate of the impact of solar irradiance as determined from numerical modeling. In the coming years the sun will show by itself how important it is.


Labor Party apes Europe -- providing the smoke and mirrors for a carbon tax

IF a new federal tax of $11.6 billion represents economic reform, then the Australian political culture has changed fundamentally, and economic reform means roughly the opposite of what it meant under Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard.

"First, rectify the names," as Confucius said. The complete inversion of the language of economic reform under the Gillard government, especially in relation to the proposed carbon tax, is a clue to the much more fundamental question at hand.

Australia faces a profound and defining strategic choice. The carbon tax is part of that choice. Our choice is not, as international relations experts sometimes allege, between the US and China. Rather, it is whether Australia is to refashion the culture of its politics, economy and society along European lines or to continue the path we have generally followed of being somewhere along the US-East Asian continuum.

For some decades, Australia has sat between the US and Europe on a range of social, economic and cultural indicators. We provide a social safety net more generous than the US but less comprehensive than that offered by European Union nations. We are more regulated than the US, less regulated than Europe. The state is a bigger part of our life, and our economy, than in the US, but a smaller part than in Europe.

The Gillard government is taking us down a European road. The carbon tax is a part of that, both in substance and in the style of its politics.

The Rudd and Gillard governments have been big-spending, budget-deficit governments. In Labor's first term, the justification was the global financial crisis. If the carbon tax passes at $26 a tonne, the federal government will have a magnificent new gusher of money to spend, for redistribution, social policy, whatever.

The US has a chronic budget deficit but does not embrace big government as an ideal.

Gillard's is a highly regulatory government. Re-regulating industrial relations, a la Europe, is central to this.

In the National Broadband Network the government is seeking to create a major, state-owned corporation, along classically European lines.

Economic reform for the past 30 years has meant deregulation, privatisation, surplus or balanced budgets, low inflation and free trade. It also has meant welfare reform to cut long-term welfare dependency. In Europe, this never caught on. Yet just as the Gillard government is moving decisively down the European road, the European model itself is in catastrophic collapse. The model can no longer sustain itself.

The common European currency, the euro, is a central cause of the inability of peripheral European states such as Greece to respond with policy flexibility through measures such as devaluation. Numerous European nations are on the brink of debt default. Germany is in a rolling process of bailout. Unemployment is 20 per cent in Spain, 13 per cent in Greece, 11 per cent in Portugal, 10 per cent across the euro area.

Europe has made a comprehensive mess of illegal immigration, leading disenfranchised voters to parties of the far Right.

Europe plays a role in our carbon tax debate in several ways. Bizarrely, it is the government's model. The latest report by Ross Garnaut constantly extols Europe's emissions trading scheme.

Europe also sends us a steady stream of sanctimonious officials and busybodies to tell us our climate change policies are inadequate.

Even more important, perhaps unconsciously, the culture of European politics has seeped into the Gillard government's management of the carbon tax debate.

Ashton Calvert, a former head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who served both Labor and Liberal governments, was perhaps the brainiest official I have met. He told me once that the EU was a menace to Australia in a quite specific way. The EU vastly over-regulated itself and thus suffered enormous, unnecessary, economic costs. It then tried to impose those costs on everybody else by transforming them into international norms and enforcing them by treaty.

The US was big enough to ignore the EU. Asian nations didn't feel bound by EU norms. But Australia and Canada were the two nations, both with wildly different economic structures from Europe, likeliest to suffer from European political imperialism.

There is always something undemocratic and tricky about the EU. If at all possible, it removes issues from democratic political bodies and puts them in the hands of Euro-bureaucrats. This fits perfectly with Garnaut's proposal that Australia's carbon reduction targets should be set by "independent", but of course appointed, officials.

The Gillard government has been consistently tricky, in a very European way, in the politics of the carbon tax. It ruled out a carbon tax before the election last year. Then it decided to introduce one three years before the voters could pass a judgment on it.

Meanwhile, it has spent a vast fortune of taxpayers' money on a series of government bodies, headed by Garnaut, Tim Flannery and other long-term friends of the Labor Party, to conduct an incessant campaign of indoctrination in favour of government policy.

With Australia having a very European-style public broadcaster in the ABC, which is ideologically in favour of the carbon tax and inherently inclined to accept the Garnauts and Flannerys as embodying a kind of wisdom and virtue above politics, this is a plausibly effective strategy.

It is much less a strategy of persuasion, however, and much more a strategy of coercion. Indeed, Garnaut rejoiced in a speech at the "narrowing" of the debate in recent months.

Now the government has gone a step further, announcing a $12 million taxpayer-funded advertising campaign to support the carbon tax. This seems to be in addition to a further $13m set aside in the budget for a similar process.

It is perfectly true that the Howard government spent money in exactly the same way. It was an anti-democratic abuse of process when Howard did it and it is an anti-democratic abuse of process now.

And of course it embodies a central paradox. If it is so overwhelmingly clear that the best way to respond to the still uncertain science of climate change is through a carbon tax, then why is the Gillard government so hopelessly incapable of winning the argument through its own powers of persuasion?

At the same time, elite opinion has simply rubbished and rejected the Coalition's direct action plans to reduce carbon emissions by 5 per cent. There is hardly a single person in Australia who knows more about this subject than the opposition's Greg Hunt, who has been studying it for many years. Yet the elite media, overwhelmed by Garnaut, Flannery and limitless other pro-government propaganda, has not given his plans any serious consideration.

But here is a deeper paradox still. Garnaut's latest report is a partisan abuse of process. It is an extremely flawed document that is misleading about the international scene. It pretends the whole world is as obsessed with reducing greenhouse gas as Garnaut himself is. The strategic object of this deception is obvious.

If the Australian people can be convinced that they alone, among all the nations of the world, do not take this problem with the proper seriousness, that they alone are redneck enemies of "economic reform", then they might be shamed into supporting a carbon tax. They might even be threatened into it.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson this week told parliament that if Australia didn't have a carbon tax then other nations would impose punitive tariffs on us.

But other nations here can only mean Europe, and it would have to impose similar tariffs on the US, Canada, Japan, South Korea and all the many other nations that do not have carbon taxes.

Indeed, as the infinitely better Productivity Commission report noted: "No country imposes an economy-wide tax on greenhouse gases or has in place an economy-wide ETS."

Is it not possible there are sensible reasons no other country has an economy-wide carbon tax?

But to sustain the fiction that the rest of the world is obsessed with climate change and acting with resolution and boldness, Garnaut must take the declaratory aspiration of every other nation as though it were settled, concrete policy.

Thus Garnaut declares: "US officials at the highest levels state that the emissions reduction target will be met, despite the absence of a national market-based instrument for securing that result."

This is a heroic, indeed ludicrous, position. But here is the larger paradox. Garnaut is stating with his usual faux-infallibility that the US, where there is absolutely no bipartisan support for action, will succeed absolutely with its direct action plans. But at the same time, the routine assumption of all Garnaut's media acolytes is that Tony Abbott's direct action plan is a ridiculous fraud.

In its first six years of operation, the EU ETS has raised just $2.5bn and covered only a small part of the economy. That means the European ETS has not been central to carbon reductions in Europe.

In fact, as usual, the Europeans rigged this process from the start. They chose 1990 as their base year because that was the year of peak European emissions. The decommissioning of east European industry, the conversion in Britain from coal to gas, and the presence of nuclear power, none of which involved any sacrifice, allowed the European emissions reduction.

Even the British commitment to halve greenhouse emissions by 2025 is much less than meets the eye. Prime Minister David Cameron has made it clear he has an escape clause. This commitment will be reviewed in 2014 and if the rest of Europe is not on the same path, a highly unlikely eventuality, Britain will change its course.

In Australia the polls do not support a carbon tax. Like the US, our democracy is vigorous and the public has a history of rejecting elite solutions if they are costly and unpractical, and provided they are opposed by a portion of the mainstream political parties.

It may not be designed for this purpose but the carbon tax is part of a combination of policies that would massively increase the size of the state, bring much greater regulation to economic life, entrench European economic and political norms, and demonstrate a way for voters to be browbeaten into acceptance of a policy they don't like.

The democratic way to win a policy argument is to champion it clearly, argue for it convincingly and win an election. The European way, with its tricks and deceits, is much less attractive, and generally produces much less satisfactory policy.


18 June, 2011

Cattle export compromise?

Cattle held in quarantine could be exported to Indonesia within days under a $9 million industry plan being considered hy the Gillard Govemment. The plan was put to Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig by peak industry body Meat and Livestock Australia as an alternative to paying $5 million in compensation to cattle graziers who have been hurt by the ban on live exports.

Senator Ludwig is considering the plan but also wants MLA to pay compensation to cattle producers. Govemment sources said a compromise deal could be announced within days.

Under the industry plan, cattle would be traced and Australian animal welfare officials would be present in each abattoir to train workers and ensure cattle were humanely slaughtered.

The MLA claims there are now ll Indonesian abattoirs with equipment to stun cattle before slaughter and another three facilities could soon have stun guns. The plan includes an audit of Indonesian abattoirs to make sure they comply with intemational standards, and improvements to facilities.

MLA managing director David Palmer said the plan could be tested by a partial lifting of the trade ban. “The industry has told us clearly they don’t want contingency funds, they want an export facility," Mr Palmer said last night

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday said he had discussed the trade ban with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa during a recent trip to Europe. “We discussed this matter thoroughly,” Mr Rudd said. “We will manage this one through, although there will be some challenges on the way,”

Mr Rudd also confirmed he had discussed the trade halt with Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday, after which the pair were seen walking in an awkward silence together.

The export ban caused emotional debate in Federal Parliament this week, with the Greens securing another inquiry into animal welfare and Independents Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie calling for urgent intervention by the Govemment to send stun guns to Indonesian abattoirs.

The above report appeared in the Brisbane "Courier Mail" on 18 June

Digital TV a nightmare for the bush

THE switch to digital television in Australia comes with a promise by the Gillard Government of DVD quality pictures, CD quality sound and a widescreen format. However, I fear the benefits of digital have been oversold, with little warning of hidden costs and possible disruptions, especially in Queensland.

If you live in regional or remote towns, your reception may suffer or you may get none at all. And you will be forced to pay hefty charges that pampered metropolitan viewers will escape.

Digital television comes with a nationwide warning that reception can be disturbed in areas that experience turbulent weather such as heavy rain or frequent storms. That is most of Queensland. "Bad weather can result in freezing of the picture, pixellation or a temporary loss of signal," says the Australian Government's information website.

If freezing picture and pixellation occurs, simply contact your endorsed antenna installer, it urges. What if you live in the Outback and he's 500km away? Too bad.

The website also advises: "Not all digital TV receivers automatically detect the arrival of a new digital TV channel. As a result, some receivers will require a 're-tune' or 're-scan' every time a new channel is launched."

Despite the spin, the picture remains blurred, especially for those who live in the bush. Up to 22,000 Queenslanders in rural areas face disruptions in the switch from analogue in 2013. The change will also be a blow to outback tourism operators such as motel owners, who will face bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide television to each room.

For more than two decades in Queensland, 56 councils have re-transmitted analogue television signals to rural and remote communities.

That is about to change, with outback communities crushed in the rollout. Towns where trouble is likely include Cunnamulla, Thargomindah, Weipa, Normanton, Winton, Quilpie, Richmond, Augathella, Surat, Injune, Camooweal, Ilfracombe, Bollon, Dirranbandi, Barcaldine, Blackall, Muttaburra, Bamaga, Tully Heads and all the Torres Strait Islands.

Grey nomad tourism will be hit with a reception blackout, with each caravan or camper having to install not just a dish but an expensive satellite finder to receive a signal. There are costly implications, too, for caravan parks, motels and mining camps and anyone renting.

A motel in Bedourie, for example, would have to pay about $25,000 for a satellite and decoder equipment to make digital television available to guests.

The Local Government Association of Queensland is on the warpath, accusing Communications Minister Stephen Conroy of stubbornly sticking to a model that will penalise the bush. "The councils want to upgrade existing sites to carry the digital signal, but the feds won't buy it," says the association.

Conroy's blind adherence to a socialist-style, one-size-fits-all approach won't work in a country as vast and diverse as this. "It's a wasteful plan that is starting to sound like a rerun of the pink batts controversy," an LGAQ spokesman said. "It's typical Canberra arrogance. They're saying, 'We know best'."

Independent MP Bob Katter fears the social and economic cost in his sprawling northern electorate of Kennedy. The potential waste of taxpayers' dollars is enormous. In Normanton, for instance, Katter says it will cost the council an estimated $110,000 to $270,000 to upgrade communal rebroadcasting equipment for 550 households.

But it would cost $600,000 in subsidies to install single satellite units in the same households. What waste.

More here

Labor Party has fingers crossed that they can eventually sell a carbon tax to the electorate

THERE'S a sense of a parallel universe happening in Canberra, where the carbon-pricing debate is very up close and personal. Meetings upon meetings are held among politicians, staffers and bureaucrats at what is the business end of an almost five-month process. People from all sides report progress, albeit often agonisingly slow.

At the same time, Tony Abbott's relentless, 24/7 campaign against the carbon tax - as the "market mechanism" is universally and somewhat misleadingly known - grinds on.

To many observers who spend their thankless days inside Malcolm Fraser's monumental Parliament House there is progress, although some pointy, potentially deal-breaking issues are emerging and being fought over.

The idea the Government is "making ground" in the debate is becoming the accepted wisdom, but this bubble is soon burst after just a few conversations in any of the capital cities around Australia.

Among voters, Abbott is well and truly winning the carbon tax debate. Almost any discussion about anything in national politics quickly turns to a gripe about the proposed action on climate change. "You talk to anyone in the street and after the first sentence they'll say 'And I don't like the carbon tax'," says one Labor MP. "And because we haven't got any detail to put to them, their fears and concerns just hang there."

Every day he is in Canberra, Abbott finds a new way to attack the tax proposal. He goes to every kind of shop - from bakers to greengrocers to cafes - and every small workshop that makes things ("This tax will kill manufacturing in Australia," he warns) and even to childcare centres, which he claims will have to increase fees because of higher power bills.

When Parliament is not sitting Abbott takes this never-ending election campaign on the road, taking his case to factories, mines and any other location which has large numbers of people who in days gone by might have looked like Labor voters.

He's getting a warm reception - something acknowledged tacitly by the two unions most likely to have members affected by a carbon price, the Australian Workers Union and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, which are both lobbying to minimise any impact on jobs.

Coalition strategists say Abbott's carbon tax campaign is cutting through and a series of important political messages are sticking. "The public are acutely aware of anything that adds to their cost of living at the moment - everyone feels they are running fast just to stand still in dealing with the weekly bills," says one Liberal official. "Everyone hates new taxes and have locked on to the idea of a carbon tax like a laser. They just don't like the idea which makes them hungry for information."

Because it is Abbott who's talking about the carbon tax the most, he appears to have more detail even if, as the Government says, it is highly speculative and may not match the reality if and when the carbon scheme is decided.

Abbott, who is a campaign manager's dream with a steely discipline to sticking with simple, punchy lines, has drilled three propositions into the collective consciousness of the electorate. People believe a carbon price will be a new tax on everything (a stunningly simple line first coined by Queensland Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce).

The idea that no matter what the starting price is for carbon - expected to be $20 a tonne of emitted carbon at most - it will go up year after year. This is a feature of a market mechanism to price carbon although, as the Europeans have found, the price can also go down.

The third killer line Abbott has delivered is that any compensation will disappear as quickly as it's given out.

The Government acknowledges Abbott is winning the carbon war but they remain confident that if they clinch a deal with the Greens (the other key Independents, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, are ready to sign up to the basic design of the scheme) they will be able to match the Coalition's arguments. "No one is kidding themselves people don't hate the idea of a carbon tax right now," a senior government figure says. "But in 18 months the story could be very different - at least we hope it will be."

A senior minister involved in the negotiations with the Greens and Independents says there will be plenty of hard factual information to push back against Abbott's campaign. "The policy is solid with much of the work having been done when we designed the carbon pollution reduction scheme in 2009," the minister says. "We can answer every point Abbott is making and, as long as people are engaged, we think it will hit home."

More here

Only a specialist US school can help autistic Australian boy, say family

A MELBOURNE family is moving to the US for "emergency education" because it believes the Victorian school system has failed their 11-year-old son. The autistic boy is from one of at least nine families suing the Education Department through the Federal Court for discrimination and what they claim is inadequate education.

Some families say they have spent up to $100,000 on therapy, tutoring and legal fees in their bids to get their "left behind" disabled children up to speed.

While experts warn parents their court battles could come with big financial and psychological costs, the desperate mums and dads say legal action has become a last resort.

The mother moving her family to the US next month said she sent her "severely autistic" son to three Melbourne schools before researching overseas options.

The family will continue Federal Court action against the Education Department after settling in a US school that specialises in teaching autistic children. "It's very hard going to court, but it's also very hard not to. We're hoping to avoid a ghastly outcome for our son," the mother said.

"It's a pretty lonely life for him at the moment. He does not have grade-five language and he doesn't have much confidence around his peers. But he's a learner, so we're excited about him making progress."

Documents lodged with the Federal Court show the family's claims include expenses for "emergency education" in the US. Other students with discrimination cases in the Federal Court include:

A GIRL, 13, with several diagnosed learning disabilities who, according to her mother, has been denied funding for an aide despite "having the reading and writing skills of a grade one (student)".

A BOY, 16, allegedly suffering low self-esteem, anxiety, bullying and victimisation because his learning difficulties were not properly addressed by a Melbourne high school.

Bendigo mother Anne Maree Stewart is also considering legal action against the state education system. She claims her son Matthew, 9, who has a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome, has at times been "treated like a piece of dirt" because of his disability.

Children with a Disability Australia executive officer Stephanie Gotlib said education standards were the chief concern for parents of disabled children.

But child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg urged parents to think carefully about legal action. "I can certainly understand their frustration. But the psychological impact of having your shortcomings paraded in the public arena may not be in the best interests of these kids."

An Education Department spokeswoman said its $550 million Program for Students with Disabilities supported 20,000 students.


17 June, 2011

A brilliant and privileged boy

This story has great personal resonance for me. I first heard Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor in my Presbyterian church when I was aged 13 and that transformed music for me. Unlike the boy below, I had no thought that I could ever play it but I knew from that time on that Bach spoke to me musically like no other. You can hear the boy below play exactly that work via a link below. At 13 he does it very well. I hope you will watch and listen and see what power is given to his hands and feet: Truly an enormous privilege

When Tim Williams went to an Easter church service with his grandparents in the US as an eight-year-old, he heard a sound that changed his life. The uplifting strains of a pipe organ awakened his musical passion and he told parents Paul and Shelley that he must learn to play one.

The Williams family, who now live at Tewantin, supported his dream and, now 13, Tim has become the youngest recipient of the Walter Monz Organ Bursary at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. The $2500 prize goes towards lessons with acclaimed musician and mentor Christopher Wrench in Brisbane.

Tim, a member of Sunshine Beach State High's music excellence program, loves the "huge sound" and emotion evoked by the pipe organ.

See Tim playing Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Bach (YouTube video)

Opportunities are rare for professional organists here, but he hopes to one day play in churches in the instrument's heartland of Europe.

His teacher, Mr Wrench, said Tim had a rare gift for the pipe organ, one of the most physically challenging instruments to play. "It requires the use of both hands and feet and the other great challenge is that each organ is different and you have to work out how to get the best sounds," he said. "Tim has tremendous aptitude and passion for the organ and together these things bring success."

Tim comes from a musical family and his parents, both teachers and writers, play guitar. "He grew up with folk rock, but his love of classical music has inspired us. I've even taken up the violin," mum Shelley said.


World of sham carbon policies exposed

With his usual mastery of critical detail, distinguished Australian economist Henry Ergas comments on Australia's proposed carbon tax

CONTRARY to repeated assertions by the Prime Minister, the Productivity Commission did not endorse an economy-wide emissions trading scheme. Rather, its recently released report on carbon emissions policies models an ETS that applies only to the electricity sector and excludes all trade-exposed industries.

As the commission shows, current policies aimed at subsidising renewable energy incur high costs for pitifully little outcome. No surprise then that its modelling finds that scrapping those policies and imposing a carbon price of $9 a tonne on the electricity sector would cause less harm.

But that is not what the government is proposing. Despite the PC finding that "no country imposes an economy-wide tax on greenhouse gases or has in place an economy-wide ETS", its ETS will extend beyond electricity to the emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries that are at the heart of our comparative advantage. And its carbon price will be three times that the PC models.

As the commission warns, without comparable measures in competitor countries, that could merely shift output and emissions to our commercial rivals.

Moreover, the government has no intention of removing the myriad measures that squander resources on uneconomic energy sources. Rather, it is committed to its Renewable Energy Target, with the changes it made last January further increasing the subsidy it provides. The PC suggests those changes alone will increase NSW electricity prices by 6 per cent, on top of the 4 per cent increase the RET has already caused.

It is important to understand that a carbon tax does not offset these distortions: rather, like turning up the volume on a faulty amplifier, it compounds the loss. This is because it amounts to an increase in the subsidies those schemes provide.

Assume an inefficient subsidy to buses; now impose a tax on using cars. The additional passengers who shift to buses valued cars more than those who shifted earlier, so the loss increases more than proportionately. At the same time, more must be spent meeting that demand, causing further losses as resources move from making cars to buses.

Even in such simple cases, cumulating distortions cause waste to rise exponentially.

Matters are even worse with an ETS because it affects not only what is consumed but how things are produced. As more efficient ways of producing are replaced by less efficient alternatives, a social loss is incurred on every unit supplied.

Nor is that loss trivial. According to a recent study by AGL, a strong advocate of an ETS, the running cost of a base-load gas plant is six times that of Victorian brown coal. Given those cost differentials, changing the generation mix requires swinging penalties on low-cost energy sources, with AGL estimating that a $30 a tonne carbon tax - not even enough to cause widespread substitution - would increase the running cost of brown coal plants by 10.2 times.

That 10-fold increase would not just hit struggling residential consumers. One-third of our direct emissions from electricity generation are associated with electricity use in manufacturing. Our trade-exposed industries would therefore suffer a double whammy as they were taxed both directly and through higher input costs.

The resulting losses might be worth bearing if they materially reduced the risk of dangerous climate change. But it is clear from the commission's report that current global efforts are derisory. True, the eight countries the PC analysed have more than a thousand policies in place, many focused on electricity generation. But in aggregate those policies yield barely 210 million tonnes of electricity sector abatement.

Take China, the world's largest and most rapidly growing emitter, which the Garnaut report says has "pledged large reduction targets, implemented reforms that deliver on its commitments, and set sail on a global mission to dominate new opportunities". But the PC finds China's abatement affects barely 1 per cent of its electricity emissions, while its abatement outlays, at one-third of 1 per cent of gross domestic product, are well below Australia's.

Moreover, the PC's measure of net abatement takes no account of subsidies to emissions. Recent estimates place subsidies to fossil fuel use in China at about 1.4 per cent of GDP. For each dollar spent curbing emissions, China therefore spends $4 promoting them.

Yes, some countries, notably Germany and Britain, devote substantial resources to emissions reduction. But even there, the PC finds high costs for modest impacts. Indeed, as the report notes, the Germans spend $150 to $300 a tonne of carbon securing emissions reductions that under the European Union's ETS are simply offset by increased emissions in Italy and Spain.

That may seem irrational. But the reality is that this is an area whose politics are now entirely symbolic. Notwithstanding sweeping promises in international forums, and regardless of the homilies of climate change's high priests, governments do not believe communities have any stomach to make real sacrifices for a goal that seems ever more illusory.

Trapped between the zealots and that brute fact, they resort to what are little more than bribes, buying, at absurdly high cost, a bit of abatement here, dispensing an exclusion from obligations there, and sprinkling the whole with scarcely credible claims to moral principle. Unsurprisingly, the policies born from this combination of shabbiness of motives and pretence to public spirit are as incoherent as they are socially wasteful. But that does not mean those policies are not privately profitable. Indeed, studies find even the EU ETS increased European generators' profits by some 30 to 50 per cent, as free permit allocations ensured revenues increased by more than costs. Such transfers merely increase the inefficiencies, as profits are dissipated in attempts to secure and protect rents, while those who would bear the costs throw further resources at self-defence.

Only in bad light, and even then only by the weak-sighted, could such policies be confused for meaningful efforts at tackling climate change. That is the sham the commission's spotlight exposes. But none are so blind as those that would not see. Forcing the government to face up to the PC's findings is the task ahead.


The rise of the Green wowser

"Wowser" was originally an American term for "temperance" campaigners. It seems to have died in the USA when Prohibition was repealed. Australia never had Prohibition, however, so the term is still in common use there to decribe killjoys of all sorts

WHEN we survey some of the more controversial incidents of recent times, from the attempts to place restrictions on poker machine players to the suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia, there is a connecting thread that almost everyone has missed. This is the return of the wowser.

Wowsers (We Only Want Social Evils Remedied) are traditionally as Australian as meat pies and Holden cars.

They were responsible for Australian institutions such as the six o'clock closing and the shutting of shops on Sundays.

One would have thought that they had receded into the annals of history as Australians became more liberal on these sorts of issues. Shopping is now very much a Sunday experience and Australians are used to the idea of civilised drinking.

But wowserism has never really gone away and, like any great tradition, has bided its time waiting for new opportunities. It has simply changed its spots. Once it had a strong religious colouring; now it is taking on an increasingly secular tone.

Wowsers want to improve people and make them better. To do so they have to prevent them from engaging in activities that they find immoral: be it gambling, eating meat, drinking alcohol, smoking or consuming junk food.

My father used to say that for such people if you were enjoying yourself there must be sin involved.

I have no doubt that behind the ruckus about live meat exports there is a vegetarian agenda, based on the idea that vegetarians are better people than meat eaters. If we limit gambling we can make people better. And, as we all know, it is a fact universally acknowledged that there is not a bogan out there who could not do with some improvement.

In days gone by, the ideals of wowserdom were often linked with those of eugenics. People could be improved if only their habits and lifestyle were changed; if only they lived a more rational way of life.

Eugenics has often been misunderstood. For one thing it was embraced in countries such as Australia by people who considered themselves to be progressive, who we would describe as being on the left. For another it was as much about changing the environment as it was about selective breeding. It was about making better people.

It was not only Nazi Germany that engaged in activities such as sterilising the unfit. Many countries, including democracies, sought to improve their populations in this way.

It was not politics so much as religion that determined whether a government would seek to go down this road. Protestants generally did, Catholics did not. Fortunately, Australia had a significant Catholic minority.

In a slightly different vein it is worth observing that Hitler and his fellow Nazis were very concerned about cruelty to animals and introduced legislation that made Germany a world leader in this area. They restricted their cruelty only to those people whom they regarded as inferior, all in the name of improving the human race.

Wowsers and eugenicists generally go together as they see the key to a better world lying in the creation of better human beings. Eradicate evils and that will be possible.

The idea that it is the task of the government to improve the people who are entrusted to their care is very dangerous. Are people who do not eat meat or play the poker machines really better than those who do? Do we want the state to attempt to create a utopia of good people who have had their bad bits excised?

It is not surprising that wowserism should come to prominence again in tandem with the growing strength of the Greens. The Greens are the latest manifestation of a sort of moralistic puritanism that has been part of Australia since the First Fleet. Australians must change their evil ways. The Greens see themselves as the enforcers who will achieve that change, thereby leading the country into the sustainable utopia.

In such a utopia the status of animals would rise and that of humans fall. It is no longer necessary to sterilise the unfit. With the advance of medicine they can be detected and disposed of while still in the womb.

The only problem is that maybe ordinary Australians do not want to be improved in this way. As in the past, they enjoy their gambling, their steaks and their booze. They simply want to enjoy life.

Wowsers are part of the Australian tradition but they have always been in the minority.

Their grand plans for the people of this country have always run up against the reality that most people are happy to be less than perfect. On that rock the Greens will ultimately founder.


Mining industry blasts plan to quarantine Queensland land for farming

A PLAN to lock away vast areas of Queensland from mining was based on flawed science and would leave public servants to make million-dollar decisions on gut instinct, according to the mining industry.

A scientific and peer reviewed study, commissioned by the Queensland Resources Council, found the Government's criteria for its strategic cropping land policy was not reliable and did not come up with a proper definition of the land it wanted to protect.

The policy was designed to protect the best cropping land from mining development.

The scientists said the process used to develop and test the criteria and thresholds was subjective and risked destroying valuable farming land with inappropriate development or locking away marginal land from being development.

The scientific team, from consultants Palaris Mining, said the policy was deficient and risked identifying land incorrectly, "leading to either the sterilisation of marginal land from appropriate development or the risk of alienation of strategic cropping land by inappropriate development".

The QRC said the scientific review raised serious doubts about the SCL's effectiveness. QRC chief executive Michael Roche said the review found that the Government's draft soil criteria "cannot reliably call out the best cropping land". Mr Roche said the current policy's reliance on maps to illustrate similarities in climate and rainfall failed to reflect important productivity variations between and within regions.

But Environnment Minister Kate Jones said the policy was based on sound scientific advice and was peer reviewed.

"We engaged some of Queensland's best soil scientists to do this work. The criteria was tested and validated against 128 soil samples from across these areas," Ms Jones said. "I sat down with the QRC months ago where we went through the criteria and they were not able to present to me any genuine technical issues."

Ms Jones said she would ask her department to investigate the review, including any genuine technical issues in the SCL policy.

Agforce spokesman Drew Wagner said the QRC report was likely to only add to the mystery and confusion about strategic cropping land when farmers wanted certainty.


16 June, 2011

Some government "protection" that didn't work

For decades, Australian governments kept in force regulations that enabled Australian booksellers to charge much more than overseas bookshops. With the coming of the internet, however, it became easier for Australians to import their own books from overseas booksellers -- and Australians abandoned their overpriced local bookshops in droves. So now they are going broke wholesale

ANGUS & Robertson has sacked 519 workers as it prepares to close 42 stores across the country. In a statement issued on administrator Ferrier Hodgson’s website last night, the losses were confirmed as negotiations to sell 19 bookstores continue.

The chain, owned by RED-group, will lose 116 full-time staff, 47 part-time staff and 266 casual staff, plus 90 from the REDgroup headquarters and warehouse.

The closure follows the collapse of Borders, which saw job losses totalling 1675, and this week’s announcement that clothing brand Colorado Group had gone into administration.

Despite the further blow to the already struggling retail sector, the statement insisted the 48 franchised stores would continue to trade as normal.

Ferrier Hodgson partner John Melluish, said the sale of a portfolio of the stores would save approximately 200 jobs in addition to those associated with the franchise business and e-commerce.

Mr Melluish said employee entitlements would be paid in full to staff who had lost their jobs. "Our ability to pay full entitlements is a direct result of the untiring efforts of the Angus & Robertson staff who worked under very difficult circumstances to keep the business going," he said. "As a result of their efforts, I can confirm that all entitlements will be paid out of the proceeds of the sale of the remaining inventory."


ALP stupidity not absolute after all

There'll be a lot of ALP voters in the cattle industry so shafting them is shafting the ALP vote

The Labor Party has lessened its resistance to the resumption of live-cattle exports to Indonesia while moving ahead with a threat to strip the industry of $5 million to care for stranded cattle in the interim.

At the same time, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said her government was working quickly to restore some live trade to Indonesia, a move that will be easier since the caucus backed down yesterday after a fiery discussion and stipulated less restrictive conditions in return for its support to lift the suspension.

The federal opposition opposes the suspension. The leader, Tony Abbott, said there was an "unfolding disaster" in northern Australia and demanded trade be resumed immediately to at least five abattoirs that had acceptable slaughter standards.

Ms Gillard said this would not occur until the industry could assure the government that cattle shipped to Indonesia would not be siphoned off to bad abattoirs.

The Agriculture Minister, Joe Ludwig, wrote to the Meat and Livestock Association on Friday demanding it hand over $5 million from a reserve fund paid for by levies on its members. The association refused to do so yesterday. Senator Ludwig gave the organisation until Friday to change its mind. If not, he would exercise his powers under the act and appropriate the money.

The fund would be set up by next Wednesday and used to feed cattle awaiting export, transport others south for slaughter, build temporary pens and anything else required.

The association would not say yesterday whether it would challenge the senator's position in court. "The minister has invited MLA to discuss these issues with him by Friday and it is disappointing that he has pre-empted these discussions," a spokeswoman said in a statement.

The chairman, Don Heatley, said the industry was prepared to direct producers' levies only towards moves that would reinstate the trade to Indonesia. "Reinstating this trade under an accredited supply chain is the most effective means to provide financial security to cattle producers and businesses."

The government suspended the trade last week after the ABC's Four Corners broadcast shocking footage of the beasts' treatment at Indonesian abattoirs. The suspension was driven in part by a caucus revolt, which gave notice of a motion calling for a ban on all live exports to Indonesia until the abattoirs there met "Australian standards".

Despite the government's acting, the caucus went ahead with the motion yesterday and it was passed unanimously. But the language had been toned down, saying the suspension should remain until Indonesian abattoirs complied with the lesser "international" standards. Unlike Australian standards, these do not require the stunning of the animal before it is killed.

The motion was watered down after some, including the WA senator Mark Bishop and the Northern Territory minister Warren Snowdon, argued that the $318 million industry was at risk.

Animal welfare groups were angry at the backdown and said they would continue to seek an urgent meeting with Ms Gillard.

In the Coalition party room, about 15 MPs condemned the government's actions. The Liberal senator and veterinarian Chris Back said that unless limited trade resumed within three to four weeks, more than 150,000 cattle would be too heavy to export and too underweight to be brought south for slaughter.

The cattle would either have to be shot or let loose on the rangelands of northern Australia, which would lead to starvation and an "environmental catastrophe".


Here comes the evil denier monster

WHEN you've run out of positive things to say in advertising, the easiest trick is to make up a monster. The uglier and more repulsive the better.

Think of toilet cleaning ads. Take those imaginary, microscopic, horrible, slimy things that make guttural noises and squirm disgustingly as they salivate over your ceramic bowl.

Animation and special effects studios have a lot of fun designing and creating these grotesque visual metaphors with which to terrify the consumer, to the delight of advertising executives and their clients alike. Ugly monsters allow you to avoid having to spell out your own positive selling points, if indeed you have any.

It would appear the advocates of the carbon tax have cottoned on to this trick. Through a relentless and combined effort they have created their very own grotesque creature to terrify us. The hideous "climate change denier" is as ugly and repulsive as any toilet germ gremlin.

The climate change denier has become the Left's favourite bogeyman, pursued with all the zeal of a witch hunt in 17th century Salem. Stupid, vain, ugly and mendacious, the climate change denier monster is anyone who questions any or all aspects of the anthropogenic global warming theory and rejects the urgent requirement of a carbon tax/ETS. This repugnant creature lurks in your neighbourhood and threatens life on earth as we know it.

"The agents of . . . planetary death will be the climate change deniers," asserted The Sydney Morning Herald columnist and ABC presenter Richard Glover recently. What, even more so than say, viral mutations, nuclear war, poverty, over-population, peak oil or even the odd asteroid? Yep. And so dangerous are these critters that Glover helpfully suggested "Surely it's time for climate change deniers to have their opinions forcibly tattooed on their bodies" before being "lashed to a pole at a certain point in the shallows off Manly? If they are right and the world is cooling . . . their mouths will be above water." After this piece attracted a great deal of unwelcome attention Glover apologised and pointed out the obvious; he was only joking.

But the joke's wearing a bit thin. Only weeks earlier Glover had had another stab at humorously depicting so-called climate change deniers, eagerly conflating them with the "trolls" who clutter the internet. I'm sure former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson would be flattered to know that Glover, in effect, deems him and his opinions to be of no more consequence than an "idiot who should be corralled".

And is it honestly the case that the likes of Lord Turnbull, the former head of the civil service in Britain who has demanded that his government stop terrifying the public about climate change, have their "heads in the sand and their bums defiantly aquiver as they fart their toxic message to the world"?

And is the physicist William Happer of Princeton University, who claims it is far from clear there is any real threat from global warming - let alone a catastrophic one - really just another creature from "a septic tank teeming with snapping trolls?"

Elizabeth Farrelly, also of the Herald, decided that rather than creating her own monster to terrify us with, she would borrow an existing one. Not even the best animation studios have managed to come up with anything as slimy, evil and repugnant as our very own cane toad.

With the Herald's cartoonist on hand to make sure you were suitably repulsed, Farrelly applied the metaphor to 2GB's Alan Jones. Bemoaning the fact that Australia's highest rating broadcaster was "poisoning the logic well", "lowbrow", and will "irreparably harm our civilisation, as well as our climate," she chose to dismiss out of hand the points he was making about a) Julia Gillard having lied to the electorate about imposing a carbon tax and b) the nation's ability to have any measurable effect (negative or positive) on the world's climate.

Instead, we were treated to: "[Shock jocks] are the cane toads of contemporary culture: ugly, ubiquitous, toxic to most other life forms." There's that planetary death threat again. If only Glover and Farrelly had some Toilet Troll handy. It kills 99.9 per cent of all known climate change deniers.

Farrelly then gave us an accurate, but ironic, lecture on "dishonest tricks in argument, including caricature, anecdote and non sequitur" seemingly unaware that these are the precise tactics she and her fellow climate change denier demonisers (there! I've just created my own monster!) repeatedly use to demean anyone who happens to disagree with their point of view.

Mike Carlton (also of the Herald, is there a pattern developing here?) is also a dab hand at scaring the kiddies. When George Pell had the temerity to question the climate change orthodoxy, Carlton was ready with the ugly imagery: "Pull out a few fingernails, stretch him on the rack, a bit of how's-yer-father with a red hot poker." Carlton was trying to paint a picture of the medieval religious mind-set, but you couldn't help but get the impression he wouldn't mind wielding the red hot poker himself. Particularly if any of the following monstrous individuals had been splayed out on the rack:

"The third lot of climate denial ratbags are those tabloid media pundits cynically banging the populist drum to drag in the hordes of bogan nongs out there. [A fair bit of Australian slang there: Ratbags are eccentric people; Bogans are working class people; Nongs are stupid people]

"These are people who believe they are beset by a cabal of lefties, Greenies, gays, femi-Nazis, Muslims, venal and incompetent public servants and latte-sipping intellectuals conspiring to deprive them of all they hold dear, like their inalienable right to own a jet-ski and to name their children Breeyanna and Jaxxon."

That's a lot of condescension and hate to pack into one paragraph. These wouldn't be those same people out in the western suburbs who are now lumbered with exorbitant electricity bills because of feel-good renewable schemes that, according to the Productivity Commission report, were ineffectual at best?

And let's not forget "the usual talkback shock jocks going feral and Rupert's opinionators lunging like a shoal of piranha" which, I suppose, is as good a way as any to avoid responding to those who dared question the credibility of Cate Blanchett (Hollywood millionairess) fronting Get Up's carbon tax ads (say yes to the poor being better off.) Is it possible for this debate to be conducted on the strength of the arguments alone? Or, like the toilet cleaning ads, do we have to create monsters in order to build our case?

By all means, counter every argument the climate change deniers, sceptics, carbon tax opponents and the rest put forward, and attack their opinions with passion and verve, or even better, with proven facts and irrefutable rebuttals.

But hysterically and repeatedly portraying them as ugly, stupid trolls, toads and ferals threatening life on earth as we know it, is intellectually (and morally) dubious at best.

Worthy of a toilet cleaning ad, perhaps. But not worthy of the future economic and environmental health of our country.


Electricity tsar AEMC lashes Gillard's climate poodle

ROSS Garnaut's proposals to transform coal-fired power generation using a carbon tax are ineffectual, too bureaucratic and create "significant fiscal risks" for power companies, according to the Gillard government's own energy commission.

In a confidential report sent to all energy ministers and the multi-party committee working on the carbon pricing legislation, the Australian Energy Market Commission says proposals in Professor Garnaut's electricity sector report for the government could threaten the energy market.

"We are also concerned that the paper does not fully consider the likely implications for retail competition and market structure of the development of a carbon price and associated policies," AEMC chairman John Pierce said.

The report by AEMC - an adviser to the Council of Australian Governments' Ministerial Council on Energy - warns that the proposals to provide power stations with government guarantees could lead to taxpayers footing the bill for failed generation businesses by assuming ownership and could "undermine rather than strengthen the stability of the national electricity market".

Compensation for electricity generators hit by a carbon price was one of the key factors in framing the government's first carbon pollution reduction scheme and is opposed by the Greens and Professor Garnaut - Labor's key climate change adviser.

Professor Garnaut's March report on the effects of a carbon price on the $120 billion electricity sector to the government and the multi-party committee on climate change rejected compensation for power stations affected by the carbon price on the grounds it was "highly unlikely" to threaten physical energy security.

He proposed commonwealth loan guarantees to keep high-emission generators operating and an "energy security council" to ensure continuity of supply and avoid instability in the electricity market.

He also found that old brown-coal power stations in Victoria's Latrobe Valley could still be required to operate intermittently on days of strong power demand.

While the AEMC said there were some useful aspects of Professor Garnaut's report, it did not address the main problems of electricity generators losing asset values, being unable to borrow funds and avoiding financial risks and market failures.

Responding to the AEMC criticisms, Professor Garnaut last night rejected suggestions his approach was bureaucratic, saying it was the opposite. "I've got much more faith in the role of the market and the market's response to carbon pricing than has been shown by the regulatory authorities," Professor Garnaut said at a community meeting in Victoria's Latrobe Valley. "I'm quite confident that our electricity market can handle the adjustments that have to be made without big handouts of taxpayers' money."

The AEMC - an independent body that sets the rules for the national electricity market - wants free carbon permits to be given to specific power-generating plants rather than cash compensation or debt guarantees to encourage investment in new technology and limit the risks of power disruption and price rises.

On renewable energy programs, the AEMC agreed with Professor Garnaut's criticism of the schemes, saying they should be reviewed to see whether they were "still required" following the introduction of a carbon price.

"The overall aim should be to find policy settings that achieve the government's policy objectives as efficiently as possible, including minimising costs to consumers."

In relation to the creation of an energy security council to oversee the implementation of a carbon tax to force electricity generators to shift to cleaner fuels, Mr Pierce said: "We are concerned that the proposed mechanism may be unduly bureaucratic and not able to operate quickly enough in the circumstances where it would be required."

Mr Pierce is a former secretary of NSW Treasury and until June last year was secretary of the federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

The AEMC report said Professor Garnaut's proposals aimed at minimising "financial contagion" in the electricity market, which could disrupt power and force up household costs, but were aimed at industry debt levels rather than damage to the value of power-generating assets.

"Rather than a financial problem, the introduction of a carbon pricing mechanism creates an equity problem through asset impairment," the AEMC report found. "If the carbon pricing mechanism is introduced without addressing the asset impairment issue, the equity of the businesses would be reduced. "If that occurs across a number of participants, it is likely to lead to financial contagion and will impede the market from functioning effectively."

Professor Garnaut said last night he did not think asset impairment was the real issue. "In the end, the question about asset impairment is where should a scarce amount of revenue from carbon pricing be spent," he said.

"Should it be spent on compensating the shareholders, whether in Sydney or Hong Kong or Paris, or should it be spent on supporting innovation to build the economy of the future, and providing tax cuts and improved benefits for Australian households?

"A choice has to be made and I'm confident I got that choice right."

The commission expressed "concern" the Garnaut report "does not fully consider the likely implications for retail competition and market structure of the development of a carbon price".

"We are also concerned the paper makes a number of proposals that would be very significant implications for the energy markets without sufficiently detailed analysis of the costs, benefits and implications of the proposals," the AEMC said.

The AEMC is also reviewing the efficiency and effectiveness of renewable energy schemes with generous feed-in tariffs that underpin investments in power sources such as wind and power.


Female predominance in Australian universities too

There are a lot of very highly paid jobs in the mining industry nowadays which would appeal to people who like operating heavy machinery etc. There are some women driving Haulpak trucks but not many

Ben McCulloch, a final-year education student at the Burnie campus of the University of Tasmania, is hoping for a position in a local primary school next year. Picture: Chris Crerar Source: The Australian

AS an education student, Burnie local Ben McCulloch says being a male on his female-dominated campus is "like being in training" for when he graduates as a primary teacher.

"It helps me get used to working with lots of females," he said.

Mr McCulloch, 21, is one of just 130 male students - 27 per cent of the student body - at the University of Tasmania's Burnie campus. It's a trend mirrored on regional campuses across Australia, with at least a half having less than one-third male students.

Of Australia's 106 regional campuses, only 10 had a majority of male students in 2009. Another eight had equal representation, but all are micro-campuses with fewer than 20 students.

The data released to the HES reveals a picture of female dominance at most regional campuses, magnifying the trend of feminisation in metropolitan universities. Richard James, director of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, said the percentage of domestic female enrolments on Australian campuses was approaching 60 per cent.

He said since the 1980s women were using education for social mobility, while men had work options not open to women.

"There are pull factors keeping men out of higher education . . . work opportunities women don't have access to," he said.

"At least some of the women who are going on to tertiary education are doing so because there isn't another option."

Professor James said the courses at regional campuses, which tended to be female-centric, also played a role in keeping local boys away.

Women also were clustered in low-status, low-paying vocational courses, such as nursing, teaching and child care. "These are highly feminised professions, teaching increasingly so in the past 30 years."

Writing in today's HES, Andrew Harvey from La Trobe University said raising the participation rate of regional men required "a shift in focus from the supply of places to demand for them". Regional campuses were "a necessary but insufficient condition for attracting regional men."

"Universities will need to work more closely with schools, industry and communities to increase the pool of applicants."

This would require new selection methods to reduce the dominance of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, which had a strong correlation with wealth, improved pathways via vocational education and entry for mature-age students based on work experience.

Mr McCulloch said while most of his male friends went to university, they all left for the mainland, Launceston or Hobart. His decision to stay in Burnie was primarily economic; he could live at home and keep his job. But he also hoped to get an appointment to a local school after he finished his degree in October.


15 June, 2011

The ash-cloud beat-up

An email just received from someone just back in Brisbane from New Zealand

That night there was an incredible RED sunset and the news talked about a Volcanic Ash Cloud heading over New Zealand. Air flights could get disrupted ?? Gosh, I had a baby-shower to go to! We will see what happens I guess??

The media was updating us on the ash cloud. Air New Zealand was not cancelling a single flight. The civil air aviation authority has given full permission for all airlines to fly – just fly lower or around the ash cloud. No problems. This would of course cost more money in fuel but at least all passengers would reach their destinations.

Simon had hooked up his new satellite dish to receive some Australian TV. We got Channel 7 Sunrise and was shocked to see the difference in news reporting! Suddenly this corporate QANTAS spokesperson came on TV stating all QANTAS and JETSTAR flights were being cancelled! She stated the reason as being one of SAFETY ???WHAT THE ?? This reason stated by QANTAS was patently false! There was no mention on Australian TV of the fact Air New Zealand was flying business as usual, following the guidelines of the civil air safety authority!

For a laugh we checked the Courier Mail website and --- OH MY GOD!!!!! The headline was enough to make them a complete laughing stock let alone the sensationalist tripe which followed! How on EARTH do mainstream Australia get accurate information when faced with this nonsense?? What’s worse is the general public gain sympathy for what is inaccurately emphasised by the media. The blind leading the blind.

I had booked with Jetstar going over to Queenstown and Air New Zealand coming back home so looks like there was no problem for me!! Sure enough Virgin was jumping on the bandwagon in Australia and the whole country seemed to be gripped in some sort of pandemonium media beat up over this ash cloud!

The media coverage was NOTHING like this in New Zealand! In fact it felt very much like Australia and their airlines were an absolute laughing stock after this gross over-reaction!

So we spent the rest of the time walking around, enjoying the surroundings and I headed off to Queenstown completely on schedule to fly back out to Auckland then across the Tasman to Brisbane. Simon’s Parents were flying out the same day but they were flying Air New Zealand to Christchurch – no problems there but had to face the prospect of cancelled JETSAR flights to cross back to Australia.

My flight home was great – we flew a bit lower so I could see some excellent views all the way up to Auckland! I have some photos taken and video of the event! I even saw the ash cloud higher in the sky – it just looked like ash but was interesting all the same! I noticed after crossing into the NORTH Island, an absolute BLANKET cloud cover. It seems the north islanders must love the rain.. ;)

Auckland airport was nice and freshly renovated but the flight home from Auckland had a drama with turbulence which scared the crap out of me (it didn’t help I was sitting right at the back of the plane)! We re-routed over Norfolk Island to be safe and dodge it all but the plane got such a huge jolt and knocked my tea all over me! It felt like the plane wanted to rip itself apart so it was a little but scary for a time. The flight home took 4 hours instead of 3 but Susan was there to greet me when I exited the gate.

Anyway, there was much more stuff and interesting things which happened but I’m too busy to write it all down, hope you enjoyed the update but more importantly have a better perspective on this whole ASH Cloud media beat up over here!

When I was home and watching the news reports – nobody seemed to mention Air New Zealand was flying as per normal and didn’t miss a single flight!!! ????

Have the Australian anti-deniers fallen at the first hurdle?

There is a new site here which rather grandly announces that it is going to put an end to "deniers" for once and for all.

The anti-deniers seem as usual to be heavily reliant on appeals to authority and offer a long list of academics who support Warmism. Most of them are not climate scientists or anything like it however so are irrelevant authorities.

And a lot of them are the usual suspects. I note that Hoagy is there for instance. Hoagy used to be very vocal about how warming was going to destroy Australia's huge and much-loved coral reef (the Great Barrier Reef). Since his own research showed that was not going to happen, however, he has been strangely quiet.

Then there is my old sparring partner, the greatly overpaid economist John Quiggin -- who is about as far-Left as economists get.

And the list of academics would amount to only about 1% of Australia's acdemics anyway so it is pretty poor even as an appeal to authority.

Nonetheless, the site has attracted a lot of comments, both pro and anti, and a lot of the comments are "answers" to one-another.

There is however one super-simple question (by someone I know) that everybody has at the time of writing avoided like the plague. It reads as follows:
Hey guys!

I gather that the global temperature has risen by less than one degree Celsius in the last 150 years

That sounds to me like we live in an era of exceptional climate stability

What am I missing?

Is no answer possible?

Carbon tax to hit the cost of the average shopping cart

CONSUMERS will be slugged with price rises on everyday items like milk, cheese, chocolate and pizza's as the carbon tax puts the squeeze on retailers and producers.

Even plane tickets and phone bills won't be spared when the Gillard government's greenhouse emissions scheme comes into effect as early as July 2012.

While Labor is preparing to compensate pensioners and low-income families, supermarket bosses are predicting across-the-board price rises.

Bega Cheese executive chairman Barry Irvin is also worried about the impact on the company's export business, including milk powder sales to Asia. "Anything that adds to our inability to compete is a challenge for us. The reality is that it's about our competitiveness in the international marketplace," he said.

Despite Canberra's spin that only the biggest polluters will face extra costs, the effect of a carbon tax will be felt on companies as diverse as the Uniting Church Property Trust, Nestle and Tabcorp.

Telstra, Optus and other telcos will also consider passing on higher energy costs to customers.

The Australian Coal Association claims that the carbon tax could force eight black coalmines to close, costing nearly 3000 jobs in regional NSW and more than 1100 jobs in Queensland in its first three years.

Murray Goulburn, with its 2700 dairy farmer shareholders claims it faces annual cost rises of up to $10,000 each. Robert Poole, head of industry and government affairs at Australia's biggest milk producer, said it was "highly likely" that dairy farm businesses will "still see significant additional costs from a carbon tax" due to higher costs of electricity, fertiliser and fuel.

And farmers will be forced to absorb this extra cost rather than pass it on to consumers, he said, "given that the price of dairy products is primarily set by international factors".

Coca-Cola Amatil group managing director Terry Davis is also worried about the impact of a carbon tax on local manufacturing. "Any costs associated with a carbon tax would be passed on (to consumers)," he said. "Our view is that a carbon tax is discriminatory because it advantages imported goods."

Based on a $26 a tonne carbon price, Wesfarmers - owner of Coles, Target and Kmart - faces extra annual costs of $134 million. This is based on calculating the direct costs of a carbon price, known as Scope 1 emissions, along with Scope 2 emissions, which measure the indirect costs of polluting based on energy consumption.

Woolworths' annual bill will rise by $73 million, while Qantas faces a yearly rise of $108 million. The company expects domestic ticket prices to increase by up to $4.

Retailer Harvey Norman is facing extra costs of $4.7 million, with boss Gerry Harvey saying his electricity bill will likely increase by 12.5 per cent under a carbon tax. Despite the government's offer of compensation for some consumers, Mr Harvey believes it "won't be a positive for retail. The majority of retail is in a pretty sorry state. If the mining boom disappears, we are in a bad way".

Chief executive of grocery wholesaler Metcash, Andrew Reitzer, also warned that struggling families would suffer, telling the ABC: "I think it's going to push prices up - the question is by how much. All I can tell you, the consumer's going to pay for it."


Call for ban on teens playing football

YOUNG footballers should not be allowed to tackle each other as teenagers to avoid brain damage and serious bone injuries, according to a leading sports medicine expert.

Sports Medicine Australia Professor Caroline Finch, a sports epidemiologist at Monash University, said rugby was a challenging collision sport and as such could produce serious harm. "The body gets an injury when it sustains a force that it can't withstand," Prof Finch said.

"Force equals mass times acceleration so if players are running fast and you get hit by a bigger player you are going to get more force transmitted to you and have a greater chance of injury," she said. "And that is when it becomes a problem when we have a lot of lightweight children playing with bigger kids."

Professor Finch said young people's brains were still developing. "If an injury occurs it could stop laying down important pathways," she said. "There is a fear that the cognitive development of younger people, their ability to learn, could be impaired from too many head impacts."

Other impacts on young bodies were also musculoskeletal because they were not fully developed and "excessive forces could easily break bones", she said.

Prof Finch said it was important to gradually introduce contact in sport particularly for those 16 and under. "The responsibility is also on the coach to take in all factors when making up a team," she said. "Rather than have a win at all costs approach they need to approach the game in a balanced way and care about the health and well being of their young players."

A new study by Sports Medicine Australia found the harder NRL rugby league players train, the more injuries they will sustain. "This study shows if you don't train at all you will sustain injury but if you train to much it can also lead to injury," she said.

These findings create a challenge for coaches, who need their players to train hard to improve game performance, while also minimising the risk of injury.


Australian women to join men on the front-line in Afghanistan by next year

This decision is driven by politics, not military concerns. It will cause great distractions and thus harm unit morale, and morale is a major factor in military performance. And military performance is a life or death matter

MALE Diggers have been told that female soldiers will be eligible to join them on the front-line in Afghanistan by next year.

The Army has pre-empted the government's final decision on allowing women into combat roles and this week began briefing infantry soldiers that they will be joined in battle in 2012 by women who can pass the physical and team tests.

In the past, females have been given extra time to complete the tests, but the new tests will be done on equal terms with the men.

Despite the rising death toll in Afghanistan, the top brass strongly supports the government's push to open all combat roles to women, but the troops themselves have mixed views.

One serving infantry soldier, who asked not to be named, told The Courier-Mail that the decision would result in anger among some troops.

"Some guys are open to the idea if women can prove they are capable (of deploying to the front-line) but others are dead against it,'' the digger said. "We use some pretty colourful language so will that change? Do we have to become more PC (politically correct)?''

Troops from the Townsville-based 1st Battalion received the blunt news yesterday morning during a briefing by the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM). Soldiers who feel unable to adapt to the massive cultural change have been advised to find another job.

According to the troops, they were also told that physical strength and fitness requirements would be tightened for all genders, regardless of age, before the unisex door was finally opened.

The gender bar will continue to apply to the SAS and Commandos.

Brisbane-based troops have already received gender equity training in preparation for the government's announcement.

The army's most senior female officer, Reserve Major General Liz Cosson, welcomed the news and recalled that when she joined just 23 per cent of army jobs were open to women. However, she warned that Defence would need to properly prepare the force to integrate women into combat roles.

A spokesman for Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the minister would take a submission to Cabinet for a final decision within weeks. That will be a rubber stamp after he made it clear military opportunity for women, ``should be determined on the basis of physical and intellectual capacity, not gender''.

Outgoing defence chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said it was imperative that women were able to apply for all ADF jobs.


14 June, 2011

Top miner likely to go to court over carbon tax

FORTESCUE Metals Group chief executive Andrew Forrest reckons legislating the latest mining tax draft would be "economic vandalism". Mr Forrest hit out at the proposed mineral resource rent tax on Monday, claiming the draft released late on Friday gave multinationals such as BHP, Rio and Xstrata a huge advantage over Australian home-grown companies.

"I have no issue paying the taxes which elected representatives of our great country levy against me," Mr Forrest said during a conference call. "What I have enormous issue with is this tax, because it creates a huge precedent - a tax which penalises me for being an Australian developer and protects the multinationals."

He said the MRRT legislation allows companies to uplift the market value of their assets, which they can use to make depreciation claims. "So that means if you don't have this large market value, like developers don't, then you start paying the tax immediately whereas the multinationals don't start to pay it for decades, if at all," Mr Forrest said.

He said he would seek amendments at meetings on Tuesday with the Government, Independent MPs and the Opposition in Canberra.

Fortescue described the draft legislation, which was released on Friday, as "disappointing and economic vandalism".

The MRRT will apply only to coal producers and iron ore miners, of which Fortescue is one, meaning reaction to the draft has been muted, though smaller coal and iron ore hopefuls in Queensland and Western Australia are examining their options.

Submissions on the draft will not close until July 14.

Treasurer Wayne Swan and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said on Friday: "The draft is not exhaustive and is intended to provide stakeholders with an early overview of the legislation. We encourage stakeholders to make submissions on the preliminary draft."

Asked about the likelihood of Fortescue supporting a High Court challenge to the proposed MRRT, Mr Forrest said it was not possible to say at this stage given the legislation was in draft form and "totally unfinished".

Should the draft legislation remain unchanged, Mr Forrest said he was keen to test the constitutionality of the proposed tax. "As it stands now, any Australian who has a tax which allows multinationals to pay less per dollar of profit than what they do, that should be challenged, that is totally against the Constitution," Mr Forrest said.

"If that is what finally appears, you may be assured that Fortescue and others will challenge a precedent so dangerous that it gives multinationals a major advantage over Australia home-grown companies."

They may challenge for entirely different reasons, however. If the MRRT is challengeable it will be because the Constitution says the states own Australia's mineral wealth, while it's in the ground and therefore might have an exclusive right to tax it. Not an easy case to prosecute considering mining companies have been paying tax, like anyone else, for a very long time now.


Ban on mortgage exit fees will reduce competition

Do-gooder law likely to cost everybody more

AUSTRALIA'S non-bank lenders have fired a new shot in their campaign against the planned abolition of mortgage exit fees, due to take effect on July 1.

Phil Naylor, chief executive of the Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia, said yesterday that non-bank borrowers were much less concerned about exit fees than the government suggests, reported The Australian.

"They didn't consult with our industry and it's clear that there will be unintended negative consequences for the non-bank lenders," Mr Naylor said.

He noted that non-bank lenders' share of the Australian mortgage market had dropped from about 15 per cent before the global financial crisis to "almost nil" now and said the abolition of exit fees would reduce it further.

As part of a campaign against bank charges the federal government has moved against exit fees, but the small end of the market has been using those fees to help keep interest charges down.

Mr Naylor said a new MFAA survey of 1000 householders had concluded that only 1.7 per cent of respondents rated exit fees as important, compared with 50.2 per cent who said the interest charged was most important.

Non-bank lenders attract borrowers by offering lower interest rates than the big banks, but their margins are significantly slimmer because they also pay higher rates for funds than the big banks do.


Woman waits 29 hours for surgery at Geelong Hospital

A WOMAN'S 29-hour wait for wrist surgery at Geelong Hospital has prompted an official complaint to state and national health chiefs. Bronwyn Wright was "bumped" seven times as she waited for surgeons to realign her broken wrist, the Geelong Advertiser reports.

Ms Wright was told on Thursday night to fast and arrive for surgery at 11am on Friday for a procedure that involved rebreaking her wrist and securing it with a plate and screws.

By 9.30pm the hospital conceded the surgery would not happen until the following day and fed the hungry and dehydrated patient, who yesterday said she became so frustrated by the delay that she questioned whether she even needed the surgery. "It was traumatic because you do the paperwork, you've got the gown and the cap on and you're ready to go. You're emotionally prepared for the operation," she said yesterday.

"I was emotionally exhausted by the time they took me up to the room (on Friday night). You can see they're trying to do the best they can but there's no clear communication. By that stage I could have eaten someone's hand off."


More Leftist ethics: Exposing their lawbreaking behaviour is unethical????

Rage instead of contrition!

A STATE MP has expressed anger at being outed for parking illegally for three hours in a disabled parking bay. However, Frances Bedford was not the only Labor politician accused of parking illegally last month, with pictures of Tony Piccolo's car in a bay reserved for the disabled also sent to the Sunday Mail.

Mr Piccolo apologised for parking illegally but said he was unaware anyone had been "inconvenienced by the location of my carpark".

The incidents have infuriated Dignity for Disabled MP Kelly Vincent, who said there was "no legitimate excuse" for people without a parking permit to break the law. "It's not OK for one minute or one hour - disabled people need these spaces and it's a form of human-rights abuse to deny them these spaces," the wheelchair-bound MLC said.

Ms Bedford was busted while attending a Community Health Forum at the Tea Tree Gully TAFE campus on Saturday, May 28. She was snapped packing up equipment around 4.40pm - three hours after the car was first spotted.

The Florey MP said the car had been parked illegally because the bay was closest to the building's entrance, although the photographs clearly show empty non-disabled parking spaces opposite. She said she was "really sorry" she subsequently forgot to move the car after her gear had initially been unpacked and taken inside.

She accused a supporter of the Liberal Party of taking the picture. "Has politics stooped to this sort of business now?" she asked.

Mr Piccolo's car was seen parked illegally while he attended the SA Annual Volunteers Recognition Awards function in Seaton on Tuesday, May 10. The Light MP said he had been a passenger in his car, which had been parked after he had been dropped off at the function. "I only became aware that the car had been parked in a disabled carpark when I was taken to the car to leave the function," the Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier said.

Ms Vincent has called on Labor MPs to donate to charity the $253 fine that they would have faced if caught by a parking inspector for parking illegally. "What is really disappointing is that as MPs they are supposed to be role models and should uphold the law," she said. "What hope have we got with all those campaigns educating people about disability carparking when politicians won't adhere to the message?"

Disability Minister Jennifer Rankine has called on her colleagues and all motorists to show some respect to the disabled. "Disability parking spaces are reserved for good reason for those who need them and this should be respected by all other drivers at all times," she said.


13 June, 2011

Queen's birthday honours

Today is the official Queens birthday -- which, with good British eccentricity, is not her actual birthday. It is a holiday in Australia and it is also the time for the government to hand out "honours", mostly medals, to people whose lives and deeds are deemed worthy of official recognition.

Those honoured are however a strange bunch. There is a guy who spends most of his time climbing high mountains rather than doing anything useful and also a has-been centrist politician who was only ever a pretty face. And honouring the disastrous Mick Keelty, former federal police commissioner, is a strange decision indeed.

I could go on but when you are giving out a total of 376 honours, a lot of nonentities have to make the grade, I guess. Limiting the total to (say) 20 might make the awards mean something

OUTSTANDING Australians, including former politicians Natasha Stott Despoja and Bob Debus, cricketer Max Walker, Pat Cash's coach Ian Barclay, have been honoured for their contributions to our nation.

Mountaineer Andrew Lock was also among Australians honoured. Having scaled the globe's highest peaks, Lock is used to being on top of the world - but the feeling took an entirely new dimension as he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours yesterday.

And Hunter Valley-raised world motocross champion Chad Reed had a similar sentiment as he celebrated being made a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

Some 376 Australians honoured in a list that includes a former deputy prime minister, a spymaster, a cricketing legend and an opera composer.

Former federal police commissioner Mick Keelty, ex-National Party leader John Anderson, former politicians Natasha Stott Despoja and Bob Debus, cricketer Max Walker, Pat Cash's coach Ian Barclay, Edinburgh Festival director and opera composer Jonathon Mills, and the head of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service Nick Warner were all recognised for their contributions to Australia.

Mr Lock, 49, is the only Australian to have climbed all of the world's 14 peaks higher than 8000m, and is a veteran of the monstrous mountains of Nepal - including the mighty Mt Everest. He has survived avalanches, falls down crevasses, had frostbite and been a tragic witness to the deaths of dear friends.


Labor party stalwart wants more diversity and democracy in the Labor party

A big ask for people whose basic instincts are authoritarian. But their big losses in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia plus their unpopularity in Queensland and Federally have unnerved them

BRISBANE Labor stalwart Cr David Hinchliffe has added his voice to a growing list of party faithful calling on the ALP to change or risk slipping into political obscurity.

Cr Hinchliffe, who has been a member for almost 40 years and an ALP councillor for 25, accused the party of being "tired and dumb" by refusing to embrace the 21st century and continuing to insist members speak and act uniformly in public. "Former PM Kevin Rudd has spoken forcefully of a 'cancer' within the Labor Party. You don't cure a cancer by ignoring it," he said. "Labor caucus members should be able to exercise a free vote on issues affecting their local area and should be able to do that without having to get 'permission' from their party."

The comments came as federal Labor backbencher and Caucus chair Daryl Melham argued that changing leaders would go no way towards lifting Labor out of its problems. "If people are talking about changing the current leadership of the Labor Party, then we're headed for certain defeat," Mr Melham told Channel 10. "Anyone who goes for that solution are kidding themselves and will be punished."

Cr Hinchliffe said Labor members should be able to exercise the right to vote as they saw fit. "The Queensland ALP conference next weekend has just such an opportunity to be the first Labor Party in Australia to enshrine such a principle in its platform," he said. "Will this get a hearing? If we're serious about addressing what Kevin Rudd calls a 'cancer', it should."

Cr Hinchliffe also backed Senator John Faulkner's call to open up candidate selection and free it from the grip of "factional warlords". "We should embrace those in the community who are Labor supporters but are not Labor members," he said.

Cr Hinchliffe urged the party to move forwards. "Of course we need to remember where we came from, but we also need to know where we're going in this ever-changing 21st century," he said. "Will Kevin and John as the elder statesmen of the Labor Party be heard? For the sake of progressive politics I hope they will."


Progressives who pander to old prejudices are a turn-off for voters

James A. Falk

AT the recent NSW election every pundit was surprised by the Liberal performance in the once safe left seat of Balmain. None of us working on the campaign were the least bit surprised.

On the ground it was clear the Green-Left had embraced policies that isolated them from the interests of the broader community. They tried to minimise that disconnection by hiding behind the word progressive, as if it were a magic label that could make up for incompetence and for regressive policies divorced from ordinary people. We can see exactly the same failures and propagandising at the federal level.

Except now Labor figures such as Senator John Faulkner and Rodney Cavalier claim that the ALP needs to build policy that its members support, and to engage more closely with left-wing intelligentsia. Which is the exact opposite of the lessons of the NSW election.

During the Balmain campaign Green and ALP stump speeches were long on labour history and alarmist, intelligentsia-driven claims. There were even references to Gough Whitlam and H. V. Evatt, relevant a mere 40 or 60 years ago.

But their grand rhetoric of values and history simply wasn't matched by the quality of their contemporary policy, management and delivery.

And it cannot be, because the policies both the Greens and Labor membership consider central cannot deliver what ordinary people need.

That's why long-term Labor voters thanked me for talking about how to get our unskilled workers into paid employment, and about how to maintain the possibility of social welfare in the face of fiscal limits. And why NGOs providing disability and family services were vehement in their support for getting the public sector out of the way.

All these constituents were scathing about the Green-Left's policy inertia and focus on old battles and irrelevant questions. Rather than providing answers to these long-term problems, the Greens and the ALP have delivered little in NSW except managerial incompetence and gestures pandering to the faddish views of exactly that class Faulkner wants to empower.

This has continued in the failures of the Gillard government, the political tin ear of the Greens and the ludicrous preaching of the Cate Blanchett enviro-ad. The progressive mindset is sliding further and further from the practical concerns of ordinary voters.

Incompetence hits at the heart of progressive claims. Contrary to Green-Left spin, government waste is a social equity issue. Every government dollar wasted is a dollar we can't spend on early intervention in learning disabilities, or respite care, or social housing.

Progressives consistently claim that addressing this waste somehow hurts the poor. But it is the waste itself that is most damaging to those who rely on government, because it reduces what government can do to make a real difference.

And there is nothing compassionate about failing to deliver the housing, health services or child protection that people need, and then failing to take the hard decisions to fix things.

This progressive resistance to innovation in government is regressive in the extreme. It privileges old-school means over the end of delivering opportunity for all.

Ironically, it is a blind conservatism that strangles our capacity to deliver services to the people who need them. Above all else, ordinary voters are directly hurt by grand progressive gestures designed to meet the momentary fads of upper-middle income earners. Too often the progressive gesture is paid for by the poorest of our society to the benefit of some of the richest.

That is especially true of Green subsidies and regulations, most visible in our rising electricity prices. As former Labor senator John Black found, inner-city Greens voters are by far the highest income earners of any of the major parties.

Fairfax columnist Elizabeth Farrelly writes that policy must diminish our standard of living and if it doesn't hurt, it won't work.

If it's in the Green cause, it is clear that the financially comfortable are quite happy pulling up the ladder of opportunity behind them. According to Faulkner, Bob Carr, Steve Bracks, and others, ALP troubles arise from any of poor spin, the NSW power sale, internal conflict, the influence of machine men, or inadequate internal democracy.

Conspicuous by its absence is the admission that their core agenda already responds to the ideological interests of a progressive class.

That class is contemptuous of suburban values and aspiration, embraces green conventional wisdom about the evils of industry and capitalism, and is willing to sacrifice the opportunities of the less-connected to the false certainties of 1950s class conflict. These failings are why the Liberals gained all of the swing away from Labor in one of the safest Green-Left seats in the country, and why we won the Balmain primary vote at the last state election for the first time in history, and why the Greens gained virtually nothing.

Until progressives realise that too many voters view their policy mix as pandering to old prejudices and to a wealthy minority, all the internal reform and celebrity advertisements in the world will make no difference to their long-term decline.


Aptitude tests show benefits

IQ rediscovered

APTITUDE tests for school-leavers have proven their value as a way into universities for clever students who would have no prospect of making it on their final exam results, a trial has shown.

A report on uniTEST, released yesterday by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, concludes the assessment facilitated the admission of students who "otherwise would not have received a place, and that these students performed on par with their counterparts who gained entry through other means, most commonly through Year 12 scores".

"While the evidence is limited, both uniTEST and control group students appeared to report similar levels of academic engagement as well as learning and skill development," the report found.

UniTEST was developed by British company Cambridge Assessment and the Australian Council for Educational Research, which also conducted the pilot study. Six universities participated across three years, and while the report does not reveal which ones, the study's lead author, ACER's Hamish Coates, said the Australian National University, Macquarie, Flinders, Deakin and Monash universities were among those who had taken a keen interest in the issue.

During the pilot, almost 1500 people sat the uniTEST, with about 400 gaining admission. The report concluded at least 165 who might have missed out on entry via normal channels had been admitted.

"Scores appear to be particularly helpful for students from historically under-represented backgrounds, and have been shown to be less influenced by important characteristics like socio-economic status," it said. It concluded uniTEST scores combined with achievement scores were an improved predictor of grade point averages during the first two years of university.

Dr Coates said Australia was "drunk" on achievement data including admissions scores such as the Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks. While higher education had grown strongly during the past three decades, there had been no commensurate change in the admissions system and well-designed aptitude tests were part of the answer. "[Not only can we] get people in the door, but once they are there we know they have the intellectual capacity to succeed," Dr Coates said.

The need for a transparent and efficient means of admission was crucial as the system moves to uncap enrolments from next year, and in light of the Bradley target of 40 per cent participation.

Macquarie University vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz supported the uniTEST study, which captured students who might otherwise not qualify for university yet were perfectly capable of succeeding. "We need an admissions system that can find hidden talent that is not revealed by ATAR scores," he said.

However, DEEWR said low uptake in the pilot program meant the department had not drawn any definitive conclusions about the value of uniTEST. "While the report recommends the national implementation of uniTEST, the government does not intend to direct universities to undertake specific enrolment practices," it said.

University of Melbourne expert Richard James, the lead author of a paper on tertiary admission for the Victorian government in 2009, wrote part of a chapter in the current report. "Aptitude assessment deserves a higher profile in university admissions than is presently the case," said Professor James, director of the university's Centre for the Study of Higher Education.

"But aptitude assessment will not be appropriate for all institutions and for all courses. We are likely to see admissions criteria and practices diversify as we move into a more deregulated environment and aptitude assessment ought to be part of the mix."


A most learned priest becomes a bishop

WHAT gifts do princes of the church receive for major birthday milestones?

Among other goodies, including a London newspaper dated June 8, 1941 -- Trinity Sunday -- Australia's Cardinal George Pell, who turned 70 yesterday, scored an extra pair of hands. Last night at St Mary's Cathedral he ordained a new auxiliary bishop for Sydney, Peter Comensoli, who at 47 is Australia's youngest bishop.

Bishop Comensoli, who said he was looking forward to "30 years of hard work upfront and centre" was a priest of the Wollongong diocese.

He was ordained in 1992, after studying at Manly Seminary.

Previously, he worked in a bank, studied economics at the University of Wollongong and played the violin in orchestras, but switched to theology when he felt called to the church.

A few days ago he returned from Scotland, where he finalised his doctorate in theological ethics at Edinburgh University on the subject of recognising the rights and dignity of the intellectually impaired.

The doctorate dealt with controversial issues such as the increasing tendency to abort foetuses with Down Syndrome and emerging arguments in some quarters overseas that dementia and Alzheimers patients were fair game for euthanasia.

Bishop Comensoli also has a Master of Letters in moral philosophy from St Andrew's University, Scotland, and studied moral theology in Rome.

Bishop Comensoli said the biggest challenge of his new role would be teaching the faith at a time when many were indifferent to religion and "the Lord is often forgotten or even rejected".

In his sermon, Cardinal Pell said a bishop's task was to "teach and explain" that Jesus was divine as well as human because "no mere man" could redeem us.

"Surveys show that even some priests, and certainly more people, Catholics too, are unsure about the bodily resurrection of Jesus and even of the virgin birth, (and) of Christ's divine fatherhood," Dr Pell said. "This must mean that their faith in the divinity of Christ is under extreme pressure."


12 June, 2011

The usual Leftist ethics on display

A SHADOWY unit within the Gillard Government is instructing Labor advisers on how to compile secret dossiers on political rivals. An instruction manual obtained by The Sunday Telegraph also reminds advisers to remember that "every flower must grow through dirt".

According to the leaked documents, the taxpayer-funded unit is training Labor staffers to monitor Tony Abbott's front bench, including their financial interests.

But the unit warns Labor operatives to hide their surveillance activities by saving intelligence on private email accounts and mobile USB storage devices to avoid it being detected on Government computers.

It warns staff against keeping the "shadow folder" on the "shared drive" because ministerial computers were subject to Freedom of Information laws and could be uncovered by the Opposition. "Notebooks disencouraged", the document says.

The document - titled Shadow Watch - details how to "track" and "neutralise" their opponents and how best to "share intell".

The bizarre how-to guide for political players was defended yesterday by Special Minister of State Gary Gray as providing "legitimate" scrutiny of Tony Abbott's shadow front bench.

The unit, which operates behind frosted glass offices in Parliament House, has urged staffers to conduct what is described as "shadowy endeavours" by collecting information on Coalition MPs. It is run by the Caucus Communications Team with an annual budget of over $600,000 and provides advice to more than 40 staffers known as Caucus Liaison Officers on ministers and MPs' staff, including in the PM's office.

The documents quote Harry Potter novelist J. K. Rowling, urging "Constant vigilance!" on shadow ministers. It urges staffers to spend their time setting up Google alerts, signing up to rivals' Twitter and Facebook and trawling through their financial records in the pecuniary interests register. "One can bury a lot of one's own troubles by digging in the dirt," the document states.

It also contains images of Malcolm Tucker, a fictional government spin doctor based on Tony Blair's communications director Alastair Campbell who brutally enforced government discipline with abuse, threats and smears.

Asked whether these documents suggested the Caucus Communications Team was acting at odds with a previous pledge not to conduct media monitoring and research on the opposition, Mr Gray's spokeswoman replied: "No." "Ministers are expected to track the activities and commitments of their Opposition counterpart. This is proper and appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of Opposition shadow ministers," she said.

In the last year of the Coalition government the then Government Members Secretariat had 15 staff with an annual salary and parliamentary staff allowance entitlements cost of over $1.4 million. This compares to the CCT annual salary and parliamentary staff allowance entitlements cost of about $620,000.

But several staffers dismissed the activities of the unit as the product of people who had spent "too much time watching (cult US political drama) The West Wing".


Government trying to get tough on illegals

THE 274 asylum seekers and crew who have arrived on Christmas Island since the Malaysia policy was announced will be processed in another country, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed yesterday. Mr Bowen said the federal government would stand firm on its policy to close the door, despite uncertainty over Malaysia's acceptance.

Malaysia said yesterday it is considering taking at least some of the asylum seekers who arrived ahead of the swap deal being formally signed, a shift from its previous position.

A Malaysian official said the deal was all but sealed, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees "on board". The UNHCR declined to comment. "We've made it clear that those 300 are not necessarily to be included in the 800 … our position is that they would be processed in a third country," Mr Bowen told ABC Radio.

There is little chance of a speedy deal with Papua New Guinea to reopen the Manus Island centre, as turmoil continues there following the sacking of Foreign Minister Don Polye, the main supporter of a deal.

Mr Bowen said the government was "in discussions with countries across the region" about stopping the people smugglers' trade.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, who will travel to Nauru at the weekend with leader Tony Abbott, said there was "a taxpayer funded processing centre on Nauru which can be opened within weeks". He said asylum seekers sent to Nauru would not have to be tagged to avoid caning.

Mr Bowen told ABC Radio he had "said on many occasions" that people transferred to Malaysia would not be regarded as illegal migrants, and he and the Malaysian government had repeatedly guaranteed they would not be caned.

The 4000 refugees brought to Australia under the deal would be mostly Burmese, who "can't afford a people smuggler because they're in very difficult circumstances or they don't want to risk their life", he said.

The Age reported last week that the 800 sent to Malaysia would carry a UNHCR card and would not be classified as illegal immigrants. The federal government will pay for all their costs - including health checks, education, and monitoring by immigration officials. Asylum seekers in Malaysia live in the community "and can move freely", the UNHCR said.

Tomorrow, the UNHCR will launch a research report into alternatives to mandatory detention, highlighting the use of community accommodation to process asylum seekers.

La Trobe University contributed to the research, which found that asylum seekers rarely abscond while waiting for the outcome of a visa application, and rarely abscond from a transit country if they can meet their basic needs legally, are not at risk of being forcibly returned and remain hopeful of their prospects. They are more likely to comply with a negative decision if they have explored all legal options to remain in the country.

A joint parliamentary inquiry, pushed by the Greens, will examine Australia's mandatory detention policy and its alternatives. But it remains the policy of both the government and Coalition.


His Grace is a rare Anglican

The Archbishop of Sydney condemns homosexual "marriage"

COMMENTS by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen that allowing same-sex marriage could lead to the acceptance of polygamy and incest are "alarmist" and unfounded, gay rights advocates say.

In an article in the church's newspaper, Southern Cross, Dr Jensen wrote that having same-sex unions enshrined in the Marriage Act was an "abuse" of the tradition and could pave the way for other changes.

"Ensuring public honour of same-sex relationships by calling them marriages is an abuse of marriage itself," The Sydney Morning Herald reported Dr Jensen as writing.

"It imposes, through social engineering, a newly minted concept of marriage on a community that understands it in quite another way.

"This claim for a right to be married could open the way for other forms, such as polygamous marriages or perhaps even marriage between immediate family members."

Australian Marriage Equality convenor Alex Greenwich hit back at the comments, saying any amendments to the Marriage Act would only mean that celebrants outside the Anglican community could perform same-sex marriages.

"The Archbishop should acknowledge we live in a secular, multi-faith society, and as such he must understand that his views should not be imposed on those religions that want to perform same-sex marriages, such as the Quakers and progressive Synagogues," Mr Greenwich said in a statement on Saturday.

"Not one of the alarmist predictions made by the Archbishop have come to pass in any of the countries that allow same-sex marriages to take place, including Catholic Spain, Portugal and Argentina."


Minimum prices for alcohol

By Luke Malpass

The term ‘nanny state’ gets a bad rap. Those who believe the state should protect people from themselves fulminate about this pejorative label. ‘But don’t you understand?’ they say, ‘we are helping people; “nanny state” is used by people who don’t care about others.’

But what is using the coercive power of the state to curtail potentially risky behaviour, if not nannying?

Nanny might soon be given another lever. The federal government is considering a recommendation from the National Preventative Health Agency (a new bureaucracy whose job is to recommend laws and taxes to prevent people from consuming alcohol, tobacco and fast food) to introduce a minimum sale price per standard drink of alcohol. Taxes aren’t working, apparently because competition (usually considered a virtue) has kept prices of some types of liquor low. Moreover, people are drinking too much! So a minimum price is being mooted to discourage drinking.

A minimum price regime, in effect state-mandated price fixing, would make liquor a more protected industry. It would encourage trade in illegal cheap alcohol, and would also be highly regressive. Low-income drinkers would have to spend an even higher portion of their income to have a drink. No doubt the minimum price would rise over time, as it became obvious that alcohol consumption had not been sufficiently reduced.

Minimum prices are blunt impositions that hamper the operation of entire markets. In the case of alcohol, they would penalise people who drink in safety and moderation.

Minimum prices are a woefully inadequate way to try and prevent some of the problems of excessive alcohol consumption such as violence and alcohol poisoning. People addicted to substances are the least affected by price increases.

At best there could be a slight reduction in harmful drinking (but at what cost to other drinkers?); at worst, those who are poor and have an alcohol problem will substitute liquor alcohol for meths or something even more dangerous.

This proposed policy fails on the grounds of equity, efficacy and the ‘do no harm’ principle. It won’t even be effective nannying.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 10 June. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Charter's quest for utopia imperils existing freedoms

By Ted Lapkin (Lapkin was a captain in the Israel Defense Force in his earlier years so has the self-confidence and outspokenness you would expect from that)

Human Rights are supposed to be one of those motherhood and apple pie ideas that enjoy universal support without qualm nor question. At least, that's the theory.

But in the reality of 21st century politics, the term has been hijacked by the left and invested with a distinctly partisan tinge. In contemporary policy debate, the rhetoric of human rights is routinely deployed as a polemical weapon. And all too often, the spectre of a bigotry allegation is enough to intimidate into silence those whose views deviate from politically correct orthodoxy.

Now that the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities is up for its quadrennial review, we've been treated to a surfeit of such moral posturing. Former British attorney-general Lord Goldsmith blew into town on a brief visit to give us a tuppence worth of hectoring and lecturing.

His Lordship primly instructed us that we must renew the charter as "the hallmark of a civilised, democratic society". Apparently, anyone who harbours misgivings about the charter is both uncivilised and anti-democratic.

Liberty Victoria president Spencer Zifcak made claims of similar pomposity, arguing that the charter established a "floor beneath which a life of dignity can no longer be led". Presumably, before the enactment of the charter in 2006, we were all eking out an infelicitous existence of vulgar barbarism.

But I refuse to be cowed by a left-leaning human rights industry that brazenly attempts to arrogate the moral high ground in the debate over the charter. I will step up to express my reasoned concerns about the pernicious impact of the charter on Victoria's democracy and political liberties.

I want the laws that govern my life to be written by people who are answerable to me at the ballot box. Like Thomas Jefferson, I believe that governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

But the charter is all about transferring power from our elected parliamentary representatives to a coterie of unelected judges beholden only to themselves. It injects the judiciary with a dose of political steroids, tempting it to become an active player in the dance of legislation.

The charter entitles the Supreme Court to declare a law "incompatible with human rights". And while Parliament may override such a declaration of incompatibility, the intervention by unelected judges into the business of our elected legislature entirely distorts the political dynamic. It offends against the separation of powers principle that is a foundation stone of modern democracy.

The empowerment of our own judges to meddle in affairs beyond their proper brief is bad enough. But the charter also authorises the Victorian courts to predicate their incompatibility rulings on the opinions of non-Australian judges. Section 32 (2) declares the judgments of "foreign courts and tribunals relevant to a human right may be considered in interpreting a statutory provision".

Think about that for a moment.

We live under a system of Victorian laws enacted by a Victorian Parliament chosen by the Victorian people to reflect Victorian moral sensibilities and standards. But the charter invites activist judges to cherry pick foreign judicial rulings in order to foist alien legal fads and fashions upon us.

While our judiciary is not directly answerable to the people, at least the Victorian governments that appoint judges must front up to the ballot box every four years. But when it comes to the foreign judges whose rulings are authorised for use in Victoria by the charter, we are deprived even of that indirect influence.

Thus the charter is doubly anti-democratic. It rewards the pretentions to power of an unelected local judicial elite. It also encourages a reliance on rulings of foreign courts whose philsophy and values are alien to our system of common law.

The essence of representative democracy was encapsulated in a single sentence by Abraham Lincoln when he spoke of "government of the people, by the people and for the people". But democracy is imperiled if an overseas court ruling can be used to negate the will of the Victorian people.

The charter is replete with many other serious shortcomings, most notably its failure to protect one of the most essential rights of all – the right to own and acquire private property. And a convicted sex offender exploited the charter to emasculate the Extended Supervision Orders that are designed to keep our children safe from sexual predators.

But the most profound flaws of the charter stem from something much more central to its philosophical core. It was H.L. Mencken who observed: "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-face for the urge to rule it."

In a utopian quest for the perfect society, the charter imperils our existing democratic liberties and freedoms.


11 June, 2011

A tragic opera that never seems to stop

'Urgent' sub defects shame navy. NOT ONE of the 6 subs is now seaworthy. They have suddenly gone from being too new to too old -- without ever working properly at any time

MORE than 40 serious defects have been discovered on one of the navy's Collins-class submarines during the past six months, highlighting the growing challenge of keeping the fleet seaworthy.

The defects, described as "urgent", have been found aboard HMAS Dechaineux, which limped back to Perth 10 days ago from Singapore after problems were discovered in the boat's propulsion system. The problems forced Dechaineux to cancel its involvement in a five-power defence exercise in the South China Sea last month.

The Australian revealed yesterday that none of the six Collins-class submarines was able to be put to sea, with four submarines in long- or medium-term maintenance and its two remaining "operational" submarines, Dechaineux and Waller, currently undergoing inspections for mechanical problems at HMAS Stirling in Perth.

Navy chief Ray Griggs said yesterday the two submarines "were currently in their operating cycles" but declined to say whether they were immediately deployable. "The Collins-class submarine is a complex capability," he said. "As with any piece of complex machinery operating in a harsh environment, unscheduled mechanical failures will occur."

The $10 billion Collins-class fleet has been undermined by breakdowns, accidents and the vessels' growing unreliability.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston said yesterday: "Our broken submarine fleet is of enormous concern. At a total cost of operating, sustaining and upgrading our submarines fast approaching $800 million per year, we are not getting much in return. The minister needs to sit up and take notice that our broken submarine fleet is no longer a maintenance issue but an issue of national security."

Australian Defence Force chief Angus Houston has warned that the Collins-class fleet was ageing and this would have an impact on the availability of the boats.

"The fleet of submarines is going to take a lot more maintenance than it did back in (former defence minister) Robert Ray's time when it was brand new, or back five or 10 years when it was travelling really well," Air Chief Marshal Houston said in a Senate estimates hearing in February last year. A Senate estimates hearing heard last week the fleet now costs more than $1m a day to maintain.

When they were built in the 1990s, it was envisaged that four submarines would be available at any one time, with two in maintenance. Recent reality has seen an average of one or two submarines available at any one time.

The government plans to build 12 new submarines to replace the Collins fleet in the 2020s, but critics say this project is behind schedule and the life of the Collins fleet may need to be extended.


European pissants, humbug hypocrisy

Gary Johns lets 'em have it, using some good Australian slang. He is a former Labor Party parliamentarian and minister. He clearly still has a good command of that party's characteristic language. His rejection of any cultural cringe by Australia will be widely applauded by Australians across the board

So that's decided, then, is it? Australia is a pissant nation of tossers, too afraid to throw in its lot with European carbon traders and open its borders to boatpeople.

Australia's critics - among them the BBC, The Economist, Ross Garnaut, Julian Burnside QC and Michael Grubb of Cambridge - have really had a field day in the past fortnight.

Apparently, we are pissants because we are in the middle of deciding public policy responses to two particularly tough issues: climate change and boatpeople.

Our elders and betters worry we may be coming down on the "wrong side" of those issues.

By the way, pissant is an offensive term meaning regarded as being of no importance, significance or consequence. And tosser is an offensive term meaning a person (usually male) regarded as unintelligent or contemptible.

Well, let this pissant tosser explain what is happening in Australia. Many Australians question the benefit of being part of a nonexistent global carbon-trading scheme and almost all want to control their borders to deter illegal immigration.

These are perfectly intelligent positions and are of great significance to Australians.

Australians are aware of the consequences of their actions on both issues. Australia does not want to be at the negotiating table with the important European Union or UN forums when the table involves trading its freedom for few benefits. Australians prize sovereignty. In every conceivable sense of the term Australia is a successful liberal democracy.

Australians are great joiners but they do not regard themselves as being at the arse-end of the world and therefore desperate to please important forums.

Many Australians have not been impressed by Europe's heroic climate change response of far-fetched targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases. Australians know the only way Europe meets its target is through the displacement of manufactures to Asia.

Europeans may produce less carbon dioxide, allegedly a result of their carbon trading scheme, but Europeans consume increasing amounts of embedded carbon in their goods and services.

Indeed, it was reported in The Economist last year that emissions made on their citizens' behalf elsewhere in the world add a third or more to most European countries' emissions.

Pissant is Britain, by subsuming the greatest common law jurisdiction in the world under European human rights law.

Pissant is a Europe that cannot hold together the euro much longer because some of its countries - Greece and Portugal come to mind - cannot balance a budget.

Pissant is a European open-door immigration policy that, combined with its multicultural policy, has been so badly handled that what were once tolerant societies have become far less so.

Pissant is a Germany that has vowed to close its nuclear power stations - talk about a failure of nerve.

Pissant is Britain which, while announcing ever-more heroic targets to decarbonise its economy, cannot collectively boil a kettle after the evening episode of EastEnders because its own power stations cannot cope. It draws on French nuclear power to fill the load. Swapping power across borders is clever; pretending the source of power is part of decarbonisation is not.

Let me provide a little geography lesson to those in the metropolitan capitals where the great and the good gather.

Britain, for example, sends delegates to the European Commission at Brussels. The poor old Belgians are falling apart, unable to decide whether they are Flemish or French. Nevertheless, if ever there were an equivalent EU commission in Asia, Australian delegates would meet in Beijing. The "AU" commissioners would be heavily weighted to China.

Australia does not want to be locked into an Asian forum that resembles the straitjacket the EU has become. Australians choose carefully.

The statement by former prime minister John Howard at the 2001 election, "We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances under which they come", has bipartisan support.

Julia Gillard is belatedly attempting to re-create the Howard doctrine on illegal arrivals. The number of people who wish to seek Australia's protection will again be determined by Australian officials, in conjunction with UN High Commissioner for Refugees officials, and not people-smugglers.

It is craven to believe that when a UN human rights official, and soon maybe a carbon cop, walks in the door Australians have to stand to attention and salute.

Australia helped write the human-rights rule book. Australia has among the cheapest and cleanest carbon sources in the world. Australia will not pretend to decarbonise its economy.

Australia perforce may outsource some of its manufactures; it cannot outsource its resources. Australia will sell these to Asia and in the process lift millions from poverty.

Australia's carbon production will drive consumption in the Third World, and in time developing countries' carbon footprint will grow and then, like ours, moderate when they have solved the needs of their people.


Australia's migrant intake to be more 'English'

AUSTRALIA'S migrant intake is set to become more "English" and less Asian because of a tough language test.

An Immigration Department report says fewer than one in five skilled migrants comes from major English background nations such as Britain, the United States, South Africa and Canada.

The skilled program is dominated by people from Asian countries including India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka -- many of whom struggle with English. "This selection strategy has profound implications for employment outcomes in a knowledge economy," the report said.

But report author Prof Lesleyanne Hawthorne, from Melbourne University, said yesterday that things would change when tougher English standards for skilled migrants were introduced by the Federal Government from July 1.

Prof Hawthorne said people with high English fluency would get extra points and employer-sponsored migrants would move to the front of the queue. "So we will see a high proportion of our skilled migrants in the next few years from English-speaking backgrounds," she told the Herald Sun.

The make-up of the skilled migration program was being strongly influenced by employers, who tended to pick Anglo-background workers for temporary skilled visas. "Employers ... in the knowledge economy are picking people basically from OECD countries," she said.

The report, prepared for the Immigration Department, compared the skilled migration policies of Australia and New Zealand. It found that in recent years about 17 per cent of skilled migrants to Australia were from Anglo-background nations compared with almost half in NZ.


Barnaby prescribes a reality pill

Barnaby Joyce is leader of the Nationals in the Senate

Australia has to take a reality pill about its position in the world and our effective relationship with our near neighbours. It is fantasy to believe the people of India, China, Indonesia and so many other places will be inclined to have their people stay one minute longer in poverty or hunger because of a self-indulgent internal political debate about an impossible outcome, cooling the planet, from Canberra.

If we want to be relevant and, more to the point, survive in what is our region, Southeast Asia, then we need to help them get the power on and provide them with the resources to do it, provide them with the reliable high-quality food that we take for granted and realise that trading gets Australia far more brownie points than preaching.

We have taken decades trying to get our nation to understand that we do not live in Europe. Why are we now so intent on putting ourselves back there?

We compare our carbon policy with Britain's, our debt with that of Spain or Greece. Many in the US can speak Spanish but how many in Australia can speak a second language from our neighbourhood?

An education revolution will not occur once an Australian child can turn on an iPad but when they leave Year 10 competent in three languages. Shutting down the Murray-Darling Basin so Southeast Asia feeds us rather than we feed them is so naive it is culpable. Bringing in a carbon tax so that we can start making our streets dimmer and our people poorer will collect contempt rather than admiration from a region that is focused on precisely the opposite.

Telling Indonesians they will not eat any Australian beef, even after the more conscientious have invested millions in upgrading many abattoirs to our standards, sends a clear message that it does not matter what you do, Australia is out of touch, and even when you do engage with Australia it cannot really be relied on to understand.



Three articles below

Climate policy costs large yet still underestimated

Henry Ergas

TO get an intelligent answer, ask an intelligent question. It was the failure to do so that undermined the modelling of the carbon pollution reduction scheme. From the snippets Wayne Swan released on Wednesday of carbon modelling 2.0, it has exactly the same weakness. Not that the snippets lack interest. Most striking is just how large the costs of the new scheme are estimated to be.

According to the Treasurer, per capita incomes will grow by 1.2 per cent annually. The scheme is expected to reduce that growth rate by 0.1 percentage point. That reduction, Swan claims, is a mere trifle. But it amounts to a permanent 8 per cent cut in our long-term growth rate. To see what that implies, consider the present value of the forgone income; that is, the absolute value of the cost to 2050. That present value is in the order of $1.4 trillion. The proposed policy would therefore cost Australia about 1 1/2 years' national income. But even that large amount is a significant underestimate, assuming the modelling is similar to that done for the CPRS.

First, it assumes moving to the scheme involves no transition costs. But resources are not infinitely malleable. Substantial costs would be incurred not merely in moving to the scheme but also if we eventually wanted to abandon it.

Second and even more important, the modelling assumes our commercial rivals are implementing a similar scheme. Given that assumption, the modelling does not assess the government's proposal. Rather, it models an entirely different policy: that of introducing an emissions trading scheme when such a scheme is being introduced by our competitors.

To cost the government's proposal, one therefore needs to ask a more sensible question: what are the consequences for Australia of acting unilaterally? If doing so only doubled the adverse impact on our growth rate, the policy's cost would exceed three years' national income. Of course, the government denies it is acting unilaterally. Rather, pointing to the Productivity Commission's just released report, it says many countries are implementing climate change policies.

But the PC did not examine Australia's mining competitors. And in those countries it did examine, the policies adopted are often ineffectual and inefficient. Moreover, those countries generally exempt their trade-exposed, carbon-intensive industries from paying for carbon emissions. By imposing a carbon tax on those industries, we would truly be flying alone. The government's response to this involves six arguments that are individually incorrect and collectively incoherent.

* First, it asserts, contrary to all evidence, that the world is on track to achieve credible, enforceable agreement on reducing carbon emissions.

* Second, it argues that whatever the difficulties, action by Australia would significantly speed global agreement.

However, even if the scheme did advance global agreement, the question is whether there are not cheaper options for achieving that goal. Spending even a tiny fraction of the policy's cost scaling up our participation in the global process would surely be every bit as effective in advancing international agreement. And if those efforts failed, we would not be left with a costly scheme entrenched by constituencies with an interest in its perpetuation.

* Third, the government says its proposal would reduce uncertainty and promote investment, notably in electricity generation. Uncertainty about carbon prices does create issues for electric power investment. But that uncertainty is inevitable given the absence of international agreement. Trying to deal with it by imposing needless costs on the economy as a whole is neither sensible nor sustainable. And the government's scheme, with its multiple decision points and timeframes, only adds risks to those investors already bear.

* The government's fourth tack is to cast the issue as a matter of morality. Of course, appealing to our better instincts sits uncomfortably with the government's mantra that it won't hurt a bit. But, even putting that aside, there is nothing particularly ethical about wasting resources. Nor is it especially noble to squander them on climate change.

* Fifth, the government argues that without an ETS, other countries will impose punitive tariffs on our exports. Whether that would be legal is questionable. It overlooks the fact those countries are exempting their exports from carbon imposts, making it implausible any claim against us could succeed. Even more importantly, it makes no sense: if Germany taxed imports of our low-cost ores, its industries, not ours, would mainly suffer, losing sales to competitors that did not impose such taxes. Not even the Europeans are that irrational. Even were there a risk that they are, trashing a year's national income is surely not the most cost-effective insurance policy.

* Sixth and last, the government says an ETS is more economically efficient than the alternatives. True, the wealth transfers that masquerade as climate policy are an insult to common sense. But the government is not intending to eliminate those schemes: indeed, its modelling has assumed they would stay in place. And the government and Ross Garnaut propose adding new wealth transfers, compounding the waste. Even were a completely clean-skin ETS preferable to what we have now, that is irrelevant to evaluating what is actually on offer.

Rather, if government is sincere about enhancing efficiency, let it release modelling comparing its proposal, including the existing and proposed handouts, to the wait-and-see option and to the schemes proposed by Warwick McKibbin and Geoff Carmody. Let it, in other words, address the issue of policy relevance: given global uncertainties, how does adopting this scheme compare with alternatives, including that of eliminating the wasteful policies currently in place?

That would be to answer the intelligent question. If it refuses to tackle that question, the government will doom the Treasury's modelling, no matter how competent it may be, to ultimate irrelevance.


Mine union digs in over compensation under a carbon tax

ONE of Australia's largest unions has threatened a blue-collar revolt should the nation's dirtiest coalmines fail to receive the same level of assistance as they were promised under the original emissions trading scheme.

With industry compensation still being thrashed out behind closed doors, the national secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Tony Maher, said he is worried coalminers will be dudded to appease the Greens. "They want to single out mine workers as some sort of trophy hunt," he said of the Greens.

Mr Maher told the Herald that unless the government stood firm and secured the same compensation package as before, "they'll have a big problem with us".

Under the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme, there was to be assistance for 23 of the nation's 150 coalmines.

Most coalmines are open-cut, low-emitting projects, and a price on carbon would have only a minor effect on the price of each tonne of coal they produce.

But there would be a significant increase on the price of coal produced by the 23 so-called "gassy" mines, which emit large amounts of methane.

Rather than giving the gassy mines free permits as compensation, which would allow them to go on polluting, the original scheme proposed to allocate $1.5 billion to help them implement measures to lower emissions.

The Minerals Council and the coal industry have been insisting that the same deal be guaranteed, and now Mr Maher has joined the fray.

Industry compensation for the Gillard government's carbon tax is being negotiated by the government, the Greens and the independents which make up the multi-party climate change committee.

It is understood the government is again pushing for the gassy mines to be looked after, but the Greens, who are hostile to coalmining, are resisting.

Mr Maher said 5000 jobs were at stake if the Greens prevailed, and he warned that the backlash would extend beyond the mining sector.

He likened the potential reaction to the abandonment of Labor by blue-collar workers after Labor's botched Tasmanian forestry policy during the 2004 election campaign. "Australian blue-collar workers won't be salami-sliced on job security," Mr Maher said. "It's mine workers one day, oil workers the next day, cement the next." He said everyone involved in designing the carbon tax needed to realise its success depended on community acceptance.

"Job security and household compensation are paramount. The Greens are in la-la land. I am calling on all the members of the [multi-party committee] to say where they stand on miners' jobs in gassy coalmines. "The government's been really silent about coal. The Greens have been silent; they have been poisoned by prejudice."

Mr Maher's reaction is similar to that of the Australian Workers Union boss, Paul Howes, who demanded in April that the steel sector be exempted altogether from the carbon price. He also insisted that not one manufacturing job be lost.

The union pressure is indicative of fears which are building on the shop floor and being fuelled by the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.


End renewables fantasy now

AUSTRALIA'S biggest carbon emitters have called for the immediate withdrawal of commonwealth and state renewable energy programs that the Productivity Commission has found cost billions of dollars for little result.

States that refused to wind back generous rooftop solar and other programs should be denied Grants Commission funds or GST payments, the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network said.

The AIGN, which represents industries responsible for more than 90 per cent of Australia's carbon emissions in mining, manufacturing and energy production, has lobbied the federal government's multi-party climate change committee for reform.

"It may be that punitive action needs to be taken through a reduced distribution of Grants Commission funds or GST revenues to states that fail to make the required reforms to existing programs or continue to adopt new ones," the AIGN says in a letter to the multi-party committee.

AIGN chief executive Michael Hitchens said this week's Productivity Commission report strengthened the case for reform.

The report found schemes such as state-based feed-in tariffs for rooftop solar cost between five and 10 times as much as a market-based scheme to cut the same amount of CO2 emissions.

All parties, including the Greens and independent MP Tony Windsor, have criticised the ad hoc approach to "complementary measures".

The issue of reform is understood to be on the table for discussion within the multi-party committee, but state reform can be achieved only through the COAG process.

The AIGN yesterday called for the so-called complementary measures to be phased out immediately to concentrate on a market-based scheme.

Mr Hitchens said the Productivity Commission report confirmed that if an economy-wide pricing approach was taken in Australia most of the 237 other policies needed to be abolished.

A spokesman for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet yesterday said the federal government's Renewable Energy Target scheme had already been scaled back to a significant degree. "Once we introduce a carbon price, the Renewable Energy Target will not need to do the heavy lifting in transforming our energy sector," he said. "That's because the carbon price will provide additional strong incentives for investment in renewable energy. "Final details of a carbon pricing mechanism are yet to be determined and remain the focus of negotiations in the multi-party climate change committee."

Mr Hitchens said a key challenge for the implementation of a single economy-wide carbon price was the concurrent removal of most of the other measures adopted by all governments. "In the electricity sector, on the most optimistic estimates, the Productivity Commission shows that, globally, all these policies are saving just 210 million tonnes of CO2-e for a total cost, as measured by subsidy equivalent, of over $18,000 million a year," he said.

A Greens spokesman said the party was keen for complementary measures, but it had always been critical of the ad hoc approach. The Greens have said the state-based feed-in tariffs have been very poorly designed and they wanted to see a carbon price.


10 June, 2011

Gillard ignores Aboriginal elder who approached her in Darwin

Below is the brief press report. TV news commentators said that Gillard handled the situation well (they would) but how is it civil to just walk right past without stopping to listen? The woman wasn't being aggressive. What we saw was typical ALP arrogance rather than their often-claimed "compassion"

Ms Gillard was then confronted by Aboriginal elder and Darwin musician June Mills, who demanded an end to the emergency intervention, saying: "I'm homeless in my own country. All the Larrakia in this country are homeless."

The Prime Minister patted Ms Mills on the shoulder and said, "right... nice to meet you. We're doing what we can on housing."

"No you're not. I'm 55 years old and I am homeless; all the Larrakia in this country are homeless... and it's our land," Ms Mills replied, before Ms Gillard continued on.


Global cooling hits me where I live

"Coldest day in 11 years" in Brisbane. And it sure was. I went out to dinner amid it last night and felt it -- JR

KEEP yourself rugged up if you're in Brisbane – the mercury plummeted below 7C in the CBD this morning and though it's warmed up, another chilly day lies ahead.

The southeast is freezing this morning following its coldest day in 11 years on Thursday – when the maximum daytime temperature struggled to warm up at 12.5C.

Weather Channel forecaster Tom Saunders said Brisbane’s outdoor temperature had plunged to 6.9C at 6am and was expected to go even lower until sunrise.

Mr Saunders said frost was likely in areas to the west of Brisbane, where the temperature got below 2C. "There is frost, even around Ipswich and there could be some frost in the far western parts of Brisbane, this morning, too,’’ he said.

"After such a cold day yesterday and with skies clearing overnight, any heat has escaped and that’s why it was such a cold night.’’

Mr Saunders said the predicted daytime top today was 16C, although there would be less cloud cover than yesterday. He said it was still an unusual daytime high for Brisbane and 6C below average. "It’s pretty unusual,’’ he said. "We don’t get many days that stay at 12.5C in June.’’



Just the suggestion of discriminating against homosexuals in the story immediately below led to opprobrium. But in the second story below, actual discrimination BY homosexuals was officially approved

No-gay Glee: Leeton High School musical leaves out Kurt Hummel accused of homophobia

A HIGH school has been accused of homophobia after leaving a key gay character out of its Glee tribute musical. Leeton High School, in Leeton, NSW, copped criticism after it emerged that its musical would not include one of the TV show's lead characters, openly gay teen Kurt Hummel.

Theories sprung up as to why the character, played by Chris Colfer in the TV show, was omitted. Some suggested it was because a student playing a gay character could be harassed by other children at the school. Others said Kurt was left out simply because none of the students who auditioned were suitable for the role, which requires a soprano voice.

NSW Education Department spokesman Grant Hatch denied it was because Kurt was openly gay. "Not all characters from the television show were written into the school's musical, but there was no conscious thought by the authors about which names or characters to exclude," he said.

"Rehearsal had progressed for a considerable time with the students before anyone involved realised that Kurt was one of the names from the show that had not been used." "We left out other minority groups"

The department said its anti-discrimination policy extended to drama productions and it "would not accept dropping a character from a script because of sexual preference".

The school's website promotes the show, Don't Stop Believing, as having a plotline "based on the typical teenage issues of popularity and peer pressure, love and the age old battle between sport and music". More than 100 students will be involved in the production, with 13 of Glee's main characters portrayed.

Mr Hatch said other minority groups represented in the original show had also been left out. "Even when the same (character) name is used, not all characteristics are transplanted," he said.

"For instance, no Asian, Afro-American, Jewish, obese, anorexic or wheelchair-bound students appear even though they are prominent in the television show."

Glee's official website describes Kurt as a "fashion-forward soprano" targeted by school bullies, who develops a crush on the high school quarterback and markets his own fragrance.


Homosexual bar allowed to discriminate against women

On palpably false grounds

A GAY venue in Collingwood has won the right to ban women to ensure its patrons are not subjected to attempts by predatory females to turn them straight. VCAT has granted Sircuit Bar in Smith St an exemption to anti-discrimination laws, allowing it to ban women because they make the men uncomfortable.

"The applicant primarily relies on the exemption to exclude women from the venue, other than on Sundays after 3pm," VCAT reasoned. "This is to ensure that gay men are not subject to attempts to change their sexuality, which reduce their comfort in the venue, which includes being fully accepted for who they are."

Despite the ruling, a spokesman for the venue said the club had never had a problem with women trying to turn gay men straight. "We haven't had that problem here. But it does happen that women try and turn gay men straight," said the general manager, who wanted to be known only as Steve.

"When I was at high school and came out, plenty of my girlfriends said come with me and I'll turn you straight. You'd have to ask VCAT why they made the ruling."

Sircuit is a two-level nightclub that includes pool tables, a maze, movie lounges, private rooms and a wash area. The venue is an active fund-raiser and is regularly used by gay men's social and community groups.

VCAT said it was important gay men had a venue where they were not subject to disparaging comments. "For gay men who wish to display affection ... those actions can readily lead to misunderstanding and disparaging comments which are not applied to heterosexual people," VCAT said. "The applicants wish to provide a venue where it is safe and acceptable to openly express homosexuality."

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission did not wish to intervene in the decision, and VCAT said it did not contravene the Charter of Human Rights.

Human Rights Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke said she supported the exemption. "One of the objectives of the EOA is to promote recognition and acceptance of everyone's right to equality of opportunity," Dr Szoke said. However, Dr Szoke said complaints about women trying to turn gay men straight in nightclubs "would not be covered under our legislation".

Other gay venues have had less success in banning patrons. Last year the Peel Hotel in Collingwood lost its right to ask people their sexuality before they were allowed to enter.



Four articles below

Gold Coast Hospital tells patient seeking help to 'consider other options'

THE Gold Coast Hospital has told a patient needing a specialist appointment to "consider other options" in what doctors say makes a mockery of the public heatlh system.

A referral sent to the hospital by the patient's general practitioner was returned to the doctor advising the "patient would not be seen in a reasonable time frame". The letter said: "We are therefore returning this referral to you and ask that you consider other options", which could include "referral to a private practitioner or another appropriate hospital within the southern area".

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Gino Pecoraro said the letter represented an admission of monumental failure by Queensland Health. "Never before has a public patient been so abandoned by our health system," he said. "In this country, if a patient is in need of a specialist and cannot afford to pay they are referred by a GP to a public hospital. "The reason we have a public health system in Australia is to ensure that no person regardless of age, sex, race or ability to pay will be denied access to health care."

Dr Pecoraro said the letter, obtained by the AMAQ, sent a message to patients that if you could not afford to pay for health care, you would not be treated.

AMAQ president-elect Richard Kidd said Queensland Health was offloading its responsibility to public patients onto overburdened GPs who had already assessed a patient and deemed it necessary they see a specialist. "This unnecessary delay in accessing specialist treatment may well lead to adverse health outcomes for patients," he said.

The Queensland Health website shows 21,004 patients were waiting to see a specialist at the Gold Coast Hospital on March 1 this year, about 25 per cent more than were waiting at the same time last year.


Health Minister Geoff Wilson tells Queensland hospitals not to 'turn away patients'

The Health Minister Geoff Wilson has ordered Queensland Health to ensure no patient needing an urgent consultation should ever be turned away from an outpatient clinic. His comments came after it was yesterday revealed that the Gold Coast Hospital had told a patient needing a specialist appointment to "consider other options".

A referral sent to the hospital by the patient's general practitioner was returned to the doctor advising the "patient would not be seen in a reasonable time frame".

Mr Wilson said this morning he was "extremely disappointed" that category one patients had been turned away from Queensland's hospitals. "No patient needing an urgent consultation should ever be turned away from an outpatient clinic," Mr Wilson said. "When an urgent consultation is needed, they should always be able to be seen at the clinic they go to."

But he said there were practical problems with the ways lists operate and he remained confident that his staff were dealing with the issues adequately. "I have a lot of confidence in the district managers," he said. "They are very senior clinicians and also in senior management roles. They take their responsibilities seriously. "There is major outpatient reform being undertaken by the department across up to about 30 hospitals throughout the state."

Mr Wilson told talk-back radio about 300 patients had been turned away from the Gold Coast Hospital alone in the last 12 months. "I'd like to think it's not the normal practice and that it is exceptional," he said. "But in any case one urgent consultation being on-referred is not acceptable.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Gino Pecoraro welcomed the Minister's comments as "merely what the health department should be doing".

He said the health department had been decreasing waiting lists by turning patients away. "The health department is decreasing the waiting lists but the way they're doing it is by not putting people on the waiting lists," Dr Pecoraro said.

"This is nothing but a political trick to make their figures look better, to make the people of Queensland think that things are improving when in fact it's the complete opposite


How long can this disgrace go on?

Queensland Health: More spin doctors than real doctors as desk jobs soar

MORE than 2200 new department desk jobs have been created within Queensland Health since 2007. Figures released to The Courier-Mail have revealed the growth rate of non-frontline staff has outstripped those serving patients. The higher growth rate of employees armed with pens rather than PhDs came as hospitals battled to meet escalating demand.

The figures show from 2007 to 2010 an extra 9854 frontline staff were hired by Queensland Health, an increase of 22 per cent. But the number of non-frontline staff, such as spin doctors and others on desk duties, grew from 6705 to 8947, a 33 per cent increase. The figures mean more than half of the extra 4300 non-frontline staff hired by government departments over the period were employed by Queensland Health.

QH acting director-general Tony O'Connell insisted the overall proportion of non-frontline positions had risen by only 13 to 14 per cent. "It's also important to note that many non-frontline staff perform essential support services . . . " he said.

"In addition, the Government's record infrastructure investment in new health facilities has required a significant addition of non-frontline staff to plan, co-ordinate and deliver this massive capital program."

The Queensland Health Systems Review, undertaken by Peter Forster in 2005, also recommended more administrative staff so clinicians could concentrate on patients.

But AMAQ president Gino Pecoraro said the figures proved Queensland Health had the balance wrong. Dr Pecoraro said the AMAQ had been calling for a moratorium on the hiring of non-frontline staff for several years.

Dr Pecoraro said he had worked in the public hospitals, but had no clue what all the extra non-frontline staff did. "I do know there has been an explosion of people who write emails and assess how people are performing in frontline duties," he said.


Free public hospitals under threat

DOCTORS say Queensland's free public health system is under threat after the Gold Coast Hospital told two patients needing a specialist appointment to "consider other options".

Both patients had been referred to the hospital by their general practitioners for an appointment with a gastroenterologist. The latest case last month was deemed to be a category 2, or semi-urgent, patient who should be seen within 90 days under Queensland Health's own guidelines.

But a case in January last year, which has only just come to light, was assessed as the most urgent category 1 - considered serious enough to be seen within 30 days.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Gino Pecoraro described the letters as indicative of a "monumental failure" of the state's health system. "They have thrown their hands up in horror and said: 'We simply can't deal with this any more, we've abandoned you'," he said. "This is the greatest threat we have ever seen to the free public health system in this state. This is a brand new low in health service delivery by our health department."

Gold Coast Health Service District CEO Adrian Nowitzke admitted the hospital was struggling to keep up with the demand for outpatient specialist appointments, despite big increases in the number of patients being seen. He said that in March 2009, about 9000 people were waiting for a new specialist appointment at the hospital, compared with 21,000 this year.

Dr Nowitzke said gastroenterology was particularly over-stretched but that overall demand for outpatient appointments was substantially surpassing population growth.

He suggested a shift in the way GPs were referring patients to public hospital outpatient clinics was to blame. "Ten years ago, people weren't being referred for specialist care like they are now," Dr Nowitzke said.

"I don't know whether people are worried about medico-legal ramifications, I don't know whether it is GPs having shorter appointment times and don't have the time to spend so it's easier to send them to hospital."

Dr Nowitzke said if people were "genuinely in trouble", GPs could ring the hospital to push for an earlier appointment. "We will work together in partnership to look after our patients," he said.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle called for substantially increased funds for hospitals in next week's state budget. "The Bligh Labor Government's pathetic handling of our public health system, resulting in lengthy waiting lists, is putting Queensland patients at risk," he said.


Internal crisis in the ALP

FOREIGN Minister Kevin Rudd backs an anguished assessment of Labor by party conscience by Senator John Faulkner who warns it is succumbing to anaemia and will lose a generation of voters unless it reforms.

Mr Rudd, brought down as prime minister in a move initiated by factional powerbrokers almost a year ago, is backing Senator Faulkner's condemnation of the "careerist party managers" who, for the appearance of unity, had eliminated passionate public debate and produced conferences without differences of opinion.

"The progress of reform has not begun yet," Mr Rudd told ABC Radio today, adding the "recipe for doing so" had been developed by an internal review of the 2010 election of which Senator Faulkner was a member.

"The path of implementation must begin and the appropriate place for that to begin is the national conference at the end of this year."

Mr Rudd said he "wholeheartedly agreed" with Senator Faulkner's view that factionalism and factional powerbrokers needed to be taken on. Doing so would ensure the voice of ALP members were heard "loud and clear".

"Factional powerbrokers operating in whichever state or nationally represent a continuing cancer within the Australian Labor movement," Mr Rudd said. "They need to be got rid of."

Last night Senator Faulkner said there were "factional fixes, log-rolling and back-room deals" undermining the party.

His frank appraisal is likely to be taken up by an increasing number of ALP figures frustrated by the battering Labor has received since the 2007 election, the low standing of the current federal government, and the huge ALP loss in New South Wales.

"We have lost a generation of activists from Labor and, if we do not face the challenges and opportunities of reform in both structure and culture, we will risk losing a generation of voters as well," Senator Faulkner said.

He called for a role for voters who were not party members but backed Labor at the ballot box: "The culture of inclusion must also take in our many millions of supporters. Without them Labor has no future. "But they have no way to be involved with, or support, Labor outside of an election. We must include them in the development of our party."

In a string of brutal assessments of how the ALP has functioned over recent years, Senator Faulkner said voters would not tolerate changes in policy and direction which seemed "arbitrary and startling".

He condemned "activists" who stopped standing up for issues once they had used their activism to win a seat in parliament and the reliance on focus group polling rather than consultations with party members.

But Senator Faulkner's biggest grievance was over the death of debate within the party. "This is seen by some to be a triumph of party management: Dissent is contained behind closed doors; all potential embarrassment is avoided," Senator Faulkner said of party conferences. "I see it rather as a symptom of the anaemia that is draining the life from the Australian Labor Party - an apparent aversion to the unpredictably of democracy."

Senator Faulkner, a former minister long considered the leader of the left in NSW, in February delivered a report on the 2010 election and proposed party reforms draw up with former NSW Premier Bob Carr and former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, both from the right.

He went public with doubts about the capacity of the ALP to recognise the need for change when delivering the third Wran Lecture, named after former NSW Labor Premier Neville Wran. He pointed to the loss of young members to organisations such as Get Up and other parties, seen as a reference to the Greens. "The party has become so reliant on focus groups that it listens more to those who don't belong to it than those who do," he said. "This makes membership a sacrifice of activism, not a part of it."

Senator Faulkner opposed the handing out of scripted lines to Labor MPs for media use: "If they were trusted enough by the party to be chosen as parliamentary representatives, they ought to be trusted enough to speak aloud in public without a pre-scripted song-sheet of lines of the day."

He said: "Labor cannot thrive as an association of political professionals focused on the machinery of electoral victory and forming, at best, contingent alliances with Australians motivated by and committed to ideals and policies.

"A party organisation staffed by and experienced and competent strategists and manager is necessary to SERVE the (election) campaign and organisational needs of Labor's members and supporters, not to SUBSTITUTE for them."


9 June, 2011

Now the ALP geniuses have put Indonesia offside

Disrespecting our huge near neighbour really is clever. ALL Australian governments have given high priority to maintaining good relations with the Muslim giant

INDONESIA is threatening to take Australia to the international trade umpire over its "discriminatory" decision to suspend live cattle exports.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig today banned cattle from being sent to Indonesia for up to six months following a public outcry over their mistreatment in local abattoirs. But the ban has earned the ire of Australian farmers and exporters, and now Indonesia.

"We hope that this is not mainly a special policy for Indonesia," its deputy agriculture minister Bayu Krisnamurthi said. "If only applied to Indonesia, this is discriminative and we will submit (a complaint) to the WTO (World Trade Organisation). "There are several other countries importing from Australia facing the same (animal welfare) situation."

Senator Ludwig was on the phone to Indonesia prior to making the decision, but Australia's ambassador to the southeast Asian country, Greg Moriarty, has been called in to explain it again, a sign bilateral relations may already be under strain.

Senator Ludwig is also under fire for failing to answer calls for compensation, given concerns over existing contracts and the thousands of cattle waiting to be exported at Australian wharves.

The minister couldn't say how many shipments might be affected, but the industry insists there are major questions about how to proceed. Asked if industry players could expect compensation, Senator Ludwig said that he was keen to sit down and talk the issue over with stakeholders. "I do accept that there's been impacts to industry, but let's not, let's not divert from where we are," he said in Brisbane. "We are here because of the animal welfare outcomes."

Although some have applauded the move, others, including the Australian Greens and independents Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon, say the Government should go further and end all live animal exports. They plan to launch private Bills in parliament during the next sitting, which begins on Monday - the Greens wanting an immediate ban, and the independents happy with a three-year phase-out.

Former police officer turned animal activist Lyn White, who shot the original footage that sparked the whole debate, said she won't rest until all live animal exports are stopped. "We're still sending animals to about a dozen other countries where there are no laws to protect them from cruelty," she said.

But Senator Ludwig has hinted ending the entire $1 billion live export sector was a step too far, arguing a sustainable industry is the government's key priority. He defended his rejection of a livestock industry plan to send only cattle to Indonesia's top 25 abattoirs, five of which use the preferred method of stunning prior to slaughter.

Senator Ludwig, who admitted he was not an expert on the livestock industry, said it was important the entire supply chain got a good going-over. He would not comment on reports Indonesia would be looking elsewhere to fill its large beef void, saying he wasn't going to speculate about another government's actions.

A spokeswoman from Senator Ludwig's office later said Australia stood by the suspension, despite Indonesia's threats. "Australia has the right under World Trade Organisation rules to take actions to ensure that Australian cattle are treated in accordance with international standards on animal welfare," she said in a statement.

She also noted that the suspension could be lifted early or as soon as Indonesia's slaughter processes are brought up to standard.


Kill a feral camel and claim a carbon credit

LOL! Can you imagine the animal lovers steaming over this idea! How to put yet another group offside

THE Federal Government is considering awarding carbon credits for getting rid of feral camels under an initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Although the Carbon Farming Initiative has yet to pass parliament, three proposals are undergoing formal assessment, including one to "manage" Australia's feral camel population. The other two options include early burn-offs and inoculating cattle to stop them burping.

Tim Moore, the managing director of Adelaide-based Northwest Carbon who proposed the camel cull idea, said more than 1.2 million camels are roaming Australia's rangelands, covering Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia and NSW.

Already considered a pest produce an average methane equivalent of one tonne of carbon dioxide a year, making them one of Australia's big emitters. One camel produces 45kg of methane a year which is equivalent of one tonne of carbon dioxide. It is the same amount of carbon dioxide produced by a plane on a 7000km flight.

In comparison a cow produces 35kg of methane annually or 0.8 tonnes, while the average car emits four tonnes when driven over 20,000km annually.

"They live anywhere from 30 to 50 years in the wild, there's 1.2 million of them and that figure is doubling every nine years, so it's a huge problem," Dr Moore said.

Under his proposal, camels would be shot from helicopters or four-wheel drives, or mustered and then sent to an abattoir for either human or pet consumption.

He estimates that given their lifespan, every animal culled would save around 14 or 15 tonnes in abatement. Dr Moore said one of the best things about the scheme is that it would be market driven, potentially living outside the troublesome political cycle. He added the plan provided real scope to provide real jobs for indigenous Australians.

Dr Moore is confident the unusual proposal, which has already caught the attention of the British press, will get the go-ahead. "We're a nation of innovators and we find innovative solutions to our challenges - this is just a classic example," he said.

Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change Mark Dreyfus said the government was considering various proposals to reduce carbon pollution on the land, including Dr Moore's. It will be waiting until the Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee reports back before making a final decision.

Legislation helping set up the Carbon Farming Initiative is due to go before the parliament in the next sitting, which starts on Monday.


Waste on steroids: 560 NBN customers, $132m bill for staff

THE cost of staff for the National Broadband Network has reached $132 million a year against revenue of only $3 million this year.

Executives are on big salaries - 34 NBN Co staff are on between $300,000 and $400,000 a year, putting some of them ahead of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Another 13 earn more than $400,000, including four executives on more than $700,000 a year for the project overseen by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. NBN Co chief Michael Quigley earns more than $1.8 million a year.

And, in the face of the salaries, the NBN has only about 560 customers throughout the country. By the end of this month, NBN Co is expected to have 1000 staff, which will mean almost two employees for every customer. None of its customers is paying to access the broadband network. The service is free to internet service providers during a trial period.

"This is a start-up business, but unlike every other start-up business, there are no financial constraints at all," Opposition communications and broadband spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said yesterday. "I have heard so many stories in the industry of people being lured from other employers with pay rises of 50 to 100 per cent."

Initial modest rises in forecast revenue will see the NBN Co bring in $205 million by the next election.

An NBN Co spokeswoman said operating costs would exceed revenues in initial years, but it would have revenue of $5.8 billion in a decade. By 2025, revenues would be $7.6 billion and positive net income would have been achieved by 2021.

The spokeswoman said the salaries were a reflection of start-up costs for a business. "Executive and senior managers were hired first as they were the ones creating the organisation ... and making critical decisions about the future of the business," she said.

Michael Sparksman, from Open Network, said staff were being lured from the industry on high wages. "We know they are able to attract staff away from us as they are paying such high rates," he said.


Australia's Left-leaning elitists sneer at the working class

'There is still a subconscious idea that if you aren’t living in a street with a view of Centrepoint, you are disconnected from the radiant beacon of city culture.'

I had 13 years as a Sydneysider. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I went west of Auburn.

In those days, I probably would have looked a little askance at Summer Hill. Returning from work in Darlinghurst or after classes at the University of Sydney, I might occasionally stay on the train and go to Rockdale or perhaps even some distant burg like Blacktown, just to see what was there.

I did not hate "westies", as they might have been known, but I certainly feared and shunned them in any interaction where they did not recognise Newtown as the sun to their Pluto.

I was a snob, and my only defence is that the snobbery was, and largely remains, pervasive. But I was beginning to escape my middle-class illusions about the superiority of life at the centre. There is still a subconscious idea that if you aren't living in a street with a view of Centrepoint, you are disconnected from the radiant beacon of city culture - the only culture worthy of the name in Australia.

I'll always be middle-class, but I am no longer inner-city, having relocated to a suburb 20 kilometres from central Melbourne. Now I see the snobbery from the other side, and it is not pretty. Inner-city elitists in Australia continue to project views about large groups of otherwise diverse people simply on the basis of their location.

Today it's not the westies but the bogans. The word has murky origins, possibly related to the region and the river in central NSW, then popularised by Kylie Mole on The Comedy Company to become a nationally understood synonym for what were known in Brisbane as bevens, Hobart as chiggers, and Perth as bogs. Whatever: to my mind, it's code for "working class". I am reminded of the Kurt Vonnegut novel Breakfast of Champions in which a well-to-do couple have a secret code that allowed them to discuss African-Americans in front of their "coloured" maid: they discussed the "reindeer problem".

The word is "just a joke", some will say defensively, pointing to TV comedies such as Rebel Wilson's Bogan Pride - in which, incidentally, many of the funniest characters weren't bogans but "nerds". Some argue bogans are a "culture" not a "class". But ask them what's the difference, and the derisive term is laid bare: it's a new way to sustain class resentment, to pigeonhole people and places. They've created this creature that is a lesser human being to express unmentionable class hatred.

So poorly defined is the term, it's difficult to criticise its use in everyday life: it's applied to Julian Assange and Julia Gillard, and then to violent criminals. Publicising my book on talkback radio last week, many callers were adamant that bogans existed because they'd seen them: even listening to the multitude of definitions did not seem to deter audiences from the firm belief that their prejudices affirmed their experience.

I'm just happy to see the conversation take place. I want to see Australians stop demonising "bogans" who dwell "out there" on the suburban fringe, so commonly described in anthropological terms as though there was some kind of sub-species prone to antisocial behaviour. I would also be quite happy if those who describe themselves as "bogan" recognised that to identify as such is to demonstrate too much awareness to be truly a "bogan" in most people's minds. I would also be very happy to see an end to the assumptions that comedy and film - for instance, Angry Boys and Snowtown - are truthful representations, rather than extreme amplifications of the suburbs.

Is all of this ranting against the word "bogan" a plea for political correctness? Possibly, but not the way PC language is usually discussed. It's a plea for precision: it's about calling the disenfranchised, or marginalised, what they are - rather than a reindeer. Besides, if Assange, Gillard, Shane Warne and Eric Bana (yes, the charges have been laid, not just because he once played one on TV) are all bogans, who isn't a bogan? Is it praise, blame or demonisation? Some clarity in the argument might grease the wheels of the discussion, and who knows, we might just get somewhere for a change.


Climate Hoax Scientists Freak Out Over Schoolyard Taunts

These are all personal attacks! It's awful! You freaking deniers, who should be locked up and hung, are just big meanies!
Several Australian climate scientists have released email extracts that demonstrate the vitriol that fills their inboxes daily, saying the number of abusive emails has increased since the carbon tax was proposed.

Climate scientists from the Australian National University, the University of Queensland, the University of NSW and the University of Melbourne have reportedly received emailed death threats, threats of sexual assault and threats of attacks on family members from critics opposed to their findings.

Really? Can we see them?
Now several of the abusive emails have been published on a blog by environmental writer Graham Readfearn, after the scientists agreed to release the poison pen letters.

Oh, goody.
Most are little more than swearing and insults,

but several correspondents had a more chilling message for the scientists.

“Just do your science or you will end up collateral damage in the war, GET IT,” reads one email.

“If we see you continue, we will get extremely organised and precise against you,” reads another.

That's it, folks. That's the best the alarmists can offer as proof of "death threats." Except, for that second one, let's check the full text
If we see you continue, we will get extremely organised and precise against you. We will not do so if you rightfully argue against our points from a science view. But we will if you choose to stray into attacks on us as people or as a movement. The institution and funders that support you will find the attention concerning.

So, not a personal threat, just one to go after funding.

Jo Nova: To a climate scientist, *swearing* equals a Death Threat (no wonder these guys can’t predict the weather)

And Tom Nelson asks

Personally, I'm not sure why so many "deniers" are upset at scientists who push junk science which could result in heavy taxation, reduced prosperity, more government control over their lives, all so that these scientists can get more government research funding.


8 June, 2011

Leftist destruction comes to Australia's cattle industry

Gillard halts live cattle exports to Indonesia for six months. Livelihoods don't matter to this government

The Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association (NTCA) says the Gillard government's ban on live export will destroy the Australian cattle industry and won't stop the cruelty. The Federal government has suspended the export of live cattle to Indonesia, with port authorities stopping nearly 2000 cattle being loaded on to a ship in Western Australia yesterday.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig is understood to have signed the order last night, with the ban expected to apply for six months until mechanisms for the improved treatment of live cattle along the whole supply chain are in place.

The NTCA held a special meeting in Katherine, about 300km south of Darwin, yesterday before meeting with Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Darwin. NTCA president Rohan Sullivan the 100 pastoralists who attended the meeting agreed improved animal welfare would not be achieved by banning live exports.

"If we stop exports to Indonesian, we are walking away from the millions of dollars that Australian producers have invested in infrastructure, training and improved animal husbandry. "There is no Plan B for this industry. "If live exports to Indonesia are closed, families will be bankrupted and for what purpose?

"This doesn't help the cattle who will continue to be processed, just opens the door to imports from other countries which may not adopt our standards or spend what we do on animal welfare."

Mr Sullivan's comments were echoed by Rick Britton, the mayor of Boulia in Queensland's central west, who says the ban will have a devastating effect on cattle producers in northern Australia.

It is believed Cabinet decided to suspend the $318 million-a-year industry on Monday night in response to community outrage and the ire of some Labor backbenchers over the inhumane treatment of the animals.

Live cattle export bodies say they understand why the Government is banning exports to Indonesia and have undertaken to ensure the trade is reformed. In a joint statement released this morning, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and LiveCorp said under proposed reforms, the industry had committed to a reduction of trade to a core group of facilities in Indonesia independently accredited to meet OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) animal welfare standards.

A stringent supply chain, the rapid introduction of stunning and an ongoing review and monitoring program would ensure Australian cattle were processed only through these facilities, they said. "The Australian livestock industry understands the reasons behind the Australian Government's decision to temporarily suspend the live cattle trade to Indonesia until a controlled system that will assure the welfare of Australian cattle exported to Indonesia has been implemented," the statement said.

MLA chairman Don Heatley said the suspension of the trade would most certainly have an impact on cattle producers and communities in the north and that needed to be acknowledged. "However, industry is confident it can work with the Australian and Indonesian Governments to deliver the solution," he said in the statement.

"This decision gives industry sufficient time to implement the controlled system which will ensure the appropriate treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesia."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard met with livestock officials and Northern Territory cattlemen in Darwin last night. "In light of the evidence presented to us, we have resolved to put a total suspension in place," Ms Gillard said. She said the suspension will remain until cattle from Australia are treated properly at every step of the supply chain. "We will be working closely with Indonesia, and with the industry, to make sure we can bring about major change to the way cattle are handled in these slaughter houses," she said.

The Australian reports the Port Headland Port Authority had confirmed it had not been allowed to load more than 2000 cattle on to the stock carrier The Falconia, bound for Indonesia.

Mr Ludwig suspended trade to 12 Indonesian abattoirs last week after the ABC's Four Corners aired video footage of steers being abused at the facilities. Indonesia accounts for about 60 per cent of Australia's live cattle exports.

Independent MPs Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon plan to launch private Bills into Parliament, calling for an end to all live exports within three years.

LiveCorp chief executive Cameron Hall said MLA and Livecorp were reviewing industry programs in all markets to ensure Australian animals were being treated humanely and with respect during management and processing. "These solutions will take time but the Australian industry is committed to ensuring Australian producers have confidence their livestock are well treated and retain access to key markets," he said.


Labor heavies echo Abbott on boatpeople policy

THREE senior Labor ministers have warned of the risk that more child asylum-seekers could drown in Australian waters without a change in border protection policy.

In a tacit admission that onshore processing of asylum-seekers attracts people-smugglers, the ministers, all from Labor's Right, rejected calls from Labor's Left for exemptions for minors under Julia Gillard's plan to deport 800 boatpeople to Malaysia.

Led by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, they warned exemptions would encourage people-smugglers to target children -- comments that put them on the same ideological page as Tony Abbott, who will make the same points in a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney today.

For years, the government has attributed the increase in the flow of asylum-seeker boats arriving off northern Australian to "pull factors", including escalation of troubles in source nations.

But yesterday, as Right faction ministers sought to fight off pressure from the Left, they put themselves closer to the opposition's argument by insisting the government must remove incentives for people to travel to Australia in leaky boats.

Mr Bowen said it would not be possible to "break the people-smuggler business model" with a blanket exemption.

"We saw 50-odd people die in December on Christmas Island," Mr Bowen said. "We've got to stop people getting on those boats, and it is inevitable that we will see another tragedy unless we break the people-smugglers' business model."

The comments are similar to statements the Opposition Leader will make in today's Lowy Institute speech, where he will argue that Labor's dismantling of the Howard government's so-called Pacific Solution policy attracted people-smugglers and that the government had taken "a long time to learn" that the alternative to strict border protection is "tacit encouragement" for people to risk their lives at sea.

"The government can't be held responsible for the deaths of people in unseaworthy boats, but it is responsible for putting temptation in their way," says a copy of Mr Abbott's speech obtained by The Australian last night.

"Giving boatpeople what they want is not morally preferable to strict deterrence if it encourages more of them to take great risks making ocean voyages in leaky boats."

The key difference between the rhetoric of Mr Abbott and Labor is that the opposition wants asylum-seekers processed on the island of Nauru while the government is pursuing its plan to swap 800 boatpeople with Malaysia for 4000 established refugees.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson said MPs should be concerned about "children arriving unauthorised in very risky circumstances".

And Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the government's key aim must be to protect lives. "Those little children drowned obviously with fear in their eyes and terror, in circumstances we don't want to see repeated," he said.

During today's speech, Mr Abbott will reveal a plan to travel to Nauru this week to talk to its government about whether it was still prepared to reactivate an asylum-processing centre set up by the Howard government.

He will also argue that the Gillard government is yet to explain why it could be wrong to send asylum-seekers to Nauru for processing, but not wrong to send them to Malaysia.

"Under Malaysian law, immigration violations such as breaching conditions of entry are subject to caning with a rattan," he will say. "According to Amnesty International's 2010 report, tens of thousands of illegal migrants, including asylum-seekers, have been caned.

"If the government is serious about not allowing boatpeople to be caned, it simply can't send them to Malaysia."



Three articles below

Mind the gap on climate

Janet Albrechtsen

SOMETIMES the most quotidian matters tell a story. Here's one about the deep disconnect between the political class - the politicians, the activists, the Hollywood stars and the feel-gooders who are imploring us to "SAY YES" to a carbon tax - and the rest of us.

You go online to buy an airline ticket. Say it's Jetstar. You choose your flights, fill in the passenger and contact details, answer some more questions, then you are given this option: "Help reduce your climate change impact by offsetting the carbon emissions (CO2) from your flight for just $1.96." The airline tells you all its carbon offsets are independently accredited, its program is certified under the government's National Carbon Offset Standard Carbon Neutral initiative, that the airline passes on all funds and does not profit from this purchase. Sounds like a small, low-cost way to help reduce emissions?

As at January this year, 88 per cent of people said no thanks to paying less than $2 to offset carbon from their Jetstar flight. When buying a ticket on a Qantas plane, only 8 per cent of online flyers consciously ticked the "yes, offset flights" button to pay $1.82. By May this year, that figure had dropped to 7 per cent.

To make things clear for the political class, most people are saying no to spending less than $2 to apparently help the environment when they fly. Unless you're travelling through the rich hippie town of Byron Bay, where you'll find the highest uptake of those saying yes to buying carbon offsets. By contrast, those travelling through Hamilton Island, your more middle Australia holiday destination, account for the highest number of people saying a polite "no thanks" to paying for a feel-good shot of carbon offsets.

That divide tells a story that the Gillard government may want to listen to. No doubt, a large swath of those saying yes to buying carbon offsets are on flights taken by our politicians as they jet back and forth across Australia, trying to keep in touch with the voters. Apparently, the get-in-touch-with-voters exercise is not working. Let's get real here. Whether it's the politicians or their staff who tick the carbon offset options, it's easy being green with other people's money.

Yesterday, Wayne Swan was spruiking Labor's carbon tax policy to a bunch of insiders at the National Press Club. Outside Canberra, most Australians recognise that a carbon tax is nothing more than a symbolic, emotionally charged policy that will hurt our economy when most other countries are not taxing carbon. It will do nothing to help the environment, given that Australia accounts for less than 2 per cent of global emissions.

Along similar lines, in the US, eco-friendly cleaning products are nose-diving in popularity. Clorox, the manufacturer of Green Works, a line of natural cleaning products, has seen its sales drop from $US100 million in 2008 to $US60m this year. As one woman told The New York Times, buying more expensive, green products is "something you buy and think about when things are going swimmingly". Reality trumps emotion.

Irving Kristol, the American writer who died in 2009, knew something about reality principles. The editor of Commentary magazine, Public Interest and National Interest once remarked that bad politics is like bad poetry, which as Oscar Wilde said, doesn't get any better just because it springs from genuine feeling. In 1972 Kristol wrote: "It seems to me that the politics of liberal reform, in recent years, shows many of the same characteristics as amateur poetry. It has been more concerned with the kind of symbolic action that gratifies the passions of the reformer rather than with the efficacy of the reforms themselves."

The insistence, said Kristol, was "revealing, in the public realm, one's intense feelings" . We must care; we must be concerned; we must be committed. Unsurprisingly, this goes along with an immense indifference to consequences, to positive results or the lack thereof.

More than 40 years later, Kristol could have been describing the protest marches last weekend when Greenpeace, the Climate Institute, GetUp!, Climate Action Network Australia, the ACTU and their supporters took to the streets for a National Day of Climate Action.

There was plenty of passion and bad political poetry imploring us to adopt a carbon tax.

"Today is a big day because today Australians will ask their government for a price on carbon," said Simon Sheikh, rally organiser and national director of GetUp!. Australians did no such thing. The vast majority stayed home. Eight thousand people turning up to a rally in Sydney is not a success. Across Australia, the turnout was said to be about 40,000. That is not Australia talking. In May 1970, hundreds of thousands of people marched to protest against Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War. In November 1992, 100,000 Victorians protested against budget cuts introduced by then premier Jeff Kennett. About 150,000 took to the streets of Melbourne in February 2003 to protest against a war in Iraq.

The Sunday carbon tax rallies, the second part of the Say Yes campaign, fell as flat as the opening shot when actors Cate Blanchett and Michael Caton fronted a misleading advertisement telling Australians to say yes to a carbon tax. While the Gillard government publicly applauded the efforts of the multi-millionaire Hollywood actor who is happy to incur the cost of a carbon tax, the grim reality is that this carbon tax will never satisfy Blanchett and the vocal activists behind her.

That's the thing about green groups. As Tony Blair wrote in his memoir, moderation is not in the lexicon of the NGO culture. Its raison d'etre depends on a continual crisis.

Nothing the Prime Minister does will satisfy the green groups momentarily supporting her carbon tax. Conversely, anything Gillard does with her tax - short of dumping it - will attract from voters deep scepticism about policy outcomes, not to mention political motives. If the overwhelming majority of people who fly are refusing to pay less than $2 for a carbon offset, you can see why Labor backbenchers are nervous about Gillard's determination to appease the Greens and press on with a carbon tax. After all, the PM who promised there would be no carbon tax under a Gillard government cannot even claim to have the bad poet's genuine feeling.


Another stupid bicycle scheme

Brisbane's CityCycle scheme costs $520 per bike per year, as less than one in five used

EVERY bike available for hire under Brisbane City Council's beleaguered CityCycle scheme is costing ratepayers more than $520 a year. A financial breakdown of the scheme provided by the council's town clerk, shows each of the 1040 bicycles is being subsidised at a cost of $132.04 a quarter.

The number of bikes for hire is due to rise to 2000 by the end of the year, increasing the total cost to ratepayers to $264,080 a quarter.

As part of deal, 192 advertising panels and signs, as well as signage on bikes, have been allocated to French advertising company JCDecaux, which runs the scheme.

As of May 13, fewer than 5000 people had subscribed to CityCycle and less than one in five bicycles were being taken out each day.

Despite the lukewarm response, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said the "scheme was growing". "We've said before, it's not a revolution in growth but it is growing every month and that will continue to occur as we roll more CityCycle stations out," Cr Quirk. "There will be another 50 stations built and they will be out around the University of Queensland and South Bank, around Eleanor Schonell Bridge and that will extend cycleway opportunities for a lot of people, particularly university students."

The main criticisms of CityCycle have been the difficulty and cost of subscribing, the lack of hire helmets available and the style of the bicycles themselves.

Subscriptions cost $11 for a day, $27.50 for three months and $60.50 for a year. Users pay extra if the bikes are not returned within 30 minutes.


Carbon copying

Countries are like people: they have a childhood where they are nurtured, usually by a colonial parent; they have an increasingly strained adolescence as people argue why, how and when the tie with the parent should end; then they enjoy a prime of a self-sufficient and independent sovereignty when they both define their place in the world, and make such contributions to it as their citizens can with originality imagine, with determination develop, and with perseverance achieve. And, lastly, they have an old age, in which, weak and senescent, they loose interest in the world, which then recycles whatever remains, and the process starts again.

Australia, in 2011, is very much the pimply adolescent, still arguing about its relationship with England, our colonial mother, and America, the foster father to whom England handed us when we refused to grow up.

So what has this to do with a proposed carbon tax, an emissions trading scheme, or global warming? Well, everything actually.

We all know about or can vaguely recall the emotional traumas and hormonal difficulties we had to deal with as adolescents during what we now quaintly call the “maturation” process. Thus, our young men and women are highly critical of themselves; they love to copy trends by displaying their command of fashionable vocabulary, exhibiting their versatility with imported dance crazes, or parading in the most extreme cuts of coloured clothing, while stainless-steel rings hang from parts of their bodies, the piercing of which must have involved considerable suffering. They are also quick to sense the hypocrisy of adults, and delight in assuming the moral high ground in resulting arguments.

My argument is that in relation to climate change and our national response to it, Australia is behaving just like these adolescents. We are highly critical of the coal-fired power stations that supply our base-load energy needs, even to the extent that some Australians suggest we stop exporting coal to China and Japan. And even before the recent, predictable and very preventable problems at Japan’s Fukushima reactors, discussion on Australia’s use of our abundant uranium for the nuclear generation of energy was always discouraged. And yet, major Australian breakthroughs in photovoltaic research, such as at the ANU, have not proceeded to envisaged manufacture in the Canberra region because of the shortage of venture capital; if you’ve got solar panels on your roof, they were probably made in Germany or one China or another.

In December 2009 Australia was represented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen where it lectured the world on its climate change hypocrisy. Meanwhile, anyone in Australia who queries the wisdom of legislation that, in taxing carbon, will significantly increase the costs of goods and services is accused of being a “climate change denier” with the same religious zeal and angry intolerance that the Spanish inquisition once applied to supposed heretics.

Few of us have the scientific expertise to assess either the extent of climate change, or the degree to which human activities have contributed to it. Many of us would agree that something significant is happening to the world’s climate. But we all of us should be suspicious of a theory, any theory, about which free and open discussion is either not possible, or where dissension is followed by personal denigration and ridicule.

Regardless of the price of the tax on carbon in Australia, the rigor with which we regulate, penalise, or shut down industries producing it, or the delight with which we shame people and institutions into parroting politically correct mantras about it, Australia’s net greenhouse emissions of 576 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year still only amounts to 1.5 percent of world emissions, according to recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics.

In other words, because our economy is so small relative to the rest of the world, we cannot make an impact of any consequence on climate change no matter what we do. But Australian businesses involved in exporting, or in import-competition, will certainly feel an impact. Why, then, are we prepared to put so many Australian jobs and businesses at risk by forcing them to pay a carbon tax? Perhaps because (again, like those adolescents) we are critical of, and feel guilty about, our use of fossil fuels to produce energy? Perhaps because we want to demonstrate that we can take the economic pain (and the rest of the world can’t)? Or perhaps because we want to show the “adults” in that big, wide world how hypocritical they are? Whatever the reasons, they’re childish.

And the silence of our artists on this subject is deafening. Where are the plays and satirical novels about the posturing of politicians, and shenanigans of academics in climate change research? Unwritten, because the authors capable of such imaginative work know that these plays and novels would not only never attract Australia Council publishing subsidies, but would prejudice future dealings with arts bureaucracies.

Climate change has become a religion; our parliaments and universities are its temples, and their staff its high priests. Professor Garnaut has supplied the sacred texts. But whilst services are conducted daily and redemption is on offer, there is no after-life. You’re just going to have to pray you don’t need one.

Published in last week's Spectator Australia magazine. Written by Timoshenko Aslanides and illustrated by ZEG

7 June, 2011

More contempt for the voters from Gillard

JULIA Gillard's Malaysian solution is close to being signed despite polls showing two-thirds of Australians now wanting the deal ditched before it is done.

A Malaysian government source told Fairfax newspapers today the Government has agreed to the final text of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries.

The plan to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for 4000 officially recognised refugees is now more unpopular than the carbon tax.

A Galaxy poll conducted exclusively for The Daily Telegraph revealed 66 per cent of voters were opposed to sending boat people to a nation which still canes refugees.

But the figure is likely to be higher now with the national poll conducted over two days before it was revealed children would also be part of the human swap.

Almost half of those polled were strongly opposed, with only 5 per cent claiming to strongly support the plan. Just 26 per cent showed any form of support at all.

The Prime Minister now faces significant public hostility to the two main areas she promised to fix after rolling Kevin Rudd for the prime ministership: boat people and climate change.Galaxy CEO David Briggs said there was now overwhelming opposition to the Gillard government's plans on a number of fronts.

A total of 58 per cent surveyed were opposed to the carbon tax.

The government is now under intense pressure to drop the deal with high-profile human rights activists conceding John Howard's Pacific Solution was more humane.

Ms Gillard and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen have struggled to explain how the policy will deal with unaccompanied minors, first admitting they would be included, before claiming they would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.


Leftists can't stand the light

Communications Department spends $268,000 on lawyers to fight FOI requests

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Stephen Conroy's secrecy-obsessed department has spent more than $268,000 on lawyers to challenge Freedom of Information requests. The services of a prominent law firm over just five months since the end of January included one matter which cost taxpayers $77,000.

Waste Watchers in an ongoing campaign in The Courier-Mail to track how your taxpayer money is being spent by all levels of government, after a recent poll showed 70 per cent of Queenslanders believe governments are wasting money but none of our politicians admit to getting it wrong.

The rollout of the $36 billion National Broadband Network and the $308 million set-top boxes scheme are among projects overseen by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Opposition communications and broadband spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said Mr Conroy and his department were using the outside law firm to challenge the release of information.

"Stephen Conroy seems to be sparing no expense in trying to avoid scrutiny," Mr Turnbull said yesterday. "That's what they're doing."

A department spokesman said staff made decisions about the release of documents but $268,000 was spent to "provide legal advice and related legal services to DBCDE staff involved in processing requests and making decisions."

One Government contract showed $22,000 spent on legal services in just one day on February 11 but the spokesman claimed it was a clerical error with the services provided over several months. It was unclear if any of the Freedom of Information requests were for the NBN Co.

The Government had exempted NBN Co from Freedom of Information laws but the Greens won an amendment to allow for the scrutiny. "If the NBN Co were a publicly-listed company it would be vastly more accountable than it is today," Mr Turnbull said. "Because it is owned by the taxpayer, there is a complete lack of transparency."

A spokeswoman for NBN Co said a Freedom of Information officer had been employed and applications would be answered from the middle of this month.

The Greens said NBN Co would be subject to the same Freedom of Information requirements as Medibank and Australia Post.

The FOI stoush is the latest setback for the much-criticised $36 billion fibre-optic rollout slammed by the Opposition and regularly attacked by the likes of retailer Gerry Harvey as inefficient. Even Brisbane City Council claims the network could rip off customers.


Quis magistros ipsos docebit?

Teacher graduates face test before registration

ASPIRING primary school teachers are expected to face questions about animal groupings, energy and literacy processes in Queensland's controversial teacher test.

Sample questions of what teaching graduates could face in the nation's first teacher pre-registration exam have been placed on the Queensland College of Teachers website.

The test, which hopeful primary school teachers will be required to pass before they can attain registration in Queensland from the end of this year, will examine a graduate's literacy, numeracy and science skills.

One sample question asks graduates to place a kangaroo, tadpole, echidna, emu and lizard into its right animal grouping - fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds or mammals.

Another in the science category requires graduates to use their knowledge of sound and heat energy to answer a question.

Under numeracy, graduates are asked when a train is scheduled to arrive if it leaves Mount Isa at 1.30pm on Monday and the trip takes 20 hours and 40 minutes.

In literacy, one question asks which word is a preposition and another asks graduates to sequence the typical behaviours of a child learning to read.

It will also test their knowledge of course content and teaching.

The test follows a recommendation by Professor Geoff Masters in a review of how to lift Queensland students' literacy and numeracy standards, after the state came second last in the first national tests in 2008.

The Queensland Teachers Union and Queensland Deans of Education Forum initially said the tests were offensive to universities and a double-up of what was already being taught.

QDEF chair Professor Wendy Patton said extensive consultation had been undertaken on the exams and while there were still some concerns, they were waiting to see the actual tests before making any further judgment.

The Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) website reveals aspiring primary school teachers will face two 90-minute exams with 60 questions each on literacy and numeracy and one 60-minute science test with 40 questions.

The computer-based exams will take place in designated testing centres across Queensland at the end of the year. Teaching graduates will be able to sit the exam as many times as needed to pass and attain registration.

"The purpose of the QCT pre-registration test is to ensure that aspiring primary teachers meet threshold levels of knowledge about the teaching of literacy, numeracy and science and have sound levels of content knowledge in these areas," the QCT website states.

QCT director John Ryan said the tests would not be a panacea for proficiency but would ensure graduates teaching in Queensland schools met a minimum standard.


Safety fencing 'art' cost Victorian Council $7000

A MAYOR has turned on his own council after it spent $7000 on public artwork made from orange plastic safety fencing. The artist said yesterday the aim of the art was to create confusion. But the mayor blasted his council officers for approving the project.

Moreland mayor Cr Oscar Yildiz said he couldn't believe that so much was spent putting the orange mesh on buildings, power poles, and around trees in an Oak Park shopping strip. "A bit of mesh that utility companies use to cordon off areas - to call that art is a load of rubbish," he said. "I've got a seven-year-old daughter and she could have done this for free and done a better job."

Cr Yildiz said that he found out about the project only on Friday, and it was too late to cancel it. "It literally is the biggest waste of money that we've done under my leadership at council, and I'll certainly be ensuring that this doesn't happen again," he said. "People thought that mesh was there to cordon off a tree or an area for some electricity lines or concreting or something."

But deputy mayor Cr Alice Pryor said the Permeable Barrier series by artist Tim Craker was deliberately installed alongside council roadworks at the Snell Grove shopping centre. "Public art installations create public discussion, raise questions, and engage passers-by in the new works being done," she said.

Mr Craker, in Turkey on a self-financed arts residency, said he wanted to create confusion about "what's art and what's function - to make people think about something that we would see and not look at. But some might say 'Hang on, that's not normal safety fencing, that's had something done to it, and what's it doing up on a wall on a building?' So that sort of controversy is good from one point of view."

Mr Craker said the amount he was paid was minuscule compared with the cost of the roadworks, and "the idea is to focus a bit of attention on Oak Park, which as a shopping centre could do with some attention".

Cr Yildiz asked why $7000 was paid to Mr Craker when the materials would have cost a few hundred dollars. "Surely this guy didn't spend $6500 on labour for sticking a couple of things around a couple of poles?"

Ratepayers Victoria president Jack Davis said Cr Yildiz should protect public funds by dumping the project and recouping the cash.


6 June, 2011

Julia Gillard feels the heat over carbon tax backlash as voters call for new election

AUSTRALIANS are demanding Julia Gillard call a fresh election, saying she has no mandate for a carbon tax. With less than a third of all voters now claiming to support the tax, the federal government is facing a nationwide backlash if it proceeds.

An exclusive Galaxy poll commissioned by The Daily Telegraph has revealed 73 per cent of people claim they will end up worse off under the tax. Just 7 per cent believe they could end up better off in some way.

More fatal for the Prime Minister, however, was the overwhelming support for an election to be called on the issue - confirming widespread anger over her broken election promise not to introduce a carbon tax. A total of 64 per cent said they wanted a fresh election. Only 24 per cent believed the PM had a mandate.

And in a growing sentiment that the tax would not help solve the climate change problem, 75 per cent believed it would have only a minor impact on the environment - or no impact at all.

The devastating poll results, showing total opposition now at 58 per cent, confirm the government has so far failed to make an effective case for its tax.

They also reflect Liberal Party internal polling showing support for Tony Abbott's campaign to force the government to an early election, despite analysis showing the Coalition's alternative direct action plan would be even more costly.

Galaxy pollster David Briggs said opposition to the tax was entrenched. "The problem for the government is that most voters believe the personal cost outweighs the environmental benefits," he said. "Such is concern over the carbon tax that the majority of voters believe Julia Gillard should call an early election to seek a mandate for the tax rather than have the legislation passed in this parliament."

The federal government is expected to announce details of the tax within weeks. It will not only set the carbon price - believed to be between $20 and $30 per tonne - but also the level of compensation households will receive to offset the cost of living rise that will accompany the tax.

The carbon tax is only planned to be an interim measure before a transition to a market-based price - an emissions trading scheme.

Opponents of the scheme have succeeded in casting fears that the price is likely to rise significantly no matter what is set in the short term. The government has tried to assuage fears by assuring people that lower and middle-income families will be compensated for the associated price rises - particularly around electricity bills, which could rise by between $300 and $500 a year in Sydney. Ms Gillard has said the political fight over climate change policy was "a long game". The poll was conducted between June 1 and 2, based on a national sample of 500 voters.


Illegal immigration: Has there ever been a policy fiasco this bad?

Greg Sheridan

Cane with dignity and respect cartoon. Picture: Bill Leak Source: The Australian
IS the Malaysian solution now unravelling in the same way as the East Timor solution, bearing witness to the astonishing amateurism of Julia Gillard and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen in international diplomacy?

Among a bewildering plenitude of chaos and confusion in the asylum-seeker/illegal immigrant imbroglio the Gillard government has created, one acute operational dilemma is obvious. How can it send unaccompanied minors, boys and girls, to an uncertain fate in Malaysia, with all the risks to them that this involves?

Yet if the government grants an exception for unaccompanied minors, it will create a massive incentive for people-smugglers. If a family sends a son or daughter on a boat, perhaps with secret supervision of an uncle or cousin on the boat, the kid will probably get permanent residency in Australia.

This will entail in due course, in fact probably in short order, the right to sponsor the rest of the family to come to Australia. In terms of the business model of the people-smugglers, this is the gold jackpot. Come on down, send the boats and send the kids.

This is an astounding mess the government has created. As soon as it announced the Malaysian solution, politicians and journalists asked about children. The government responded with customary contemptuous bluster, and refused to answer the question.

But it was always a critical question and it cannot be fudged. It now turns out that the government, in a positive rapture of incompetence and amateurism, had not even decided its own attitude to the question.

It certainly had not sorted out the matter with the Malaysians. It finally deigned to answer the question on the children only when confronted with a leaked draft agreement by the ABC's Lateline. Then the hapless Bowen said yes, kids would be sent to Malaysia. Cue the predictable outrage from the Greens, the illegal immigrant lobby and even sections of the Labor Party. And the Tony Abbott-led opposition, with Scott Morrison landing heavy blows at every turn, was able to contrast the superior human rights guarantees in its Pacific Solution and in the Nauru detention centre the Howard government ran.

So lickety split, Bowen started on his familiar confused retreat. Only some kids would be sent to Malaysia after all. There was nothing automatic about it. Kids in danger would be individually assessed and perhaps not sent.

Meanwhile the boats still come, the people-smugglers having worked out that this government is all bluff and no delivery. Since the government announced the deal with Malaysia a month ago, about 200 boatpeople have arrived. A quarter of the Malaysian solution has already gone, and the Malaysian solution does not yet actually exist because no agreement has been finalised.

Why did the government publicly announce the Malaysian solution before the details were negotiated and the framework worked out?

Surely not because it had to announce at the same time that the East Timor solution was finally dead? Surely not because there had just been a series of riots, fires and assaults in the detention centres, and it needed to look as though it was doing something? Surely after the slow-motion debacle of the East Timor solution collapse, this government could not possibly have been stupid enough to put spin, and an attempt to win one day's good media coverage, ahead of important diplomatic matters of real substance?

The contradictions in the government's position abound. Gillard fiercely assured the parliament the Malaysians would not have power of veto over which 800 individuals were sent to Malaysia.

Problem was, this contradicted the Malaysian government's view. And a moment's thought bears out the reasonableness of the Malaysian position. No government welcomes people to its soil without any power of choice, without even knowing who they are, leaving the choice to another government.

The Gillard government's inability to finalise the deal with Malaysia suggests it may be falling apart, and will certainly discourage other nations from engaging in such deals with it. At first there was some interest from the Thais and even the Indonesians. After all, it was a five-for-one swap to Australia's detriment, and Canberra was willing to splash out any amount of money to buy a result.

But the Thais and Indonesians saw how Malaysia's good name has been dragged through the mud in Australia on this business, and suddenly they lost interest.

The Malaysians should brace themselves for months, perhaps years, of relentless negative publicity and attack in Australia and internationally if this deal goes ahead. Because suddenly every aspect of Malaysian policy on illegal immigrants will be seen by the media as Australia's business.

I'm sure that's not what Kuala Lumpur had in mind when this deal was first broached with them, but it's what they'll be putting up with if the deal goes ahead.

At the same time the Malaysian opposition is starting to get serious about criticising its government on the deal.

But wait, there's more. The Gillard government did not even tell the UN High Commissioner for Refugees of its plan to send unaccompanied minors to Malaysia, and now the UNHCR says it can't support the deal.

Has there ever been a policy fiasco as comprehensive as this? Will they teach it at the Harvard Business School as the definitive case study of mismanagement?

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, sensibly, left for Europe and the Middle East at the weekend. This humiliating fiasco belongs to Julia Gillard and Chris Bowen.


Anna Bligh presides over more than 4000 extra bureaucrats, public service wage bill $320 million

MORE than 4000 extra bureaucrats are strolling Brisbane's George St since Anna Bligh was appointed premier. An analysis by The Courier-Mail has revealed a 12 per cent spike in non-frontline State Government positions over the past three years. The blowout has forced up the taxpayer-funded wage bill by about $320 million annually.

In an effort to rein in wage costs, the Bligh Government will now spend $250 million on lucrative golden handshakes to convince 3500 non-frontline bureaucrats to retire.

The hiring of about 4300 additional public servants since 2007 coincided with the global financial crisis, which wreaked havoc on the Budget and forced the sale of state assets.

Ms Bligh yesterday conceded "backroom" positions had grown but it was critical to get the balance right. "Non-frontline staff are essential to carry out jobs like filing police reports and maintaining patient records in our hospitals, and operational duties like cleaning and maintenance," she told The Courier-Mail. "The highly trained medical staff should be treating patients not filing paperwork."

But Liberal Nationals Leader Campbell Newman said the figures exposed the "reckless financial management" costing Queenslanders. "This is why the Government is so busy raising taxes because they are desperately looking for money to pay for this out-of-control organisation," he said.

The Government has consistently argued that the growth in the public service has been driven by additional frontline positions, particularly doctors, nurses and police. But Queensland Public Service Commission statistics show the percentage of employees in positions classified as frontline has remained static.

In 2007, there were 179,872 public servants in Queensland, with 79.85 per cent classified as being in frontline positions. The remaining 36,244 employees were predominantly doing department desk duties.

By 2010, the latest figures available, the public service surpassed 200,000 full-time employees with 79.72 per cent serving on the frontline. This leaves 40,561, meaning more than five extra non-frontline staff were employed every working day over the three-year period.

Ms Bligh said the percentage of non-frontline staff would fall under voluntary redundancies.

Mr Newman also promised to rein in administration and instead deliver frontline services such as doctors and nurses.


In Queensland, 335 robbers were convicted last year but 100 of them escaped jail

ARMED robbers are walking free from court as angry Queenslanders say they have had enough of lenient sentences for violent crimes.

Of the 335 adults and juveniles convicted of armed robbery offences last year, 100 were let loose with no time behind bars.

The startling figures come as an overwhelming 91 per cent of people told a Sunday Mail Queensland Speaks survey they were concerned our courts were too soft.

Many offenders who were locked up got out early after judges gave them partially suspended sentences.

Attorney-General Paul Lucas yesterday said he would ask the new Sentencing Advisory Council to look at abolishing suspended sentences as part of a crackdown on armed robbers.

In an epidemic that has officers, retailers and victims demanding action, there have been at least 394 armed robberies in Queensland in 2011, latest police figures show.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, Chief Justice Paul de Jersey said drugs were at the root of most armed robberies and violent crimes.

"It's either because the person committing the offence is under the influence of drugs, hence the lack of fear ... or they're after money to purchase drugs for themselves, or they're after money to pay off drug debts," Justice de Jersey said.

Some people "will never think sentences are severe enough" but judges had to balance deterrence with rehabilitation and each case differed, he said.

"If there is clear evidence that the frequency of ... a particular category of crime is significantly increasing, the Court of Appeal could be asked to ratchet up the level of sentencing for that particular crime," he said.

Southport District Court judge Clive Wall is already on a collision course with appeals judges after declaring in April that armed robberies were so bad in the region he would start increasing sentences.

But lawyer and civil liberties spokesman Terry O'Gorman said it was a myth courts were too soft. He said sentencing figures were misleading because they may involve minor incidents.

Citing a series of recent cases of armed robbers going to jail, he said prison or detention should be a last resort.

"It is not the sentence that armed robbers think of when they're committing an offence. It's the likelihood of apprehension," Mr O'Gorman said.

But the Queensland Police Union and the United Retailer Federation want mandatory jail time for armed robbers.

"When you're at the other end of a gun, you don't know if it's a replica or real, irrespective of how 'minor' courts make out an armed robbery was," union president Ian Leavers said.

"Letting people off with a lenient sentence for threatening violence because they're a juvenile is telling them their behaviour is OK. We're pushing them into a life of crime."

Queensland Homicide Victims' Support Group manager Ross Thompson said there had been long-standing concerns about sentencing.

"They need to get the message across to these people committing these offences that they will not be treated lightly," he said.

Victoria recently abolished suspended sentences for serious crimes including armed robberies in a move met by strong resistance from the judiciary.

Queensland's Sentencing Advisory Council is already examining serious crimes that could be subjected to minimum non-parole periods and will ask for public submissions from later this week.

Bond University criminologist Wayne Petherick agreed the community was fed up with armed robberies but urged authorities to focus on the causes.

"You've got to look at it and go 'we've got a drug problem or a self-esteem problem and that's where you've got to focus your efforts'," he said.


Australia's high prices

Australians visting the USA certainly note the difference in prices there. Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich finds it is similar in Germany

It was in a busy shopping street in the city centre of Lübeck where I spotted them. Glowing in bright yellow, the fruits at the market stall looked exactly as I remembered them from Australia. But when I saw the price of 79 Euro cents per kilo (approximately AU$1), I wondered whether they were really bananas.

I am currently on vacation in Germany. As usual, it’s a trip down memory lane to the country where I grew up. But this time, I am more puzzled than ever before. Though I always knew Germany as a country of penny pinchers, it had never struck me as cheap as it presents itself to visitors from Australia today.

And it’s not just bananas. Swiss chocolate bars, offered at a premium price in Australia, are selling dirt cheap at discount shops. You can stay at five-star hotels at rates that would just about get you a grubby motel room in East Maitland. And the other night, I had a large beer at a local microbrewery for the equivalent of $2.50. In Germany, it seems to be happy hour all year round.

Part of the phenomenon may be explained by the Aussie dollar’s dazzling exchange rate and the Euro’s ongoing crisis. However, that’s not the full story. Germany may be exceptionally cheap, but Australia has become very expensive.

Nowadays, Australian politicians seem physically unable to deliver speeches without paying homage to either hard-working or forgotten families. Yet from this lip-service, little concrete action ever follows.

Bananas are a case in point. After cyclone Yasi destroyed three-quarters of Australia’s banana crop, prices skyrocketed and may soon reach up to $17 a kilo. But even this extreme price increase was not enough to loosen restrictions on banana imports from other countries.

Tragic as the cyclone disaster was for Australian banana growers, the world market price for bananas has barely budged, as German prices demonstrate. Germany of course does not grow bananas and so there is no need to protect local farmers.

Talk is cheap in Australia. Everything else is not. I better enjoy my affordable bananas while I am still on holiday.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 3 June. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

5 June, 2011

Gillard's Malaysia plan falling apart

Labor now urged to revive Howard's Pacific Solution by refugee activists

LABOR'S support base on border security is crumbling, with a key critic of the Howard government's Pacific Solution calling for its partial revival in preference to Labor's "nightmare" plan to send unaccompanied children to Malaysia.

Marion Le, a refugee lawyer, last night urged Labor to reopen the Nauru processing centre - the same facility she demanded be shut in 2005 because of concern about the treatment of asylum-seekers.

She was backed by human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, who accused Labor of failure on refugees and said asylum-seekers would receive better treatment in Nauru than Malaysia.

Meanwhile, in Western Australia, 14 state Labor MPs signed a petition condemning the plan to send unaccompanied minors to Malaysia as part of the refugee swap.

Opposition to Julia Gillard's Malaysian solution hardened yesterday after news that a draft agreement over her plan to exchange 800 boatpeople for 4000 confirmed refugees processed in Malaysia excluded any reference to human rights.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen guaranteed the final agreement would address human rights concerns, but further inflamed his critics by revealing he would send unaccompanied minors to Malaysia.

Labor announced its plans to transfer asylum-seekers to Malaysia last month as a means of discouraging people-smuggling. It argued that if asylum-seekers knew they could be sent to Malaysia once they reached Australia they would be less likely to risk the voyage. But refugee advocates and the Australian Greens have condemned the deal, noting that Malaysia did not observe UN protocols for handling refugees and, in the past, asylum-seekers had been publicly caned.

Yesterday, Ms Le said it was time for Labor to "bite the bullet" and reopen Nauru, which was mothballed in 2007 after Kevin Rudd took office. Her position puts her in agreement with Tony Abbott, who has demanded the Prime Minister "pick up the phone" to the government of Nauru.

"The place itself is not the problem . . . the situation on Nauru is much better than on the mainland and in Malaysia," Ms Le told The Weekend Australian. "The detention centre needs to be operated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Reopening Nauru would be far better than all the nightmare ideas this government has put forward."

Ms Le, who visited Nauru in 2003 and 2004, said children and unaccompanied minors on the island were properly fed, taken to school and given access to sporting activities and fishing. According to the UNHCR, child refugees in Malaysia do not go to school and are not housed in refugee camps, surviving instead in low-cost flats.

Mr Burnside said if it was a choice between Malaysia and Nauru, he would choose the latter. "Nauru is certainly the less worse, but both are unacceptable." Mr Burnside said Labor should be ashamed of the "scandalous" Malaysian deal, which was "as bad as the Pacific Solution".

"In one way, it is worse because we know Malaysia has a bad track record in its treatment of asylum-seekers," he said. "The idea of sending unaccompanied minors there as well makes it more disgraceful. This is being driven by raw politics. They're behaving like the Howard government."

Mr Bowen said the final agreement with Malaysia would reflect Ms Gillard's insistence that there must be proper regard for the human rights of asylum-seekers. "Let's see this agreement play out," Mr Bowen told ABC radio. "There will be a range of protections to operationalise the commitment given by the Prime Minister of Malaysia about respect for human rights."

Mr Bowen said he was not prepared to make exemptions for children because this would encourage people-smugglers to entice children on dangerous voyages to Australia in leaky boats.

He said the use of Nauru would not break the people-smugglers' business model. "If you go to Nauru, you would end up back in Australia - that's what happened before," he said.

In 2001, there were 44 unauthorised boat arrivals in Australian waters carrying 5516 people, including the Tampa. The Howard government then brought in the Pacific Solution, and in 2002 there was just one unauthorised boat arrival carrying one person. From 2003 until 2007, when Labor won power, there were 17 boats carrying 287 people. As of last night, there were 5976 people in immigration detention in Australia. There have been 25 boat arrivals this year.

Former Howard government immigration minister Philip Ruddock said Labor had attacked the Pacific Solution and was not prepared to "lose face" by reopening the Nauru centre. "In my judgment, they should have simply pocketed their pride and said, 'We made a mistake in criticising the Howard government and the approach they took. We now have to put all of those measures in place to bring this insidious people-smuggling trade to an end'."

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young declared Labor was providing no leadership or compassion. "I think compassionate thinking Australians are sick to death of being taken down this false road of a race to the bottom with no true leadership," she said. "I would be suggesting no one is sent back to Malaysia. That's the Greens' position."

Labor faced criticism on the issue from 14 West Australian Labor MPs, with frontbencher Ben Wyatt saying he was appalled and embarrassed by the federal government's position.

"Federal Labor has lost its way by now making the decision to brutalise and penalise children caught up in terrible circumstances of asylum," he told AAP. "I'm a former army officer, and I fully understand and support strong border protection policy . . . but this is an appalling decision and I'm embarrassed."


Australian National University Warmists moved to safe location after threats

The proposed carbon tax is threatening a lot of jobs so it is no wonder some workers are angry

A CANBERRA university has increased security following death threats to its climate scientists, some of whom were moved to a safer location. The Australian National University has received a large number of e-mails with threatening and abusive language directed at some of its scientists.

The Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, Professor Ian Young, said staff should not have to put up with such behaviour.

"Obviously, climate research is an emotive issue at the present time, but these are issues where we should have a logical public debate," Professor Young told ABC News 24. "In fact, it's completely intolerable that people be subjected to this sort of abuse and to threats like this."

Professor Young said the threats had unsettled the scientists. "Academics and scientists are actually really not equipped to be treated in this way," he said. "The concept that you would be threatened for your scientific views and work is something that is completely foreign to them."

The Australian Federal Police said it had not been contacted by the university although it was aware that threats had been made.


Nifty Nev knows where the NSW ALP has gone wrong

It has lost touch with the workers it claims to represent

NEVILLE Wran, the Labor Party's most popular and successful state leader, says the ALP has "lost its way" and no longer represents its traditional voters.

In an interview with The Weekend Australian, Mr Wran, 84, said the problem stemmed from his party's failure to field candidates with life experiences that reflected those in the wider community.

"We've developed the political career path," he said. "On our side, it is university, union, ministerial or MP's office and then stand for an election. "This path keeps the new practitioners away from the reality of life of those they hope to represent. If you've been in that cloistered world, how can you expect to know what the real world is like, what issues the real people face and the aims and aspirations of those real people?"

Mr Wran's first cabinet, sworn in on May 15, 1976, included a former bricklayer, a car salesman, a rail worker, a teacher, a pharmacist, a fitter and turner and a professional boxer. Today, many of these occupations and professions are more at home in the conservative side of politics.

"If you look at the last election," Mr Wran said, "those who produced the Barry O'Farrell tsunami came from professions and occupations that 20 or so years ago would have been logical Labor candidates. "Those people are now conservative representatives and we have to get them back as Labor representatives."

He also criticised the use of focus groups and polling in policy development, arguing that Labor's factions were now more focused on "internal power rather than policy development".

Mr Wran, who was NSW premier from 1976 to 1986, spoke to The Weekend Australian about his political career, how Labor could rebuild in NSW and the recent national inquiry into the Labor Party. The interview was to mark the 25th anniversary of his resignation from politics.

Mr Wran supports internal Labor reform and said last year's national review into the party by former premiers Steve Bracks and Bob Carr, and Labor senator John Faulkner, "was heading in the right way". Mr Wran co-authored a report on party reform with former prime minister Bob Hawke in 2002, which was largely ignored.

In his first public comments since NSW Labor lost power in March, Mr Wran said he told former NSW premier Nathan Rees in 2009 that he had no chance of winning the next state election. "I said simply that the time was up," he said. "I don't think Nathan appreciated it, but it was how I felt.

"Also, scandal after scandal portrayed a government that had lost its way and was far more focused on itself than the people it was supposed to represent. The electorate had turned off from the government, and you can't have any success if that happens. The electorate was just waiting for election day to show their displeasure -- and they did in an unprecedented way."

Mr Wran said the 2008 debate over electricity privatisation was highly damaging for the government because it "showed the community how split the party was and engaged in internecine warfare".

For Labor to regain the political ascendancy, Mr Wran said, the party must rediscover its base, carry out internal reform and have "a sense of purpose," as his government did.

He said the 24-hour news cycle and the impact of social media had changed the nature of government so that "too many bad decisions are taken in rapid reaction". "In government and politics, you're expected to have an instant response and an instant answer to every issue," he said. Rather, it was important to "think through issues and problems".

"If I decry anything," he added, "it is the ever-shortening media cycle and the demands on the body politic."

Since leaving politics, Mr Wran has established a successful business career and recently returned from Mongolia, where he was looking at business opportunities. Mr Wran chaired the CSIRO and oversaw an inquiry into higher education for the Hawke government. He has also been an advocate for civil rights and an Australian republic.


National medical body 'a debacle'

Another disastrous Leftist attempt at centralizing power

THE introduction of a national medical registration body was a "debacle" that resulted in doctors being unknowingly deregistered and losing income and patients being left without healthcare.

A Senate inquiry found the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency failed to notify health practitioners that they needed to renew their licence or that they had been deregistered as a result.

The agency - which took over the registration from 85 different state boards - also spent an "inordinate amount of time" processing applications and did not provide any help to worried doctors who unknowingly had their registration cancelled.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners told the inquiry the transition to the new national agency was "the worst crisis in our workforce in living memory" and the Australian Medical Association described it as a "debacle".

The Coalition-dominated finance and public administration references committee found the COAG-created body had failed to fulfill its primary functions of maintaining a national register to protect the public.

"The mistakes, omissions and poor processes that were clearly evident from the evidence received during the inquiry calls into question the ability of the AHPRA to carry out its primary purpose," it concluded.

"For AHPRA itself to be responsible for the breakdown of the entire system of registration of health practitioners in Australia is a dismal example of policy implementation and public administration."

The committee found that AHPRA's failures went beyond doctors, as patients experienced financial loss because they could not claim Medicare rebates for services provided by deregistered doctors. "Patients of practitioners who were deregistered had appointments cancelled or postponed," the report found. "This was of great inconvenience and concern."

They recommended AHPRA write letters of apology to affected doctors as well as urging all state and federal health ministers to "establish and improve" the accountability of the body.

But a minority report by Gillard government senators on the committee disagreed with the findings, saying it was not a debacle and the conclusions were for "political purposes only".

"It would have been unreasonable to expect such a large undertaking to be without problems in the initial phase," they wrote.

Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said the shift from "a myriad of state bodies to one national body" should have been done over time instead of overnight.


Child protection coverup to be busted at last?

Alleged rape victim wants Heiner inquiry restarted by federal authorities

AN ALLEGED rape victim who was paid compensation but forced to keep quiet by the Bligh Government is set to spark a new federal inquiry into the state's longest-running scandal.

A 20-year controversy involving politicians, shredded documents and "hush money" is set to be re-opened when Senator Nick Xenophon - with Coalition support - moves to open a new probe into what has become known as the Heiner Affair. The victim, 36, will be able to reveal why she received $140,000 in compensation last year for an alleged crime that happened in 1988.

The shock new inquiry into "Shreddergate" means the victim can ignore the confidentiality agreement she signed before receiving the funds because the right to speak to federal senators trumps the agreement.

The Queensland woman alleges she was just 14 years old when on a supervised bush outing she was pack raped. No one was ever charged. At the time, she was a ward of the state at the now closed John Oxley Detention Centre.

The victim met with Senator Xenophon's staff in Brisbane on Friday and revealed she wanted to tell the inquiry her story.

Senator Xenophon and the Coalition will need one more senator to set-up the inquiry, and will likely win the support of outgoing Victorian Senator Steve Fielding. A spokesman for Senator Fielding said that on "face value" the inquiry would be supported but more information would be sought from the Conservatives and Senator Xenophon.

Senator Xenophon, approached by a whistleblower, said new questions needed to be asked about the "hush" money. "This former ward of the state has been gagged by the Queensland Government but the fact is that gag is worthless when it comes to the senate inquiry," he said. "The question Queenslanders may want to ask themselves is that if nothing illegal happened, why was a rape victim paid a six-figure sum with taxpayer dollars for a crime that supposedly never happened?

"And there is a broader issue here. Why would any State Government feel the need to make a rape victim sign a confidentiality agreement?"

In 1989, retired Children's Court Magistrate Noel Heiner conducted an inquiry into issues relating to the detention centre.

The inquiry documents were shredded by the then-Labor Goss Government in 1990 over fears centre staff may take legal action. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was Mr Goss's chief-of-staff at the time.

Several inquiries focused on the shredded documents. No one in the Goss government was charged nor was anyone charged for the suspected abuse against the centre's youth.


4 June, 2011

Greenie nonsense leads to bad government

But if it leads to distrust of Greenie policies, that may be a price worth paying

Robert Carling

The rule of law stands as a bulwark against the arbitrary exercise of power by government. As such it is fundamental to fairness, the freedom of the governed, and the success of the liberal market economy – but it is frequently under attack, sometimes from unexpected quarters. Two recent examples spring to mind.

Retrospective legislation is antithetical to the rule of law. It is like changing the rules of the game after it has been played. But governments sometimes resort to it, citing extraordinary circumstances as the justification.

The freshly minted O’Farrell government in NSW is planning to tear up contracts entered into by its predecessor, which had promised to pay participants in the solar energy scheme a very generous 60 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity generated (the ‘feed-in tariff’). It plans retrospective legislation to invalidate the old contracts, cut the price paid, and deny participants in the scheme any legal recourse against the government.

The solar scheme was an atrocious act of public policy, adopted by the previous government in the expectation that the nasty fiscal consequences would be someone else’s problem.

But can an action of one government be so bad that it justifies retrospective legislation by a successor government? Opinions will differ on this, but the avoidance of retrospectivity is such an important principle that the justification should be very strong indeed, and in my opinion stronger than in this case.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 3 June. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Italians show benefits of immigration, says Gillard

I myself have the highest opinion of Italians and heartily agree with what my Prime Minister has said about them below. As well I might do: Italians are the heirs to TWO great flowerings of civilization: The Roman empire and the Renaissance. And to this day Italy is a powerhouse of culture. So it is NO surprise that Italian immigrants have made a great contribution to Australian life.

But when we look at illiterate Afghans and their primitive 7th century religion, we are at the opposite end of the scale. And it is mainly Afghans who are flocking to Australia as illegal immigrants at the moment. They are a disaster waiting to happen. They should be sent back to their native hellhole

There are undoubtedly many worthy Afghans but those who try to force themselves on Australia are ipso facto unlikely to include many of those

JULIA Gillard says the integration of Italian migrants in Australia shows the strength and the benefits of immigration to the nation.

The prime minister acknowledged the contribution Italian migrants have made to Australia at a dinner marking the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification.

Ms Gillard said thousands of Italians have made the "momentous decision" to sacrifice their home to journey across the globe and realise their hopes in Australia.

"But if Australia was a land of opportunity, it only came at a price," Ms Gillard said at the Italian National Day Ball in Sydney today. "Years of backbreaking labour in places like the Snowy or the cane fields, working two or three jobs, sometimes facing misunderstanding and discrimination. "But in spite of these difficulties, you held fast and saw Australia as it could be."

She said Australia changed for the better as the nation absorbed these migrants. "That is why we must always regard immigration as a source of strength," Ms Gillard said. "Because it renewed and enriched our nation at its core, precisely at the time when the world was opening up and our old insular habits could no longer be sustained.

Ms Gillard said the unification of the city-states into the nation of Italy in 1861 led the way for the prosperous, innovative European country of today.

"Friends, Italy has given many great gifts to the world: her culture, her food, her sense of style - but the greatest gift of Italy has been her people," she said.

"Around 60 million people outside Italy claim Italian heritage. "And for this gift, Australia will always give thanks."


The latest defence equipment bungle: And it's a big one

THE head of defence acquisition for the Gillard government has admitted that the nation's largest defence project, the plan to build three new air warfare destroyers, is a "crisis" that threatens the reputation of Defence and everyone involved in the $8 billion plan.

The comments, made by Defence Materiel Organisation head Stephen Gumley to defence industry colleagues in late April, directly contradict the Gillard government's public spin this week, which sought to portray the AWD problems as being "not unusual" for such a complex naval construction.

The Weekend Australian has learned that Mr Gumley was only fully briefed on April 20 that the AWD project was in deep trouble, running two years late.

That was about seven months after serious construction problems began to emerge in a Melbourne shipyard and despite the fact that, in February, the project's sub-contractor BAE Systems told the publicly owned Australian Submarine Corporation that flawed design data being used to build the AWDs would ensure further delays and cost overruns.

It is unclear whether ASC failed to pass these warnings to Mr Gumley or whether the DMO head did not act on BAE's claims at that time.

Insiders say that when Mr Gumley was finally fully briefed in April he was stunned by the extent of the AWD problems, describing the situation as a "crisis". He warned that the setback to the flagship project could harm the reputation of the DMO and all other parties involved in the project.

A Defence spokesman confirmed last night that Mr Gumley had described the AWD project as being in crisis in April, but said he was "pointing out the seriousness of the situation in an attempt to get a speedy resolution". "Since then all parties have worked co-operatively to achieve that resolution," the spokesman said.

Mr Gumley's claim to others that he had learned of the gravity of the crisis only on April 20 raises questions about whether the AWD project manager, the AWD Alliance, failed to keep the DMO chief abreast of the series of problems engulfing the project. It is further evidence of a dysfunctional relationship between Defence and industry that has contributed to delays and cost overruns on billions of dollars' worth of defence projects.

The alarm that Mr Gumley expressed to colleagues in private was in stark contrast to the public spin employed by the government this week as it attempted to play down the issue.

The Australian revealed this week that the project to build the three new AWDs had been paralysed by faulty construction and design, poor project management and bitter in-fighting between shipyards.

When asked about the setback to the warship project, the head of the AWD Alliance, Rod Equid, claimed that it was nothing out of the ordinary. "Problems in the early stage of construction for a project of this size and complexity are not unusual," Mr Equid said. "What is important is they're quickly recognised and action is taken."

Defence Minister Stephen Smith also played down the extent of the AWD problems. "We have confidence that it is on track, but we also understand it's a considerable project and there have been difficulties," Mr Smith said.

The minister is said to be privately furious about the delays to the AWD project and has announced a reallocation of work between shipyards in Melbourne, Adelaide and Newcastle in an attempt to reduce the current two-year delay by up to 12 months.

News of the setbacks has not filtered through to the DMO website, which this week continued to state that the AWD project "remains on schedule and budget".


Orthodox Roman Catholics getting fed up with arrogant clergy who pervert the faith

THREE or four times this year, groups of up to 50 Catholics have gathered to pray outside St Joseph's in Newtown during its gay-friendly Mass.

Sometimes they stop worshippers as they leave the service, demanding to know if they took Communion. If confronted by the parish priest, Father Peter Maher, they recite the rosary. On other occasions, one or two enter the church mid-service, and watch from the back.

A parishioner, Paul Harris, said the incidents affected how other parishioners looked at newcomers. "Any strangers that come along you greet them and welcome them and hope they're there for the right reasons," he said.

Those who are not have been dubbed the "temple police" - orthodox Catholics, either individuals or groups, who report what they see as liturgical abuses to bishops, or to Rome.

Not that all complaints make it to the Vatican. When St Joseph's began sponsoring a school in Pakistan, it was reported to ASIO.

But last month these often anonymous upholders of orthodoxy claimed what might be their biggest scalp when the bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris, was forced to resign, ostensibly for raising issues such as female or married priests.

Father Hal Ranger, an associate pastor at St Patrick's Cathedral in Toowoomba, said most of the diocese was still hurt by the loss of the bishop.

But he believed the influence of this militant minority was experiencing a resurgence in the Australian church, which was preparing to introduce a more literal translation of the Latin Mass that some priests had vowed they would not use.

"It's pretty much what the Scribes and Pharisees were doing to Jesus," he said. "They were saying 'here is the law book … you have just cured a person on the Sabbath day, and the book says you shouldn't'."

A former Sydney barrister, Paul Brazier, who died recently, revealed how effective complaints could be when co-ordinated. Through his now-defunct Australian Catholic Advocacy Centre, in the 1990s he developed a checklist that could be tucked discreetly into a prayer book to track liturgical transgressions in a Mass and used for statutory declarations to be sent to authorities.

These complaints highlighted the "tolerance" of liturgical laxity in the Australian church, which was addressed in a dressing down from the Vatican called the "Statement of Conclusions" in 1998. Rome is still perceived to be suspicious about liberal elements in dioceses such as Toowoomba.

"Little wonder," wrote Mr Brazier's former colleague Michael Baker in an online tribute, "that no bishop attended his funeral at St Mary's Cathedral" last month.

But Richard Stokes, the parishioner most often associated with the term "temple police", told the Herald they were "a figment of the imagination of those priests who may consider that they are a target, for whatever reason".

Mr Stokes, who has visited about a dozen parishes to attend Mass every day, said he did not know anyone who travelled around churches looking for trouble. But his evidence proved instrumental in the dismissal of Father Peter Kennedy as the parish priest of St Mary's in south Brisbane in 2009.

A month after St Mary's refused to hold daily Mass if he attended, he was banned from St Eugene's in north Brisbane by its assistant priest.

"I gathered from his harangue that my 'offence' was 'writing to the archbishop'. The only other words I could follow were 'stupid letter', 'nonsense', 'ridiculous', 'rubbish' and so on," he wrote in the orthodox newsletter Into the Deep.

This Victorian-based newsletter for "orthodox Catholics who have grown tired of seeing the church we love being abused and neglected by those within it, and have begun to speak out," details the successes, frustrations and observations of others such as Mr Stokes.

Such as this about some colourful banners in a regional NSW cathedral: "Either there's a new rainbow liturgical season that I haven't heard of yet, or there's a strong 'gay pride' thing happening in Bathurst diocese."

The editor of Into the Deep, Janet Kingman, used the analogy of reporting a teacher who instructs students in incorrect spelling and grammar, deeming it unimportant. "The real question is, how can a teacher be teaching the wrong stuff? And how can the principal tolerate it, or encourage it?"

But Father Maher said he could justify St Joseph's liturgy to any bishop, though there was no way to engage with the anonymous people standing outside who thought ministering to gay and lesbian Catholics was sacrilegious. "That is obviously horrendously incorrect, but who corrects them?"

As for the new Mass, St Joseph's would use it when it came in in November, Father Maher said. As will Father Ranger in Toowoomba, although he said he would deviate from it should the circumstances warrant.


3 June, 2011

Liberal party returns fire over Leftist hypocrisy about abusive language

As ever, Leftists are the stone-throwing glasshouse inhabitants. Due to the swamp in which their major policies are stuck, the Labor party has made a big deal out of a "miaow", believe it or not -- because a conservative politician made that sound while a Leftist politician was speaking. How desperate can you get -- to make a fuss about such a triviality? The Left, themselves, of course, have said much worse

THE most senior Liberal woman, Julie Bishop, has blasted Julia Gillard for making nasty comments about men. A day after Coalition Senator David Bushby was carpeted for a catcall aimed at Finance Minister Penny Wong, federal MPs continued to take swipes at each other.

Ms Bishop turned the attack on the Prime Minister saying she was shocked by her behaviour. "The Prime Minister has the opportunity to raise the level of debate in this country, but she frequently makes nasty personal jibes, never apologises for them," Ms Bishop told ABC News 24's Capital Hill program.

"She's called people fat, misogynist, mincing poodles in the past, and never apologised for them," she said. "The worst I thought was saying Bob Brown did not have a love of family. Now what on earth was she getting at?"

In October 2006, Ms Gillard referred to Liberal frontbenchers as "the misogynist and the fat man".

Her comment in February, 2009, describing senior Coalition frontbencher Christopher Pyne as "mincing" and a "poodle" was raised yesterday as the Liberals fired back after Treasurer Wayne Swan claimed the "miaow' incident was evidence of the "rudeness and the sexism of Tony Abbott's goons".

Ms Gillard denied calling Mr Pyne a "mincing poodle" and challenged her accusers to check the Hansard record. It shows she used both words in reference to Mr Pyne but never joined them together. It was in a speech after Mr Pyne was given a promotion ahead of Mr Abbott to be then leader Malcolm Turnbull's chief parliamentary tactician and attack dog.

"In a choice between macho and mincing, I would have gone for macho myself, and obviously the Leader of the Opposition faced with the choice of doberman or poodle has gone for the poodle," the then deputy PM said.


Queensland conservatives won't support carbon tax, says LNP Leader Campbell Newman

QUEENSLAND'S Liberal National Party won't support a carbon tax unless it's part of a global push to act on climate change.

LNP leader Campbell Newman says now is not the time to be imposing a carbon tax when the nation is struggling economically. "We will not at all support a carbon tax at any time unless it's part of a global compact where everyone is on a level playing field," Mr Newman told a business conference on the Gold Coast. "These are not the things we need to do when our state and our nation is in such terrible economic times."

Mr Newman pledged to restore Queensland's AAA credit rating if his party won government at the next election, due by March 2012. "I want to take us away from being the ALP poor-house state to being the economic power house in Australia," he said. "I want Queensland to be number one. The economy will be our focus, it's the way we must go forward to generate wealth and prosperity."

He made the comments as he began to lay out his economic vision for the state.


Climate smokescreen

Henry Ergas

ROSS Garnaut's new report released this week starts with an episode of enlightenment. "I" the report opens (and suitably so, for the personal pronoun appears to be the professor's closest friend), "was explaining to the Multiparty Climate Change Committee how I had worked out the costs and benefits of reducing emissions.

"The costs come straightaway. The benefits come later. So I needed a way of comparing income now with incomes of young Australians later in their lives and who are not yet born. 'So we had to choose the right discount rate', I said.

"Then I said something that brought back the Prime Minister's attention. 'If we used the sharemarket's discount rate to value the lives of future Australians,' I said, 'and if we knew that doing something would give benefits now but cause the extinction of our species in half a century, the calculations would tell us to do it'."

Triumph! "The smile on the Prime Minister's face became a hearty laugh. 'You've got us there, Ross', she said, as the others were infected by the lift in spirits. 'That's a unanimous decision. We're all against the extinction of the human species'."

Thank God you're here, Professor Garnaut! But had Julia Gillard known any economics, she would have known the claimed demonstration makes no sense.

If an outcome is certain, its consequences should be discounted to the present at the risk-free rate, not at the market rate that has uncertainty built into it.

Moreover, if an action causes certain death, it should be assessed as costing at the very least the entire wealth of the generations affected. It should therefore be treated entirely differently from small or marginal changes in exposure to harm. Thus done properly, the standard analysis works perfectly well. But had Garnaut explained this, he would not have had his story.

And that sets the pace for the economics in this report, in which loose assertions fly thick and fast.

We are told, for example, that so as "to improve the tax system through reducing tax disincentives to work", carbon revenues should be used to substantially increase the income tax's tax-free threshold. But the inevitable consequence would be to raise effective marginal tax rates as the threshold tapers.

Indeed, although this is nowhere noted in the report, Garnaut's proposal would raise effective tax rates in the middle-income bracket by about 5 percentage points, that is by 17 per cent. Such an increase, affecting more than 60 per cent of taxpayers, would greatly reduce incentives to work and save.

Nor does the looseness end there. In discussing the resources boom, the report says that "for each new mine or gas plant, there must be a cut in jobs and investment in other businesses".

Yet that is only true if we cannot import capital and labour, as we have ever since European settlement: but here too, the vital caveat is not added, presumably for fear of spoiling a good story.

Looseness then reaches Himalayan heights in the discussion of innovation, where the report tells us that at a time of large changes in relative prices and in economic structure, private expenditure on innovation falls short of socially valuable levels by an especially large amount, so the case for public subsidy is especially strong. But this unbacked claim is inconsistent with economic theory and with a mountain of studies starting in the 1930s.

Or consider electricity networks, where the report says that "it is clear from market behaviour" that over-investment has occurred because "the rate of return that is allowed exceeds the network's cost of capital". But economists have developed powerful tests for assessing this precise issue. The report does not apply a single one of these tests to back up its airy claims, nor cite any careful studies that do.

And take the question of comparing "direct action" with market instruments such as emissions permits. Here the report is unequivocal: "Using direct action measures would raise costs much more than carbon pricing". Yet growing research shows that (in the words of leading environmental economist Ian Parry) in the presence of market imperfections, "the superiority on cost-effectiveness grounds of permit systems over technology mandates and performance standards could be overturned".

On a matter of such political sensitivity, it would have behoved the report to at least acknowledge those results; it doesn't. And it would equally have behoved it to treat the comparison between alternative policy instruments as an empirical matter; again, it doesn't.

In fact, to do so would be inconsistent with the report's style, which is to demonise its opponents. They are, it says, "spoiling voices" who live in "isolation from reality".

Unlike Garnaut, they have not "joined Jiang Zemin in reciting the Gettysburg Address with the fruit at the end of a meal"; how could they understand China's actions?

As for their arguments about what Australia should do, they do not reflect a genuinely held alternative view of the public interest: rather, theirs are "narrow interests", while Garnaut speaks for " objective truth" representing the "informed centre that has no sectional interest that leads it to oppose the national interest."

Such claims are the hallmark of a fatal pretence: the pretence of embodying the "general will" that alone can soar above the "will of each". But even putting aside their inherent flaws, these claims of disinterestedness would be more credible were the report not knee-deep in proposed wealth transfers, showering largesse on beneficiaries ranging from the solar industry to the climate scientists who have been Garnaut's vocal supporters.

Yet the best comes towards the end. Here Garnaut paints a glowing picture of 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons, whose 1865 book The Coal Question argued that Britain's dependence on coal meant "the maintenance of Britain's economic position is physically impossible". These words, Garnaut comments, "have a special resonance for Australians, as we face the same choice outlined by Jevons".

But the The Coal Question was entirely wrong. Britain did not run out of coal in 1900: indeed, it is unlikely to do so in 2100. Little wonder The Coal Question is long forgotten. Could its fate be this report's future?


Construction union hit with $560k fine

The CFMEU must pay $440,000 in penalties and costs, and $120,000 in compensation for six contractors. Herald Sun

A CONSTRUCTION union has been hit with massive $560,000 penalty for illegally blocking access to the building site of the new Melbourne wholesale fruit and vegetable market.

The building watchdog scored a win over the Construction Forestry and Mining and Energy Union in the Federal Court yesterday over a blockade of the Epping worksite in May last year.

The Federal Court endorsed a settlement between the CFMEU and the Australian Building and Construction Commission under which the union must pay $440,000 in penalties and costs, and $120,000 in compensation for six contractors.

The latest financial hit comes just over a year since the CFMEU and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union were hit with a $1.3 million penalty for their conduct during a dispute on the West Gate Bridge.

Building commissioner Leigh Johns said the Epping industrial action occurred despite injunctive orders banning the CFMEU action. "The blockade sought to force an agreement with the CFMEU instead of the Australian Workers Union," Mr Johns said. "Our industrial relations system allows employers to negotiate agreements with any union that covers their workers."

Mr Johns said union officials attempted to lure kangaroos on to the site to prevent subcontractors removing equipment. They also used cars and 44-gallon drums to restrict entry.

The industrial action continued for about a week after the Federal Court ordered the union to stop hindering access, leading to the penalties agreed on yesterday.

The State Government said the decision highlighted the culture of intimidation and coercion in parts of the building industry. "The CFMEU's history of unlawful behaviour not only promotes defiance of the rule of law, it adds enormously to the costs of construction," it said.

The CFMEU did not return calls from the Herald Sun.

Mr Johns said the decision confirmed that unions would be held to account for the economic consequences of unlawful industrial action.


2 June, 2011

In academe, the Left show the totalitarian stuff of which they are made: Larissa Behrendt revisited

Larissa Behrendt claims to be an Aborigine and pretends to wisdom about Aboriginal affairs -- but she is as pink-skinned as I am and has nothing new to offer on Aboriginal policy. She is nothing like a real Aborigine, even if she has some remote Aboriginal ancestry. She is just a conventional Leftist. She is comfortably ensconced with others of her ilk at the University of Technology, Sydney, far away from the day-to-day problems of real Aborigines. Her many awards and honours suggest that her claims of Aboriginality have served her well, however. It's so comforting to give awards to "Aborigines" who are just like us. It helps to hide the real and sad differences that need to be dealt with constructively -- JR

Janet Albrechtsen

This is about a big idea: the human right to free speech. Yet in the academic world devoted to human rights where Larissa Behrendt earns her living, free speech is often scorned. As the poster girl for urban academics, the law professor has done a first-class job of exposing the Left's lack of commitment to free speech.

Behrendt is entitled to her views. But as a high-profile indigenous academic with a long list of public appointments - professor of law and director of research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney, former chair of one of the Australian Research Council's panels that hands out taxpayer-funded research grants and so on - Behrendt is accountable for what she says and does.

If she wants to follow an out-dated agenda of postcolonial guilt, treaties and indigenous sovereignty, she is free to do so. Some will agree with her. Many others will disagree with an agenda best described by anthropologist Peter Sutton as pie-in-the-sky. They will argue that real progress depends on eradicating violence against indigenous women and children.

Yet when Behrendt tweeted that watching bestiality on television was less offensive than watching Bess Price, a strong supporter of the Northern Territory intervention, on ABC1's Q & A, Behrendt clearly rejected the merits of debate. She undermined her own credibility as a defender of human rights when she transformed an important debate about indigenous violence into something petty and personal.

Behrendt's email apology does not hide her deeper contempt for free speech when she defaulted to the Left's standard tactic of trying to muzzle those with different views. Those who stray from the orthodoxy are not just wrong, they are evil - worse than watching bestiality. Ergo, those with evil views should not be seen or heard.

And then there's the hypocrisy. Behrendt and her fellow travellers are using discrimination laws to try to shut down Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt for expressing strongly held views. Behrendt said much worse things about Price.

Just imagine the fatal career consequences had a white academic tweeted in the way Behrendt did. Defending Behrendt and her appointment to the government's review of Aboriginal higher education, chairman of the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council Steve Larkin said the tweet fiasco had nothing to do with higher education.

This is not just about a throwaway tweet. As The Australian reported on April 19 and 20, Behrendt tried to stop the National Indigenous Times from publishing the views of human rights lawyer Hannah McGlade, whose focus is protecting indigenous women and children from violence. While Behrendt said she had had no conversations with Stephen Hagan, editor of the Times, she wrote an email to the newspaper's general manager Beverley Wyner and her husband, John, which noted her distress at discovering McGlade was a likely new contributor.

In the email, Behrendt writes: ". . . I felt that this meant that our paper was giving all her views legitimacy, including her personal attacks on me." What happened to debate, Dr Behrendt?

In fact, Behrendt's disdain for free speech has everything to do with higher education. As naive as it sounds, the heartbeat of free speech should be at its healthiest within our universities. Instead, free speech risks flatlining when a professor of law ridicules and shuts down opponents. Warren Mundine told The Australian: "If you don't have free debate in academia, then where the bloody hell are we going?"

Consider this too. Since 2002, Behrendt has been a director of the Sydney Writers Festival, a cosy, taxpayer-subsidised couch where like-minded people sit and nod in agreement. At no stage has historian Keith Windschuttle been invited to talk about his contributions to history. He's been invited to the Adelaide Writers Festival, the Melbourne Writers Festival. Even Byron Bay luvvies have hosted him. But not the writers' clique in his home town.

There is a devastating human cost here. It is no coincidence that the human right to free speech is the critical driver of human progress. Progress doesn't come from sticking with the herd. In every sphere, the best ideas often challenged the mainstream. Behind every advance, there is a dissident voice, a radical idea, a genuinely curious, bravely independent mind. Yet so many on the Left, who mistakenly wrap themselves up as progressives, have little time for such voices of dissent.

As Mundine says: "This is about serious debate. Nothing could be more serious than the issues raised by Bess Price in regard to violence against women and children within our society. This really gets down to the very fabric of what our society stands for."


Damn! Aussies to be fined for swearing

I've got no dog in this fight as I very rarely swear. I can express myself pretty cuttingly without needing profane language. But some people swear all the time. Are they going to get tickets all the time? A lot will depend on how this is enforced and applied

Australians may have a love of plain speaking but new laws are set to curtail some of their more colourful language with police issuing on-the-spot fines for obnoxious swearing.
The country's second most populous state Victoria is due to approve new legislation this week under which police will be able to slap fines of up to Aus$240 (US$257) on people using offensive words or phrases.

Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark said the penalties, similar to those issued for speeding or parking illegally, would free up police time.

"This will give the police the tools they need to be able to act against this sort of obnoxious behaviour on the spot, rather than having to drag offenders off to court and take up time and money in proceedings," he said.

But even the state's top lawyer admitted to swearing sometimes. "Occasionally I mutter things under my breath as probably everybody does," he told ABC radio. "But this law is not targeted at that, it's targeted at the sort of obnoxious, offensive behaviour in public that makes life unpleasant for everybody else."


Prominent State politician under fire for disrespecting Warmist scientists

THE state government's whip in the upper house, Peter Phelps, has been accused of likening scientists to Nazis in a speech to Parliament.

In an address attacking global warming, Dr Phelps said it should not be forgotten that "some of the strongest supporters of totalitarian regimes in the last century have been scientists". "We should not be so surprised that the contemporary science debate has become so debased," Dr Phelps, pictured, said. "At the heart of many scientists - but not all scientists - lies the heart of a totalitarian planner."

He once compared the former army officer and federal Labor MP Mike Kelly to the guards at a concentration camp. Dr Phelps was chief-of-staff to the then special minister of state Gary Nairn in 2007 when he accused Mr Kelly of using the Nuremberg defence, like the guards at the Belsen concentration camp.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Dr Phelps quoted an unidentified writer whom he described as "speaking about the rise of Nazism" and its similarity to "scientists agitating for a scientific organisation of society".

Dr Phelps then went on to say: "One can see them now, beavering away, alone, unknown, in their laboratories. "Now, through the great global warming swindle, they can influence policy, they can set agendas, they can reach into everyone's lives; they can, like Lenin, proclaim what must be done."

The Greens MP John Kaye said Dr Phelps had created "a massive political headache" for Barry O'Farrell. "The Premier can either dissociate himself from the remarks made by his whip in the upper house or forever be a party to the most virulent science-denying libel yet seen in the climate debate," Dr Kaye said.

The Labor MP Luke Foley said Dr Phelps had not learnt from his earlier mistakes. "In the 2007 federal election campaign, Peter Phelps became an infamous figure nationally when he compared Mike Kelly to a Nazi concentration camp guard," Mr Foley said.

"The then Howard government was forced to apologise for Dr Phelps's outrageous comments but he hasn't learnt his lesson and he's back, likening scientists who report the facts on global warming to Nazi propagandists."

Dr Phelps last night denied he was likening scientists to Nazis. "This is not an issue of Nazism or Communism but an unhealthy relationship between scientists and governments that can lead to totalitarianism," Dr Phelps said.

A spokesman for the Premier declined to comment.


Sydney peace prize discredits itself even further

IN A move likely to spark another annual round of healthy controversy, the veteran American linguist, social scientist and human rights campaigner Noam Chomsky was named 2011 winner of the Sydney Peace Prize last night.

Professor Chomsky said he was honoured by the award, whose previous recipients include the South African cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Palestinian activist Hanan Ashwari and the Australian journalist John Pilger.

In recent weeks the 82-year-old has been one of America's most-hated men, subjected to "obscenities, intellectual hysteria and death threats" over remarks following the shooting of Osama bin Laden.

The al-Qaeda leader's crimes, he wrote, were vastly exceeded by those of the former president George Bush. "We might ask how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at his compound, assassinated him and dumped his body in the Atlantic."

Professor Chomsky said the ill-considered American operation had pushed the world to the brink of war, possibly even nuclear war. "The commandos who violated Pakistani sovereignty were given orders to fight their way out if necessary. They risked coming into confrontation with the Pakistani army.

"In a society barely hanging together, the military is very stable, very professional. They are dedicated to the defence of Pakistan, which is probably the fastest-growing nuclear power in the world. If confronted it will fight."

Professor Chomsky restated his opposition to war in Afghanistan, where two Australian soldiers died this week. "Americans and Britons, too, are dying … in fact, to make the world more [not less] dangerous for the United States and Britain. And I'd say for the rest of the world."

The announcement of the prize-winner was made by the NSW governor, Marie Bashir. The citation praised his unfailing courage, critical analysis of power and promotion of human rights.

Stuart Rees, the director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, said, "Chomsky is one of the West's most influential intellectuals in the cause of peace, the most significant challenger of unjust power."

Professor Chomsky, who receives a $50,000 prize and a hand-made glass trophy, will fly to Australia in November to deliver the City of Sydney Peace Prize lecture and attend a gala dinner at Sydney University.

He has visited Australia before, 15 years ago, when he delivered lectures about East Timor refugees at the invitation of the leader, Jose Ramos Horta. This time, he says he hopes to spend more time, catching up with friends, meeting fellow activists, enjoying Sydney's enviable lifestyle.

Meanwhile, he said, peace remained a distant prospect in a world torn apart with wars unnoticed, such as that in the eastern Congo, and wars unwinnable, such as that in Afghanistan.


1 June, 2011

Government is the partner of organized crime

By Michael Duffy and Bob Bottom.

We have just finished a 21-part history of organised crime in Sydney, for a series to be published in the Herald's new iPad edition. Most organised crime took place in the 20th century, and naturally we found ourselves pondering why.

What we found is that much of it emerged following the introduction of laws banning popular pleasures. America is famous for one big Prohibition: we had a lot of smaller ones.

What happens is that illegal markets are set up to provide the banned goods and services such as drugs and alcohol or gambling and prostitution. The volume of these illegal transactions is enormous, making it profitable for organisational entrepreneurs to move in. They take two forms: the efficient businessmen, such as Abe Saffron and George Freeman, and the standover men who in effect “tax” the illegal businesses, and give permission for them to stay open. Perhaps Sydney's most famous standover man was Lennie McPherson, known in some circles as Mr Big and in others as Mr Ten Per Cent.

One example of this pattern was the 1916 Liquor Act, which made the sale of alcohol illegal after 6pm. It was to assist with wartime productivity, but was not repealed until long after World War II. It spawned dozens of illegal bars around the city catering to everyone desperate for a drink in convivial surroundings after dark. People prepared to supply them, whether Kate Leigh with her sly grog joints in Surry Hills or Joe Taylor's and Saffron's celebrity nightclubs later on, became very wealthy.

You can track the rise and fall of a great deal of organised crime against the legislative history of popular pleasures, with a decline as laws were introduced legalising prostitution and extending drinking hours, and with the creation (and later the extension) of the TAB and the setting up of NSW's first legal casino, Star City, in 1995.

The nature of the illegal pleasures shapes the nature of the organised crime that arises to provide them. Drugs are unusual, historically, because they are not sold or consumed at a relatively small number of locations. This means dealers are harder to locate and tax, making it impossible for standover men to impose a certain amount of stability on the underworld. The profits are enormous and easy, which attracts a continual stream of psychopaths into the milieu to try to rip off those already there.

For these reasons, the drug underworld is far more volatile and violent than the old underworld based on alcohol and gambling and prostitution. The days when McPherson, Freeman and Stan Smith could pretty well run the underworld for decades are long gone.

A final difference is drugs are used by a relatively small number of people. This means police and politicians are far less prepared to take bribes – an important factor in the decline of corruption in recent decades.

What does history tell us about measures that work against organised crime? The biggest success in Sydney was in 1930, in response to the violence of the razor gangs involved in cocaine and other illegal trades. Parliament passed the NSW Vagrancy (Amendment) Act, which made it illegal to be seen habitually with reputed criminals or people with no visible means of support.

Alfred McCoy, in his book Drug Traffic, calls this “one of the most authoritarian and effective measures against organised crime ever passed in a Western democracy”. Police numbers were increased and it became illegal to carry a razor. Within months the level of violence dropped. It took longer – about five years – but the cocaine trade was crushed.

The laws were draconian, but according to McCoy, “In the small-town atmosphere of Sydney in the 1930s it was generally understood who the targets were to be, and there were few abuses of these exceptional powers and fewer civil libertarian qualms.”

Would the law be acceptable today? Justice James Wood noted, during his Police Royal Commission in the 1990s, that the law gave police such extraordinary powers that it eventually became “an instrument for corruption and for the establishment of improper relationships”.

Still, harsher laws can work. One great example of this is America's RICO legislation, which allows someone to be sentenced to a long jail term if they are a member of an organisation that has committed any two of 35 designated crimes. The law has been particularly useful in locking up large numbers of criminal bosses. Writer Evan Whitton has urged NSW to consider such a law, and we think the idea deserves serious consideration.


Crash site 'did not exist', according to arrogant ambulance operator

Ambulance Victoria has apologised to a triple-0 caller who was told by an emergency operator that the crash site he was calling from "did not exist".

Peter Rennie was driving along the Daylesford-Ballarat Road at Dean, about 20 kilometres north-east of Ballarat, when he came across a car that had smashed into a tree on May 23. Another motorist stayed with the injured woman who was trapped inside the vehicle while Mr Rennie ran to the nearest corner - the intersection with Dean-Mollongghip Road - to call an ambulance.

He spelt out the road sign to the operator over his mobile phone, only to be told his location didn't exist. "I didn't know how to pronounce it so I spelt it out right from the start," Mr Rennie told the Ballarat Courier. "When I spoke to an operator, I was told there was nowhere in Victoria called Dean.

"I couldn't believe it. I said the system had no idea, and then I was told to check my attitude. "I said to them: 'What do we do? Do we leave this poor woman in the car to die?' " He said the operator finally found the location and sent an ambulance, before hanging up.

Ambulance Victoria spokesman Paul Howe today said the organisation had reviewed a recording of the exchange, and had apologised to Mr Rennie. He said the operator had been "dismissive" of the caller, and would receive further training in light of the mix-up. "It was purely a human error on the call-taker side and, listening to it, it clearly wasn't handled by the book," Mr Howe said.

"We didn't follow the correct protocols and we apologised to the person who made the call."

Mr Howe said he believed the tense exchange between the operator and Mr Rennie lasted minutes. "I don't believe that it was a long time, but clearly in a stressful situation anything that's going to add any anxiety or distress is not ideal, and that's what we're certainly apologising for in this case," he said.

"We've got pretty rigorous systems here, we take call-taking seriously. Obviously having over 750,000 calls a year, we investigate any complaints and we also have random audits of calls to make sure that we're following correct procedures."

He said the woman involved in the car crash was not seriously injured and was taken to Ballarat Hospital in a stable condition.



Four current articles below

Climate report an assault on democracy, says Abbott

TONY Abbott has rejected the latest climate change report from economist Ross Garnaut as an assault on democracy, warning that it proposes to give a committee of unelected appointees the power to set tax rates.

As the Opposition Leader yesterday complained of a "democratic deficit" over Labor's proposed carbon tax, Julia Gillard noted the report rejected Mr Abbott's proposal to tackle climate change through direct action measures such as planting trees.

Delivering his final climate change update report at the National Press Club yesterday, Professor Garnaut said the direct action approach risked entrenching the political culture of vested interests that had resisted economic reform for eight decades.

"The big rewards in low-emissions investments in regulatory approaches would go to those who persuaded the minister or the bureaucrat that their idea was worthy of being included in the direct action plan," he said.

"If not under the government that introduced the direct action policies then under the governments that followed."

In his report, Professor Garnaut proposed the establishment of an independent committee to set Australia's carbon emission reduction levels -- a proposal that could break the deadlock preventing Labor from winning Greens' support for the tax.

Mr Abbott seized on the proposal, warning it would put the power to set tax rates out of the hands of accountable politicians.

"There is a developing democratic deficit here," he said. "First of all the Prime Minister wasn't upfront with the Australian public before the election. Now the idea that taxes in this country should effectively be set by people who are outside the parliament, and who are not accountable to the people, I think, is just odd.

"This just goes to show how out of control the government is on this whole climate change question."

Later, the Opposition Leader continued his attack in question time, noting that the report said: "Australian households will ultimately bear the full cost of a carbon price".

"So how can (the Prime Minister) continue to maintain that her tax only makes big polluters pay?" Mr Abbott asked parliament. "Who pays? Big polluters or households? The truth is: households."

Ms Gillard accused Mr Abbott of misrepresenting the report, and hit back by pointing out that the report criticised Mr Abbott's direct action policy.


No pain, no gain: compensation vitiates carbon tax

"Compensation" means that the tax will not have the effect that is its only justification!

ANYONE who thinks the proposed carbon tax is mainly about the environment is mistaken. That may have been where the debate started. But due to political pressure on the minority government, it has morphed into an exercise in wealth redistribution, not environmental action. And Labor has many environmental groups and advocates fooled.

Because Labor can't afford to lose seats at the next election (in fact, it needs to win seats to gain a majority), but also has to be seen to be doing something as a government, it is trying to convince voters it is acting on the environment while also compensating them for that action to a point where the action itself becomes meaningless.

Cate Blanchett is a fine actor, and as Coalition MPs have said -- before launching scathing attacks on her -- she is certainly entitled to her opinion. Blanchett is also entitled to use her hard-earned fame to spruik ideas and policy positions that matter to her. And the third parties that have funded the pro-carbon-tax campaign Blanchett is part of -- GetUp, the ACTU and the Australian Conservation Foundation -- are entitled to approach her to help.

There is nothing wrong with such campaigns. After all, the miners campaigned against the super-profits tax, and retailers and the tobacco industry are campaigning against plain packaging of cigarettes. What's wrong with individuals doing the same?

What I question, however, is the value of Blanchett taking part in a campaign aimed at convincing ordinary voters of the carbon tax's merits. I am not sure an actor of her international standing is the best person to front a campaign that affects the cost of living. It contrasts sharply with the very impressive campaign against Work Choices the union movement organised with voices from real workers under threat from the Howard government's laws in the lead-up to the 2007 election.

For that matter, I wonder whether Blanchett has thought things through. Blanchett is no dummy. She completed a degree in economics before deciding acting was her calling. However, the logical thinking necessary for an economics degree seems to have deserted Blanchett on this matter.

She has been blinded by her passion for environmental action on climate change. Consider the interview she gave yesterday to a rival newspaper.

Blanchett said "everyone will benefit if we protect the environment". Yes, but does a carbon tax do that? It won't if it causes no fiscal pain to consumers, because the whole point of a carbon tax is that it creates a price pressure on the use of dirty energy, thereby encouraging consumers and businesses to change their ways.

But Blanchett also wants to be the people's princess -- in the interview she said her support for a carbon tax was conditional on "generous assistance" for low- and middle-income earners. She has fallen for the trickery of the carbon tax and her own attempt to stay popular when advocating it.

Take with one hand (carbon tax), give with the other (compensation). The result? No price pressure or incentive for people to change their energy use.

Make no mistake, when the carbon tax is applied to businesses, they will pass on that cost to consumers to maintain their profitability. Consumers will tolerate that price rise if they are rich, and go on burning energy but simply pay more. Mainstream voters and the disadvantaged will secure generous compensation from the government (don't believe Tony Abbott when he says otherwise), which will allow them to keep consuming dirty energy without changing their ways.

The government may claim there is pricing pressure, regardless of compensation, because polluting companies will have to raise prices, but the carbon tax would have to be much higher to have a real effect.

What does all of this add up to: wealth redistribution with little impact on the environment unless the compensation is rescinded and consumers are thereby forced to change their ways -- or unless the price on carbon goes up quickly and the compensation packages don't.


"Eco" resort bombs

It got all sorts of awards -- from everybody except paying customers. Nice when Green/Left elitists feel in their hip pocket how out of touch they are

THE Gold Coast's embattled tourism industry has copped another blow with multi-award-winning eco-tourism retreat Couran Cove Island Resort closing its doors.

Hailed as a benchmark tourism facility when it opened 13 years ago, the South Stradbroke Island resort is to be placed into voluntary liquidation. Its owner, InterPacific Group, yesterday announced that it was putting the resort up for sale after a "sustained period of low occupancy" and years of operating at a "considerable loss".

Staff have been laid off, with those eligible provided with redundancy payments and full entitlements. It is understood a skeleton crew has been retained to maintain the sporting and eco-friendly resort's facilities.

In a statement, InterPacific said that, although Couran Cove had stopped operating as a resort, its facilities would remain accessible to owners of the private residences within the resort.

"Over the past 13 years, considerable time, energy and money has been invested to create the premium resort Couran Cove is today," it said. "However, this hasn't been enough to combat a volatile global economy, weak local tourism conditions, a lack of industry support and rising operating and infrastructure costs.

"The resort has been operating at a considerable loss for a number of years and, sadly, despite our best efforts, this is an unsustainable position for any business operation. "This is the most sensible course of action for the business and its shareholders."

Couran Cove's development on a 151ha site was spearheaded by former Olympic runner Ron Clarke before he was elected Gold Coast mayor. Billionaire American philanthropist Chuck Feeney, who bankrolled the project but later had a falling-out with Cr Clarke, reportedly has been propping up the resort - pouring $283 million into it since 1998.

InterPacific is owned by Mr Feeney's Bermuda-based charity foundation Atlantic Philanthropies.

Corporate doctors Ferrier Hodgson will be appointed liquidators today to facilitate its sale.

Industry sources said InterPacific had been unsuccessfully trying to offload the South Stradbroke Island resort for several years.

The resort has won more than 50 domestic and international awards for excellence.


Global cooling hits South Australia

ANYONE shivering in Adelaide this morning had good reason to do so it is the coldest start to June on record. Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Vince Rowlands said the minimum temperature was a chilly 3.7C at 7.24am at Kent Town on the first day of winter. "I think it's the coldest start to a June that we've ever had at Kent Town," Mr Rowlands said.

Elsewhere around the state the mercury dropped to -2.7C in Yunta, -1.3C in Renmark, -1C in Clare and Coonawarra was -0.6C.

"Around Adelaide itself, Elizabeth got down to 4C, as far as the Hills go, Mt Lofty stayed a touch warmer because of the winds but I'd certainly expect the back of the Ranges to be pretty cold Murray Bridge got down to 1C," he said.

Mr Rowlands said the cold was to be expected with winter. "Obviously the atmosphere is a lot colder and then we get the really clear nights like we've had over the last couple of days, there's nothing stopping the heat from escaping into the atmosphere and we get these really cold conditions."


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