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

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


31 March, 2015

Harmless pesticide still used in Australia -- ozone "hole"  regardless

In their role as sand in the gears of civilization, Greenies constantly find reasons to ban useful chemicals,  making pest and weed control difficult and raising costs.  We need therefore to look at where a ban is really needed.  In this case the reason for the ban is a laugh.  Methyl bromide was banned because it allegedly harmed the ozone layer. 

But even though the ozone layer "protections" were put in place long ago, the "hole" in the ozone layer waxes and wanes as it always did.  The "protections" have protected nothing. The ozone "hole" is now properly regarded as just another failed Greenie scare.  Although official meteorological records of the "hole" are no doubt still available, nobody I know even bothers to track it anymore. 

So the ban on Methyl bromide should in fact now be lifted completely -- giving farmers and others a colorless, odorless, nonflammable fumigant to use, where appropriate

About 70 per cent of Australian strawberries are being grown on runners that have been fumigated with an environmentally damaging pesticide that has been banned around the world.

Methyl bromide is an odourless and colourless gas which was banned under the United Nations Montreal Protocol in 1989 because it depletes the ozone layer.

Australia agreed to phase it out by 2005 but a decade later, nine strawberry runner growers at Toolangi, in Victoria's Yarra Valley, are still using nearly 30 tonnes a year.

They produce 100 million strawberry runners annually, which in turn generate about 70 per cent of Australian strawberries.

Each year they apply to the UN for a critical use exemption from the ban, claiming the alternatives are financially crippling.

The co-chair of the UN Methyl Bromide Technical Options committee, Dr Ian Porter, said the situation was frustrating.

"Internationally, we've gotten rid of 85 per cent of methyl bromide, and it's a great win for mankind — in fact it's the best environmental gain that's been made," he said.

"[The strawberry runner growers] want to get rid of it, but there's a responsibility to provide high-health runners for the industry.

"It's frustrating ... but we don't want industries to fall over economically or technically. We don't want more disease or pests in Australia."

Environmental Justice Australia said it was concerned the growers were using a loophole to continue their use of methyl bromide.

"I think if people did know more about this issue, they'd be very concerned that the strawberries they're consuming are contributing to this significant environmental issue," chief executive Brendan Sydes said.

"There was a commitment to phase out this chemical by 2005 and yet, despite that, we're continuing to use it in this industry. It's a real concern.

"I think it's a real failure of the industry to come up with some alternative methods of producing strawberry runners, but also of the government to insist on compliance with this important regulatory regime."

Prices would increase to $10 a punnet: industry

The strawberry growers said if they were forced to stop using methyl bromide, the viability of the $400 million strawberry industry would be "compromised" and 15,000 jobs jeopardised.

The industry estimated their costs could soar by 500 per cent if they were to switch to soilless growing systems, similar to those used in parts of Europe.

The runner industry has invested more than $700,000 on research and development to find alternatives to methyl bromide.

That cost would be passed on to consumers, and a punnet of strawberries could end up costing more than $10.

"You imagine turning 100 hectares immediately into glass houses, and the impact that would have," Dr Porter said.

"It's just not the least bit economical at this stage.

"It's tough to weigh up economics, it's one of our challenges. Will consumers pay $10 a punnet? I don't know."


Banks oppose the federal deposits tax plan

Taxing people's savings?  Even though they have already paid tax on the money when they earned it?

AUSTRALIA'S banks and credit unions want the federal government to scrap plans for a tax on bank deposits.

THE bank deposits insurance levy is likely to be unveiled in the May budget as part of a move to raise $500 million a year.
Sources have told the Australian Financial Review the coalition government would proceed with a bank tax, a tax first proposed by Labor ahead of the 2013 election.

Labor had proposed a 0.05 per cent levy on every deposit of up to $250,000.

The Australian Banker's Association (ABA), which represents 23 banks operating locally, said the tax would hurt savers and self-funded retirees already struggling with low interest rates.

"Millions of Australians, including many self-funded retirees, rely on their savings to fund their current and future prosperity and they should not be punished by a new tax," ABA chief executive Steven Munchenberg said.  "The levy (plan) should be scrapped."

The ABA said banks would have to pass on the costs to customers, adding that it had opposed the deposit levy when the Rudd government proposed the idea during the election campaign.

The ABA released a report on Friday arguing that the banks paid $13 billion in taxes to Australian governments in 2014, including $11 billion in company tax.

The Customer Owned Banking Association, which represents credit unions and building societies, also wants the government to dump the idea.

"This is a tax on the savings of ordinary Australians," the group's chief executive Mark Degotardi said.

He noted that a month before the 2013 election, Treasurer Joe Hockey had described such a tax as "not good public policy".


Liberal Party the big winner with Chinese voters after NSW Labor and unions ‘racist’ campaign backfires

Leftists are racist or anti-racist as it suits them.  They have no lasting principles

LABOR and the unions’ “racist” campaign against Chinese investment in the state’s electricity network is being blamed for a swing towards the Liberal Party in seats such as Oatley, in Sydney’s southwest, that have substantial Chinese populations.

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey described the anti-Chinese scaremongering of Labor and the unions as “backdoor xenophobia”.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union began TV ads last Monday warning that leasing 49 per cent of the electricity to a foreign country was “just not on”.

The union also said the NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance was having “secret” meetings with representatives of the Chinese government over the leasing plan.

Mr Hockey said yesterday the campaign against Chinese investment in the state’s publicly-owned poles and wires network was an example of “backdoor xenophobia that Australians hate”.

“There was an element of xenophobia and racism involved in the NSW Labor campaign that I have not seen in more than 20 years in politics,” Mr Hockey said.

“It was outrageous for a mainstream party to engage in the racism that the Labor Party engaged in.”

During the campaign, Opposition Leader Luke Foley said he did not trust the Foreign Investment Review Board to protect NSW residents in the event of a power sale to Chinese interests.

Mr Foley also said Chinese investment could present a security risk and claimed ASIO would be interested in it.

Despite the widespread ­opposition to Labor and the unions’ scaremongering, Mr Foley defended Labor’s campaign yesterday.

“My view is the very large swing to Labor – 9 per cent swing, a 14-seat lift – was based in part on the unpopularity of Mr Baird’s privatisation policy,” he said. “I also presented a swag of other policies to the electorate – positive plans.

“I said on day one I would lead a party of policies, never a mere party of protest, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

But senior Liberal sources said the strongest gains in Oatley were in booths with a high Chinese population.

A senior Liberal source said the union-Labor campaign had been grossly offensive to voters of Chinese descent.

“If you are Chinese, or of Chinese descent, a small business person, or a professional person in Oatley, and you saw that being played out, not only is it offensive culturally, and racially, but it is just stupid,” the source said.

But a Labor source claimed the anti-Chinese scare tactics did not affect the Oatley result, instead putting Mr Coure’s remarkable win down to the fact that he is a hugely popular local member.

“He was the only MP in focus groups that people could name,” the Labor Party source said yesterday. “He is extremely well-known and very popular.”

The electorate of Oatley in southern Sydney takes in the suburbs of Hurstville, Penshurst, Oatley and Mortdale.

With a swing of 3.1 per cent, it was one of five seats that swung towards the Liberals, the others being East Hills (0.8 per cent), Drummoyne (2.7 per cent), Seven Hills (0.6 per cent) and Parramatta (2.2 per cent).


Sacked Queensland MP Billy Gordon won’t resign as chaos grips government

Aborigines tend to be feckless but Mr Gordon's behaviour is worse than most.  Even his own mother feared him

THE Premier is putting her leadership on the line to get rid of him but the criminal MP who could crash Queensland is refusing to budge in a bid for “natural justice”.

Just two months after narrowly negotiating power over the state by forming a minority government with the support of an independent MP, the Labor Party has been thrown into crisis with Cooke MP Billy Gordon’s criminal history threatening to derail the government.

The rookie MP was one of the stars of the January election which saw Labor claw back power after being spectacularly thrown out in the previous vote.

His win was celebrated by the party as the vote saw him installed as one of the party’s two first indigenous parliamentarians.

But at the weekend there was no cause for celebration as Mr Gordon admitted to a string of undeclared criminal offences, including a violence order, leading a “shocked” and “appalled” Ms Palaszczuk to give him the boot.


The furious Premier was forced on Friday night to refer Mr Gordon to police amid allegations he abused a former partner during their relationship a decade ago.

It was also revealed he had concealed a string of criminal offences, admitting only to a 1987 juvenile offence of breaking and stealing and two driving disqualifications during his preselection process, and twice signed a form saying he had nothing more to declare.

In a statement, Mr Gordon admitted to “serious contact with the criminal justice system”, and said his issues ranged from failure to lodge tax returns, failure to pay appropriate child support and most significantly allegations of domestic violence.

In his statement issued yesterday the troubled MP said there were no excuses for his behaviour, but did make reference to his difficult childhood.

“Throughout my life I have had to overcome many challenges and adversities. In particular as a young indigenous boy,” he said.

“Growing up in a family that had its challenges and was far from perfect were both my mother and father struggled daily to keep the family together.”

Some of his admissions include:

 *  Breaking, entering and stealing in 1987 in Innisfail.

 *  Breaking and entering with intent, attempted breaking and entering and stealing in 1990 in Atherton.

 *  Breach of probation in 1992 in Atherton.

 *  Public nuisance in 1996 in Normanton.

 *  Breach of bail conditions in 1999 (stemming from not attending a court summons from the 1996 incident).

 *  Twice had driver’s licence suspended for unlicensed driving (2004 and 2008).

In relation to a 2008 Apprehended Violence Order, Mr Gordon admitted he was served the order as a result of a complaint by his mother, but as it was not heard in court it did not form part of his criminal history.

“My mother at the time was concerned that I was going to return to a relationship with an ex-partner (we were at said ex-partner’s residence) and I asked her to leave in a manner that she found threatening,” he said.  “My mother has confirmed to me that there were no allegations of physical violence made with respect to this incident.”

Mr Gordon said he had “managed to piece together a positive and constructive life” from his “troubled and fractured past”.

Annastacia Palaszczuk has put her government on the line by sacking first-time MP Billy Gordon from the Labor Party.

She is also demanding Mr Gordon’s resignation from the parliament so a by-election can be held in his Far North Queensland seat — but that decision is up to him.

If Labor were to lose that contest to the Liberal National Party, both parties would be left with 43 seats.


Miners agree on new national park for WA’s Kimberley region, Australia's biggest

A new national park that will be the biggest in Australia is set to be created in Western Australia's Kimberley region after two major mining companies relinquished their tenements.

Rio Tinto and Alcoa Australia have given up their rights to mine the Mitchell Plateau in the north-west of the Kimberley, a region of significant biological diversity, encompassing spectacular gorges and waterfalls.

Premier Colin Barnett said on Tuesday he would introduce legislation into WA Parliament to terminate a State Agreement which would have seen an alumina refinery and bauxite mine allowed in the region.

The spectacular Mitchell Falls are located on the remote Plateau, which will be protected under a new agreement.
The spectacular Mitchell Falls are located on the remote Plateau, which will be protected under a new agreement. Photo: Adam Monk
"This is the most significant conservation achievement in WA's history," he said.

The proposal will allow more than 175,000 hectares of land on the Mitchell Plateau to be protected.

"The new national park will encompass the existing Prince Regent, Mitchell River and Lawley River national parks and will become Australia's biggest national park," he said.

Mr Barnett said the termination of the Alumina Refinery (Mitchell Plateau) Agreement 1971 would include the Mitchell Plateau in the proposed Kimberley National Park which would extend more than two million hectares and be surrounded on its coastal boundary by new marine parks.

"The Mitchell Plateau and the Mitchell Falls are spectacular and unique landscapes in Australia and will be the jewels in the crown of the new Kimberley National Park," he said.

"I am delighted that thanks to this agreement, this extraordinary landscape will now be conserved."

Previous agreements between the state government and the miners were intended to facilitate the development of bauxite mining and an alumina refinery on the Mitchell Plateau, when economic conditions were favourable.

Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh said the miner had taken notice of significant changes in public attitudes towards mining and the environment.  "We need to move with the times," Mr Walsh said.

It's expected that numerous endangered animals in the region, such as the northern quoll, the rough-scaled python and various turtles, will have a greater chance of survival with the creation of the park.

Environment Minister Albert Jacob said the government's Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy was delivering more resources for the protection of the Kimberley than ever before.

"The strategy involves the creation of almost five million hectares of interconnected marine and national parks across the Kimberley, which will support the delivery of research and on ground conservation work to protect the region's unique plants and animals," Mr Jacob said.

"This is also generating employment opportunities for Aboriginal communities and supporting environmentally sensitive nature-based tourism."

The government announced it would continue to work with the traditional owners in the area, the Dambimangari, Wunambal-Gaambera and Wilinggin, to create and jointly manage the proposed Kimberley National Park.


30 March, 2015

Infantile Greenies and the "threatened" future of a pretty Tasmanian parrot

The article below is from the environmental writer at the Australian far-Left "New Matilda" magazine so its truthfulness cannot be assumed  -- but the interesting thing is the approach of the article. It is typical of "stop everything" environmentalism.  It offers no compromise and no middle way.  Instead of assisting informed decision-making it just does its best to build a roadblock to action. 

In those circumstances, if there are foolish decisions made about environmental matters the Greens are partly responsible for that.  Most of Tasmmania is locked up under environmental regulations so there has been no balance at all so far.  The voters have clearly grown tired of that and gave Tasmania's conservatives an unprecedented clear victory in the last State election.  The conservatives are now doing what they were elected to do -- unlock some of the locked-off areas.  It would be so much better if they could do it in a consultative way with all parties -- but compromise is unknown to Greenies.  "We want it all" is their juvenile cry. 

A more mature Greenie response to what the voters have clearly asked for would be to suggest alternative areas that could be opened up that did not threaten environmental harm.  But in a long article (only partially excerpted below) there was no whisper of that.  They are emotional toddlers

Concerns over the Abbott government’s plans to “deregulate” the environment and give up much of its environmental powers to the states found a compelling voice this week, as revelations emerged that the Tasmanian government approved logging in contravention of expert advice, knowingly pushing an endangered bird much closer to extinction.

It’s the sort of industry-first approach that environmental lawyers and conservationists are concerned could become far more common under the federal government’s so-called ‘One Stop Shop’ reforms.

The policy would drastically diminish the federal environment minister’s portfolio and see state governments - which stand to gain much more from big developments, mining, and forestry - vested with assessment and approval powers over matters of national environmental significance.

The government says the ‘One Stop Shop’ will cut red tape without a drop in environmental standards but documents obtained by Environment Tasmania under freedom of information laws, released earlier week, have raised serious questions over the state’s commitment to conservation.

The Hodgman government has approved the logging of at least three out of five areas of forest which provide key breeding habitat for the endangered Swift Parrot, it was revealed, despite repeated advice from experts that it will hasten the species’ already steep decline to extinction.

“Conservation objectives for the species at the [local] and regional scales will not be met” if the areas are logged, scientists within Tasmania’s environment department warned.

Less than 1,000 breeding pairs of Swift Parrot remain. Each year the bird undertakes the longest known migration of any parrot, to breed on the east coast of Tasmania.

The areas the Tasmanian government has now approved for logging are high-quality nesting habitat that are known to host large numbers of the just 2,000 remaining individuals during breeding season.

Cutting down forests in this breeding habitat, scientists within the department warn in one email, “will result in the continued loss of breeding habitat that has been identified as being of very high importance for the species with the further fragmentation of foraging habitat”.

“This cannot contribute to the long term survival of the species.”

Put simply, “there is no scientific evidence to support the position that continued harvesting of breeding habitat will support conservation objectives for the species”.

Ordinarily, where matters of national environmental significance such as threatened species are involved, the federal Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act would be triggered and the Commonwealth government would be tasked with ensuring conservation outcomes are met.

For the Swift Parrot, though, there was no federal safeguard.

The Tasmanian government was allowed to issue the approvals, and ignore the expert advice, because of a deal with the federal government, known as the Regional Forestry Agreement (RFA).

It’s a deal that is remarkably similar to the wholesale hand-over of powers the Abbott government is pursuing through its One Stop Shop reform.


A solid win for the conservatives in NSW

The Coalition is on track to win 53 seats, with Labor set to secure 34 and the Greens appearing likely to win four.

Just 20 minutes earlier, Opposition Leader Luke Foley addressed the Labor Party faithful at the Catholic Club in Lidcombe to concede defeat at 9:20pm and was full of praise for his political opponent. "Mike Baird took over the leadership of the Liberal Party and the Government when his Government had entered very stormy waters and he steered the ship to safety," he said.

"He is a formidable opponent. He's at the peak of his popularity. He's also an honourable opponent. "Right through this campaign Mike Baird and I have both ensured that it was never personal.  "I want to thank Mike for the way he's conducted himself during the course of this campaign."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the result showed voters were willing to embrace reform.  "It certainly did show that if the people understand the nature of the reform and people understand the problem, then they'll be happy to be part of the solution," she said.

"And I think, given the outcome in Victoria and the outcome in Queensland, there was a sense that the Australian people weren't ready for reform.

"Well, this has proven that that is not the case and that people are understanding of the challenges that can come from an economy that was, quite frankly under Labor, in the doldrums."


Australia to sign up to China-led Bank

Australia will join the club of more than 30 countries negotiating the set-up of a $100 billion China-led development bank.

After holding out for months, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Sunday that Australia intends to sign up to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

China is promoting the bank as a vehicle to help combat an estimated $8 trillion infrastructure gap in the region over the next decade, but the US has reservations about the venture.

Signing on before Tuesday's deadline allows Australia to participate as a prospective founding member in negotiations to set up the bank.

Mr Abbott says key matters to be resolved include its board of directors having authority over major investment decisions, and that no one country controls the bank.

But he says good progress has been made on the bank's design, governance and transparency in the past few months.

Treasurer Joe Hockey says infrastructure upgrades in Asia, funded by the bank's loans, would benefit Australian exporters and commodities in the medium to long term.

"We could massively increase our exports of iron ore to India if there were better port facilities," he told reporters in Tasmania.

Australia wanted similar governance positions to other multi-lateral banks.

Mr Hockey said the UK, Germany, Italy and France's interest had helped sway the decision.

Those countries joined the queue to sign up after Beijing reportedly dropped its veto power over the bank.  "(It) has been encouraging for Australia to know that it truly is a global organisation," Mr Hockey said.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said it was imperative that Australia was at the table because improved infrastructure would help drive growth and demand in Asia Pacific countries.

Federal Labor accused the government of dithering on the issue for too long.  "I think it's important to be confident about the institutional arrangements of the bank, but the best way to do that is through engagement with China," Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek told reporters in Sydney.

Russia and the Netherlands also signed up to the bank this weekend.

Australia will miss a meeting in Kazakhstan early this week because it has not yet signed a memorandum of understanding.  There will be another two rounds of discussions on the bank's structure and governance before countries will formally sign on.

There's speculation Australia might invest up to $3 billion in the venture.

The Australia China Business Council said the bank was an excellent opportunity to help shape the region's future.


How rogue union milked the workers and gave it to the ALP

A FORMER High Court judge has found serious union wrongdoing in the Queensland building industry and recommended criminal charges against a union boss with strong links to the Palaszczuk Government.

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption found there were bribes, extortion, secret commissions and “other unlawful payments’’ involving members of the CFMEU, a powerful union and Labor backer whose members in Queensland include Police Minister Jo-Ann Miller and Jim Pearce, the Member for Mirani.

There were no suggestions of impropriety by Miller or Pearce although Justice John Dyson Heydon’s interim report to Parliament was scathing against their union.

“The evidence indicates that a number of Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union officials seek to conduct their affairs with a deliberate disregard for the rule of law,’’ Heydon said.

“That evidence is suggestive of the existence of a pervasive and unhealthy culture within the CFMEU, under which the law is to be deliberately evaded, or crashed through as an irrelevance.’’

He said union officials “prefer to lie rather than reveal the truth and betray the union”.

“The reputations of those who speak out about union wrongdoing become the subject of baseless slurs and vilification,’’ Heydon said.

He recommended criminal charges against key CFMEU officials including Queensland secretary Michael Ravbar, a personal friend of several unionists who are now members of Parliament.


29 March, 2015

Citizenship classes ‘anti-Western’

School students will be taught that Australian citizenship “means different things to different people” in a national civics curriculum that was criticised yesterday for its polit­ically correct tone. Kevin Don­nelly, the education academic who co-chaired the Abbott govern­ment’s national curriculum review, complained yesterday of an “anti-Western bias’’ in schools, citing a history textbook that tells students to compare medieval Christian Crusaders to the 9/11 ­Islamic terrorists who attacked the World Trade Centre.

A word-association game based on the term “jihad’’ is also included in a teacher resource document distributed to the nation’s high schools.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority said yesterday it was working to “rebalance the curriculum’’ in light of the review, which had recom­mended a “back to basics’’ emphasis on literacy and numeracy, more rigorous subject content and a greater focus on Australia’s ­Judeo-Christian heritage.

Plans for a “repetitive and vague’’ teaching of civics drew criticism yesterday from constit­utional law expert Anne Two­mey, who reviewed the curriculum’s civics and citizenship component.

Professor Twomey said many first-year law students came out of high school with no knowledge of or interest in government or polit­ics. “The students I teach exhibi­t an astounding lack of understanding of how government works, and a complete lack of interest,’’ she told The Weekend Australian yesterday. “They’re engaged with Facebook and have no connection with the world they live in. It’s quite alarming.’’

Professor Twomey, who heads the Constitutional Reform Unit at the University of Sydney, said the school curriculum should teach students the nuts and bolts of citizenship, voting, government and democracy. “All the citizenship teaching along the lines of ‘we all have to be nice to each other and work together’ is fine, but it keeps repeating the same line about having to accept other people and get along together that is being pushed­ ad nauseam.’’

Dr Donnelly, who is director of the Education Standards Institute and a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University, said yesterday the history curriculum portrayed Islam in a sympa­thetic manner while criticising aspects of Christianity.

“If you’ve got a clash of civil­is­ations replacing the Cold War as one of the main drivers of international relations, the kids need a balanced view of two of the most significant religions, Christianity and Islam,’’ he said. “If kids don’t get an objective, balanced view, out of that ignorance is what can lead to terrorism.’’

Dr Donnelly said the history curriculum had a “very pejorative view of Christianity but the references about Islam are all positive’’.

“There’s a lot of discussion about slavery implying it was all Euro­pean and American, but no recognition that Islam in the Mediterranean (during medieval times) had one of the most widespread slave trades,’’ he said.

“Muslims were going ashore in what is now France and Italy and taking Christians as slaves.’’

Dr Donnelly said one textbook used in Australian classrooms, the Jacaranda-published SOSE Alive 2, describes the World Trade Centre attackers as “terrorists’’.

It then asks students to answer the question: “Might it also be fair to say that the Crusaders who ­attacked the Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem were also terrorists?’’

Dr Donnelly described as “misleading and one-sided’’ a teacher resource book published by the National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies at Melbourne University, in collaboration with the Australian Curriculum Studies Association, in 2010.

The Learning from One Another publication suggests a word-association game using “jihad’’.

“Ask students to respond to the world ‘jihad’ by suggesting anothe­r word they associate with the term,’’ it states. “Emphasise that there are no wrong answers.

“The Macquarie Dictionary, for example, describes it as a ‘spirit­ual struggle’ and for most Muslims the term relates to their personal struggle to follow God’s path.

“At times, it can also involve armed fighting, often in self-­defence, should that be necessary.’’

Dr Donnelly also attacked a “subjective, relativistic’’ definition of citizenship in a draft of the civics and citizenship curriculum, which is awaiting final endorsement from state and territory education ministers. The draft states that “citizenship means different things to people at different times and depending on personal perspectives, their social situation and where they live’’.

“This is reflected in multiple perspectives of citizenship that reflec­t personal, social, spatial and temporal dimensions of citizenship,’’ it says.

Dr Donnelly said the document failed to “state with any certainty what it means to be an Australian’’.

It also ran counter to the citizenship pledge of “loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey’’.

An ACARA spokesman said yesterday the draft document provided “broad direction’’ to guide the writing of the curriculum.

Professor Twomey also questioned the definition of citizenship, which she said ought to be a technical term.

“They’re looking at citizenship as having some sort of sociological meaning in terms of belonging,’’ she said yesterday. “I’m not terribly keen on shoving ideology down people’s throats.

“So long as you equip students with information on how the system of government works, they can work things out for themselves and develop their own ideas.’’

In her official review of the civics curriculum last year, Professor Twomey described it as “repetitive and vague’’ and advised the government to make it “more informative and less ideological’’.

“There are really only so many times that one can be told to be respectful of the identities of others, discuss how different factors affect the formation of identities, and discuss notions of ‘shared values’,’’ her report concluded.

“(The curriculum) should focus on building up the knowledge and understanding of students of the system of government and the skills to participate in it, so that they are empowered to perform their role as citizens in an informed and competent way.’’


Australia's Environment Minister seeks public view on greenhouse gas target

 Australia on Saturday said it was inviting views from the public on what the nation's greenhouse gas emissions reduction target should be post-2020, before it announces the goal mid-year.

As countries prepare for a crucial UN climate meeting in Paris later this year, Australia said it was determined to reduce emissions -- but not via a carbon tax such as that imposed on industry by the previous Labor government.

"We're inviting the public to contribute to the discussion of what our targets should be," Environment Minister Greg Hunt said.

The announcement comes ahead of this year's meeting in Paris, which groups together 195 nations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In a statement with Hunt, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said countries had agreed to propose post-2020 emissions reduction targets well in advance of the November 30-December 11 meeting.

The talks are designed to further the UN goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Australia has previously said it will release its target "mid-year" and it confirmed this on Saturday, meaning it will miss the loose end-March deadline for "those parties ready to do so".

"This government is committed to tackling climate change through direct action measures and will announce Australia's post-2020 emission reduction target in mid-2015," Abbott said in the statement.

With its use of coal-fired power and relatively small population of 23 million, Australia is one of the world's worst per capita greenhouse gas polluters.

In an issues paper seeking submissions by April 24, the Australian government said it would consider projected economic growth and the nation's mineral resources among other issues in coming up with its target.

"The scope and nature of other countries' targets -- so that our target represents Australia's fair share and does not put Australia at a competitive disadvantage to our key trading partners and the major economies" would also be a consideration, it said.

Conservation group WWF-Australia welcomed the public consultation but said the issues paper was out of touch with science.

"Australia's pollution reduction target should be based on what the science is telling us is needed," said climate campaigner Kellie Caught.

"At a minimum this should be consistent with the global goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees."


Gina Rinehart says low iron ore prices mean that government must cut its burdens on the industry

Gina Rinehart has rejected a suggestion from the chairman of Fortescue Metals Andrew Forrest that big mining companies should collude to cap iron ore production.

Speaking in Hong Kong last night, Mrs Rinehart said it was impossible to control the falling iron ore price and customers would go elsewhere if Australia did not supply it at the best price.

Mrs Rinehart's slapdown caps a bad week for Mr Forrest, who is being investigated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which has warned even the suggestion might risk civil and criminal sanctions on cartels.

"If only we could do something about that falling iron ore price. Well, we can't," Mrs Rinehart said.  "If Australia doesn't supply iron ore there's other countries who will."

The mining billionaire used Mr Forrest's controversial comments to hammer home previous messages that Australia is a high cost country with unnecessary regulation.

"We need to do what we can to cut Australia's high costs. That's where the Australian Government can come in or should come in," Mrs Rinehart said.

"They need to recognise soon that they need to come to the party and recognise falling commodity prices and cut the horrific expense of their regulations and compliance burdens."

Mrs Rinehart's rejection of the proposal follow a stinging rebuke yesterday on the production cap idea from Rio Tinto's chief executive Sam Walsh.

Mr Walsh told a Minerals Council lunch in Melbourne that it was a "harebrained scheme".  "I have no idea what was going through Andrew's mind at the time he raised the issue," Mr Walsh told the conference.

Mr Walsh said he was in favour of free trade and an open economy, and could not see how Mr Forrest's plan would be in the national interest.  "There have been a number of comments about whether Rio colludes with others. Well, let me assure you, we absolutely do not," he said.

Mr Walsh noted that mining was a cyclical industry, and the key is to have top quality resources to survive whatever the global cycle throws at companies.

"I'm not sure the Chinese customers of Andrew appreciated his comments anyway," he said.

Despite the ACCC's investigation, Andrew Forrest is not backing away from his comments.  However, he has told The Australian Financial Review they were private comments, made in a private Shanghai Club under Chatham House rules.

Mr Forrest said the comments were designed to force a more controlled approach to production given that his competitors BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have been ramping up the volume of iron ore pulled from the ground, and a halving of prices.


$600,000 legal bill for public servant's motel sex romp

Taxpayers spent more than $600,000 defending a workers' compensation claim from a "libidinous" public servant injured while she had sex in a motel room on a work trip.

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz revealed the cost of the claim on Wednesday as he moved to make changes to the federal workplace insurer aimed at cracking down on "rorting and malingering," by Commonwealth bureaucrats.

Legislation introduced to the Parliament on Wednesday can save federal government agencies up to $50 million in their insurance premiums each year by making sweeping reforms to the much-maligned public service compensation scheme.

The infamous "sex-in-a-motel claim" rumbled on for six years after the woman suffered lacerations to her nose and mouth as well as "psychological injuries" when a glass light fitting was pulled from the wall of the motel room as she had "vigorous" sex with a local man in Nowra in November 2007.

The bureaucrat, whose identity is protected by the courts, eventually lost her case in the High Court but left the Commonwealth with a legal bill topping $600,000, including the costs of the bureaucrat's own lawyers and barristers.

Senator Abetz said on Wednesday that the case highlighted much that was wrong with public sector workers' compensation.

"The flaws in the system were highlighted in lurid terms by the infamous "hotel room sex case", where a Commonwealth public servant successfully sought workers compensation for an injury sustained on a work trip, after hours, while engaging in sexual activity," the minister wrote in The Canberra Times.

"Thankfully the decision was ultimately overturned by the High Court, but at significant cost to the scheme, which had to pay more than $600,000 in legal costs to defend the spurious claim, including for the legal costs of the libidinous claimant."

Senator Abetz said his reforms would help turn Comcare into an insurer that helped get injured public servants back to work, rather than paying them to stay at home.

"The amendments will help get more people back to work and back to health, while at the same time providing extra support for those who really need it," Senator Abetz said.

"Under the changes, there will continue to be compensation benefits until pension age, and lifetime medical where required.

"Rather than reduce the timeframe for support, the Government has chosen to target spending more carefully."


27 March, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is placing his bets for the NSW election.  He is appalled at the xenophobia emanating from the ALP

Deadly dive warnings for Airbus A320 aircraft

Highly computerized aircraft are very dangerous if any of their sensors malfunction  -- which happens

Jetstar and Tigerair Australia were among the global airlines warned just three months ago that the type of Airbus aircraft that plunged into the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 on board, could go into an uncontrolled dive if sensors malfunctioned.

As aviation experts struggle to explain the Germanwings A320 crash, The Australian can reveal that Jetstar and Tigerair were among scores of airlines across the world that responded to an “emergency airworthiness directive” late last year.

It warned about a possible loss of control of A320-family aircraft after problems with sensors caused a Lufthansa A321 to drop 4000ft over Spain.

The plane that crashed on Tuesday plunged more than 31,000ft in eight minutes without warning or issuing a mayday, baffling­ experts and leading to theor­ies ranging from a hijacking to a sudden decompression.

Flight 4U9525 was on its way from Barcelona to Dusseldorf with 144 passengers, including a Victorian mother and her son, Carol and Greig Friday, and disappeared from radar about 45 minutes into its flight.

No cause has been ruled out but Lufthansa vice-president Hieke Birlenbach said the crash was being treated as an accident and government officials downplayed suggestions of terrorism.

Pilots contacted by The Australian were dubious about the decompression theory, saying the response in that case would see the plane descend to 10,000ft, normally using the autopilot, and there would have been time to send a mayday.

But the crash has again focused attention on the European manufacturer’s sophisticated flight computer systems after it was revealed an incident caused a Lufthansa A321 to drop 4000ft over Spain on November 5 last year,

It prompted the December emergency directive warning of possible loss of control if certain sensors became blocked. Airbus has since told airlines it is redesigning the sensor involved, called an angle-of-attack probe, and those sensors will need to replaced.

The blockage of the probe prompted the Lufthansa plane’s computerised systems to perceive an aerodynamic stall and order the nose to pitch down. The plane rapidly descended from 31,000ft to 27,000ft before the flight crew was able to stop the descent and continue safely to Munich.

Accurate information from angle-of-attack probes, which sense the angle between the wing and the oncoming air, is critical to the functioning of the Airbus flight computers.

Jetstar in Australia operates 53 A320s and six A321s, with others in Asian joint-ventures. Virgin Australia Regional Airlines has two and Tigerair Australia has 13.

The emergency directive from the European Aviation Safety Agency said a worst-case scenario meant the pilots could not stop the pitch-down command even by pulling the sidestick fully backwards. “This condition, if not corrected, could result in loss of control of the aeroplane,’’ the directi­ve warned.

Jetstar issued a flight standing order on December 10 outlining Airbus procedures for dealing with the problem by turning off two of the aircraft’s air data reference units.

A320 pilots said yesterday that this was a relatively simple exercise involving two buttons that would put the aircraft into “alternate law’’ and disable the computerised flight protections.

They said having two sensors freeze at the same value simultan­eously was extremely rare and doubted an experienced crew would allow a plane to descend as far and as long as the Germanwings aircraft dropped before taking action. “You’re essentially lobotomising the flight control computers,’’ one pilot said. “You’re taking their ability to overrule pilot inputs away.’’

“If this occurred, yes, it would leave its cleared altitude and start descending, but you would assume any competent crew could intervene after a couple of thousand feet loss and turn off two ADRs and then it’s controllable again.’’

This is the second crash of an A320 in three months after Air­Asia flight QZ 8501 plummeted into the ocean off Indonesia during severe storms in late December. There is no evidence the two are related but the refusal by Indon­esian authorities to release a preliminary report could raise public concerns about the A320.

A pilot who has flown Boeing and Airbus aircraft said there were no worries in the A320 pilot community about the aircraft’s safety.

The A320 family and Boeing’s competing Boeing 737 single-aisle aircraft are the workhorses of the aviation industry, with a good safety record.

Safety website puts the A320 family accident rate at 0.67 crashes per million flights up to the end of 2013 and Boeing’s at 0.62 per million flights.

But the pilot believed Boeings were more user-friendly compared with the “overly complex’’ Airbus planes.

“Once things start to go wrong in the A320, it can get very, very complicated,’’ he said, pointing to the confusion in an Air France Airbus A330 with similar systems, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean. In that case, pilots made mistakes when Pitot tubes iced up and delivered inconsistent airspeed readings.

A Qantas A330 was also taken on a roller-coaster ride over Western Australia in 2008 because of problems with the computerised flight system.

Airbus delivered the aircraft to Lufthansa in 1991 and it had accum­ulated roughly 58,300 flight hours in 46,700 flights.

Airline officials said the plane had undergone all needed maintenance checks, including repairs to a nose-wheel door they said was not “safety related’’. The last check was on Monday and it had a major maintenance check in 2013. They said there was no issue with the plane’s age because it had been maintained properly.


National register for foreign buyers not 'racist'

Racial tensions in the real estate market flared on Thursday morning as the operator of Chinese language real estate website Juwai, Simon Henry, told Fairfax Media that the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) crackdown on illegal property buying is "racist".

Introducing the database of residential property transactions with the aim of improving the detection of illegal purchases is not a racist act, it's a necessity.

This register will not fuel racism. It will do the opposite by clearing up the confusion that is fuelling xenophobia in the market.

There are racial tensions in the real estate market. However, promises that we may finally get the elusive facts about foreign purchasing should be a source of jubilation, not derision.

Mr Henry has since clarified his statement, saying discussions should surround foreign investment, not solely Chinese investment. However, the point remains that the way to dispell racist overtones is through transparency.

FIRB chairman Brian Wilson has admitted that its ability to uncover and prosecute illegal activity is "sorely limited", leading to the activity being "inevitable".

Queensland is the only state that asks buyers if they are foreign and a low conviction rate for illegal transactions is widely discussed.

As a result, we are suffering from an acute case of confusion in the market as the blind lead the blind.

Ray White chairman Brian White's comments about anecdotal stories based on "sloppy" sources that wrongly confuse Australians of Asian descent with foreigners does have a ring of truth.

The foreign investment activity is largely concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne. With the markets as hot as they are, it's undoubtedly the case that some will look to blame anyone else with the capacity to outbid them at auction.

Herein lies the strength of a national database. Without real data, it's hard to challenge these assumptions about how foreign investment affects the market.

Introducing this register is the strongest step we have towards understanding what is happening and ensuring misconceptions are stopped.


Shallow Shorten endorses a dangerous doctrine

Under the spotlight, Bill Shorten doesn’t shine. He shrinks. Listening to the Opposition Leader talk about what he stands for is about as painful as having your legs waxed after a long winter hiatus.

When ABC radio host Jon Faine asked him: “What does Bill Shorten actually believe in?” the Labor leader said he believed that “everybody is somebody”.

Shorten sounded as if he were about to do an impersonation of Dean Martin, except that the 1950s crooner sang that everybody loves somebody sometime. Turns out Shorten coined the phrase from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Gondoliers. Even the full quote — “when everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody” — offers no insight into what Shorten believes in.

Shorten was a union leader, then a Labor MP, then a shadow minister, then a government minister, now he is leader of the ALP. He has had plenty of time to distil a coherent set of values.

Sadly, Shorten’s interview with Faine echoed the same shallowness he expressed in an interview with Leigh Sales on the ABC’s 7.30 program last year. The transcript reads as if there are bits missing as Shorten tries to convince us he can fix the budget with “inclusive growth”. It’s the kind of sweet expression of nothingness, along with “social justice” and “community values”, favoured by the intellectually lazy, dense or tricky.

Alas, watching the interview again reveals the only gaps are those in Shorten’s thinking, his convictions and his authenticity. It’s the best example of the worst interview you are likely to hear from a mainstream political leader.

As a union leader, Shorten had some fire in his belly. As Opposition Leader, he is like a high school student at his first debate. You get the feeling he would happily argue one side as the other.

If ever there were a time for a Labor leader to display a commitment to economic credibility, it’s after the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. There’s no point speaking about growth — inclusive or otherwise — unless you believe in indispensable rules that engender growth. Take the basic issue of sovereign risk.

Sure, this sounds like a dreary ivory-tower obsession of business schools. Except that it’s not. Minimising sovereign risk goes to the heart of our ability as an economy to attract business, grow the economy, create more jobs and thereby boost tax revenue so the government can afford to do what governments should do.

The first rule of business is to identify the best places to do business. Whether you’re running an illegal racket, say people-smuggling, or an entirely legal one, say investing in infrastructure, you choose the countries that are good for business. Although the federal government has done a fine job shutting down the evil trade in people-smuggling, the Victorian government, sadly, has done its best to tell legal business investors they are not welcome, with real ramifications for the entire nation.

Yet last week, when asked during a doorstop before question time whether he supported the building of the East-West link road in Victoria, a piece of infrastructure Shorten previously has supported, he said: “No.”

Incredibly, the federal Labor leader who told Sales last year that growth depends on better infrastructure has tethered himself to the Daniel Andrews model of government in Victoria.

Labor’s new Victorian Premier has refused to honour a $6.8 billion contract with a consortium of local and international infrastructure investors to build the East West Link road. Andrews says the state won’t pay full compensation, with reports the government will legislate to avoid contractual obligations around compensation.

This is mickey mouse government. Either Andrews is a novice who has no understanding of basic principles that underpin economic growth or he doesn’t care that he has told the world that Victoria is not a safe place to invest.

Previous Labor governments supported the need for a better link between Melbourne’s eastern and western suburbs. Government officials went to Spain and France to promote the state as a safe place to invest billions in infrastructure. European construction giants Bouygues and Acciona, along with locals Lend Lease and Capella Capital — signed a contract to build the road. Andrews said a year before the state election that “I am not in the business of irresponsibly ripping up contracts and sending a mes­sage to the world that Victoria is not open for business”.

Yet Andrews has sent precisely that message — loud and clear. And it has been received. Online journal InfraAsia reported last week that Andrews’s decision to rip up a legally enforceable contract has “well and truly spooked” potential investors in Australian infrastructure: “The upshot of Labor’s decision to suspend East West Link … is that investors can no longer be assured that a signed contract is worth the paper it is written on.” International business journal Infrastructure Investor featured an article: “Can Australia be taken at its word?”

It suggested Australia is at serious risk of losing the mantle as “the world’s most attractive infrastructure destination”. Foreign investors have quickly understood that under the Andrews doctrine, no one is safe when they sign a contract with a government that is about to face an election.

If the contract won’t be completed before the election, the contract can be torn up by a new government without compensation. Has Andrews considered the full consequences of his ill-conceived doctrine? It may mean that long-term contracts, including a collective agreement signed by a Labor government with public servants, can be duly torn up when a Liberal government takes the reins.

In practice, the Andrews doctrine gives the opposition a right of veto over government action — and that veto right brings effective government to a halt.

Last week, Shorten endorsed the doctrine. The two Labor leaders couldn’t be further removed from the commonsense approach of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating to capital and workers.

Again, shadow treasurer Chris Bowen is more sensible than Andrews or Shorten, telling the National Press Club last year: “Even if we don’t like them, for reasons of sovereign risk Labor honours contracts in office signed by previous governments.”

The NSW election on Saturday will surely see Mike Baird, the impressive Liberal Premier, re-elected. With a real commitment to reform he is already a standout among state leaders. Here’s an idea that could distinguish Baird even further from the neophyte Victorian Premier. Baird could commit to amending the state Constitution to reflect section 51 (xxxi) of the federal Constitution, which effectively prevents the government from expropriating property except on just terms. In other words, you can’t rip up contracts without paying proper compensation.

It’s true the High Court of Australia has made a mash of the federal provision by interpreting it so widely that litigants are always heading to court seeking money for something or other. But that doesn’t mean a state should be allowed to tear up a contract without compensation. Smart drafting can ensure a sensible law.

Meanwhile, all Shorten can do is say a quiet prayer to his predecessor Kevin Rudd each night.  It was Rudd who introduced rules around the leadership that means Shorten is secure as leader. While he’s at it, he should pray for some sound principles.


Herbicide cancer claim cops a spray

The most common chemical used in Australia by farmers and gardeners to kill weeds “probably” causes cancer, according to the World Health Organisation.

The finding by the French-based International Agency for Research of Cancers that the ­active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup — glyphosate — is likely to be a carcinogen has shocked the agricultural sector.

The multi-weed killer remains approved for safe use in Australia, except around waterways, and throughout the world. The federal government’s Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority has not commented on this week’s WHO finding or decided whether it plans to review the safety of glyphosate, which makes up the bulk of Australia’s $1.5 billion annual herbicide sales.

Since its invention by chemical company Monsanto in 1974, glyphosate has become the most common herbicide sprayed by all farmers worldwide, usually ­applied after autumn rain and before crops like wheat, barley and canola are sown to kill weeds.

Monsanto yesterday reacted with “outrage”, accusing the WHO cancer agency of “agenda- driven bias”. It claimed the ruling was inconsistent with decades of safety reviews and more than 800 studies showing glyphosate is safe for human health.

South Australian grain grower Mark Jaensch has been using Roundup and other cheaper or generic brands of glyphosate on his 500ha of crops for the past 30 years.

He is about to order another 600 litres of the herbicide today as he waits for a good autumn break on his Callington farm to signal the start of new weed growth, spraying time and, finally, crop sowing.

Ironically, his glyphosate chemical use has increased since the 1990s when he started using new “direct drilling” methods, sowing crop seeds directly into old stubble beds — without the usual ploughing to control weeds — in a bid to preserve soil moisture and prevent erosion, topsoil loss and dust storms.

“I’m reliant on it; we can’t put our crops in without (glyphosate), it would be hard to replace it,” Mr Jaensch said.

“But to be honest, I’m not too worried about this new (WHO warning); unless something comes out more concrete than ‘probably causes cancer’, I think it’s just scaremongering — I mean it’s not even classed as a dangerous poison on the label and you can still buy it in a spray can from the supermarket.”

Mr Jaensch said the chief difference from the 30 years ago was that he was now a better and safer user of herbicides such as Roundup.

His big tractor with its air-conditioned cab has charcoal filters to prevent him breathing sprayed chemicals, laws are much stricter about under what weather and wind conditions herbicides can be used, and most farmers now must undertake a safe chemical course before being able to buy products.

IARC report co-author and glyphosate expert Kate Guyton said the new finding of “probable carcinogen” was based on existing evidence from multiple studies of the effects of glyphosate on male agricultural and forestry occupational workers.

She said the report stopped short of saying the chemical conclusively caused cancer, or how much exposure would trigger cancer, but did find that scientists know people exposed to glyphosate in their daily jobs experienced a higher incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma than those not exposed to the chemical.

Other studies have found that glyphosate leads to DNA and chromosomal damage in laboratory animals, which can lead to cancer.

“I don’t think home use is the issue; it’s [in] agricultural use this will have the biggest impact,” Dr Guyton said.  “For the moment, it’s just something for people to be conscious of.”

A recent study by the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety and the University of Sydney found the incidence of cancer is lower in farmers, than in the general population, despite having the highest level of exposure to pesticides.

Federal Agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce said today he would seek advice from the government’s Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority on whether the safety of glyphosate use needed to be reviewed.

But Mr Joyce did not appear overly worried by the new World Health Organisation “probable carcinogen” warning.  “A literature review of existing research suggests there is limited evidence that potentially links glyphosate with cancer,” Mr Joyce said.

“We propose to seek advice from the APVMA whether, on balance, the position has changed [but] this [IARC finding] would appear to be a re-identification of a small number of old research papers.”


Builders Commend Stand Against Union Aggression Against Women

Master Builders Australia welcomes the condemnation of aggression against women on building sites by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Senator Hon. Michaelia Cash.

“Master Builders is committed to promoting opportunities for women in building and construction and evidence of aggression and abuse of women on building sites by the CFMEU is unacceptable,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“Why does the CFMEU believe that violence and bullying against women is unacceptable in the home but acceptable on building sites,” he said.

“Evidence heard by the Royal Commission into trade union governance and corruption about the CFMEU’s aggression and abuse of female Fair Work Building and Construction Inspectors, and further allegations of similar behaviour recently on the Sydney Barangaroo site, show the union is denying women the right to go about their work on building sites free from aggressive and abusive behaviours,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“CFMEU National Secretary Dave Noonan has previously attempted to play down these incidents but the recent alleged recurrence of such behaviour points to a cultural problem within the union that the union must commit to redress,” he said.

“Unions have rights but also responsibilities. No normal union would permit such behaviour to be directed against their female members,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“The building and construction industry needs to attract more women. Therefore Master Builders commends Minister Cash for her stand on behalf of women in the building and construction industry today and into the future,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

Press release

26 March, 2015

Australia could weather housing crash: Deloitte

Australia’s $5.5 trillion real estate market has several protections against a housing price crisis like the US subprime mortgage crash which ravaged the economy during the GFC, says Deloitte.

According to Deloitte’s 2015 mortgage report, Australian house prices are safeguarded by low risk-weighted home loans, regulatory bodies, and a culture of paying down mortgages beyond minimum requirements.

Deloitte risk and regulatory financial services leader, Kevin Nixon, said Australia had relatively light risk in housing debt, as the ratio of an average mortgage weighed against the value of a home was “quite low”.

Asked whether Australia could weather a 30 per cent house price fall, such as when average US house prices dropped 20 per cent in two years during the GFC, Mr Nixon said: “It would hurt, but for a lot of people it would just eat up their equity on paper, and as long as they don’t lose their jobs, they can continue to service their loans.”

Mr Nixon said steady house price appreciation, the ageing of mortgages in a portfolio, and the propensity for Australian borrowers to pay down their mortgages over and above required monthly payments would lessen risks to the housing system.

With Australia’s strong growth in house prices, Mr Nixon said, the longer a homeowner holds an outstanding mortgage, the less leveraged the original loan as a proportion of the home’s value will become.

For example, a home loan of $300,000 will be leveraged against an asset — the house — the value of which increases faster than interest accumulates on the loan, in the process reducing the risk of the original mortgage.

But Mr Nixon said this prospect also raised the issue of consumers refinancing their mortgages against current, inflated home values.

“Where one would become concerned ... is where we see people en-masse refinancing their mortgages against their increasing housing value.” Mr Nixon said. “The system-wide buffer disappears.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics showed nominal house prices grew at 9 per cent in the year to September. But that figure was nearly 15 per cent in Sydney over the same period. Monthly data since then suggests the trend had continued.

Low interest rates were providing the potential for rapid house price gains to continue, the Deloitte report said, with the Reserve Bank of Australia recently cutting the official cash rate to its lowest ever level of 2.25 per cent.

But Deloitte said even with house prices surging, measures of mortgage stress — the ability of households to pay down housing debt — remained below the average over the last decade.

“This suggests that households can afford to borrow more, although there is vulnerability if interest rates increase,” Deloitte said.

Macquarie executive director Frank Ganis said the Australian real estate market was safeguarded by local consumers paying down their mortgages at a quicker rate.

“Approximately two-thirds of real estate in Australia is owner occupied, and of those two-thirds, half have no mortgage,” Mr Ganis said.

While the RBA has said it was concerned by rapidly rising house prices, Deloitte said it supported the central bank’s stance against the use of tighter regulation by way of macroprudential tools.

“Systemic risk can be very difficult to predict, define and contain narrowly,” Deloitte said. “To address risks in a formulaic manner is problematic and may in fact be counterproductive.”

Deloitte said Australia’s housing market was in safe hands with its two stabilisation bodies — the RBA who regulates through interest rates, and the government regulating through policies addressing unemployment.


Deal of the century: Australia borrows $4b for 20 years at 2.865 per cent

The Australian Office of Financial Management has scored the deal of the century. It has managed to borrow $4.25 billion for 20 years at an interest rate of just 2.865 per cent, the lowest ever for long-term debt.

Although high by international standards, the rate is far lower than the previous long term rate of 3.945 per cent struck for $7 billion of 22 year bonds issued in October.

The long time horizons mean the rates are protected for two decades, whatever happens to financial markets.

The sale caps a string of extraordinarily good deals for the government's fund raiser, the AOFM. In February it issued a 4 year bond for 1.92 per cent and in March an 11 year bond for 2.59 per cent.

The rates are close to the Reserve Bank's inflation target of 2.5 per cent, meaning that in real terms the government is borrowing for close to nothing.

Tuesday's bond bond sale takes the Coalition's net borrowing since taking office to $94 billion. It removed the debt ceiling imposed by the previous government shortly after taking office after doing a deal with the Australian Greens.

The Office of Financial Management said it planned to issue no further bonds until June 2015.


25 March, 2015

Climate change will allegedly make food TASTE bad: Global warming will lead to tougher meat and flavourless carrots

It's all Warmist theory-based prophecy.  Karoly is an old shell-backed Warmist. And we know how good Warmist prophecies are 

But let me mention some facts instead.  If warming is bad for flavour, fruit from the Tropics should be insipid.  But I grew up in the tropics and I can assure you that tropical fruit are yummy:  Pawpaws and mangoes are of course well-known but there are also Granadillas, Soursops, Custard apples and other fruit which are little known because they do not travel well -- but which are very tasty indeed.  If you've never eaten Granadilla and ice-cream, you  haven't lived.  And the sad things called pawpaws outside the tropics are nowhere nearly as good as  pawpaws straight off the tree.

As for any overall shortage of food being caused by warming, that is utter nonsense.  Plantlife flourishes in warm climates like nowhere else.  It almost leaps out and grabs you at times in the tropics

For those hoping global warming will bring more opportunities for a summer barbecue, there may be disappointment ahead - climate change is likely to make steaks and burgers far less appetising.

In a major report on the impact of global warming on food, scientists have concluded that the quality of many meats and vegetables is due to decline at temperatures increase.

The researchers predict that as heatwaves become more common, steaks and other meats are likely to become stringier and tougher - putting the traditional barbecue at risk.

Popular vegetables like carrots are also likely to become less flavoursome and have a less pleasant texture.

Potatoes are likely to suffer far more from blight, which rots the tubers and makes them inedible.

Onions could get smaller if temperatures early in the season increase while fruit and nut trees in some regions may not get cold enough to signal fruit development.

The report, produced by scientists at the University of Melbourne, also warned that milk yields could decrease by up to 10-25 per cent as heatwaves grow more common.

Lower levels of grain production could also hit dairy cattle, meaning their milk contains less protein, which would result in poorer quality cheese.

Professor Richard Eckard, director of the primary industries climate challenges centre at the University of Melbourne, said: 'It’s definitely a wake up call when you hear that the toast and raspberry jam you have for breakfast, for example, might not be as readily available in 50 years time.

'Or that there may be changes to the cost and taste of food items we love and take for granted like avocado and vegemite, spaghetti bolognaise and even beer, wine and chocolate.

'It makes you appreciate that global warming is not a distant phenomenon but a very real occurrence that is already affecting the things we enjoy in our everyday lives, including the most common of foods we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.'

The scientists assessed the impact of the changing climate on 55 foods grown in Australia and other parts of the world.

It predicted that as weather conditions get warmer, with heatwaves and other extreme events increasing in frequency, agricultural production will be hit hard.

The cost of apples could rise as farmers try to combat damage from extreme temperatures on fruits like apples by using shade cloths.

Heat stress will have a particular impact on meat production with cattle and chickens suffering in higher temperatures and affecting their appetite.

This will mean meat is likely to be be tougher and more stingy.

Pigs could have particular problems in the heat as they do not possess sweat glands.

Avocados are also likely to get smaller in warmer temperatures as the plants get stressed while the trees themselves will flower far less.

Temperatures above 27 degrees can cause beetroot flowering stems to grow early and result in smaller bulbs, while the vegetable can also lose some of its distinctive red colouring in warmer temperatures.

Professor David Karoly, an atmospheric scientists at the University of Melbourne and one of the co-authors of the report, said countries like Australia, where drought is already a major problem, are likely to be worse hit.

He said: 'Global warming is increasing the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and bushfires affecting farms across southern and eastern Australia, and this will get much worse in the future if we don’t act.

'It’s a daunting thought when you consider that Australian farms produce 93% of the food we eat.'


Historic workplace deal cuts penalty rates

Penalty rates in South Australia were savage and so greatly inhibited weekend trading, cutting off an important income source for workers, among other things

The Australian this morning revealed the country’s largest union has agreed to slash weekend penalty rates for the retail sector in a breakthrough deal in South Australia that could affect up to 40,000 workers and be replicated across the nation.

In the first agreement of its kind for small business in Australia, penalty rates will be abolished on Saturdays and halved on Sundays in exchange for a higher base rate of pay and other improved conditions.

Mr Butler, a senior South Australian frontbencher and candidate for Labor national president, said the bargaining process used to reach the deal between employers and the shoppies union is what Labor has supported for more than 20 years.

“This is what we envisaged when Paul Keating’s government put together the enterprise bargaining model,” Mr Butler, who worked for 15 years as a union official, said in Canberra.

“This is exactly the model that we envisaged and it’s in stark contrast to the idea that you would go up to the industrial commission and try to change – unilaterally – the penalty rates across the country.”

Small Business Minister Bruce Billson said the template agreement, signed between the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association and Business SA, highlighted “the flexibility that’s in the current law”.

“There are mechanisms in the current law. Whether they are adequate, whether they’re responsive, whether one can navigate them, they’re important discussions for the Productivity Commission review,” Mr Billson told Sky News.

“Even this quite constructive and encouraging step forward, it still required a big industry association to navigate the procedural requirements and get to the point where there is a template agreement that a retailer in South Australia can discuss with their employees and see if it works well for all of them.

“How friendly is it to a smaller enterprise to navigate this machinery, which seems designed more for big organisations and representative organisations rather than for a small, nimble, agile smaller enterprise looking just to get ahead to create opportunities for themselves and their communities?”

“What’s Bill Shorten’s position? He sort of thinks we live in this nine-to-five, back-to-the-50s kind of economy; that’s not the case.”

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said the South Australian negotiators “should be applauded for taking a constructive approach”.

“It highlights the benefits of encouraging workplaces to sit down and negotiate terms and conditions that suit their specific needs,” Senator Abetz told The Australian.

“Setting penalty rates is a matter for the Fair Work Commission, but if workplaces can arrange a better deal on which they agree that complies with the law, they should be encouraged to do so.”

“The question is — will Bill Shorten and Labor support this deal?”

Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said: “I’m not going to start commentating on individual agreements that employees and employers strike in particular workplaces or in particular industries. I think that this shows that there’s flexibility in the system but I’m not going to comment on it beyond that.”

Labor parliamentary secretary Matt Thistlethwaite said the South Australian deal was “by all accounts, a win-win for the employees and the businesses involved”.

“This deal proves that you can reach arrangements with them but you need to consult with employees and you need to make sure they’re better off over all. That’s the test in the system: they need to be better off overall,” he said.

Assistant Infrastucture Minister Jamie Briggs, a South Australian, said the deal vindicated the coalition’s position that penalty rates were a matter for the Fair Work Commission.

“If employers and employees work together for their best interests then we’ll get a better result,” he said.

Independent SA senator Nick Xenophon says Saturday and Sunday are now regarded as ordinary trading days for the hospitality and retail sectors.

“It’s always been my position that there needs to be greater flexibility for small employers,” he said.

South Australian Family First senator Bob Day said the deal marked “the long overdue fall of one of many remaining barriers to getting a job”.

NSW Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm said Australians who wanted to work weekends had been priced out of the market by penalty rates. He also described South Australia as an economic basket case.

“Maybe somebody there has finally woken up to the fact that they do need to change if they’re going to turn it around.”


Some worthwhile immigration reforms

Apart from the ever-present issue of asylum seeker and refugee policies, and stoushes over 457 visas, immigration policy largely flies under the radar. This a positive by-product of a relatively bipartisan consensus on immigration benefits, but also means creative thinking in this area is lacking.

There has been a largely unremarked shift in the government's rhetoric. Michael Pezzullo, secretary of the Department of Immigration, Customs, and Border Protection, (the delineation of these three functions is indicative) has said mass migration is a mission "long accomplished", describing the department as a "gateway", and emphasising the border.

The Howard era approach - where a deterrence narrative for asylum seekers sat comfortably alongside a welcoming attitude to immigrants - appears to be going out of fashion.

Due to the budget pressures outlined in the Intergenerational Report, which can be ameliorated by higher levels of immigration, a substantial restriction in immigration policy is unlikely. But it's also worth asking why, then, scant attention is being paid to it outside the government's latest plan to crack down on 457 visas.

Given the government has had much success in negotiating freer movement of goods across borders, it could also be successful in negotiating freer movement of labour, particularly with countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and United States, in a manner similar to the arrangement with New Zealand. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has expressed interest in the idea.

The Productivity Commission has suggested changes to visa conditions to make it easier for live-in au pairs to stay with a family longer than six months, and another suggestion involves allowing Indonesian women to live and work in Australia as nannies, as a partial solution to the problems plaguing childcare.

These are the kind of innovations that could revitalise discussion around immigration policy. It shouldn't continue to fly under the radar.


Higher education reform is not simply all about universities
The drive to improve equity and choice in higher education must continue        

The Council of Private Higher Education (COPHE) has applauded the Federal Government's continued pursuit of higher education reforms despite the second rejection of the Bill in the Senate.

COPHE CEO Adrian McComb said although the defeat of the bill was disappointing, it is clear from Education Minister Christopher Pyne that it was not all over.

"For the sake of all Australian students, the process of reform must continue. Reform is vital to ensuring Australia's higher education system is well placed to face the avalanche of change facing the sector globally," he said. "Maintaining the status quo takes us nowhere and frankly no one opposed has proposed any workable alternative."

The reforms announced in the Budget last year promised equitable treatment of students in the private sector. Under the current arrangements, students at private institutions are penalised.

"We applaud Minister Pyne for his tenacity in declaring he will continue to pursue the reforms. The sector needs to overcome the misleading scare campaign around $100,000 degrees," Mr McComb said. "And as we noted in our Senate submissions, the CEOs of our member institutions have indicated that they would pass on Commonwealth support received to their students. That and the removal of the 25% loan administration fee would make a big difference to non-university higher education students’ debt."

"Capping prices without any means of capping costs can only exacerbate decline in universities. Deregulation can deliver a top quality, resilient higher education system which better meets the needs of students," he said. "An independent oversight body can curb excesses."

The independent and minor party Senators that make up the cross benches have expressed continuing concerns in a deregulated environment about the possibility of universities charging excessive student fees for cross-subsidy of activity that is unrelated to teaching. Further policy approaches that would mitigate this have emerged and need to be considered in the revised legislation.

Senators have expressed concern about the process followed in introducing the reforms. We believe that a deregulated environment in the sector was always going to be difficult to pull off and 20/20 hindsight is easy.

“It is also disheartening to see that measures that would help the disadvantaged are now set aside particularly the higher education initiative that would have provided 80,000 CGS funded places for sub-degrees and pathways diplomas,” Mr McComb said. There is solid evidence that students with poorer school results, or those who are returning to study some years after school, who would struggle in their first year of a bachelor degree, can still achieve progression on par with students with much higher ATARS, if they have access to such pathways diplomas into the second year of bachelor degrees.

"There is too much at stake for this to be the end of any chance of change," Mr McComb said.

Press release

24 March, 2015

Nazi policy from some hypocritical Australian luvvies

The theatrical world is generally very Leftist.  Fantasy is their trade

A Sydney theatre has refused a young Jewish theatre group’s request to use its venue in an alleged act of discrimination.

The Jewish group, Hillel is a not-for-profit educational and cultural organisation which aims to ‘inspire university-aged young adults to engage with Jewish life’ and become future leaders.

The group are planning a series of performances about survivors of the holocaust and were in search of a venue.

When Hillel made an application to perform at The Red Rattler Theatre in Sydney’s inner west, they were shocked at the email they received in response.

‘Our policy does not support colonialism/Zionism. Therefore we do not host groups that support the colonisation and occupation of Palestine,’ the Marrickville Theatre group responded curtly.

Members of the youth group could not believe that they were being rejected, allegedly due to their religious beliefs.

Assistant director Shailee Mendelvich was confounded when she received the rejection email from The Red Rattler Theatre group.

‘I was shocked and disappointed because I believe that denying a Jewish group the right to make a commercial booking is clearly racial discrimination and, in this case, Antisemitism,’ Ms Mendelvich told Daily Mail Australia

Ms Mendelvich was particularly troubled by the rejection as The Red Rattler Theatre are also a not-for-profit, artist-run company which purports to have ‘community at heart’.

On their website, the Red Rattler claim that the theatre ‘was set up as a space where racism, homophobia, transphobia and sexism are not welcome on stage, in the audience, at the door, and at the bar.’

‘We ask you to join us in efforts to make this space welcoming, stimulating, and happiness producing to people regardless of their ethnicity, sexuality or gender.’

Hillel believes that the decision to reject a Jewish theatre group contradicts the company’s ethos.

‘I hope that people working in community service and the not-for-profit sector can acknowledge the common ground we share, especially for events that encourage honest and open creative expression for important cultural or social issues.’

The event series, called ‘Moth’, is a performance evening to ‘encourage people to express themselves in a creative way’.

The upcoming event aims to ‘unpack what it means to be the third generation of holocaust survivors.'

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff have written to the theatre to express his concern that Hillel have been discriminated ‘based on conflicts taking place far from Australia.’

Mr Alhadeff sent the letter on March 13 and has placed several calls with The Red Rattler but is yet to receive a response.

‘It is disappointing that a theatre group (The Red Rattler Theatre company) let politics get in the way of policies, as they claim their ethos is about equality and acceptance,' Mr Alhadeff told Daily Mail Australia.

Mr Alhadeff also reiterated that the group are apolitical and the purpose of the performance would be to explore the impact of the holocaust on modern generations, rather than engaging with the issue of the occupation of Palestine.

‘These young people have been the subject of discrimination because of an overseas conflict whilst conducting a play which had nothing whatsoever to do with any conflict overseas,' he said.

‘Their focus was on exploring the lessons future generations can learn from the holocaust survivors.’

‘The Jewish community in Australia are Australians. This is very disappointing as we need to be able to embrace difference and focus on the shared values we have as Australians.'

The Hillel theatre group continue to search for a venue for their performance and are looking forward to the series, which will include the spoken word, poetry, acoustic instrumental performances and rap.

Daily Mail Australia attempted to contact The Red Rattler Theatre Company for comment but did not receive any reply.


Australia a puzzling hotbed of Islamic State recruiting

The London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence reports that between 100 and 250 Australians have joined Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria. Given Australia's vast distance from the region and its population of just 24 million, it is a remarkable number. The center estimates that about 100 fighters came from the United States, which has more than 13 times as many people as Australia.

Experts disagree about why the Islamic State group has been so effective recruiting in Australia, which is widely regarded as a multicultural success story, with an economy in an enviable 24th year of continuous growth.

Possible explanations include that some Australian Muslims are poorly integrated with the rest of the country, and that Islamic State recruiters have given Australia particular attention. In addition, the Australian government failed to keep tabs on some citizens who had been radicalized, and moderate Muslims have been put off by some of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's comments about their community.

Greg Barton, a global terrorism expert at Monash University in Melbourne, said Australia and some other countries underestimated Islamic State's "pull factor."

"We're all coming to terms with the fact that this is a formidable targeter and predatory recruiter that goes after individuals one by one with a very masterful use of technology, and our sense of confidence that because we've got society working well makes us secure misses the point," Barton said.

Muslims make up about 2.2 percent of the population in Australia, compared to just 1 percent in the United States. And while many U.S. Muslims are from families who migrated in pursuit of the American economic dream, a larger proportion of Australian Muslims are from families who fled Lebanon's civil war in the 1970s and '80s.

Australian Muslims of Lebanese origin are largely based in Sydney, the country's biggest city. They have been less successful in integrating into Australian society than many other groups, and the first Australian-born generation of these migrant families has been overrepresented in terrorism offenses and general street crime.

Mohammad Ali Baryalei, an ethnic Lebanese who reportedly became a high-ranking member of the Islamic State group's operational command, was formerly a Sydney nightclub bouncer and bit-part television actor. Australian security agencies suspect he single-handedly recruited dozens of Australians and helped them enter Syria.

Once a Sydney street preacher with the Muslim group Street Dawah, Baryalei was reportedly killed in battle in Syria last fall at age 33. The Australian government has yet to confirm his death.

Baryalei is accused in court documents of inciting from afar Islamic State sympathizers in Sydney to brutally slay a randomly selected victim. Security services recorded a telephone conversation between him and Omarjan Azari, who is awaiting trial on charges that include preparing to commit a terrorist act.

"What you guys need to do is pick any random unbeliever," Baryalei allegedly told Azari, according to court testimony. "Backpacker, tourist, American, French or British, even better."

Sydney-born Khaled Sharrouf, also ethnic Lebanese, horrified millions last year by posting on his Twitter account a photo of his 7-year-old son clutching the severed head of a Syrian soldier. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described the image as "one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed."

Sharrouf's appearance on the Syrian battlefield highlighted a flaw in Australia's defenses against the Islamic State group: lax border security. Sharrouf had served a prison sentence in Australia for planning a foiled terrorist attack and had been banned from leaving the country, but used his brother's passport to leave in 2013.

The Australian government acknowledged there was a problem with a system of airport security that was more focused on who was coming in than on who was leaving. The government announced in August that biometric screening will be rolled out at all Australian international airports as part of 630 million Australian dollars ($500 million) in new spending on intelligence, law enforcement and border protection.

Counterterrorism police units have been attached to major airports to screen passengers. The unit at Sydney Airport was instrumental in recently intercepting two Sydney-born brothers, aged 16 and 17, who were about to fly to Turkey without their parents' knowledge. Authorities suspect the brothers were headed to Syria.

Australia's net still has holes.

Jake Bilardi, an 18-year-old who converted to Islam a few years ago, had avoided Australia's counterterror radar when he left his Melbourne home for Syria in August. After Bilardi's family reported him missing, police found chemicals that could be used to make a bomb at his home. Images of Bilardi armed with a rifle in front of Islamic flags appeared on social media sites later that year.

A picture of a young man resembling Bilardi behind the wheel of a van was posted this month with claims from the Islamic State group that foreign fighters from Australia and other countries took part in a near-simultaneous attack in Iraq that involved at least 13 suicide car bombs and killed two police officers. The Australian government has yet to confirm Bilardi's death.

Bilardi's father, who became estranged from Bilardi and his five older siblings after divorcing their mother, said the Islamic State recruit had had psychological problems as a child that were not addressed.

"He was a soft target," John Bilardi told Australia's "60 Minutes" television program in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

"He was a prize; he was a trophy that they paraded online. They gloated about how they had recruited this young boy who didn't even have a Muslim background," he said.

"They used him for their own — what cause? All I see is that they're murdering people, including my son," he added.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has been granted enhanced powers to prevent Australians from joining IS and, in some cases, from returning to Australia. She has canceled about 100 passports, including Jake Bilardi's, though he left before his passport was revoked.

Keeping would-be militants from leaving Australia, however, increases the risk that they will wreak havoc at home.

Numan Haider, an 18-year-old Muslim Australian of Afghan origin, stabbed two Melbourne police officers and was shot dead in September, a week after his passport had been canceled. He had caught authorities' attention months earlier over what police considered to be troubling behavior, including waving what appeared to be an Islamic State flag at a shopping mall.

Australian authorities were clearly taken by surprise by the growing domestic menace posed by Islamic State followers. Less than a year ago, officials reduced security at Parliament House to cut costs. Since then, security at the seat of national government has been increased to unprecedented levels.

In September, the government raised Australia's terrorist threat level to the second-highest level on a four-tier scale. Police attempting to disrupt terrorist plots have raided scores of homes. Several suspects have been charged and others have been detained without charge under new counterterrorism laws. The nation's main domestic spy agency is juggling more than 400 high-priority counterterrorism investigations — more than double the number a year ago.

But the intensified vigilance was no hindrance to Man Monis, a 50-year-old Iranian-born, self-styled cleric with a long criminal history. In December, Monis took 18 people hostage at a downtown Sydney cafe, forced them to hold up a flag bearing the Islamic declaration of faith against a cafe window and demanded he be delivered a flag of the Islamic State group. Monis and two hostages were killed at the end of a 16-hour siege.

A government review found that Monis had fallen off a terrorist watch list despite repeated warnings to security services from members of the public concerned by his online rants. As a Shiite Muslim, he was thought an unlikely recruit to Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim movement.

As traumatic as the hostage crisis was, it could not be compared to the enormity of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States. Hass Dellal, executive director of the Australian Multicultural Foundation, which promotes awareness of cultural diversity within Australia, said that history might make Americans more resistant to Islamic State recruiting.

Dellal also said public discussion of issues around radicalization and extremism is more balanced in the United States than in Australia, which effectively banned Middle Eastern Muslims from immigrating until the 1970s.

Some Muslims have been critical of comments by Prime Minister Abbott, accusing him of driving a wedge between them and the rest of Australia.

"I've often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a religion of peace. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it," Abbott in a speech in February that angered many Muslims with its suggestion of duplicity.

Barton, the Monash University expert, said Australia may prove to be not so different from the United States, if the Islamic State group expands its influence in America.

"It may be a lag effect," Barton said. "It may be in six months' time, the figures are much more comparable."


Dredges will not damage reef

Greenie scaremongering has no scientific basis

The resources and ports sectors continue to defend their dredging practices as safe after the Queensland and federal governments unveiled a long-term Great Barrier Reef management plan.

The plan includes a ban on dumping dredge spoil anywhere in the world heritage area, a limit on port expansion to four sites and targets for reducing sediment, nutrient and pesticide contamination.

It will be a key factor in the UNESCO world heritage committee's decision on whether to list the reef as "in danger" in June this year.

The Greens on Monday urged the federal government to go further after the Australian Coral Reef Society released a report recommending against the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal in central Queensland.

Top coral reef scientists were presenting a choice between protecting the Great Barrier Reef and developing Queensland's Galilee Basin, Greens senator Larissa Waters said.  "In an age of climate change, it's scientifically impossible to do both," she said.

"The Abbott and Palaszczuk government's Reef 2050 Plan for the World Heritage Committee completely ignores the impact of the Galilee Basin coal mines on the reef and other world heritage areas."

Ms Waters said increased shipping through the reef would lead to ocean acidification, more dangerous storms and coral bleaching.

But linking the basin's development to the reef's plight was "a new low point in a campaign of misinformation", GVK Hancock said.

Every reputable analyst agreed that global demand for coal would grow for many decades regardless of the basin's development, spokesman Josh Euler said.  "If we as a nation don't develop the Galilee Basin then some other country will develop their equivalent resource," he said.

Mr Euler said this would allow competitors to gain significant financial and employment benefits.  "The expansion of the existing Abbot Point Port will not impact the Great Barrier Reef."

The government's plan ignores a science-based approach to dredging, according to Ports Australia.

An unwarranted blanket ban on dredging was placing the long-term viability of the ports system at risk, according to chief executive David Anderson.

"The science has been discarded, and instead the policy has been dictated by an activist ideology, with the complicity of UNESCO, which has swayed these governments," he said.


A house of cards and half of them are jokers

Piers Akerman

THE eye-catching topless model and fitness trainer Anastasia Bakss, who invites her internet followers to “Sing up (sic) and get advice of fitness free” would doubtless be a titillating addition to the NSW legislative council.

But while her ability to stimulate greater interest in the upper house is unquestionable, whether she has the qualifications to actually add anything to the level of debate is dubious.

Ms Bakss, who helpfully shares her prescription for a better, acne-free life on her website, appears to have had no life experiences which might guide her to make the critical choices on legislation which would come before her should NSW voters take complete leave of their senses and give her their votes as a representative of the No Land Tax Party.

The Russian immigrant fled to Australia 10 years ago, not as a political refugee but as one fleeing from a disappointing brush with Cupid.

As she says, she arrived in this country “running away from love that didn’t meet expectations, I flew in to the Sydney city which beckoned with its beauty and a far away distance!

“It seemed to me that I can forget everything from my past life by learning hospitality and adopting new Western ways of running the business!”

She turned her back on her former nation after finding that “my concepts of health and fitness were true Russian too-starve or follow the soup / pineapple / blood group diets today to look good on a date tomorrow and alcohol and discos and sex combined burn all the calories so I can again eat a cake or two again!”

That diet she dismisses contemptuously: “No wonder I looked far from being healthy smoking chubby and covered with pimples!”

But it’s the NSW voters who should be studding their expressions with exclamation marks as they contemplate the possibility that Ms Bakss — or any of the other 109 members of the No Land Tax Party standing for upper and lower house seats — could possibly wind up on the public payroll in Macquarie Street after the March 28 election.

The empirical evidence from the farce that is now being played out in the senate in Canberra demonstrates the dangers of voting for single issue parties and voting for parties that are controlled by single individuals.

The delamination of Clive Palmer’s PUP clique should provide a salutary lesson to voters concerning the risks involved in voting for inadequate candidates.

When Prime Minister Tony Abbott accurately described the senate as “feral” he could have been describing the actions of Senator Jacqui Lambie, or her fellow former PUP upper house colleague Glenn Lazarus, or Senator Ricky Muir, the sole representative of the almost non-existent Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party.

Interestingly, in his amusing maiden speech delivered eight months after being elected to the senate, Muir reflected for a moment on democracy. Quoting from the Museum of Australian Democracy’s website, he said: “Australia is a representative democracy. In this political system, eligible people vote for candidates to carry out the business of governing on their behalf.”

The assumption there is of course that the candidates are capable of engaging in the business of governing.

By his actions, and those of some of the other crossbenchers — and, to their discredit, members of the opposition — there is little to suggest that they are either able or willing to actually engage in that business.

While it is extremely desirable to have people who are not embedded in the political class decide to enter politics, there are obvious flaws in a system that can be so easily gamed, either through massive advertising spending or through the manipulation of voting preferences.

The No Land Tax Party which Ms Bakss hopes to represent in the southern Sydney seat of Heffron is a vehicle for its leader Peter Jones, an ex-trade unionist and former Labor Party member banned for three years from being a club director by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) following their investigation of the Brighton-Le-Sands Amateur Fishermen’s Association.

He has had discussions with Glenn Druery, the so-called “preference whisperer” who assisted Muir in his tortuous assemblage of the numbers necessary to transform a minuscule primary vote into a senate seat.

Druery also helped the Shooters and Fishers Party take the balance of power in the NSW upper house in a minor party alliance with the Christian Democratic Party at the last state election.

The luck of the draw has given the No Land Tax party a significant boost by placing it in the rewarding Group A box on the Upper House ballot papers.

When voters are faced with the massive 394-candidate ballot paper, there will undoubtedly be substantial numbers who will vote for a candidate from Mr Jones’ party with little knowledge of their candidate’s views on critical matters, Mr Jones’ agenda, or the deals he has executed to give value to the votes his candidates receive before they expire.

Under the preferential voting system, transferred preferences carry the same weight as the primary vote — and by fielding more than a hundred candidates, Mr Jones has the potential to become an important powerbroker as the votes are tallied.

If Ms Bakss or any members of Mr Jones’ assembled team, most of whom he has never met, are elected, there is at least one person who might be pleased and it’s the German philosopher George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

Sadly, his aphorism that “we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history” may be about to enjoy a renaissance.


23 March, 2015

A leftist mind on display

Feel the hate

Economic illiteracy at the ABC

The ABC's Fran Kelly couldn't help herself on Tuesday morning when she interviewed visiting American economist Arthur Laffer on Radio National. Not happy to simply tell her listeners who Laffer was and let him speak for himself, before he had even said a word, Kelly started the interview by describing what he was going to talk about as "whacky".  And just to make sure ABC listeners got the message Kelly later tweeted: "Boost growth by cutting taxes to rich.  Huh?  Ex-Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer explains how @rnbreakfast."

Arthur Laffer is the author of the most famous diagram in modern economics – the Laffer curve.  It shows something simple and obvious.  When the tax rate is zero, the government will collect no revenue.  When the tax rate is 100 per cent, the government won't collect any revenue either. The insight of Laffer and so-called "supply side economics" is that reducing the tax rate can stimulate economic activity and ultimately generate more government revenue. Which is exactly what happened under Reagan.

Fran Kelly's reaction is not unusual.  Few things are more likely to befuddle an ABC journalist than being told lower taxes are good for economic growth. But to be fair, given the argument for cutting taxes is made so rarely in Australia these days, it's no surprise Kelly was perplexed.  If the majority of public policy commentators in this country are calling for higher taxes, that's what the ABC will report.

The Labor Party, trade unions, the welfare lobby and government-funded think tanks certainly don't argue for lower taxes.  Nor (sadly) does the Coalition.  Worse, the Coalition raises taxes.

The Coalition's "deficit levy" on high income earners is assumed to raise $3 billion over the next four years.  Over that time Commonwealth government revenue is projected to be a total of $1710 billion.  For the sake of a 0.175 per cent difference in revenue over four years (in the scheme of things, a rounding error) the Coalition gave Australia one of the highest top marginal rates of personal income tax in the world.   The government demonstrated that in the name of "fairness" it would penalise those who already paid more than their fair share of taxes.  The Coalition can now hardly complain about how its first budget is attacked because it's "unfair'", when it was the Coalition itself that decided the budget must be "fair".     

It's no wonder that in an interview with Jonathan Shapiro for The Australian Financial Review, Laffer said of the deficit levy: "I'm not Australian.  I don't know enough about the country, but if that was done in my country, the people that recommended those surcharges would be hypocritical political hacks … Rich people are different from us.  They can hire lawyers, accountants, deferred income specialists, senators …  we can't.  The one thing we know about US taxes is that whenever you raise tax rates on the rich you collect less money from them and whenever you lower tax rates on the rich, you collect more money from them."

Instead of the Abbott government arguing with the left about "fairness" – a debate the government should never have started in the first place (because "fairness" is only a code word for redistribution) – Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey should been explaining how to grow the economy.

The PM and Treasurer could do worse than study the principles for tax reform set out in Laffer's book The End of Prosperity: How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy – If We Let It Happen.  The first principle is: "When you tax something you get less of it and when you tax something less, you get more of it." Another is: "The higher the tax rate, the more damage to the economy and the greater the economic gain from reducing the tax rate."

Perhaps the most important of Laffer's principles for tax reform is about social justice.

"The best tax system helps make more poor people rich, not rich people poor."

Maybe the question of how tax cuts can help poor people could be the topic of conversation when Laffer is next interviewed on the ABC.  And in the meantime, a copy of The End of Prosperity is on its way to Fran Kelly.


Disability scheme rollout soon in NSW
John Della Bosca, Every Australian Counts campaign director said: “The news that the NDIS will be a reality in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains from September, more than nine months ahead of schedule is a game changer for the disability community.”

Today Premier Baird committed that if re-elected he would sign an agreement with the Commonwealth to start delivering early intervention services for up to 2,000 young people with disability living in Penrith and the Blue Mountains from September this year, rather than July 2016 as currently scheduled.

John Della Bosca, continued: “Mike Baird is the first Premier to formally commit to move the NDIS from a trial to a delivery phase. The NDIS is now on the move – it’s growing and that’s exciting.

“As this news sinks in people with disability and their families across Australia will be asking the question of their Premiers that if Mike Baird can speed up the NDIS why can’t they?

“The NSW Government has championed disability reform. They were the first state to sign up to the NDIS, the only state to seriously invest in funding service providers to prepare for the NDIS and now are the first state to start the NDIS roll out beyond the trial sites.

“The Every Australian Counts campaign acknowledges the strong bi-partisan support for the NDIS and we expect the NSW Opposition will also commit to speeding up the roll out of the NDIS.”

John Della Bosca concluded, “The most exciting part of today’s announcement is that it’s not a committee, or a policy paper. It’s real action which will allow more people with disability to receive the supports and services they desperately need.”

Press release

Former NSW Labor treasurer Michael Costa accuses his party of a $10 billion taxpayer betrayal in opposing poles and wires sale

FORMER Labor treasurer and union supremo Michael Costa has launched a blistering attack on his ex-comrades, accusing them of running a campaign of “desperate lies” and costing the taxpayer billions.

Mr Costa said unions had already cost the NSW public almost $10 billion by knifing the power privatisation he and Morris Iemma attempted in 2008, all so they could protect their own self-interest.

And Bob Carr’s $25 billion privatisation plan would have delivered $35 billion in today’s dollars had unions and the Labor Party machine not blocked it, he said.

His comments were backed up by Labor elder Martin Ferguson in an interview. “This misinformation that we’ve got led by my own party the Labor Party of NSW suggesting that privatisation will be the detriment of consumers, that is just a bald lie,” Mr Ferguson told Keith Orchison in an interview on website

Writing exclusively in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Costa — who rose through the union ranks to Unions NSW secretary and eventually treasurer in the Iemma Government — fully endorsed Liberal Premier Mike Baird’s “sensible and moderate” proposal to lease 49 per cent of the state’s poles and wires to fund a comprehensive infrastructure plan for the state.

“For two decades NSW has been cursed with a dishonest debate on electricity privatisation which has resulted in a small, privileged special interest group, the electricity unions, maintaining their advantages at the expense of the general good,” he said.

“Lie after desperate lie is being thrown at the public in an attempt to frighten the electorate into rejecting the Baird government’s sensible and moderate reforms to the electricity industry.”

Mr Costa noted the Australian Energy Regulator’s findings that NSW electricity capital and operating costs were up to 35 per cent higher than they could be, costs that were eventually borne by consumers.

As well as Mr Carr, Mr Iemma and Mr Ferguson, Mr Costa joins former Labor leaders Paul Keating and Mark Latham, who have all backed electricity privatisation.

“The only conclusion any sensible person can draw is that electricity privatisation is overwhelmingly good for NSW,” Mr Latham told radio 2UE yesterday.

“What I’m worried about with Luke Foley is the denial of facts … To wipe the facts is just a Luddite position unworthy of a party like Labor.”

Mr Costa said even Mr Foley realised the current system was inefficient. “That’s why he says he is supporting the Australian Energy Regulator’s revenue path even though it will lead to significant job losses in the sector.”

Mr Costa said that under his and Mr Iemma’s planned 2008 privatisation, the state could have raised $15 billion from the sale of retailers and generators alone.

After a brutal union revolt, ALP head office pulled its support and in the end a piecemeal compromise proposal yielded just $5.3 billion.  “In short, union action destroyed nearly $10 billion of potential value,” Mr Costa said.

In the aftermath, Mr Costa was dumped as treasurer by Mr Iemma, who was then dumped as premier in turn and replaced by Nathan Rees.

The Baird plan to lease 49 per cent of the poles and wires for 99 years is estimated to yield some $20 billion in combined revenue and savings that could then be ploughed into infrastructure.

A UBS report released this week predicted $11 billion in proceeds from the lease and $15 billion in cleared debt.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said last night he stood by the union’s campaign claims that prices would rise if the poles and wires were sold and said its view was supported by the public.

“We stand by our campaign that privatisation will lead to higher prices for the public.”


New Leftist Victorian government: Climate variability out, climate change in

Climate change is back on the political agenda in Victoria, with the Andrews Government considering going it alone with a state-based greenhouse gas emissions reduction target.

In a symbolic but significant gesture, Environment Minister Lisa Neville has ordered bureaucrats in her department to "call it what it is - climate change", banning the phrase "climate variability" preferred by the former Napthine government.

In a speech to the Australian Coastal Councils Conference last week, Ms Neville declared "we are putting climate change back on the agenda in Victoria", promising to make the state a national and international leader on the issue.

"In the absence of national leadership on this critical issue, we understand as a State Government we must take the lead on climate change and are committed to reinvigorating climate action within our state, and restoring Victoria's status as a leader in Australia and internationally," Ms Neville said.

Although the environment barely featured in the recent election campaign, the comments suggest the Andrews government wants to make it a central political issue. It is believed a push by the former Bracks Labor government to introduce a state-based emissions trading scheme could potentially be reinvigorated, with Victoria in discussions with both South Australian and New South Wales.

Asked about such a possibility, Ms Neville told Fairfax Media it was too early to make any commitments, suggesting the outcome of global climate talks in Paris later this year would shape the state's policy.

As a first step, the state government is considering whether a Victorian emissions reduction target might be introduced.

"We are currently reviewing legislation and programs and whether a state carbon emissions reduction target would be effective," Ms Neville told the conference. "We're also refocusing the role of Sustainability Victoria to assist communities to take practical action locally and assessing the need for additional policies and programs."

Ms Neville has been picked to lead the national "climate adaptation working group" of environment ministers. She said support for action on climate change had slipped by 20 per cent in the last four years, suggesting people have a hard time accepting solutions to a problem that is essentially long term.

"We must recognise that we have been here before," she said. "We tried to create that bigger picture federally and it fell over."

Given the global nature of the problem, business groups have expressed alarm about the possibility of unilateral action.

Australian Industry Group Victorian director Tim Piper said he had no problem with Victoria taking on a leadership role. "But we also know that unilateral regulations which don't bring the rest of the country with us disadvantage Victorian companies and consumers and are bound to fail," Mr Piper said.

Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said he was optimistic Labor was genuinely committed to "decarbonising" the economy.

"Labor's commitment to reintroducing an emissions reduction target for the state, and its appetite for working with other states like SA and NSW to increase and lead national efforts on decarbonisation is an extremely positive development in the lead up to international climate negotiations in Paris," Mr Wakeham said.


Norfolk Island going into administration

A remote island in the Pacific whose residents are descendants of the swashbuckling British sailors and Tahitian women immortalised in the Mutiny on the Bounty movies is set to lose its right to self-rule.

Norfolk Island, 900 miles east of the Australian coast and settled by the relatives of Fletcher Christian and other HMS Bounty mutineers in 1856, has about 1,800 residents and has governed itself since 1979.

But it is effectively bankrupt and on Thursday, Canberra said it would introduce legislation next week to scrap the Australian territory's parliament.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has come under fire for the move - with the descendants of the mutineers leading the opposition.

If it passes, the island's legislative assembly will be temporarily replaced by an advisory council, before local government elections in 2016.

Personal and business tax will be introduced from July 2016 and residents will in return be able to access social security, healthcare benefits and services enjoyed by Australians.

The island, which has it's own native dialect called Norfuk, will no longer run its own immigration, customs, quarantine, education, police and social services, according to The Telegraph.

Australia's assistant regional development minister, Jamie Briggs, said the changes were long overdue and it was not sustainable to ask a community of just 1,800 to deliver local, state and federal services.

He said the infrastructure on Norfolk Island was run down, the health system is not up to standard and the laws are out of date.

'The community overwhelmingly supports reform and is of the view that the current governance arrangements are not suitable,' he said, adding that Norfolk Island was effectively in administration and reliant on Australian bailouts.

'It is diabolical -- it is quite concerning that it's been left for so long,' he added.

Norfolk Island Chief Minister Lisle Snell said it was unfair to impose such a decision on the tiny outcrop, just five miles long by three miles wide.

'Norfolk Islanders will lose their identity, they will lose their way of life,' Mr Snell told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Most of the population are descendants of the mutineers who set Captain William Bligh adrift from British Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty in 1789.

The mutiny gained such a romantic gloss that chief mutineer Christian has been portrayed by a series of Hollywood heartthrobs over the years, including Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson.

The mutineers settled in Tahiti but later fled, along with their Tahitian women, to remote Pitcairn Island to escape arrest.

Some 60 years after arriving on Pitcairn, almost 200 descendents of the original mutineers relocated to Norfolk Island to avoid famine.

Queen Victoria granted them the right to settle in the abandoned former penal colony.


22 March, 2015

I am outraged

I was brought up as a Presbyterian and, culturally, I guess I still am one.  I even still read Presbyterian publications at times. So the lily-livered report below from one such publication is deeply disappointing to me.

The report is from the head of the Presbyterian church in Queensland and his report is of a meeting with  local Muslim leaders. So did the meeting express any concern at all about the large-scale and grievous attacks on Christians in Muslim lands? 

Such attacks were not mentioned at all. We read that the meeting was "to express concern about the violence that has been perpetrated against some Muslims simply because they are Muslims". 

And in the press release we find out what the "violence" was: "recent negative sentiments expressed toward Muslims and especially Muslim women".  So rape, torture and death of thousands of Christians fades into insignificance compared with a few harsh words about Muslims! 

I am flabbergasted.  The man quotes the Bible but he is a Pharisee, a hypocrite, an abomination and a "whited sepulchre".

Has he not read: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40).  Christ had great concern for every one of his followers but the Rt. Rev. Phil Case apparently does not.

He was only one of the church leaders at the meeting but he voices no disquiet about its reprehensible proceedings.

Heads of Churches meeting with members of Queensland Islamic council

By Rt. Rev. Phil Case (Moderator of the Presbyterian church in Queensland)

I attended the Heads of Churches meeting on the 20th October. We met with the Brisbane leaders of the Islamic community.

Some might ask why we would meet with them when our faiths are so different. This was not a meeting about the content of our respective faiths, but a meeting to express concern about the violence that has been perpetrated against some Muslims simply because they are Muslims. It was a meeting to support the Freedom of Religion we enjoy in Australia.

I think it was Evelyn Beatrice Hall biographer of Voltaire who wrote “I disapprove of what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

If we do not speak out against these actions pertaining to people because of their religion, how can we speak out when we are acted against because of our Christian faith? We do not share beliefs with the Islamic Community, but we do share our humanity with them. Our Lord has commanded us to love our neighbour, and to love our enemies.

Speaking out in defence of their right to live in peace as law abiding citizens is doing just this. Aggression toward people arises from fear; fear of that which is different, fear of that which we do not know and understand.

It would be good if we as Christians could take the time to get to know our Islamic neighbours and show them love at the appropriate level. How can we expect them to listen to us if we will not listen to them and take the time to get to know them?

Not only is this an opportunity to live out the commands of our Lord to love our neighbour, but it is an opportunity to share the Gospel with people who desperately need it. God has brought these people to our shores, but the tragedy is that most of these people have no more contact with Christians than they would if they still lived in their Islamic homeland.

They hear no more of the Gospel and know no more of Christianity than those in countries where Christians are not free to share the Gospel. In 1 Peter 3:15-16 we read " your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience..."

If Christ is Lord, we are to be prepared to give an answer to those who ask about our faith and hope. But no one is going to ask about our hope if we never bother to meet and get to know anyone.

Note also, that we are to do it with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience. We are always to act with care and respect for those we speak to. It is interesting that this is Peter’s command to those who may be afraid of persecution (see verse 14).

We are not to be afraid. We are not to fear anything because our Lord is in control. Let us take the opportunity while it is day to do good to all men and to share the Gospel.

I encourage all Christians to learn not just about the beliefs of Islam, but also to get to know some people who practise Islam. Our common humanity ensures we have much in common with them.

Many of their concerns are our concerns. They are having open days at mosques and are open to invitations to events that we might hold at our churches. This is a golden opportunity to build peace and share the Gospel as the Lord permits.

It will take time and effort to build relationships in which questions can be asked and answered, but let’s not miss out.

Media Release:

Heads of Churches meeting with members of Queensland Islamic Council

by Rt Rev Phil Case

On Monday 20 October, the Heads of Christian Churches met with members of the Islamic Council of Queensland to consider ways of strengthening relations between the Christian and Islamic communities in the State that promote respect and harmony.

The meeting was precipitated by the concern over the recent negative sentiments expressed toward Muslims and especially Muslim women.

The meeting abhorred such actions, and called upon all Queenslanders to respect the right of all Australians to enjoy Freedom of Religion, and seeks to promote ways in which understanding and tolerance between people of different faiths can be increased.

Churches represented included the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Uniting, Congregational Federation of Australian and New Zealand, Australian Christian Churches, Presbyterian Church of Queensland and the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia.

As well as members of the Queensland Islamic Council there were also representatives of the Council of Imams, Crescents of Brisbane and AMARAH in attendance.

Topics discussed included supporting freedom of religious practices and ideas within the Australian community; showing dignity to all people regardless of their beliefs and ways of life; and speaking with a united voice to government and politicians on topics of mutual concern.

As well it was agreed to support initiatives such as the open mosque days, organising forums to educate the wider community about Islam


Santos stunned by NSW Labor threat to $2b coal seam gas project

Santos has been left stunned by a pledge by NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley to ban coal seam gas from the Pilliga region if Labor wins government, a move that has undermined the whole future of its proposed $2 billion Narrabri project.

While a Labor win in the March 28 election is seen as unlikely, the pledge has removed bipartisan support for the Narrabri venture, without which Santos and its partners would be reluctant to commit the capital required to develop the controversial project, which could supply up to half of the state's gas needs.

"It is disappointing that the Labor party has decided to play politics with a very important product for the state long term," said James Baulderstone, Santos's vice-president, eastern Australia.

He accused NSW Labor of "putting out policies on the run" without thinking through the consequences. He said he expected "common sense to prevail" after the election and that the policy would be rethought.

Business worried about shortages

But Mr Foley's statement has caused shock waves throughout business in NSW, whch is worried about potential shortages of gas for manufacturing, and more broadly about heightened sovereign risk which will deter investment. Mr Foley said a Labor government in NSW would also impose a statewide moratorium on CSG activity.

NSW Business Chamber chief executive Stephen Cartwright pointed to gas supply shortages that risked the closure of manufacturing businesses, prompting job losses in western Sydney and regional NSW.

"Labor has no plan to ensure that gas users can access the gas they need at competitive prices," Mr Cartwright said, pointing to "concerns about sovereign risk, affecting the overall investment climate in New South Wales".

A NSW Labor government would not cancel any exploration or assessment licences but would not permit exploration licences in the Pilliga forest to convert into production licences, Mr Foley said late on Thursday. Licences would not be renewed when they expire and no compensation would be offered.

Santos's Narrabri project has been repeatedly delayed by changing state regulations amid huge community concern about the impact of the industry on water and land resources. The company has already invested about $1.2 billion in its NSW CSG business, including the takeover of explorer Eastern Star Gas in 2011.

The Pilliga venture and AGL Energy's proposed Gloucester project, which has already secured state environmental approval, were the only two in the state to previously have broad political support across both main parties.

But the Labor stance has removed that.

"This is certainly not a positive development for Santos," said Canaccord energy analyst Johan Hedstrom. "I think it's going to be very hard to make much progress for Santos or anybody else in New South Wales for the next few years. When we get gas prices double what we are paying today, maybe there's going to be a different tune from the electorate."

AGL Energy said it would continue to work with the community and government "so we can secure gas safely to supply to our customers", and didn't comment on Labor's proposed moratorium.

Santos NSW manager Peter Mitchley noted that the NSW Chief Scientist, Mary O'Kane, had reviewed the CSG industry and concluded that the industry carried no more risk than any other extractive industry. He pointed out that the Narrabri project wouldn't affect water recharge in the Great Artesian Basin.

"We are finalising the environmental impact statement and I wish people would wait until they see the EIS and judge the project on that rather than jumping to conclusions before they even know what we are trying to do," Mr Mitchley said.

Santos partners

The Labor stance is expected to make it even more difficult for Santos to find another partner for the Pilliga project. It has been in talks with potential investors that might take a 30 per cent stake in the venture, to reduce its own holding to about 50 per cent. Existing 20 per cent partner, EnergyAustralia, has already written down its stake in the venture by $248 million to zero, while Santos last month wrote its stake down by $808 million before tax.

"Partners at the moment globally are looking at investing their money where there is the least risk," Mr Baulderstone said.

"They will expect that Australia and Australian governments will continue to be sensible and continue to be pragmatic about the need to balance economic development with the environment. I am sure that once this election is over common sense will prevail and we'll have the normal type of discussions both with government and with partners."

NSW Labor's opposition to CSG was soundly criticised last week by former federal Labor resources minister Martin Ferguson, who said the party was not acting in the best long-term interests of the very people it was supposed to be serving.

But Australian Workers' Union national secretary Scott McDine said he didn't believe that getting more coal seam gas out of the ground in NSW would help solve the gas problem in the eastern states, and reiterated the AWU's call for a domestic gas reservation scheme.

"CSG is not going to solve the price issue," Mr Mc Dine said on Friday. "I am very keen on there being jobs, absolutely, but if people think that further gas extraction will lead to lower prices they are wrong."

Mr Foley said CSG posed "unacceptable" risks to underground water storages in the Pilliga, a claim rejected by Mr Baulderstone.


Afghanistan veterans receive hero's welcome in Brisbane parade

More than 3000 veterans of Australia's military campaign in Afghanistan were given a hero's welcome in Brisbane on Saturday morning.

The 14-year military operation resulted in the deaths of 41 ADF members, with hundreds more suffering injuries, both physical and psychological.

The scorn their predecessors who served in Vietnam faced upon their return was nowhere to be seen.

Instead, they were greeted with waving Australian flags and signs expressing a nation's gratitude.

In one of  a series of such parades held across Australia, the Operation Slipper veterans from all Australia's defence forces marched though the CBD streets under an overcast sky.

A police spokesman said more than 5000 people lined the streets to watch the returned servicemen and women – and a sheep – march through the city.

A planned flyover of three RAAF C-17 Globemasters had to be cancelled for operational reasons, believed to be the ongoing aid effort to cyclone-ravaged Vanuatu.

However, two Black Hawk helicopters did provide some aerial support for the troops on the ground.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attended, along with Governor Paul de Jersey, Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and federal Attorney-General George Brandis

"I especially want to acknowledge the families with us today, who pay the ultimate sacrifice with the loss of a loved one, killed in action during Operation Slipper," Ms Palaszczuk said.

Parades were held in every capital city, as well as Townsville, across Australia on Saturday morning.

Operation Slipper began in October 2001 and formally ended on December 31 last year.


Building Industry Backs Sensible Reforms To 457 Visa Program
The Government’s proposed reforms of the 457 visa system will support a more productive building and construction industry and more jobs for young Australians.

“Master Builders welcomes the Government’s positive approach in responding to the Independent Review of the Integrity of the 457 Subclass Program, particularly in proposed reforms to strengthen and protect the integrity of the 457 visa program,” Wilhelm Harnisch CEO of Master Builders Australia said.

“The recommendations put forward by the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Michaelia Cash, show that the Government has listened to the building industry’s call for greater flexibility in the system while strengthening its integrity,” he said.

“Minister Cash’s response will cut red tape for builders who do the right thing while ensuring those who don’t, facing tougher sanctions,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“Contrary to union claims, the building industry is committed to providing jobs for Australians first. The skills of foreign workers are called on to meet skills deficits on projects when local workers are not available,” he said.

“Minister Cash’s proposed training fund will reduce future reliance on overseas workers by supporting building industry employers to train more young Australians and upskill existing workers,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“Master Builders looks forward to working closely with the Government to ensure the industry is an important driver of the training delivery model under the new training fund to ensure positive outcomes are achieved and more job ready young people can readily embark on rewarding careers in building and construction,” he said.

“The Minister’s proposal that the fund should support builders to train more young people in regional and Indigenous communities will help fight youth unemployment and support the Government’s efforts to close the gap for Indigenous Australians,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“Master Builders also welcomes the Government’s recommended move to more flexible labour agreements. Reducing the timeframe from 2 years to 3 months through the setting of service agreement by the Department is supported as is the more flexible approach in English language testing. The proposed averaging approach is a solid first step in addressing the industry’s concerns,” he said.

“Minister Cash’s 457 visa reforms will assist the building industry to meet its cyclical skills shortages while providing Australian young people with more rewarding career opportunities in a key growth industry,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

Press release

Welfare addiction keeps Australia from reforming its finances

AUSTRALIAN historian John Hirst recalls that when he met his future father-in-law, Bernard, in the early 1960s, the 50-something boasted he had saved and arranged his financial affairs so as not to receive the age pension.

“It used to be a matter of shame for people to claim public benefits,” Hirst tells Inquirer. “Now I read in The (Australian)Financial Review articles laying out in detail how to obtain a part-age pension. It’s shameless.”

When Bernard was born in 1910, only one-third of Australians over 65 received the age pension, then only one year old. Today 80 per cent receive it, despite unprecedented growth in living standards and real average incomes in the intervening years.

This growing army of pensioners is just part of a welfare ­explosion that risks setting Australia’s public finances on the road to fiscal disaster; it also risks ­sapping political parties’ will to resist the journey with any sense of ­commitment.

The proliferation of different payments — and their reach into Australian households — has fostered a pervasive sense of entitlement that has undermined once powerful arguments in favour of self-reliance. It has created a powerful political constituency for public spending beyond the traditional public service that parliament has proved unable to resist.

In 1930, historian Keith Hancock famously wrote that Australian democracy “looked upon the state as a vast public utility”. It seems an odd comment from the vantage point of the early 21st century; government and welfare in Hancock’s era were remote and meagre.

The fledgling commonwealth, only recently established in Canberra, levied taxes equivalent to 5 per cent of national income in the late 1920s, a small fraction of the 23 per cent levied almost a century later. Apart from the long-­established age pension, the 72 payments and supplements that today make up the federal government’s welfare cat­alogue lay many decades in the future.

Areas that dominated government spending in Hancock’s day — defence, justice, basic public infrastructure — have shrivelled as the federal welfare bill has swollen to about $150 billion ($400 million a day) this year, more than six times the defence budget.

He surely couldn’t have imagined the prescience of his remark. Today, Google-search “what payments can I get” and the first link that appears is the Department of Human Services’ Payment Finder site. Type some basic details and discover immediately the array of payments for which you may be eligible. A 35-year-old working full time with healthy children aged eight to 15 is eligible for nine. If a relative has recently died, it jumps to 13.

It is not only older Australians whose dependence on welfare has ballooned. The share of the working age (15-64) population receiving disability, unemployment or parenting payments has exploded from 2 per cent in 1969 to 12 per cent in 2013. Including the over-65s, about a quarter of the population over 15 receives cash income-support payments.

Snowballing support for families with children has further boosted numbers. The share of families receiving income-support payments has surged from 10 per cent in the mid-60s to more than 40 per cent today. A crucial change came in 1976 when the Fraser government substituted cash payments for tax deductions per child, severing the link between support and work.

All up, conservatively about 60 per cent of Australia’s nine million-odd households receive some sort of federal government cash handout, according to various surveys. Peter Whiteford, a social security specialist at the Australian National University, points to evidence suggesting about two-thirds of Australian households received income support within a nine-year period. “I had to ring up and check when I first read that,” he says.

This welfare web has serious implications for the outcome of elections. The share of households considered net taxpayers — those whose income tax payments outweigh what they receive in social security — is poised to drop below 50 per cent. According to the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, this share has fallen from 56 per cent to 51 per cent across the decade to last year. That is, almost half of all households get back more from the government in welfare payments than they give up in income tax.

It is little wonder most voters have no appetite for welfare reform, or at least any reform that may mean lower benefits.

The drop in net taxpayers is explained mainly by a fall in the share of over-65s (a rapidly growing group) who pay net tax from 13 per cent to 8 per cent. “The removal of superannuation taxation for those aged over 60 and the generous nature of the senior Australians tax offset means that older Australians typically pay no or very little tax,” NATSEM researcher Ben Phillips says.

Compulsory voting compels Australia’s politicians to focus particularly on the interests of the “median voter”. They reason their core supporters will vote for them anyway, so the interests of politically uninterested, younger voters, typically with children, become paramount.

It may seem reassuring that the share of working-age couples with children who are net contributors is still 75 per cent (down from 80 per cent in 2004), but their net contributions would be dwarfed by other government benefits received in kind.

Perhaps the best evidence for the electorate’s aversion to any weaning off the welfare teat — in the face of an ominous fiscal outlook — is the failure of the Abbott government’s first budget. Apart from a cut to foreign aid and a few tweaks here and there, none of the proposed big structural savings in social security, health or education has been passed.

Tony Abbott is able to claim the government’s debt burden is no longer hurtling towards 120 per cent of gross domestic product only because the rate of growth of payments to the states for schools and hospitals is assumed to slow dramatically after 2017, a move Labor trenchantly opposes.

Now a wounded Coalition ­government appears to be giving up, and promises a “dull and routine” second budget attempt in six weeks. The broader pace of reform has ground to a halt, too, despite an expanding library of sensible ­proposals in tax, childcare, welfare, federation, banking and competition.

Hirst is perplexed why politicians aren’t making greater use of grandfathering to prise unneces­sary payments and concessions off Australians. “They could blow the whistle on many of these things without upsetting the current beneficiaries,” he says.

John Daley, head of the Grattan Institute, concedes growth in the scope of welfare has made reform more difficult but puts more of the blame on the ineptitude of the political class. “Of course it’s much harder to take something away from someone than simply to not give it out in the first place. But we are seeing policies go live without sufficient analysis, leading to poor design, and social media ensures the flaws are found and broadcast very quickly,” he says, pointing to the unravelling of the Coalition’s higher education reforms and GP co-payments.

It is becoming conventional wisdom to point to Australia’s political paralysis. The skill or lack thereof of our political leaders is typically blamed. But deep-seated structural changes in society, including the growing share of the population with a vested interest in no cuts to government spending, must also figure.

“Obviously when a larger share of the population is on welfare the constituency for spending will be larger, and it will be harder to cut it,” says Peter Saunders, a senior fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies. “But the shift in mentality is the more damaging — government becomes a dispensing machine and elections never a battle over ideas or principles but rather simply over who is going to get what.”

Demographer Hugh Mackay points out that Australia, like other advanced countries, has become more fragmented and less cohesive, making political leadership inherently more difficult.

“We’ve been ethnically and culturally diverse for a long time, but there are other factors now fragmenting us, such as divorce, population mobility (we move house on average once every six years), smaller households (the single-person household is now the largest and fastest growing category) — and the rise of the two-income household means less time for nurturing local communities,” he says.

“The explosion of information technology and especially social media has created the illusion of greater connectedness but it has made it easier than ever for us to stay apart from each other.”

This is a trend Mackay expands on in his latest book, The Art of ­Belonging.

Social media also has made trimming welfare harder. The technology has slashed the price of personal sanctimony, making it far easier to broadcast one’s righteousness and concern for others to many thousands.

Once, one would have to go to the trouble of writing a grammatically correct letter to the editor. Facebook and Twitter have given life to countless “online campaigns” driven by campaigners not especially informed about the underlying policy issue.

“None of this makes us ungovernable, but it does make us less predictable, less trusting,” Mackay concludes.

Hirst is also relatively optimistic. “In a genuine crisis we would see one of the major parties win control of both houses of parliament again,” he says. “But the seemingly entrenched demand that politicians must signal all tax increases and all funding cuts before they are elected has raised the standard to a ridiculous level.”

John Maynard Keynes might have changed his mind when the facts changed, but our politicians are no longer afforded this luxury. Julia Gillard imposed a carbon tax. Abbott trimmed the ABC’s budget. John Howard was dogged relentlessly during his 1998 GST campaign for a “never, ever” remark he had made in 1995.

This heightened focus on promises perhaps stems from the greater share of the population that stands to be affected by the variety of levers a governing party may choose to pull.

The point is the policy outcomes we are observing are a result of the political system that we have chosen, and in particular the voting franchise. It is too simplistic to blame individuals or political parties. Politicians respond rationally to the incentive structure laid before them. The incentive is to win favour with most voters. Under Australia’s compulsory voting regime, that means the “median voter” in particular. As a much larger share of the voting public contributes little, if anything, to the state and extracts significant benefits from it, policy and promises are fashioned ­accordingly.

Yet all adults have the same right to determine the allocation of taxpayers’ funds. Regardless of whether this is right or wrong, it certainly has an effect on political outcomes and in particular the current parliament’s inability to curb spending. The constituency for more spending would be empowered further if the Greens succeeded in extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds.

The impact of compulsory voting on policy outcomes is little discussed, but it must be huge. Today a sacrosanct tenet of Australian political life, it was smuggled through federal parliament on the back of a private member’s bill during the Bruce government in 1924. Far from an enlightened response to voter apathy, it was ­inspired by a conservative government in Queensland that decided in 1915 to compel the electorate to vote on the assumption its supporters were lazier than those of its Labor opponents.

“It is demeaning of citizenship; the state shouldn’t be forcing people to vote if they have no interest,” Hirst says. One could also object on pragmatic grounds: having lots of uninterested and uninformed people voting forces politicians to dumb down their arguments. Saunders argues most people vote from “emotional wellsprings” rather than rational analysis, referring to a 2011 survey in Britain that showed only 14 per cent of people understood the relationship between the deficit and the public debt.

The unrelenting growth of welfare and the resulting political gridlock would not surprise 19th-century democrats. British political economist John Stuart Mill — an ardent advocate for extending the vote and ending slavery, and a champion of women’s rights and free speech — thought voting should be restricted to taxpayers.

“The assembly which votes the taxes, either general or local, should be elected exclusively by those who pay something towards the taxes imposed,” he cautioned in 1861, when voters in Britain still had to meet property and income tests. “Those who pay no taxes, disposing by their votes of other people’s money, have every ­motive to be lavish and none to economise.”

Mill’s progressive, liberal argument would be howled down today as “right-wing” extremism. His other restriction might be more appealing — that voters should demonstrate basic numeracy and literacy before they can vote. “You can’t drive on the roads without passing a basic competence test,” says Saunders, suggesting governance of a country may be equally important.

But today’s politicians must work within the system that exists. Without the abolition of compulsory voting or the introduction of a modest competency test for voters, they must continue to appeal to the median voter. And as more and more households find themselves net beneficiaries of government payments, the chances of convincing the median voter of the need for hard but necessary budget choices grow dimmer.


21 March, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is also saying good riddance to big Mal -- but he is a bit more polite about it than I was

20 March, 2015

Good riddance to a pompous ass

Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser, a giant of Australian politics [He WAS tall], has died aged 84.

His office issued a statement confirming the news 'with deep sadness' on Friday morning.   'We appreciate that this will be a shock to all who knew and loved him, but ask that the family be left in peace at this difficult time,' it said.

Mr Fraser was prime minister from November 1975 until March 1983. [Eight wasted years]

He controversially came to power as caretaker prime minister following the dismissal of Labor leader Gough Whitlam by Governor-General Sir John Kerr.

Under his leadership, the Coalition then won the largest landslide of any political party at the 1975 federal election.

Gough Whitlam dubbed Fraser 'Kerr's cur', although the two would have a rapprochement later in life. 

Liberal strategist Grahame Morris told Sky News there has always been some question about whether it was a 'fair dinkum' way to rise to power.

In office, Mr Fraser championed a multicultural Australia, delivered self-government to the Northern Territory and established SBS.

He was a determined backer of the movement to boycott South Africa during the apartheid years.

Following his defeat by Labor's Bob Hawke in 1983, Mr Fraser continued to be an outspoken advocate of asylum seekers.

His opinions often ran against the grain of the modern Liberal party, something highlighted by his consistent tweeting in his later years.

'The night Malcolm Fraser lost his trousers': The former prime minister's most embarrassing moment came about in 1986, when he was found confused and dressed only in a towel at Memphis hotel frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers


Fake Leftist rage at Nazi comparison

As usual from them, it's "Do as I say, not as I do"

A FURORE has erupted in parliamentary question time after Tony Abbott linked Bill Shorten with a Nazi politician.

Facing questions from the opposition over the Coalition’s economic management the Prime Minister said Mr Shorten was the “Dr Goebbels of economic policy”.

Dr Goebbels was Hitler’s minister for propaganda and a virulent anti-semite who played a key role in the Nazis’ policy of persecution against the Jews.

The comment caused much fury from Labor politicians including Jewish MP Mark Dreyfus.  The Shadow Attorney General was thrown out of the chamber after his protests.

Member for Melbourne ports Michael Danby walked out in disgust.

Mr Dreyfus said Tony Abbott was a “disgusting man” as he walked out.

The Prime Minister withdrew his comments immediately and later apologised.  “I withdraw” Mr Abbott said more than five times.

The Coalition accused Labor of overblowing the comments and “feigning” disgust.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton shouted across the chamber to Mr Shorten: “Stop feigning your indignation, you’re such a hypocrite Shorten”.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said Labor had used the same words to describe Mr Abbott when he was Opposition Leader.

Labor’s Tim Watts, another Melbourne MP, was also thrown out in the chaos. Another Labor MP, Michael Danby, said as he walked out of the chamber: “If he’s out, I’m out - over this”.

Mr Danby said that the Prime Minister “can slag us as much as he likes, but it is demeaning to him and the Parliament to use an example of the ultimate evil in politics”.

Mr Abbott’s apology comes after Labor MPs have previously made references to Dr Goebbels.

In 2011, Mr Dreyfus was criticised after describing Mr Abbott’s comments on the carbon tax as “Goebbellian”.

“Leaving aside the Goebbellian cynicism of labelling a scare campaign a “truth campaign’’, I think it shows Abbott’s contempt for the Australian electorate,” he wrote.

In 2006, Labor MP Jill Hall also criticised the Coalition’s policy on asylum seekers, saying: “They have vilified asylum seekers and refugees in a way that would make Goebbels blush.”

In 1995, Wayne Swan said: “In recent weeks there has been a Goebbels type campaign by the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), and others on his front bench to remake their image from hard right ideologues to soft, cuddly, caring, non-threatening middle of the road type social democrats.”

In 2005, Bernie Ripoll told the House of Representatives: “These mind-numbing ads that they have put on television, on radio and in print media over and over again are straight out of the Goebbels propaganda handbook.”


Vietnam, Australia leaders agree to closer defense, security ties

A warning to China

Vietnam and Australia agreed to closer security ties Wednesday, including training Vietnamese troops in Australia as Canberra seeks to balance its relationship with its biggest trading partner China and relations with other neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told reporters that his Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott, had agreed during a meeting at Parliament House to strengthen cooperation on security and defense in a range of areas, including experience and information sharing, English-language training and special forces cooperation.

"We agreed on the importance of the assurance of peace, stability, maritime security and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, in compliance with international law," Dung said.

China says it has historical claims to a huge swath of the South Sea China that overlaps with the claims of several neighbors, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines, fueling concerns of a conflict.

Abbott said 120 Vietnamese military personnel would be trained in Australia, and Vietnam would take part in joint military training exercises in Australia.

He acknowledged a growing security relationship between Australia and Vietnam in recent years. Australian troops fought alongside the U.S. against the Vietnam communists during the Vietnam war.

"We have both prospered in peace over the last 40 years because of the stability that our region has enjoyed, and anything which disturbs that stability is something that we would mutually deplore and mutually work to ensure didn't happen," Abbott said.

"We both support freedom of navigation by air and by sea in the South China Sea. We both deplore any unilateral change to the status quo. We both think that disputes should be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law," he said.


A looming risk to Australia's international reputation

The world is starting to look at Australia in disbelief. We are a country with a AAA credit rating yet both our major political parties in state jurisdictions have either expropriated commercially owned assets without compensation or are threatening to do so.

In NSW and Victoria, the ALP in government (Victoria) and in opposition (NSW) has threatened to confiscate assets or contractual rights without full compensation. But in NSW the Coalition government has actually done it, creating a clear precedent.

And the Greens want to go one step further and end coal mining in NSW within five years and expropriate assets without compensation. While this sounds like a wild plan, it merely takes the precedents set by the major parties a step further. This is Australia 2015.

It is very dangerous for the nation and, in time, will cost Australia its triple-A credit rating.

Under the Commonwealth constitution, the Federal Government cannot expropriate assets without compensation but the states can.

In the Korean and Chinese free-trade agreements (and most likely the one with Japan too), if the states expropriate assets or contractual rights without compensation, the Chinese, Korean and probably Japanese organisations can go to the International Court of Arbitration and seek compensation. There is a similar provision in the ASEAN free trade agreement.

But in all cases, it is the Commonwealth that must provide the compensation if the International Court of Arbitration rules against the states. The Commonwealth must then somehow try and extract the funds from the states.

Under the terms of the US free-trade agreement, both the US and Australian governments must agree to a case but it might be possible to proceed to the International Tribunal with just one government agreeing.

Under the terms of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, the US wants proper rights of appeal to the International Court of Arbitration. Paradoxically, this is being opposed by Australia on the basis that expropriation without compensation would never happen here. That is complete nonsense.

Given the rogue nature of the Coalition, ALP and the Greens in state jurisdictions, international organisations need protection from expropriation of non-real estate assets and rights. Australian organisations have no protection from state governments.

Each of the four cases where Australian states have used, or threatened to use, their expropriation without compensation powers have their own twist. In NSW, the Coalition state government last year expropriated the coal assets of NuCoal, a listed company, without compensation.

Back in 2013, NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption found that Former State Labor mining minister Ian Macdonald acted corruptly in 2008 when he granted the exploration licence to Doyles Creek Mining. In 2014, the NSW government ordered the cancellation of mining exploration licence at Doyles Creek mine following the corruption inquiry. At that stage. the licence was held by a 100 per cent owned subsidiary of NuCoal. NuCoal acquired the assets through a back door listing in 2010 and neither NuCoal nor its shareholders were found guilty.
ICAC suggested compensation but none was paid.

Thirty per cent of NuCoal’s shareholders are in the US and they’re trying to get the US government to look after their interests and take the Commonwealth to the International Court of Arbitration. Under the Asian free trade agreements, NuCoal’s US shareholders would be able to directly challenge the decision without gaining government approval.

Although the NSW expropriation without compensation act purports to stop writs against the legislation, there are several NSW Supreme and High court cases awaiting judgment. In the High court case all the mainland states claimed they had a right to expropriate non-real estate assets without compensation. Surprisingly, the Commonwealth agreed.

The NSW Coalition government, in revealing alleged corruption, was also attacking the ALP.

Now it’s tit for tat. The ALP and the Greens have introduced legislation to try and stop the Koreans developing coal resources at Wyong. The Koreans have already spent more than $110 million to bring the project close to the tender stage.

If the ALP and the Greens get into power and expropriate without compensation, the Koreans will almost certainly go to the international tribunal and the Commonwealth could be forced to pay for the actions of the NSW state. The Koreans are showing aggression and say NSW Labor leader Luke Foley has had a “Daniel Andrew’s moment” in threatening to enact special legislation.

In Victoria, the Andrews government is threatening to use its expropriation-by-legislation powers to seal a deal with the main parties to the East West Link contract which it has cancelled.

Here we are not dealing with a minnow like NuCoal but with major world infrastructure providers and financiers. They will make sure Victoria is punished and punished severely in international markets if it acts like the NSW Coalition and expropriates without compensation.

But Victoria recognises the dangers, so it is shifting ground and now appears to be offering compensation. I should emphasise that Victoria has not yet introduced any legislation.

In NSW, the ALP and the Greens will use the Coalition’s NuCoal precedent to grab gas assets in northern NSW if they gain power at the up-coming election.

Combine Victorian threats and NSW action and threats and we have a real danger to the global standing of our nation.

Given the NSW Greens want to stop coal mining in NSW, the danger will need to be underlined in the proposed NSW power assets sale agreement, which is opposed by the ALP and the Greens.


Has Australia forgotten its Irish past?

Has Australia forgotten its Irish past? It seems a strange question, when iconic buildings such as the Sydney Opera House "green up" for St Patrick's Day. However, Australians tend not to go in for hyphenated identity, as some Americans do, and do not proclaim their ethnic origins with quite the same "Kiss Me I'm Irish" (or Greek or Italian) swagger. "Thank God for that", you might well think.

Yet, recognising ancestral roots does not need to be sentimental or kitsch. It helps us learn from our collective history, to understand how cultural and religious encounter can produce new possibilities for being Australian, or can coarsen and polarise into rancour and mistrust.

Irish settlement was hugely formative of this country, socially, politically and culturally. It was a distinct part of wider white settlement, not least because of the imported sectarian tensions and divisions that went along with it.

Establishment prejudice against Catholics and "bog Irish" endured from the early days of settlement well into the 20th century. That label "Anglo-Celtic", routinely used to describe early European settlement, papers over the crucial schism between its two constituent terms. Ironically, the arrival of new waves of immigrants has tended to obscure the differences that historically made up the Australian nation.

"White Australia" has come to seem a unified and authentic identity, threatened by hordes of dark-skinned foreigners.

A century ago, during the Great War, Prime Minister Billy Hughes played up a common prejudice against the Irish. They were suspected of disloyalty, especially after the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916

If we forget history, we are condemned to repeat it, the truism goes. Perhaps it is truer to say that if we forget history, in all its messy, ragged, complexity, we produce myths of the past based on consoling simplistic stories of "them" and "us" that feed misunderstanding and violence. Remembering the distinctiveness of Irish settlement into Australia, both its collisions and its collusions with British officialdom, is necessary for a wise response to current immigration debates and policies. The Catholic Irish were assimilated into Australian life when other threats seemed greater. The social conservatism of the Catholic Church and its Irish followers became a key ally in the fight against communism during the Cold War.

Furthermore, later waves of immigrants from eastern Europe, the south Mediterranean and Asia made Irish Catholic otherness seem less pronounced. Suddenly, the Irish did not seem so different. This softening in Protestant-Catholic sectarianism demonstrates vividly how enemies become allies when geopolitical configurations mutate. It is a lesson we would do well to remember in the current circumstances.

Up to one-third of Australians are of Irish heritage – vastly more, proportionally, than in the US. The contribution of Irish migrants to Australian politics, the judiciary and the professions is immense and played a crucial role in modern Australia's journey to political independence. Australia, visiting Irish politicians routinely claim, is the most Irish country outside of Ireland. Yet, this connection is under-recognised in both Australia and Ireland, including in both education systems. Whereas most major urban destinations for Irish emigration, such as New York, London, Montreal, Liverpool and Boston, have prominent Irish studies centres, Irish studies is comparatively absent as an academic subject in Australia, despite the pioneering work in the field by historians such as the late Patrick O'Farrell.

Where then might contemporary Australian students learn about Ireland or study their rich heritage of Irish Australia? To remember the Irishness of Australia on St Patrick's Day should not simply be an indulgence based on sepia-tinted myths of heritage and belonging. It is to remind those who use rhetoric about "our values", that "Anglo-Celtic" Australia is itself formed on cultural and religious difference, sectarian schisms that were traversed and hybridised into an ever-changing, ever-porous nation called Australia.


Survivors welcome Archbishop sex charge

THE Catholic archbishop of Adelaide will fight an allegation he concealed child sexual abuse by a priest, a charge a victims' group says is unlikely to be the last faced by a senior church official.

PHILIP Wilson is believed to be the most senior Catholic official in the world to face charges of this nature.
NSW police allege Wilson concealed a serious offence regarding child sexual abuse in the state's Hunter region.

The abuse was allegedly committed during the 1970s by another priest, when both men worked in the Maitland Diocese, near Newcastle.

Wilson said he was disappointed police had decided to charge him and would vigorously defend his innocence.

"The suggestion appears to be that I failed to bring to the attention of police a conversation I am alleged to have had in 1976, when I was a junior priest, that a now deceased priest had abused a child," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

"From the time this was first brought to my attention last year, I have completely denied the allegation."

Wilson appeared in 2013 at a special commission of inquiry into how police and church officials handled allegations of abuse by Hunter Valley priests, particularly serial sex offender Father Denis McAlinden and convicted pedophile Father James Fletcher. Both are now dead.

Wilson, 64, could face up to two years behind bars if convicted.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) spokesman Mark Fabbro said it was positive to see the police move against such a senior church official.

"Survivors had been wondering why it had taken so long for a senior prelate to be brought to justice," Mr Fabbro told AAP.  "There is evidence also implicating other individuals who have obviously from the evidence not reported crimes to the police and not pursued the perpetrators to ensure that they were accountable to the Australian public.

"It appears from the evidence that we've gained that the senior prelates in the Catholic Church persisted in the movement of ... criminals away from police authorities."

The charge follows an investigation by Strike Force Lantle, which since 2010 has probed allegations of concealment of child abuse by former and current clergy attached to the Catholic Church's Maitland-Newcastle Diocese.

Wilson said his efforts on the issue of child sexual abuse have been widely acknowledged.  "I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to dealing proactively with the issue of child sexual abuse and the implementation of best-practice child protection measures which I have pioneered since becoming a bishop.

"I would again like to express my deep sorrow for the devastating impact of clerical sex abuse on victims and their families, and I give an assurance that despite this charge, I will continue to do what I can to protect the children in our care in the Archdiocese of Adelaide."

The archbishop has taken immediate leave and retained Ian Temby QC, one of Australia's top barristers and the first Commonwealth director of public prosecutions, to represent him.

Wilson has been issued with a notice to appear in the Newcastle Local Court on April 30 on the charge of concealing a serious offence.


19 March, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says that concessions to the Leftist media by Tony Abbott won't reduce their hatred of him

PM must ignore critics and continue reforms

FOR the Left there is no greater hate figure than Tony Abbott. After all, the Prime Minister is a liberal of the European school and embraces all the policy instincts and beliefs the Left des­pises. What’s more, Abbott effectively toppled Australia’s first female prime minister, the Left’s beloved Julia Gillard, and it is determined to get even.

Abbott is a fiscal conservative. He stands for lower taxes. He believes in smaller government and competition. He wants freer trade, freer markets and fewer regulations. He encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, which run counter to the ideals of the collective. He sees a place for private education and private health. He is opposed to open borders. He believes migrants should respect our values and our laws. He is for work and self-reliance, not welfare. He’s a monarchist, a Catholic and, worse, not of the global warming faith. Above all, for as long as he remains Prime Minister, he is an ever-present threat to the socialist legacy of the Gillard years.

It is why he has been met with unrelenting hostility and por­trayed as unfit for office. He was denied the honeymoon normally granted to new governments. He has been called untrustworthy, a misogynist, a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a bully and Gina Rinehart’s butler.

This demonisation was eagerly retailed by the leftist media. Groupthink reigned supreme. The Abbott government was depicted as incompetent, heartless and unfair. The Coalition’s successes were disparaged, distorted or drowned out. The crusade was highly effective. As Mark Twain observed: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

In such a mutually reinforcing hothouse, this ferocious campaign fed into ever-worsening polls, causing panic in Liberal ranks. Rather than putting the national interest and the party first, some members blinked and began airing their dirty linen in public. Latent ambitions surfaced but a spill motion was lost. It was a watershed moment that benefited no one, failed to satisfy the movers and, most critically, means the Prime Minister must now choose fewer battles.

Strangely, since the spill motion, public sentiment as reflected in opinion polls has turned. Maybe respondents are gaming the pollsters? Or perhaps the crowd is waking up to the delusions it was fed? For the time being, at least, the Coalition and Abbott have improved their standing with the people who count: the electorate.

With the passing of the leadership crisis, as the budget approaches, the government is promoting a softer image. The talk is of budget consolidation, not cuts. Childcare is firmly on this agenda. There may be more good news for small business and infrastructure spending.

But where are the offsets? The Medicare co-payment is “dead, buried and cremated” and, with it, $1 billion of revenue over four years. Defence Force pay is up by $200 million. There’s $1bn a month in interest payments to meet, all from a budget with declining revenue. Labor’s recipe for economic growth and taxing multinationals to cover revenue shortfalls is no answer. It can count on neither. The government must choose a spending and revenue policy priorities and coherently pursue them.

So it’s one thing for the Prime Minister to reflect his partyroom’s wishes that “because we’ve done so much hard work already, we won’t have to protect the commonwealth budget at the expense of the household budget”, but the job is far from done. Yes, there has been a lot of hard work, but progress has been impeded. Headwinds in the Senate mean structural flaws remain embedded, ensuring measures will have to be taken to protect the commonwealth budget at the expense of the household budget. But when? With the economy growing below trend, real wage increases arguably negative and a dollar under pressure, declining living standards will make budget savings increasingly difficult politically. Ideally, more should be done now. However, while polls remain equivocal and conceited leadership aspirants divert attention from the main game, getting priorities right is vital.

Whatever people think of Abbott, he must be credited with saving us from some of Labor’s worst legacies. True, on occasions his government’s messages were mixed. Many of the measures were poorly communicated or designed. Some failed to pass the parliament for base political reasons. But in circumstances when easy options had to be stared down, Abbott stood up and the nation is the beneficiary.

But the Left doesn’t care. It wants Abbott gone. So when he advocated sensible spending cuts for remote Aboriginal communities, he was abused because his “lifestyle” reference was considered culturally insensitive. What happened to straight talking? Can we offend nobody’s feelings? Must we always sugar-coat?

The Intergenerational Report is drawing attention to the dramatic long-term cost of denying short-term reforms. The numbers are disturbing for insiders and some of the recommendations are scary to voters. But we ignore it at our peril. For it to be taken seriously will require a quantum leap in the quality of economic and political debate. Too often the commentariat writes what it hopes rather than what is. Prejudice passes for analysis. So the government has a critical role in communicating the reality.

Affordable prosperity for future generations depends on the reform process begun by the Abbott government continuing. It rests on leadership stability and the support of the people. The longer it is delayed, the greater the risk that ultimately reality will collide with hope. The ensuing adjustment would not be pretty.


Australia's piracy web filtering - an exercise in futility

The pieces of Australia's security and piracy crackdown continue to fall into place, with the Federal government about to table plans for a scheme which lets movie studios force internet service providers to block websites which aide piracy. The movie studios will apparently need a court order, but it may well just be a rubber stamp – it's difficult to know how arduous this process will be until we see the plan.

The fact that the government has drafted this legislation without direct input from ISPs or copyright holders is a real concern – there was a consultation process last year but reportedly neither side is yet to see the wording of the Bill about to be put forward. This reinforces the impression that the government only cares about the demands of big businesss and has little interest in striking a balance with the needs of consumers.

In return for legislation to protect Hollywood's coffers, perhaps the government could demand that movie houses phase out the Australia Tax on digital content – actually backing up the tepid IT Pricing Enquiry with action. This would seems like a fair trade, but unfortunately consumer rights don't come into the equation. A government which seems happy to leave our fate to market forces must surely realise that piracy is one of the few market forces which actually pressures content providers to offer us a better deal.

Market forces aside, it's right to be concerned about this web filtering plan from a civil liberties perspective – even though it seems far less ambitious and wide-reaching than Conroy's proposed filter. There's always the danger of scope creep – especially if the legislation uses vague wording like "aides" piracy. This could cover anything from sites like WatchSeriesTV and The Pirate Bay to providers of virtual private networks and proxy servers. How long until it targets news articles about piracy?

Once copyright holders have an easy mechanism for blocking websites they don't like, you can be sure that other lobby groups will make similar demands. Some politicians began calling for the expansion of Conroy's filter while it was still on the drawing board. The same will happen again.

The flip side of the government's filtering plan is that it will be ludicrously easy to bypass. Your average school kid can tell you how to use a proxy server to access Facebook in the classroom. The same basic tricks will easily get you to The Pirate Bay and other piracy sites blocked by your ISP.

Then there are virtual private networks, with a wide range of free and paid options that countless Australians already use – whether they're dealing with sensitive work documents or simply sneaking into Netflix. Combined with this, sites like The Pirate Bay are rejigging their web hosting to help them bypass ISP-level filtering.

The government acknowledges that fighting piracy is a numbers game. You're never going to stop everyone, the aim is to raise the bar high enough that your average person no longer thinks that it's worth the effort and the risk. The problem with web filtering is that it's a lot of effort for a little short-term gain.

Anyone with the technical know how to use BitTorrent probably already grasps the basics of VPNs and proxy servers. If not it won't take long for them to get up to speed, turning to the same tech-savvy friends who introduced them to BitTorrent in the first place. In 12 months we'll be back where we started, except everyday pirates will now be harder to catch. The best weapon against piracy is offering people a better deal so they don't feel like they're being ripped off.

Sacrificing civil liberties in a futile effort to protect the profits of companies which price-gouge Australians don't sound like a recipe for success. What do you think is the best way for Australia to tackle digital piracy?


Shorten fluffs it

It’s not easy being a politician. You have to give so many interviews about so many topics, sometimes you just want to rip out your earpiece and storm off the set.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten had a slow-motion meltdown of his own on Melbourne radio last week, in what was billed as an opportunity to find out, ‘Who is Bill Shorten?’

It’s a reasonable question. Who is Bill Shorten? What does he believe? Is everybody, in fact, somebody?

Throughout the painful 25-minute interview with the ABC host Jon Faine on Friday, Mr Shorten sounded bored, slightly sleepy, and unable to answer a straight question without falling back on tired cliches and motherhood statements.

Faine was having absolutely none of it, calling the opposition leader out repeatedly for not actually answering his questions.

Listeners were less than impressed. Listen to the whole thing here:


Is this Australia in 2015?

This newspaper must echo the words of construction contractor executive Dermot O'Sullivan and wonder at "Australia in 2015" as trade union members blockade access to a building site because the company dared to deal directly with its own workers.

As revealed on page one of The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday, Construction, Forestry, MIning and Energy Union activists padlocked Mr O'Sullivan's building site near Sydney Airport. According to Fair Work Building and Construction director Nigel Hadgkiss, a female workplace investigator was spat at when she visited the blockaded site.

This is what happens when a militant labour supply monopoly is supported by one part of the law, the industrial relations law, even as it flouts the criminal law of the land with apparent impunity. When a building company seeks to exercise its right to deal directly with its employees, this monopolist typically replies with intimidation and even violence.

That's even when the company and its employees have agreed to a package including  annual wage increases of 5 per cent while rejecting a union proposal, which the company says would have sent it broke.

This behaviour cries out from the return of John Howard's Australian Building and Construction Commission. But this is likely to be blocked by a Labor Party, which is financed by the law-breaking union when the required bill is introduced into the Senate within the next two weeks.


Onions Australia takes gift basket to Canberra to thank Tony Abbott for boom in onion inquiries

I always have onions on hand.  At around 50c each, why not?

Two bites was all it took.  On a trip to a produce farm in Tasmania, Prime Minister Tony Abbott shocked onlookers - and in short order, the rest of the world - when he bit into a raw onion, skin and all.

Now, Onions Australia chief executive Lechelle Earl is travelling to Canberra to thank the Prime Minister for sparking a mini-boom in inquiries about the humble vegetable.

And Ms Earl plans to deliver a thank you package to Mr Abbott -  a basket of raw onions, and a "top-secret" onion-themed meal "just in case the PM decides to try his onions in a slightly more prepared manner".

Ms Earl has spent the past five years of her life living and breathing onions - she says she is "passionate about the industry" - but she's never seen anything like the level of interest in the slightly smelly vegetable since Mr Abbott's fateful bite.

"I was genuinely surprised but thrilled that Mr Abbott decided to bite into a whole, unpeeled, good quality onion. More people should do it," she said, hastily adding that "personally, I would take the skin off".

"Onions Australia's phone has been running hot since the Prime Minister was seen eating a raw onion. We are more than willing to talk to anyone who wants to talk to us about the health benefits of our onions."

"People are interested, asking if they can be eaten whole and people are also querying why the Prime Minister left the skin on - which I put down to personal choice. There has been national and international media interest too.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce will also get an onion basket, on Thursday, when Ms Earl attends a horticulture industry forum in Parliament House.

"Given I was going to be in Canberra, I thought I would take the opportunity to thank the Prime Minister in person," she said.

Mr Abbott, for his part, was still facing questions about his onion choice on Wednesday.

"I thought it was very important that I should show my support for the great products that the Tasmanian agricultural industry produces and, you know, I enjoy onions. I normally have them cooked on the barbecue, but I enjoy onions!"


18 March, 2015

Must not mention the Irish liking for booze

Ireland's Prime Minister has taken offence to a St Patrick's Day video message from Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told an Irish newspaper he had watched Mr Abbott's video and rejected the perception that Ireland was synonymous with alcohol.

Mr Abbott prompted criticism last week for the video message, in which he awkwardly describes St Patrick's Day as the one day when "it's good to be green".  He proclaims Ireland's most famous day "a great day for the Irish, and the English, the Vietnamese, the Cambodians and everyone who cares to come to a party".

Mr Abbott signs off his message with an apology that "I can't be there to share a Guinness or two or maybe even three".

Mr Kenny said he had heard Mr Abbott's comments and he didn't agree with them.  "I've heard the Prime Minister's comments. He made them. I don't agree with that," he was reported as saying in the Irish Independent.

"I think that it is perfectly in order for so many Irish people in Australia to have an enjoyable celebration of St Patrick's Day and St Patrick's week, and to do so in a thoroughly responsible fashion.

"There has been a long-term view of a stage Irish perception. I reject that. I think it's really important that we understand that we have a national day that can be celebrated worldwide, St Patrick's Day."

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews also drew a link between St Patrick's Day and alcohol consumption, tweeting a picture of himself holding a can of Guinness.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was asked about Mr Kenny's comments and whether Australia had received a complaint from the Irish ambassador on the video message.

Ms Bishop said: "I have not had the Irish ambassador complain about a conspicuous consumption of alcohol."

After the video was released last week, two St Patrick's Day events decided not to screen the message after it made headlines in Ireland, with critics describing it as "patronising".


Coalition to wind back tax disclosure laws over 'kidnap' fears

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told Coalition party room members that the government would wind back tax disclosure laws after complaints by private business owners that they could be kidnapped when people realised how wealthy they were from tax information that was made public.

Fairfax Media first reported the concerns raised with the government by private business owners who think they may be held at held at ransom because of the laws that will require the Tax Office to publish the tax details of about 1600 private and public companies with more than $100 million turnover on the website.

The government now wants to remove about 700 private companies, which it believes should be exempted.

Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said there were real concerns about the implications of the publication of the tax data of private companies. Mr Frydenberg said there were safety concerns because it made those individuals potential kidnap targets.

Another Coalition colleague said that access to the financial statements of the 700 companies meant that they were at a commercial disadvantage when, for example, they happened to be suppliers to the big supermarket chains, or negotiating with them.

After listening to Mr Frydenberg argue his case, Mr Abbott agreed to advance the proposed changes to exempt private companies. That could mean the nation's top public companies will still have their tax information published.

The laws, which Coalition ministers, including Treasurer Joe Hockey,  voted against when in opposition, will from this year allow Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan to publish information,  including total income, taxable income and tax paid.

The decision to wind back the laws comes amid intense lobbying by business groups for the laws to be scrapped, with suggestions that publishing such information may be "misleading".

On Friday the Tax Office revealed it would allow Australia's biggest companies to review their tax information before it is published in the public domain in December.

This would include tax information on private companies controlled by billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart, and could also expose other wealthy individuals who do not appear on rich lists such as the BRW Rich 200.

Shadow assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh said the Liberal Party had opposed better transparency on the tax affairs of big multinationals since the day Labor first proposed it.

"This would be yet another example of the Abbott government siding with the big end of town against the interests of the Australian community," he said.

Mr Leigh said Mr Hockey was "full of big talk about cracking down on tax avoidance, but when it counts in the party room and the parliament, his government consistently lets companies off the hook."

"Rolling back these transparency laws means shielding big multinationals from public scrutiny," he said. "Without transparent tax reporting, it will be easier for some big firms to continue to avoid paying their fair share of tax."

When the laws were being pushed by the former Labor government through parliament, Mr Hockey said he had "deep concerns" and the Coalition would not support publishing information that could be "reasonably attributed to a single person".

Despite the government pledge to look into the privacy concerns, Australia's biggest public companies are gearing up to unveil public reports detailing how they are good taxpayers.

Australia's big four banks are among a raft of companies working with their communications staff to voluntarily launch reports about taxes paid. A number of companies have already made submissions to the federal inquiry on corporate tax avoidance about the taxes they pay and their "good working" relationship with the Australian Tax Office.

Greens Leader Christine Milne said: "The kidnapping argument is laughable.  This is just yet another example of the Abbott government doing everything it can to protect the people it governs for – the rich."


Anti-privatisation push sees Greens and Labor strike preference deal in key NSW seats

Opposition to the Baird government's electricity privatisation plans has galvanised a preference deal between Labor and the Greens in 23 key seats and the upper house in a significant boost to the ALP's chances at the March 28 state election.

The agreement, potentially worth up to four percentage points to the ALP in each seat where the Greens poll strongly, is a turnaround from 2011 when the Greens declined to preference Labor in all but a handful of seats.

At the time, the then Labor government was seen by local Greens groups as so toxic to voters that preferencing them risked damaging their own campaign.

Under the deal, the Greens, via their local groups, have agreed to recommend a preference to Labor ahead of the Coalition in 23 key lower house seats.

They include the Nationals-held north coast seats of Ballina, Lismore and Tweed where Labor hopes opposition to coal seam gas will play strongly in its favour.

The deal also applies to Strathfield, where former Newcastle MP Jodi McKay is trying to unseat Liberal MP Charles Casuscelli and the western Sydney seats of Campbelltown and Granville, which Labor lost in the 2011 landslide.

It also covers Port Stephens and Swansea in the Hunter and Wyong and The Entrance on the Central Coast where Liberal MPs appeared at the Independent Commission Against Corruption's inquiry into illegal political donations.

Elsewhere, Blue Mountains, East Hills, Gosford, Heathcote, Holsworthy, Kiama, Kogarah, Londonderry, Macquarie Fields, Maitland, Oatley, Penrith and Prospect are also covered by the agreement.

Balmain and Newtown, which Labor and the Greens are each seeking to win, are not included.

In the upper house, Labor has agreed to direct preferences to Greens candidates above the line directly after the ALP candidates and ahead of all other candidates.

The Greens have agreed to direct preferences to Labor candidates above the line.

NSW has optional preferential voting but the decision still boosts Labor's chances.

A Fairfax/Ipsos poll in February showed the Coalition leading Labor by 56 per cent to 44 per cent on a two-party preferred basis based on 2011 preference flows.

However, when respondents were asked to state their current preference choice, the Coalition's lead narrowed to 53 per cent to 47 per cent.

The election's central policy battleground is Premier Mike Baird's promise to partially privatise electricity distribution businesses and use the anticipated $20 billion proceeds for infrastructure.

Greens campaign director Chris Harris said the preference deal was "largely due to opposition to the state government's privatisation proposals and federal and state government cuts to public and community services".

A Labor spokesman said the election was "about stopping the risky privatisation of the electricity network".

"The Greens have taken the same view as Labor that privatising the electricity network is a bad deal for NSW, so we're happy to enter into a preference agreement with them," he said.


Australian republic: Bill Shorten reignites debate by casting doubt on relevance of the royals

Bill Shorten has used a debate in Parliament over the rules governing order of royal succession to re-commit Labor to the case for an Australian republic.

In a bold speech designed to distinguish Labor from a government which this year knighted Prince Philip – a decision that outraged voters and nearly caused the removal of Prime Minister Tony Abbott – the opposition leader said Australians no longer viewed their country as an outpost of empire, but rather as a proud and forthright nation of independent mind.

"If we were drafting our Constitution today, does anyone seriously dispute that we would require our head of state to be an Australian, this is how we see ourselves, this is who we are," he said.

Calling for a respectful, national conversation between equals rather than a celebrity-driven process, he said a multicultural nation no longer saw relevance in the British royals, even if they harboured affection for the reigning monarch.

"I and Labor believe it's time, it's time to breathe new life into the dream of an Australian republic," he told the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Mr Shorten also thanked Mr Abbott for unintentionally giving the republican cause a kick along recently.  "The Prime Minister's decision to knight Prince Philip reminded us all how far we've travelled since the days of the famous words of Prime Minister (RG) Menzies who said of the young Queen Elizabeth II: "I did but see her passing by".

"I believe that Australians are ready for a discussion about an Australian head of state. 

Mr Shorten also described as a grievous mistake the decision in the unsuccessful 1999 republic referendum of putting two questions, rather than one, to voters.  "The equivalent of Collingwood agreeing to play Essendon and Carlton at the same time," he said.

Much of the enthusiasm and energy of the "yes" cause, has lain dormant, since then."

He said it should not be long before the nation would "right an historical wrong" by correcting the national birth certificate to include the first peoples in the Constitution.  "The words in our constitution matter," he said.


17 March, 2015

Extreme weather the new normal in Australia's disaster-prone neighbourhood

As soon as I saw the headline above I smelled a rat.  I then deployed my pesky habit of going back to the raw data underlying the report.  I did not have to go far.  I read here

"In order for a disaster to be entered into the database at least one of the following criteria has to be fulfilled: - 10 or more people reported killed; - 100 people reported affected; - a call for international assistance; - declaration of a state of emergency"

So the finding is not about climate but about people. It does not list cyclones, hurricanes etc. but rather the number of people impacted.  And with growing populations in third world countries -- where most of the casualties occur -- one must expect more people to be impacted when severe weather strikes.  The data therefore tell us NOTHING about "climate change"

If it seems to you that major humanitarian emergencies are happening more often, you're right. Extreme weather events like the one that devastated Vanuatu on Saturday are on the rise. Since 2000, the average number of climate-related disasters each year has been 44 per cent higher than between 1994 and 2000 and well over twice the level during the 1980s, a data-based managed by Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters shows.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a disaster risk reduction conference in Japan on Saturday that climate change is making extreme weather events the new normal.

"Over the last two decades, more than four out of every five disasters were related to the climate change phenomenon," he said. "The economic toll is as high as $300 billion every year."

Developing countries are disproportionately affected – they account for about 95 per cent of all people killed by natural disasters – and once again small, vulnerable nations have been hit hardest. Cyclone Pam caused damage in Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands before tearing through Vanuatu.

Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale has stressed the long-term consequences of the disaster.

"All I can say is that our hope for prospering in future have been sedated."

Australia's immediate neighbourhood is especially prone to extreme weather events. The latest World Risk Index, collated by the United Nations University, showed five of the 10 countries most vulnerable to disasters are near Australia. The index's rankings have proved alarmingly accurate. Vanuatu was ranked No.1 on the index, and the Philippines, which was shattered by Cyclone Haiyan only 16 months ago, was ranked No.2. Other Australian neighbours among the top 10 were Tonga, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Australia is a significant contributor to the global humanitarian system and has a special responsibility in the Pacific region.

"As one of the biggest and strongest economies in the region, Australia really should be leading the way in helping our closest neighbours to prepare for and recover from disasters such as Cyclone Pam," said Paul Ronalds, the head Save the Children Australia.

Australia contributes about 60 per cent of all the aid given in the Pacific Islands and is best equipped to lead major humanitarian operations in the region. With the humanitarian system under strain across the globe, it is likely Australia will be called upon more often to provide assistance after extreme weather events in the Pacific.


Six ways Australia’s education system is failing

The article below is written from a Leftist viewpoint but most of it is accurate.  There is some sleight of hand in discussing immigration effects, though.  Just because East Asian immigrants -- mostly clustered in certain schools like James Ruse High in NSW -- do exceptionally well, it does not mean that Middle Eastern and African students clustered in low socio-economic areas are of no concern.  Such students do indeed produce lowest-common-denominator teaching and thus drag down standards throughout the schools concerned -- to the detriment of Anglo-Australian students also there.

It is also unfair to compare Anglo-Australian students with students in Northeast Asia -- who have markedly higher IQs than we do.  They will of course do well at school but that will reflect their greater individual abilities, not the quality of the education they receive.  Australian students can only usefully be compared with students in other European-origin populations

I am also not convinced that monolingual education is a bad thing.  We already speak the international language of science and business so where is the problem? As it happens, I have some academic qualifications in three foreign languages but that mainly reflects my cultural and academic interests.  For instance, I like to watch operas and operettas performed in the original German and I have found it useful to read Karl Marx in his original German.  I have in fact been the first person to put online translations of some of old Karl's more obnoxious utterances. But there are not exactly throngs of Australian students with that aim.

Amid debates about budget cuts and the rising costs of schools and degrees, there is one debate receiving alarmingly little attention in Australia. We’re facing a slow decline in most educational standards, and few are aware just how bad the situation is getting.

These are just six of the ways that Australia’s education system is seriously failing our kids.

1. Australian teens are falling behind, as others race ahead

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey tests the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in more than 70 economies worldwide. And it shows that Australian 15-year-olds’ scores on reading, maths and scientific literacy have recorded statistically significant declines since 2000, while other countries have shown improvement.

Although there has been much media attention on falling international ranks, it is actually this decline in real scores that should hit the headlines. That’s because it means that students in 2000 answered substantially more questions correctly than students in 2012. The decline is equivalent to more than half a year of schooling.

Our students are falling behind: three years behind students from Shanghai in maths and 1½ years behind in reading.

In maths and science, an average Australian 15-year-old student has the problem-solving abilities equivalent to an average 12-year-old Korean pupil.

An international assessment of school years 4 and 8 shows that Australian students’ average performance is now below that of England and the USA: countries that we used to classify as educationally inferior.

The declining education standards are across all ability levels. Analysis of PISA and NAPLAN suggests that stagnation and decline are occurring among high performing students as well as low performers.

2. Declining participation in science and maths

It has been estimated that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations require science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and knowledge.

The importance of STEM is acknowledged by industry and business. Yet there are national declines in Australian participation and attainment in these subjects. We are also among the bottom of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) 34 nations on translation of education investment to innovation, which is highly dependent upon STEM.

Fewer than one in ten Australian students studied advanced maths in year 12 in 2013. In particular, there has been a collapse in girls studying maths and science.

A national gender breakdown shows that just 6.6 per cent of girls sat for advanced mathematics in 2013; that’s half the rate for boys, and represents a 23 per cent decline since 2004. In New South Wales, a tiny 1.5 per cent of girls take the trio of advanced maths, physics and chemistry.

Maths is not a requirement at senior secondary level in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, although it is compulsory in South Australia, and to a small extent in Queensland and the Northern Territory. In NSW, the requirement for Higher School Certificate (HSC) maths or science study was removed in 2001. The national curriculum also makes no requirement for maths or science study after Year 10.

Australia is just about the only developed nation that does not make it compulsory to study maths in order to graduate from high school.

A recent report by the Productivity Commission found almost one-quarter of Australians are capable of only basic mathematics, such as counting. Many universities now have to offer basic (school level) maths and literacy development courses to support students in their study. These outcomes look extremely concerning when we review participation and achievement in maths and science internationally.

3. Australian education is monolingual

In 2013, the proportion of students studying a foreign language is at historic lows. For example in NSW, only 8 per cent studied a foreign language for their HSC, the lowest percentage ever recorded.

In NSW, the number of HSC students studying Chinese in 2014 was just 798 (635 of which were students with a Chinese background), whereas a decade ago it was almost double that number, with 1,591.

The most popular beginner language in NSW was French, with 663 HSC students taking French as a beginner in 2013. These numbers are extremely small when you consider that the total number of HSC students in NSW: more than 75,000.

These declines, which are typical of what has happened around the country, have occurred at a time when most other industrialised countries have been strengthening their students’ knowledge of other cultures and languages, in particular learning English.

English language skills are becoming a basic skill around the world. Monolingual Australians are increasingly competing for jobs with people who are just as competent in English as they are in their own native language – and possibly one or two more.

4. International and migrant students are actually raising standards, not lowering them

There are many who believe that Australian education is being held back by our multicultural composition and high proportion of migrant students. This could not be further from the truth. In the most recent PISA assessment of 15 year olds, Australian-born students’ average English literacy score was significantly lower than the average first-generation migrant students’ score, and not significantly different from foreign-born students.

The proportion of top performers was higher for foreign-born (14 per cent) and first-generation students (15 per cent) than for Australian-born students (10 per cent).

Students from Chinese, Korean and Sri Lankan backgrounds are the highest performers in the NSW HSC. The top performing selective secondary schools in NSW now have more than 80 per cent of students coming from non-English speaking backgrounds.

5. You can’t have quality education without quality teachers

The entry scores of people studying teaching in Australia are lower now than in the past. Photo: ShutterStock
While there are many factors that may contribute to teacher quality, the overall academic attainment of those entering teaching degrees is an obvious and measurable component, which has been the focus of rigorous standards in many countries.

An international benchmarking study indicates that Australia’s teacher education policies are currently falling well short of high-achieving countries where future teachers are recruited from the top 30 per cent of the age cohort.

In Australia between 1983 and 2003, the standard intake was from the top 26 per cent to 39 per cent. By 2012/2013, less than half of Year 12 students receiving offers for places in undergraduate teacher education courses had ATAR scores in the top 50 per cent of their age cohort.

Teacher education degrees also had the highest percentage of students entering with
low ATAR scores, and the proportion of teacher education entrants with an ATAR of less than 50 nearly doubled over the past three years. We cannot expect above-average education with below-average teachers.

6. Early learning participation is amongst the lowest in the developed world

While Australia has recently lifted levels of investment in early childhood education, this investment has not been reflected in high levels of early childhood participation. In Australia, just 18 per cent of three-year-olds participated in early childhood education, compared with 70 per cent on average across the OECD. In this respect, we rank at 34 out of 36 OECD and partner countries.

Australia also ranks at 22 out of 37 on the OECD league table that measures the total investment across education as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.

While low levels of expenditure and participation curtail any system, there is more negative impact from a lack of investment in early childhood than there would be from a lack of funding further up the educational chain. Nobel prize winner James Heckmann has shown how investment in early childhood produces the greatest returns to society.


Academy welcomes research infrastructure funding decision

The Australian Academy of Science today welcomed the Government’s decision to guarantee a further 12 months of funding to Australia’s major national research facilities.

This funding for 2015-16 will allow the continued operation of 27 facilities established under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) that support fundamental and applied research in everything from astronomy to deep-ocean measurement to medical research.

These facilities are used by more than 35,000 researchers in Australia and overseas and directly employ 1,700 highly trained staff.

The Academy’s President Professor Andrew Holmes welcomed the announcement to fund this vital program for the next 12 months, saying it was an important first step towards establishing a viable future for Australia’s research infrastructure.

“This decision will mean researchers can get on with the job of developing the new technology and innovative ideas that Australia needs for the future,”

“It means they are back from the brink of closure. Now what we need to see is long-term funding for this essential infrastructure that gives researchers and industry in Australia the certainty they need,”

This decision follows numerous approaches to Government from across the science community and business, including an open letter from the Academy of Science and other members of the National Research Alliance. These warned that the uncertainty over funding from 1 July meant that over $2 billion of public investment was at risk and several NCRIS facilities were about to shut down.

The Academy urges the Government to carefully consider the recommendations of its review of research infrastructure, currently underway, and ensure a sustainable and secure funding model for NCRIS into the future.

Press release

Hidden water: Why isn't Australia tapping into its vast underground water reserves?

Probably because Australia has some history of bores running dry

The National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) is worried the Federal Government is overlooking Australia's vast reserves of underground fresh water, when developing its new national water policy.

Director of NCGRT, Professor Craig Simmons, said the government's Dam and Water Taskforce had been focussing too heavily on building new dams.

"Groundwater constitutes more than 95 per cent of Australia's available fresh water, but the current policy discussion focuses almost entirely on building more surface dams, mainly in the north [of Australia]," he said.

"Surface water dams are costly to build, economically questionable, involve destroying local ecosystems, cause social and political acrimony and worst of all, in our hot climate, they evaporate.

"In the north of Australia, they lose metres of water per year into the sky. These losses may increase as the climate warms.

"We've got be looking at not just surface water and not just groundwater, but the whole of the water cycle in what we call conjunctive water management."

Professor Simmons said iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest's plan to harvest underground water to drought-proof Australian agriculture was on the right track.

"I really am highly supportive of Andrew Forrest's plan to be looking into this," he said.

"It's an absolutely critical question and it's thoroughly worthy of investigation.

"There's a lot of devil in the detail we'd need to sort through, but we've got to ask these questions and look for the answers."


16 March, 2015

Abbott ready for poll fight on deregulation of universities

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has reaffirmed his commitment to the government’s university reform package and planned curtailment of growth in pension spending, as well as the crackdown on local Islamist extremism foreshadowed last year.

In a wideranging exclusive interview with The Australian on Sky News yesterday that included a defence of his style of government, Mr Abbott also defended his doubts on funding remote indigenous communities.

He said his Coalition government’s resolution mattered rather than its struggle for strong support as measured in opinion polls.

The Prime Minister told editor-at-large Paul Kelly and foreign editor Greg Sheridan of The Australian that the higher-education funding reforms were very important to universities, which needed regulatory strings loosened if they were to be among the best in the world.

Asked if the fee changes might be dropped like the Medicare co-payment recently, Mr Abbott said failure of these reforms affecting taxpayer-subsidised student fee levels would impede the universities and indicated his government would be prepared to take the changes to the next election if frustrated in the Senate.

“This is a reform which has already been adjusted somewhat in the process of bringing it thus far. But the reform as adjusted is one we stand by,” he told Sky News.  “I am expecting that the Senate will see sense because just about every vice-chancellor is campaigning for this.”

The government plans to press ahead with its universities reform package in the Senate this week.

Christopher Pyne says he is “contemplating victory” for his higher education reforms, which will be decided by a Senate vote on Wednesday.

Vowing to “fight to the end” on the contentious reform package, the Education Minister said this morning that passing the legislation to deregulate the sector was critical for the university sector.

“I’m contemplating victory on Wednesday because it’s too important not to win for students and for universities and for Australia,” Mr Pyne told ABC Insiders program this morning.

“I’m never embarrassed about putting forward a good reform policy and fighting for it.  “I have never left the battlefield. I always fought right through to the end and we will fight right through to the vote,” he said.

He said there was no “credible alternative” to deregulating universities, and urged crossbench senators to embrace reform.

Mr Pyne said negotiations with the crossbench would continue early this week.  “Everything is on the table except the centrepiece of the reform which is deregulation, which is going to be good for universities and students, all the other matters are open to negotiation.”

Mr Pyne said he was “not contemplating” what would happen in the event the bill was voted down.

Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said the opposition would work with the higher education sector to ensure adequate future funding.  “We are happy to work with the higher education system to ensure funding is adequate,” Ms Plibersek said.

Mr Abbott said just one Australian university was now ranked in the world’s top 50. “Why not try to get two in the top 20. Unless we take the dead hand of Canberra away that is going to be extremely difficult,” he said.


Kimberley gas plant protesters ‘left nothing’ for local people

THE Aboriginal leader who backed a $40 billion gas plant in the Kimberley as a way of creating indigenous jobs has attacked “extreme nutter” environmentalists who he says derailed the plan but have since done nothing to help the region’s impoverished people.

Wayne Bergmann, a businessman and former head of the Kimberley Land Council, told an oil and gas conference in Perth yesterday that suicide rates and unemployment were rising in the Kimberley due to a paucity of jobs, especially for younger people.

Telstra director Geoff Cousins and singers Missy Higgins and John Butler were among those who opposed the use of James Price Point, 60km north of ­Broome as the site for the Woodside Petroleum project.

The high-profile campaigners joined green groups in arguing against industrialisation of the remote Kimberley region, which boasts some of the world’s most spectacular wilderness areas.

Woodside abandoned its plan in 2012 and walked away from a deal with the KLC to pay $1.5bn in benefits to Kimberley indigenous groups over 30 years in exchange for use of the land at James Price Point.

The company is instead planning to build the plant to process its Browse Basin gas reserves off the Kimberley coast using floating LNG technology.

This means that only a fraction of the employment, health and education benefits promised to Aborigines will be delivered.

Mr Bergmann, who lives in Broome, yesterday said the environmentalists had left the Kimberley and their legacy was “destroying any opportunities” for Aboriginal people.

“They’re all gone but the region is still in devastation,” he said.  “We’ve still got the highest suicide rates, the lowest employment (rates).

“Geoffrey Cousins is still living in his house in Sydney — he hasn’t left anything back in our region.

“So I’m driven to create jobs because if our mob don’t have meaning in their life, these statistics are going to continue.”

Mr Cousins has previously defended his role in the campaign and accused Mr Bergmann of failing to ensure that the 2011 agreement with Woodside had a “break clause” to ensure payments would flow to Aboriginal communities even if the company chose a different site for the project.

He said Woodside had a moral obligation to fulfil its promises under the native title deal and he believed the WA government was responsible for ensuring Aboriginal people received the same health and education services that other citizens took for granted.

Mr Cousins was appointed last year as head of the Australian Conservation Foundation — the country’s largest environmental lobby group.

Mr Bergmann said since the collapse of the Woodside deal he had turned his attention to creating jobs for Aboriginal people by helping to form a maritime company that is on the verge of a major expansion.

He said the company, Aboriginal Maritime Pty Ltd, or AML, was finalising a share buyback under which its indigenous shareholders will increase their combined stake to 51 per cent.

Mr Bergmann told the Australasian Oil and Gas conference that he had been offended by claims by the Maritime Union of Australia that AML was underpaying its workers. “We’ve grown up fighting for our mob — the very last thing we are going to do is underpay our workers,” he said.

In January, the Fair Work Commission approved a four-year enterprise bargaining agreement for AML.

The MUA challenged the EBA late last year, saying that it could result in Aborigines receiving pay and conditions inferior to those of non-Aborigines.

But FWC commissioner Tim Lee found the agreement provided for pay between 20 per cent and 220 per cent above award rates.

AML is owned by several Aboriginal sporting and business identities, including former AFL stars Dean Rioli and David Wirrpanda.


Mental health and the military

"Defence Department Invests in Mental Health", ran the headline in The Australian on Monday. Reporter Sean Parnell went on to explain that "hundreds of millions of dollars" will be spent on a massive 'upgrade' in both facilities and training.

Taking care of the mental health of ADF personnel and veterans is not just important; it is a duty. We owe it to the men and women who protect this country to help them deal with PTSD and other lasting effects of their service.

However, The Australian article left readers with a mistaken impression on two important points: the scale of the problem, and the best way to address it.

Parnell cites a recent study from the European Journal of Psychotraumatology showing that "22 per cent of personnel would have met the criteria for a mental disorder in the previous 12 months, the most common being anxiety disorders (14.8%)". For alcohol disorders, the figure was 5.2%.

These figures, far from indicating an emergency, are nearly identical to the figures for the Australian population at large, which are 20%, 14.4%, and 5.1%, respectively.

Nor do these figures relate to serious mental illness attributable to combat or war zone experience. "ADF members who had been on operational deployment were not at an increased risk of developing an anxiety, affective, or alcohol disorder compared to those who had never deployed" (emphasis added), according to the study Parnell cites. PTSD is a serious issue, but it was not the focus of this particular mental health study.

Secondly, there is the question of treatment. Parnell mentions that the ADF is 'reconsidering' its decision not to implement annual mental health screenings, as a result of 'experts' having "warned thousands of personnel were being left unchecked for depression, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts".

But experts are far from unanimous in their view of annual mental health screenings, and many-including the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force-are not convinced the benefits outweigh the potential for harm.

Mental health screenings can have serious negative side effects. For example, by making a person worry whether they are feeling the 'correct' amount of sadness or stress, it may be possible to induce the very symptoms the screening is designed to help treat.

These screening questionnaires also turn up many false positives, which can lead to people being singled out for further testing when there is nothing the matter with them. Fear of subjecting individuals to this sort of stress and stigma is one reason that U.S. policymakers decided against annual mental health screenings for another at-risk population, teenagers.

The Department of Veterans' Affairs already pays for treatment of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, regardless of whether the conditions are the result of service. Before extending mental health services further, the ADF and DVA should make sure that these extensions will truly be of benefit.


Australia scores 'most favoured nation' provisions in FTA with China

Australia's biggest-ever bilateral trade deal is set to grow much bigger, with China agreeing to a special ratchet clause that will ensure that future benefits conferred to other countries will flow automatically to Australia.

The much-coveted "most favoured nation" provisions in the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement have been kept under wraps at the request of Chinese negotiators, who were pursuing a parallel deal with South Korea.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb confirmed the MFN provisions in an interview with Fairfax Media.

"This is huge, I think," said Mr Robb.  "It means that we will automatically receive the same treatment provided by China to any other country in the future including the EU and the United States."

Australian negotiators, analysts and industry bodies were surprised at the range of liberalisation commitments that China committed to during President Xi Jinping's visit to Canberra in November.

The full text, which will not be released until later this year, will include unprecedented commitments over a range of service sectors, including education and financial services.

Some China analysts speculated that Mr Xi may have been using the Australia trade deal as a lever to liberalise his own economy, which is starting to strain under the weight of bad debts and rash investments.

The previously unreported MFN mechanisms take the deal to another level.

Australian negotiators are most enthused by potential MFN gains on the investment side. The "prize" will be a special "negative list" feature that China looks set to provide the US under a bilateral investment treaty, which would greatly increase the range of Australian investment opportunities.

Similarly, Australian fund managers could potentially gain majority ownership rights in Chinese counterpart firms, up from a ceiling of 49 per cent in the existing FTA, if the US manages to get what it is seeking.

"This MFN clause was something we had long sought but didn't really believe we could get," said Geoff Raby, the former ambassador to China who had been involved with negotiations for a decade before stepping down to take on corporate directorships and advisory roles.  "It is a big achievement by Robb and the team to have secured this."

Mr Robb told Fairfax Media the MFN provisions would apply to investment and services chapters.

He said a separate review mechanism had been built into the "goods" provisions, which would apply three years after the agreement entered into force and then every five years thereafter.

"On most fronts, if not all, those will be protected, locked in, in the future when China make concessions with other countries," Mr Robb said.

"Overall this means we have substantially [greater] preferential arrangements than any other trading partner."

Dr Raby, a director of Fortescue, said there had been considerable political resistance on both sides when he first floated the idea of a China trade deal to his ministers in 2003, when the Howard government was concluding a trade deal with the US.

He said Chinese officials had been been anxious that they had paid too high a price for accession to the World Trade Organisation and Australians were unhappy at having to grant China "market economy" status even before negotiations had begun.

"It was the first time a developed country had engaged China on this idea," he said.

Dr Raby said the MFN provisions would be particularly important for investors because China was negotiating an ambitious bilateral investment agreement with the US.

"It is extremely valuable as it preserves our position as China negotiates other FTAs so the benefits which we have 'paid' for in the negotiations can't be whittled away," Dr Raby said.

The chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, said the MFN deal would keep Australia "on a level playing field with key competitors for valuable trade with what is the growth engine of the world".

"This opens the door to deep access to Chinese markets and a greater capacity to further diversify the Australian economy," she said.

Former Austrade chief economist Tim Harcourt agreed that the China deal had surpassed expectations but also warned that great challenges lay ahead in the implementation.

"At the end of the day it's the internal decisions you have to deal with in China, where so much is determined by administrative fiat," said Dr Harcourt, now a lecturer and researcher in the MBA program at the University of NSW.

"FTA or no FTA, you still have to have those connections to get your deal up," he said. "You've got to have the [Chinese Communist Party's] blessing right down through the ranks."


15 March, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is having a laugh at the collapse of the PUP party

Extra Solar PV for Grid - NT Study

Not mentioned below is that Alice springs is effectively in the middle of a desert -- so experiences bright and sunny days most of the time.  There is no way the findings could be generalized to often cloudy coastal areas

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today released a study that shows how up to 10MW of extra solar photovoltaic (PV) could be installed in the Alice Springs grid without adversely affecting supply stability.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said this additional PV would make a sizeable difference to the Alice Springs grid, which currently has 4.1MW of solar and a peak load of almost 55MW in summer.

"The findings of this study are timely and show how more solar PV could be reliably introduced into Australian electricity networks," Mr Frischknecht said.

"ARENA provided $242,625 towards the study which was conducted by Northern Territory (NT) engineering company CAT Projects, and investigated the impact of large amounts of solar PV on electricity grids and how to effectively manage it.

"One of the challenges involved in increasing grid-connected solar power in Australia is how to best manage the local weather impacts, such as cloud cover.

"CAT Projects used a network of solar monitoring stations to estimate the maximum number of solar power generators that can be connected to the Alice Springs electricity grid without energy storage.

Mr Frischknecht said the study found that dispersing solar PV across geographical locations can effectively counteract its variability within a network.

"The study shows that building a larger number of smaller installations and spreading them out, ideally 3-5 kilometers apart in Alice Springs, can reduce the impact of local cloud cover and smooth overall solar energy output," Mr Frischknecht said.

"This analysis is very relevant to solar projects currently being planned in the NT and elsewhere in Australia, and could allow network planners to increase the amount of solar PV that can be connected to the network.

"The findings should also allow performance-based Power Purchase Agreements to be more accurately formulated, potentially lowering the cost of renewable energy generation.

"Studies like this have a vital role to play in helping to increase confidence in renewable energy, overcoming barriers and encouraging more renewables into electricity grids."

The study is now publically available in line with ARENA's commitment to advance competitive renewable energy technologies and solutions through knowledge sharing.

The results are available on the analysis of variations in instantaneous weather effects project page.


Abbott promises Islamist crackdown

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott said today the government would soon crack down on radical Islamist groups in Australia preaching hatred against others in the community.

In an interview with The Australian on Sky News, Mr Abbott also stood by the government’s proposed universities and age-pension reforms, defended his doubts on funding remote indigenous communities and said the government’s resolution rather than opinion polls mattered most.

The Prime Minister told Paul Kelly and Greg Sheridan of The Australian that many Muslim leaders internationally were speaking out against jihadist movements such as Islamic State.

Questioned about some local activities of the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir that are currently legal, Mr Abbott said the government intended to crack down on hate preachers, “not next week … but shortly’’.

Asked if he would resign if government polling support did not improve after last month’s unsuccessful leadership spill motion, Mr Abbott said: “I’m determined we will not be in that position.”

He said voters did not want a return to the “musical chairs’’ of the previous Labor prime ministers but agreed he and ministers could choose their words better.


Radical tolerance for the Left but intolerance towards conservatives

THE intolerant Left was at it again on Wednesday, this time at the taxpayer-subsidised Univer­sity of Sydney where a group of demonstrators attempted to disrupt a lunchtime lecture by Richard Kemp on ethical dilemmas of military tactics.

Kemp, a retired British military officer and security consultant, is a former commander of British armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was the subject of a tough but fair interview by Fran Kelly on Radio National Breakfast on Wednesday before proceeding to Sydney University for a public event hosted by a couple of academics.

During his Radio National interview, Kemp supported the tactics used by the Israel Defence Forces in its recent war with Hamas-led Gaza.

Kemp’s point was that, by placing its rocket launchers and building its attack tunnels in heavily populated areas, Hamas essentially used the citizens of Gaza as human shields. Consequently, the legitimate actions of the IDF, in stopping the rockets and destroying the attack tunnels, inevitably would have the unintended consequence of killing and injuring civilians.

This was a tough-minded but valid point. No democratically elected government — whether based in London, Paris, Washington or Canberra — would do nothing while a declared enemy across a border fired rockets and planned military raids aimed at killing and kidnapping. Why should the democratically elected leaders of Israel be expected to act differently?

According to the report by Glen Falkenstein on the J-Wire website, Kemp had covered only non-state militant groups in Ireland and Afghanistan when a small group of demonstrators entered the lecture theatre. As is common with the extremes of Left and Right, demonstrators prefer slogans to argument. So this lot chanted in unison: “Richard Kemp / You can’t hide / You support genocide.”

Of course, Kemp has never advocated genocide. And he was not trying to hide. To the radical Left, however, such facts are of no moment. After all, “hide” rhymes with “genocide” and there was a lecture to disrupt.

A demonstrator, equipped with a megaphone, drowned out Kemp and the academic moderator.

Enter Jake Lynch, director of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. He happens to be one of the leading activists in the Australian chapter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign aimed at disabling the Israeli economy. Lynch was present in the audience when the attempted disruption began.

On Thursday, I engaged in correspondence with Lynch and he provided me with some brief iPhone videos of the occasion, which he had filmed. The footage indicates that protesters physic­ally resisted attempts by security to remove them.

Lynch’s iPhone video indicates that a middle-aged woman threw water at some demonstrators. A still photo of the occasion shows Lynch thrusting a $5 note in the face of a person he called the “older lady”.

Lynch advised me that he did this to warn the woman in question that he “would have no option but to sue her for assault if she carried on — which would cost her a lot of money”.

This seems highly unprofessional behaviour on the part of one of Sydney University’s associate professors with respect to a member of the public visiting the campus.

You wonder what the vice-chancellor thinks about such action on the part of one of his senior academics.

In the event, Lynch’s legal threat was of no moment.

As Lynch conceded in his correspondence with me, he “emerged without injury” from the occasion.

But not without involvement. Lynch did not object to the attempt by the left-wing radicals to disrupt Kemp’s address.

In Lynch’s words: “I took a seat at the meeting, and left it only to remonstrate with University security guards when they used force to eject the demonstrators.”

In other words, Lynch’s position is that the demonstrators should have been allowed to prevent Kemp from speaking. According to Lynch, “The security guards’ sole remit in such circumstances should be to prevent harm being done.”

I asked Lynch whether he would accept protesters attempting to disrupt speeches at his Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies by opponents of Israel such as John Pilger and Hanan Ashrawi.

His response was the familiar “that’s different” argument.

Lynch wrote to me as follows: “I would dispute the parallel with John Pilger or Hanan Ashrawi. I have never heard either of them deliver a speech that was disingenuous or deceitful in the way of the remarks by Colonel Kemp.”

This rationalisation of intolerance overlooks the fact Kemp’s speech was disrupted before he even discussed Israel or the Hamas Islamists who run Gaza.

Lynch uses his influence to run campaigns against Israel. He is the poster-boy for the Left’s dominance of so many social science departments at so many Australian universities.

Born in 1965 to members of the British Communist Party, Lynch joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament when the middle-class radicals who comprised the CND believed the West should disarm.

This would have left the communist dictatorship in Moscow victorious in the Cold War.

As Lynch revealed in an ABC Classic FM interview with Margaret Throsby in April 2009, he criticises all Western leaders, but always from the Left. His targets include Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Kevin Rudd, in addition to political conservatives.

The evidence suggests that what takes place at Lynch’s centre is little more than a left-wing stack. He believes that anti-Israel demonstrators have a right to disrupt lectures provided no physical harm is caused, but does not advocate such behaviour for his own functions.

This is a manifestation of what left-wing Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse once advocated. Marcuse called for tolerance for the Left but “intolerance towards the self-styled conservatives”.  It’s unlikely that the student demonstrators today have heard of Marcuse, but they practise his teachings, nevertheless.


Libs offer pension peace plan

A NEW mechanism to assess the adequacy of the pension each three years with possible triennial increases in the pension rate is the focus of negotiations between ­Social Services Minister Scott Morrison and the Senate crossbenchers.

The initiative is seen by Mr Morrison as a political circuit-breaker to win a passage through parliament for the government’s policy to legislate a lower indexation rate for pension adjustments based on the consumer price index.

It involves a formal, independ­ent review of the pension each three years, guaranteed by law, that would have the discretion to recommend increases in the pension rate to be considered at budget time. Mr Morrison has told Senate crossbenchers this equates to a safety net for the pension. He calls it a pension adequacy review.

Social services minister Scott Morrison said age and other pensions would be indexed twice a year according to the consumer price index (the inflation rate), with the review conducted thrice-yearly to ensure pensions kept up with community living standards.

He said that review, conducted by an independent panel and tabled in parliament, would provide a safety net for pensions beyond the CPI increases.

But there would be no obligation to act on its recommendations. “This would be a matter for the government of the day because the government of the day has to be able to consider the broader fiscal issues at play here,” he told reporters in Sydney.

In last year’s budget, the government proposed changing the pension indexation to reduce long-term costs. That’s vehemently opposed by Labor and now stalled in the Senate.

For it to pass in the face of Labor and Green objections, the government needs the support of at least six of the eight crossbench Senators.

Pensions are now indexed every March and September to the higher of the CPI or male total average weekly earnings. The government wants to index only by CPI, mostly lower than MTAWE and now at 1.7 per cent.

Mr Morrison said 2.5 million Australians were receiving pensions, which cost about $40 billion a year. That’s set to rise to almost $70 billion a year in a decade.

He said the government wanted to ensure the pension safety net remained for future generations.

“If you just keep going with the pedal to the metal, you will race if off the edge of the cliff,” he said.

Mr Morrison declined to say how the crossbench senators had responded to his overtures.

“It’s a worthy option to continue to discuss. Where we end up, well that’s a matter for the crossbench,” he said.

Labor families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said the opposition wasn’t about to budge on changes to pension indexation.

She said the Australian Council of Social Service had calculated pensioners would be $80 a week worse off in a decade if the indexation was changed to CPI.

“We do not want to see any mean or tricky cut to pension indexation. This idea of a review will not guarantee that pensioners maintain their decent standard of living,” she told reporters in Melbourne.

Treasurer Joe Hockey today said this was a sensible measure that would ensured age pensions remained sustainable and continued to meet the needs of older Australians who would live longer.

“In order to stay the same, we have to change. We have to make sure the pension is available to those who deserve it and need it,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“We are prepared to discuss these issues with anyone who is sensible and anyone who really cares about Australia’s future.”

Shadow families minister Jenny Macklin said this was a mean trick not a compromise.

“Whilst Labor does not oppose a regular review into pension adequacy, it must not come at the cost of a proper indexation method,” she said in a statement.

“CPI indexation will see the pension reduced dramatically, pushing pensioners below the poverty line.”

The review would be a trade-off for moving to indexation based on the CPI, a lower index replacing the benchmarking of pensions to male average weekly earnings.

The three-yearly review would assess pension rates relative to changes in community living standards. The pension would continue to rise each March and September, as it does now.

The aim is to alleviate fears of any substantial erosion of the pension arising from the new indexation formula. The Morrison strategy proposal would reduce the budget savings from the pension reforms but win the new index­ation arrangement.

The initiative reveals the determination of Mr Morrison and Tony Abbott to secure major ­welfare reform in the teeth of Labor Party resistance. Given the backdown on the Medicare co-­payment, the government needs to secure some of its pivotal 2014 budget reforms.

Mr Morrison argues that, without incremental reform, the long-term viability of the pension is at risk, a position advanced in the government’s recent Intergenerational Report.

The three-yearly review would be undertaken by an independent panel appointed by the minister. The panel would have expertise in social security, labour econo­mics and disadvantage, and would asses­s adequacy by referring to benchmarks such as disposable household income, the minimum wage, median weekly earnings and budget consequences.

There would be public consult­ations, with the review tabled in parliament and the government responding formally in the budget.

The core Morrison position is that the status quo is not an option in terms of sustainability. The current single base rate is $776.30 a fortnight and the couple rate is $1171 a fortnight, exclusive of supplements, allowances and concession-card benefits.

Since the election, rates have risen by $43.60 for singles and $64.80 for a couple.

The current compromise reform­ proposal has the pension indexed to the CPI until 2027-28 when, with the budget returned to a 1 per cent of GDP surplus, the index would become average weekly earnings.

This index is not rising as sharply as male average weekly earnings, the current index and origin of the pension sustainability problem. The aim is a long-run transition to a more viable index.

Pensions involved would be the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Bereavement Allowance, Widow B Pension, Wife Pension, service pensions and Parenting Payment.

Basic to the government’s position is the need for one standard index to cover all pension payments. This has been recommended consistently by major inquires such as the Henry tax review in 2009 and the McClure review into the welfare system this year.


13 March, 2015

Australian Politicians Pressured to come Clean on Climate Fraud

Written by Dr Judy Ryan

As of March this year the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) is under investigation for possible maladjustment of its data by an Independent Advisory Forum. The BoM scientists  say they follow Worlds Best Practice, but all over the world Meteorological Agencies are coming under scrutiny. BoM

The world will be watching Australia. The public submission by Drs Judy Ryan and Marjorie Curtis to the Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt and the Technical Advisory Forum sets out the historical context which facilitated what the evidence is suggesting is a politically driven global scam.

Their submission emailed on 4th March 2015 was CC’d to more than 360 national and international media, political and other interested entities. It was BCC’d to many more. They find that the public email is a powerful tool and encourage others all over the world to use it.

Their letter is as follows:

Dear Minister Greg Hunt,

We are writing to thank you for organising an independent investigation of the Bureau of Meteorology’s data management practices.  We trust that you have received good advice and chosen independent and objective scientists and statisticians to be members of the Technical   Advisory Forum.

We have been very concerned about the advice you are receiving ever since we heard you stating publicly that you rely mainly on the advice from the CSIRO and the BoM.

Unfortunately, as the evidence indicates, scientific integrity in Australia’s once iconic institutions, such as the Bureau of Meteorology, (BoM) and our Universities has disintegrated.  The scientific ‘peer review’ has also collapsed.   For that reason we reference this document to robust evidence based internet sites. This includes Wikipedia, which in the discipline of climatology, is more robust.

The evidence also indicates that the  human caused Global Warming hypothesis and its associated demonisation of carbon dioxide is a global scam.  It is driven by the desire for power by politicians, and money and prestige for the funded climate scientists.

The evidence shows that the CO2 demonisation scam is well established in Australia.  Unfortunately it has continued under your stewardship of the Department of Environment. This is illustrated by the unhelpful response (dated 19th December 2013 ) to my formal complaint to the Department of Environment.  See  here

It is further evidenced by the Ombudsman’s final response dated 27th February 2014. See  here

However, on the 4th September last year at the Fenner School of Environmental  at the Australian National University a prominent  Australian climate scientist, Professor Michael Raupach, publicly conceded that the term ‘carbon’ is shorthand for ‘carbon dioxide’. He also conceded  that it is definitely not a pollutant.

Sadly Professor Raupach has passed away, but we will always remember him  and the words he spoke when responding to a question from the audience. The question and Professor Raupach’s response can be heard here at 1.06.33 into the recording. See here

Dear Minister, we feel that it is necessary to provide you and the Technical Advisory Forum members with the historical evidence to what we believe to be the greatest fraud yet perpetrated against humanity. You may wonder what a bit of history has to do with the  BoM’s data  homogenisation practices, but please read on. We will be as brief as possible

*  Early 1900’s a young ecologist  Eugene Odum set out test the hypothesis that “Nature is in Equilibrium”. His  data supported that hypothesis. He went on to experience wealth and prestige. He wrote the  book , “The  Fundamentals of Ecology” . It was published in 1953, and became a school text book in many different countries. Consequently, his wealth and prestige increased. The hypothesis that “Nature is in Equilibrium" also known as  the “Balance of Nature” or “Gaia” prevailed. 

*  However,  with the advent of desktop computers  in the late 1960s the theory was retested by a new generation of ecologists.

*  The evidence from all the those later studies showed that no matter what the sample size the data showed no such relationship. To the contrary, it showed nature to be a wild thing; a dynamic natural system with huge variance.

*  The nature in equilibrium theory was  not only disproven  but discredited in the 70s.  See  here

* It was replaced by chaos theory which states that “In the disciplines of Meteorology …..and Biology…….Small differences in initial conditions (such as those due to rounding errors in numerical computation) yield widely diverging outcomes for such dynamical systems, rendering long-term prediction impossible in general. See here

*  The problem was that there was much money, power and corruption associated with  the  Gaia theory by that time. Eugene Odum, already wealthy, became a member of the hugely influential entrepreneur orientated ” Club of Rome”. He was highly regarded by the establishment until he died peacefully in 2002 aged 88.

History shows that it was a  grave error of judgement  by the academic establishment of the time not to investigate Eugene Odum for possible scientific fraud. The ramifications of that error were profound. Chaos theory was quietly discarded and in the early 1970’s the disproven Gaia theory was resurrected and rechristened “Sustainability” .

 One only has to look at the 2009 Australian High School Science curriculum to realise that  the disproven Gaia is still the order of the day in our country.  See here

To quote the bottom two lines from page 6    “Order and change are necessary ideas to understand systems. Understanding systems provides the basis for appreciating the nature of equilibrium and interdependence.”

Australia dare not allow history to repeat itself in our nation. For if we do, the Gaia scam and all its associated academic funding scams will continue and science in Australia will continue to be mired in uncertainty.

The definition of fraud is, “a false representation of a matter of fact, whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of that which should have been disclosed, which deceives and is intended to deceive another so that he shall act upon it to his legal injury.” (Black’s Law Dictionary).

It is true that  the Australian people are experiencing financial disadvantage as a result of the host of policies and administrative decisions driven by advice regarding the science of climate change. Is that advice false or misleading? Does it deceive by concealing or omitting or embellishing or misrepresenting relevant facts?

You may wonder how this definition could  apply to the BoM.  Please read on. During Professor Karoly’s time as editor of Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal he and other scientists published  a paper in AMOJ Vol 62, 2012.    To quote from the paper   “Trend analysis confirmed that the 1.1 °C increase in maximum temperature and 0.9 °C increase in minimum temperature since 1960 are the largest and most significant trends in Southeastern Australian temperature in the last 152 years”.

The evidence indicates that those predictions were based on weather stations where the BoM  may have  maladjusted the data. See here

This is one of the issues the Technical Advisory Forum will no doubt be addressing.

It is our humble opinion that a legitimate question is; have BoM scientists disseminated information to the Australian people in a deceptive manner.  Does their behaviour  meet  Black’s legal definition above.

We believe that Australia with its strong democracy under the Abbott government needs to take strong steps to address the climate change scam. The historical evidence indicates that Australia  should hold the Australian perpetrators accountable. Australia can lead the world  back to scientific integrity and sanity.

In closing we reiterate we are two senior citizens expressing the opinion we formed as a result of our own research. Whether the evidence backs it up or  is for others to decide. The BoM scientists are openly copied in to this email. We request them to respond by clicking reply all if they dispute anything we have said.

Respectfully yours

Drs Judy Ryan and Marjorie Curtis


Western civilisation at stake amid growing threats

Greg Sheridan

WESTERN civilisation is in the midst of a profound crisis. Let me tell you how I get to that ­conclusion.

The most difficult task in any serious strategic analysis is to integrate factors from wholly different spheres of activity and to see how they play on each other. A failure to recognise the depth of the old Soviet Union’s economic crisis, for example, led many traditional Western strategic analysts, accustomed to measuring Soviet arsenals against US arsenals, to miss altogether the impending collapse of the entire Soviet system.

Today, the West, of which Australia is manifestly part, is beset by intractable, diverse challenges, each one of which could provide existential threat. It is solving none of them at the moment. Each threat multiplies the force of the others. Taken together, they constitute a long, systemic crisis. The West might solve these problems. But it might not, too.

First, Islamist terrorism. There are three ways this can be an existential threat. Terrorists could get material for a mass destruction attack, either a nuclear weapon or, much likelier, a radiation weapon, a dirty bomb. So far this hasn’t happened. But a strategic threat is not the common law. It’s not governed by precedent. A lot of determined and intelligent terrorists want to do this. Their chances increase radically when terrorists control the mechanisms of a state, as they do now in parts of Iraq and Syria, and as they did once in Afghanistan. This is one reason ungoverned space is so dangerous.

Second, terrorism could cripple social cohesion in Western societies. It’s impossible to know what social effects a few mass atrocity attacks would have.

Three, terrorists could produce disorder in the Middle East so chronic and widespread that it leads to state-on-state war, pos­sibly involving nuclear weapons.

The West is not winning the war on Islamist terror. Since 9/11 al-Qa’ida has flourished in the Middle East and North Africa. It is now in danger of being supplanted by the even more murderous franchise of Islamic State. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of young men, including thousands from the West, have rallied to these banners.

The second big external threat to the West is the rise of new powers, or old powers newly emboldened, taking advantage of the weak and feckless leadership provided by Barack Obama. The US President is the de facto head of Western civilisation. Not since Jimmy Carter has there been a leader of such little strategic consequence. He is a President of fine words and strategic failure.

Russia is conquering slices of territory from its neighbours. There is no knowing what is the end of Vladimir Putin’s ambition. Reducing his “near abroad” to strategic subservience to Moscow is part of it. China is constructing military installations in disputed territories in the South China Sea hundreds of kilometres from the Chinese mainland.

Both Moscow and Beijing, and others, are testing not only American resolve but the whole efficacy of the US alliance system. China and Russia, and most nations in Asia, are ramping up military spending. In so far as there has been any principle of international security order since World War II, it has been the US alliance system.

Although the US is the leader of this system and does most of the heavy lifting, the power of its allies feeds into and magnifies US strategic power. If the US loses credibility the system becomes hollow.

The third big external threat is nuclear proliferation. There is no plausible economic justification for Iran’s big nuclear industry. Its true purpose is to acquire nuclear weapons, or the ability rapidly to produce nuclear weapons. It is about to secure relief from sanctions, already greatly watered down, in a deal with the US that will allow it to keep its nuclear establishment. Iran will get nuclear weapons in due course. Almost nothing is surer. Saudi Arabia has arrangements with Pakistan to follow suit when that happens. The governments of Egypt and some of the Gulf states will then face their own existential questions, especially if they feel they can no longer rely on the US.

Almost all the nuclear powers except the US are increasing the number of their nuclear warheads. The more these weapons proliferate, the greater the chance of their eventual use.

The fourth big external threat is the democratisation of destructive technology (beyond nuclear technology). The digital economy and all its associated inventions are a wonderful boon for humanity, not least in their applications to human health. But the power to use this technology destructively is also rising. The computing power of every smartphone in everybody’s pocket is greater than all the computing effort deployed to put a man on the moon in 1969. The most destructive people in our society so far have not been techno geniuses. But you wouldn’t need very many before terrorism and other antisocial movements switch to massive infrastructure disruption.

At the military level, asymmetry is the new reality, the power of numerically small and financially weak players to wreak enormous strategic damage. Size and money, which have traditionally helped the West, will be less decisive than they used to be, and are in any event moving against the West.

Then there are a series of internal factors that are hurting the West and its prospects. Western economies have recovered from the global financial crisis to some extent but they are not the primary sources of global economic growth. More than that, throughout the West there is an interlinked crisis of governance, budgets and social and economic sustainability.

In governance, the West is a terrible mess. Look at Europe, now a byword for chronic misgovernance and an inability to come to grips with the limitations of budgets and the excess of entitlements. Europe is one of the wealthiest regions of the planet, but its system cannot provide work for huge portions of its young ­people and cannot meaningfully integrate a large minority of immigrants. And it cannot match expenditure to income.

The US has a milder version of the same syndrome. Australia is running through prime ministers at a rate that would make postwar Italy proud.

Finally, there is this question: how long can the West live off the moral capital of religious conviction that it is now abandoning? The West is the only part of humanity abandoning religious belief. Can societies in which there is no overarching idea beyond the individual compete successfully in the long run?

Temperamentally, I’m an optimist. But no one should doubt a civilisational crisis exists.



Technology leader invests to train 100,000 Australian students in 21st century skills

Cisco Systems Australia Pty Ltd today announced a five-year investment program expanding to train over 100,000 Australian tertiary and school students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills.

AUSTEM 2020 is a new program, which builds on Cisco Australia’s long-term commitment to tackle the STEM skills shortage and help create an innovation economy, boost productivity and boost jobs growth.

Cisco Australia and New Zealand Vice President, Ken Boal made the announcement: “The Australian economy is in transition, and there has never been a more important time to invest in the programs that will equip students with the skills they need to secure the jobs of the future.”

Cisco’s AUSTEM 2020 consists of:

    A $21 million projected investment in the Cisco Networking Academy® program over five years to train some 100,000 students via public-partnerships with not-for-profit higher education providers and schools in industry relevant, job-ready technology skills.

    5,000 students connected to STEM career and job opportunities by 2020 through the Find Yourself in the Future program to be offered to Cisco® Networking Academy students, who are coming up to the final stages of studies and making plans for entry into the job market.

    500 students to participate in the Cisco Live Melbourne 2015 Student Summit engaging existing and new STEM students in how technology will shape the future.

    AUS2020 mentoring commitment that will see 20 per cent of Cisco Australia staff providing 20 hours of mentoring to existing and prospective tertiary education and school STEM students, totalling some 5,000 mentoring hours per year.

In addition, Cisco will be delivering opportunities that specially target young women such as the Cisco Women Rock-IT program, where some 1,000 girls per year in Australia will participate in quarterly webinars to learn more about how IT skills can open up interesting and rewarding careers. 

Since 1998, Cisco Australia has invested more than $50 million in the Networking Academy program in Australia, which has trained more than 130,000 students on ICT skills. Cisco Australia collaborates with over 120 higher education institutions and works with 490 instructors for its Networking Academy.

Recently appointed to the Commonwealth Science Council and as President of the Business/Higher Education Roundtable, Mr Boal said that STEM skills were identified by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, as the cornerstone of our modern economy.

“Science and innovation are recognised internationally as key for boosting productivity, creating more and better jobs, enhancing competitiveness and growing our economy,” Mr Boal said. 

Cisco’s commitment is to collaborate with government, business, education and the wider community to help build Australia’s STEM capabilities.


Royal commission is set to debate a proposed plan from SA senator to expand nuclear industry

FREE power, no payroll tax and no motor vehicle tax. Sounds pretty great, right? That is what South Australian Senator, Sean Edwards is touting if the state expands its nuclear energy industry.

According to the Liberal senator, the state would be able to access ten of billions of dollars from the global nuclear industry if they are allowed to store rods and nuclear waste from other countries.

“The science is in. The process is proven and we have a first mover advantage which would see us generate wealth akin to being the Saudis of the South,” he told the Adelaide Advertiser.

The senator believes it would turn South Australia into a “special economic zone” which would further attract business investment.

Mr. Edwards has thrown his weight behind the project. He has reportedly met with countries interested in partnering with the state government and has briefed Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane on the details. All while promising huge economic incentives to the people of his state.

Liberal senator Sean Edwards has some big ideas but not everyone is happy about it.

Liberal senator Sean Edwards has some big ideas but not everyone is happy about it. Source: News Corp Australia

Ziggy Switkowski, former CEO of Telstra, is a nuclear physicist who is the former head of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. He told TheAdelaide Advertiser that the program could “represent billions of dollars of revenue each year.”

Mr. Switkowski reviewed the industry for the Howard Government in 2006 and believes the improvements in science and technology have helped convince people of its safety.

A Royal Commission on the matter was announced last month with SA premier saying “it is now time to engage in a mature and robust conversation.”

It’s a debate that WA Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam said we need to have if only to “put the issue to bed once and for all.”

Nuclear energy has consistency proved to be one of the most viscerally divisive issues in politics so it comes as no surprise that the state’s proposal has been met with criticism by some members of the public.

Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of the Fukishima nuclear disaster and opponents of Mr. Edwards plan took to the steps of the Adelaide parliament to protest the Royal Commission’s inquiry.

Protesters Frankie (child) and Clare Brown at the remember Fukushima Protest on the steps

Protesters Frankie (child) and Clare Brown at the remember Fukushima Protest on the steps of State Parliament yesterday. photo: Calum Robertson Source: News Corp Australia

Dr. Jim Green, from Friends of the Earth, Australia attended the protest and told ABC radio that he was there to for two reasons. To lend his sympathy to the 160,000 Japanese who remain displaced from the Fukishima disaster and to send a message to the government that they’re “not happy about the terms of reference” of the inquiry.

The inquiry’s terms of reference will focus on uranium enrichment, nuclear generation and waste storage. Opponents of nuclear energy say the focus of the inquiry is disproportionately skewed towards the positive financial benefits without adequately accounting for the dangers.

Dr. Green would like to see uranium mining and previous nuclear programs such as Radium Hill and the Port Perry Uranium processing site included in the inquiry. Both sites sit deserted and serve as a reminder to Dr. Green of the perils of nuclear power.

A cartoon implies that the only casualty from Fukishima was the future of the nuclear ind

A cartoon implies that the only casualty from Fukishima was the future of the nuclear industry as the body of a man representing the nuclear power industry lies dead. Source: Supplied

In the past Prime Minister Tony Abbott has expressed his willingness to have nuclear power play a greater role in providing the energy needs of Australia. Yesterday he said he is “very interested” in the upcoming inquiry.

The inquiry starts next week however the consultation on the draft terms of reference close tomorrow.

So with just a single day left for the public to submit their opinion on the issue, perhaps it’s worth asking the question: At what price should we be willing to become a nuclear dumping ground?


12 March, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is disgusted with Germs Greer

Abbott Seeks to Douse Furore Over Outback Comments

Must not criticize blacks

Prime Minister Tony Abbott sought to douse a furor over comments suggesting people living in remote Outback communities are making a “lifestyle choice” shutting them of jobs and economic opportunity, telling indigenous critics to consider his record of trying to improve the lives of aboriginal Australians.

Mr. Abbott, who promised to make his country’s checkered record of treatment of its indigenous population a priority after winning elections 18 months ago, this week backed a decision by conservative allies in Western Australia state to abandon up to 150 remote communities on the grounds they were too costly and difficult to maintain.

“What we can’t do is endlessly subsidize lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have,” Mr. Abbott told a radio station in the remote town of Kalgoorlie on Tuesday.

“If people choose to live miles away from where there’s a school, if people choose not to access the (radio broadcast) school of the air, if people choose to live where there’s no jobs, obviously it’s very, very difficult to close the gap,” he said.

Indigenous Australians make up around 2.5% of the 24-million population and suffer lower life expectancy and higher rates of joblessness than other Australians, as well as greater levels of domestic violence and substance abuse. In 2007, then-Prime Minister John Howard sent police and troops into remote communities to curb widespread child sex abuse.

Mr. Abbott promised to govern as “a prime minister for aboriginal affairs” and told parliament last year that failures toward Australia’s indigenous people were “a stain on our soul.” He promised to “sweat blood” to secure recognition for indigenous Australians in the constitution, backing a national vote on the issue.

But his comments this week prompted a storm of protest from indigenous leaders, with aboriginal lawyers and land rights campaigner Noel Pearson calling them “disappointing and hopeless.” The chairman of Mr. Abbott’s own Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine, said as many as 12,000 people could be affected or forced to move from their homes.

“It’s about their life, it’s about their very essence, it’s about their very culture,” Mr. Mundine told state radio.

Around 12,000 people live in 274 indigenous communities in Western Australia and the state’s conservative government wants to close around half of those. WA Premier Colin Barnett has said some have as few as five residents.

The conservative leader of the neighboring Northern Territory, Adam Giles, whose government overseas a far-flung and largely indigenous population, said he didn’t believe lawmakers should be telling people where to live, particularly indigenous communities with strong ties to traditional lands.

Mr. Abbott, who last month survived a challenge to his leadership brought on by slumping polls and policy gaffes, said people should look at his record on indigenous rights, including a week spent last year running the country from a remote aboriginal community in the Northern Territory made famous by the Crocodile Dundee films.

“I’m very comfortable with my credentials when it comes to doing the right thing by the aboriginal people of Australia,” he said.


The next war: Can Australia put up a fight?

War talk is erupting all over the world. From The Middle East to Eastern Europe. From the South China Sea to Afghanistan. But what about Australia? Can we fight with what we’ve got?

REGIONAL defence budgets have surged dramatically in recent years.

India is spending up big on expanding and modernising its military. China is exercising its new-found muscle with provocative manoeuvres in the East and South China Seas. Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan – a litany of neighbouring nations – are making big ticket purchases including fleets of new submarines and stealth fighters.

Just like Australia.

The Australian Defence Force is embarking on two of its most expensive defence procurements ever – the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the replacement submarine project .

Controversy mires both.

The Soryu class submarine is the favoured but controversial contender for a $20 billion project. The proposal is for a fast-tracked “off the shelf” purchase made without the rigorous risk analysis and transparency a formal tender process normally entails.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a much-delayed and over-budget stealth warplane which also bypassed formal procurement processes. Now fears about its fundamental capabilities are continuously being raised.

We’ve already had an undeniable string of enormously costly defence matériel procurement disasters: The Seasprite naval helicopter program — abandoned. | The helicopter dock landing ship conversions — scrapped. | Tiger attack helicopters — wracked by turmoil.

Defence insiders say we simply cannot afford to get it wrong again.

So will Australia be ready for the next war? Some analysts say maybe not.

Critics say Australia faces serious weaknesses in its ability to sustain any fight for its far-flung borders. Primarily the problem is the purchase of equipment that doesn’t meet our nation’s needs.

The who, the how, the what and the where of any future conflict is – of course - unknown.

But there is plenty that we do know. Any attack on our interests will likely come from the north. We know we have key economic assets and trade routes through areas such as the East Timor Sea.


Prime Minister faces fracking protest in south-east South Australia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says decisions about unconventional gas mining will remain with state governments.

Mr Abbott touched down in Mount Gambier this week, where he faced a protest from South Australian farmers over fracking, a practice used to extract gas from within the earth.

Farmers at the protest expressed concern fracking would damage prime agricultural land and contaminate water supplies.
Protestors hold signs against fracking and unconventional gas mining Photo: Farmers and residents in south-east South Australia protest against unconventional gas mining, during Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit to Mount Gambier. (Kate Hill)

The Prime Minister said Australia should be "cautious" about unconventional gas mining but deflected decision-making to state governments.

A parliamentary inquiry into fracking in the south-east of SA is underway, with a committee due to make recommendations to State Government ministers after analysing submissions and hearings.

Mr Abbott said he did not want to see any practice that would "jeopardise the long-term future of some of the finest agricultural country" in Australia but did not commit to a national inquiry.

"I think it's important that the State Government should take seriously the inquiry, which has now been launched by Liberal members of the South Australia Parliament and let's see what the inquiry comes up with," he said.

"So far it seems that the problems people fear have not arisen but, when in doubt, it's best to proceed with caution.

"It is, in the end, a matter for state governments."


CEO Ahmed Fahour still walking the line at Australia Post

Ahmed Fahour says that there are not many companies that have shown the compound growth in revenue and earnings that he has achieved in Australia Post's parcels business since he took over as chief executive in 2010.

Revenue has grown at an average rate of 23 per cent a year, to $3.1 billion. Earnings before interest and tax have grown a rate of 21 per cent, from $171 million to $371 million.

Parcels have not been the game-changer for Australia Post that mobiles have been for Australia Post's sibling, Telstra, however.

Both groups emerged from the old Postmaster General's Department, and both have been dealing with massive and potentially catastrophic change delivered by the digital revolution.

As the revolution undermined Telstra's fixed line telephone network it supercharged the emergence of alternatives that were at least as important, however: mobiles. They generated almost $10 billion of revenue for Telstra in 2013-2014, and the group finished the year with net assets of $14 billion.

The digital revolution did pump up Australia Post's parcels delivery business as internet shopping expanded, but not by enough to offset the digital destruction of what was once its core business, letter delivery.

The group's net assets were a fraction of Telstra's at $1.8 billion at June 30 last year, and last week Fahour announced a 56 per cent lower first half group profit of $98 million, and a $151 million loss in the letters business.

Australia Post was on course to record its first full-year group loss since 1982, he said, and last Tuesday  the Abbott government finally agreed to a restructuring that Fahour had seeking for more than a year.

Assuming aspects of the deal are approved by the ACCC and not voted down by the Senate, the group will  increase the regulated price of a standard stamp from 70¢ to $1, reclassify its standard letter delivery as a higher-cost, unregulated premium service, and lengthen the new standard delivery time by two days, to five days.

"We are not going to make a profit, ever, on letters," Fahour says. "But what I can say is losses that have been growing will now stop growing, and actually shrink."

About 70 per cent of the letters Australia Post delivers is bulk pre-sorted mail from big governments and businesses including banks, telcos, power companies and governments. Stamp prices for those customers have been deregulated for about three years.

Only about one-third of the household and small business letters that remain are expected to move over to the new, unregulated premium letter product. The jump in the standard letter price from 70¢ to $1  creates headroom for higher unregulated pre-sorted mail prices, however, and the group's operating costs will come down as the standard delivery time lengthens.

"I think people understand our situation," Fahour says. "We've already lost $1.5 billion in the mail business. Business and government overall is 97 per cent of the mail, so Australian taxpayers have  already subsidised businesses and governments by about $1.5 billion." Without changes, the letters business is forecast to lose $12 billion over the next decade. "Are we saying we should take the money out of hospitals, schools, the police force and so on to subsidise that?" Fahour asks. "The senders of the mail should pay."

The group needs to continue to balance three things, he says. Management of the continued decline of the letters business, a simultaneous search for new services and new business lines that can replace letter revenue that is leaking, and the engagement of everyone involved in the tightrope-walk. Not everybody would agree, he acknowledges, "but so far I think we've done a reasonable job".

Fahour reckons that Australia Post is about six years behind the much larger Telstra in its digital era development, partly because it has been diverting resources to subsidise mail delivery losses.

With that problem eased if not solved ,the group can be more focused on growth options he says, adding: "Some people think e-commerce world is just logistics but there's also payments: when you go shopping online, you have to got to pay as well. And what about document movement, what about  storage, what about our digital mailbox, what about identity? I think we are only scratching the surface of what Australia Post can be."

The group is still a curious hybrid however. It is corporatised, but still government-owned. It is on the hunt for commercial growth, but also both tied to and still looking for ways to build on the legacy it has created

It is also criticised for private sector pay deals, even as it struggles internally to find ways to introduce more private sector-style incentives.

Fahour's own pay packet was $4.6 million in the year to June 2014, and more than half it was tied to performance hurdles.

Overall there are 36,000 Australia Post employees and 2000 managers, however, and Australia Post's current bonus pool is only about 2 per cent of the total pay pool, and 15 per cent of the management pay pool.

Arguably, it should be higher.  "On those percentages I suspect we are probably one of the leanest structures you will find compared with the ASX 100," Fahour says, adding: "You can't say that we should be more commercial, beat all the other companies, and also say we shouldn't pay bonuses."

At the same time the corporate hybrid can't become too much of a sales and marketing organisation, Fahour says. "You can't over-pull the commercial lever. There is a community lever too: the art of management is not overplay one or the other."


11 March, 2015

Tony Abbott: Australians 'sick of being lectured to' by United Nations, after report finds anti-torture breach

United Nations special rapporteurs are regular producers of anti-Western rubbish

Australians are "sick of being lectured to by the United Nations", Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said after a report found Australia's treatment of asylum seekers breaches an international anti-torture convention.

Mr Abbott's criticism of the UN follows his attack last month of Australian Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs, in which he called the report she commissioned on children in detention a "political stitch-up".

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rejected a report from the UN that says Australia has breached its obligations on the anti-torture convention.

The United Nations report, by the UN's special rapporteur on torture, finds Australia is violating the rights of asylum seekers on multiple fronts under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez found the detention of children, escalating violence in offshore processing centres, and the detention and proposed deportation of two groups of Sri Lankan and Tamil asylum seekers were in breach of Australia's international obligations.

The report, which will be tabled at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, has been rejected outright by the government.

In extraordinary comments on Monday afternoon, Mr Abbott attacked the UN and said its representatives would "have a lot more credibility if they were to give some credit to the Australian government" for stopping boat arrivals.

"I really think Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations, particularly, particularly given that we have stopped the boats, and by stopping the boats, we have ended the deaths at sea," Mr Abbott said.

"The most humanitarian, the most decent, the most compassionate thing you can do is stop these boats because hundreds, we think about 1200 in fact, drowned at sea during the flourishing of the people smuggling trade under the former government."

Mr Abbott said the best thing the government could do to "uphold the universal decencies of mankind" was to stop boat arrivals. "And that's exactly what we've done," he said.

"I think the UN's representatives would have a lot more credibility if they were to give some credit to the Australian government for what we've been able to achieve in this area."

Last month, the government made a series of personal attacks on Professor Triggs, the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission – Australia's human rights watchdog.

Mr Abbott branded a commission report on children in detention that revealed alarmingly high rates of sexual and physical abuse a "transparent stitch-up" and Attorney-General George Brandis said he had asked Professor Triggs to resign.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said on Monday the government "rejects the views of the special rapporteur that the treatment of illegal maritime arrivals in detention breaches international conventions".

"Australia is meeting all its international obligations and with other regional nations provides a range of services to people who have attempted to enter Australia illegally," Mr Dutton said.

Mr Mendez says in his report that the Abbott government had failed to adequately address concerns raised under the convention about four specific incidents.

Among the concerns raised was that escalating violence on Manus Island, and the "intimidation and ill-treatment of two asylum seekers" who gave statements about last year's violent clash at the centre was in breach of the convention.

The report also finds that recent changes to the Maritime Powers Act to give the government the power to detain asylum seekers at sea and return them violated the convention.

Mr Abbott said on Monday that the needs of all asylum seekers on Manus Island "for food, for clothing, for shelter, for safety are being more than met".

"The conditions on Manus Island are reasonable under all the circumstances. All of the basic needs of the people on Manus Island are being met and, as I said, I think the UN would be much better served by giving credit to the Australian government for what has been achieved in terms of stopping the boats," Mr Abbott said.

As a result of the government's failure to "sufficiently" answer questions, Mr Mendez concludes in his report that "the government fails to fully and expeditiously cooperate" with the Human Rights Council's mandate.

He said Australia was not complying with its international legal obligations to promptly investigate and prosecute acts of torture or cruel or degrading treatment.

Labor said on Monday the Prime Minister was "absurd" for attacking a globally respected organisation for not giving more credit to his government.

"Instead of launching a cheap attack on the report's author – Tony Abbott should be providing an assurance that all the processing facilities Australia funds are run in a safe, humane and proper manner," Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles said.

"A critical part of that is ensuring Australian-funded facilities process people's refugee claims without delay."

Human Rights Law Centre director of legal advocacy Daniel Webb said the report made it clear Australia's policies and actions were in breach of international law.

"The government always assures the Australian people that it complies with its international human rights obligations. But here we have the United Nations once again, in very clear terms , telling the government that Australia's asylum seeker policies are in breach of international law," Mr Webb said.

"Australia signed up to the Convention Against Torture 30 years ago. We did so because as a nation we agreed with the important minimum standards of treatment it guaranteed. Yet here we are 30 years on, knowingly breaching those standards and causing serious damage to our reputation."

Human rights lawyer Greg Barns says he is working with Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie on seeking that the International Criminal Court launch an investigation into crimes against humanity by members of the Abbott government in relation to the treatment of asylum seekers.


Fracking Under fire in taxpayer-funded film

According to a recent article in the Australian Financial Review, Screen Australia, Screen Queensland, and Screen West, and you too, are contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to an anti-fracking documentary called Frackman.

The documentary tracks Queensland resident, “pig shooter and accidental activist” Dayne Pratzsky on his escapades, including trespassing on private land, and getting arrested at anti-fracking protests.

So far, Screen Australia has invested $200,000 of your money in the film, plus giving it a $435,000 tax credit offered to films with significant Australian content and expenditure.

Screen Queensland has invested $220,000 of taxpayer money, while Screen West has contributed $156,000.

Former Queensland Arts Minister, Ian Walker, pointed out that Screen Queensland was an independent body, and its decisions were not based on political criteria, but on artistic merit, but we still have a few questions.

WasteWatch is neither for nor against fracking; we will leave that debate to people who know more about it. And we are not suggesting for one second that the film ought not to be made or screened.

But forcing the taxpayer to fund it, when it has already taken a side in a controversial question of public policy? We wonder if that might not be a bit much.

Steve Wright, a director of the Energy Resource Information Centre, seems to have already made up his mind. He calls the film “an anti-industry campaign tool,” and “a big element of the activist toolkit” in the anti-fracking campaign.


Guardian’s WasteWatch slam needs a fact checker

By William Shrubb writing on behalf of The Centre for Independent Studies

The honour of WasteWatch has been maligned.  We are now, according to a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, part of a merry band of anti-intellectual “right-wing inquisitors” grinding evidence-based policy-making into the dust with our “crib guides to Hayek, von Mises, and Milton Friedman.”

The trigger for this outburst seems to be the latest product of the Canberra rumour-mill: the suggestion that there may not be enough money in the upcoming federal budget to pay for the 2016 census to be conducted in the same way past censuses have been conducted.

The Guardian article is stirring stuff. Censuses are celebrated as the foundation of everything good, from “sewered streets and lights” to sociology and, apparently, Christianity.

In the naughty corner are the usual suspects — the CIS and the IPA — who are supposedly aligned with the Abbott government in an unholy trinity of conservatism, “blind to the value of others’ intellectual endeavours when they do not accord with [our] firm prior commitments,” and “chuckl[ing] luridly at any sense of genuine inquiry.”

Our sin, it seems, dates back to last October, when we dared to publish a story about the $110,000 of your money that the Australian Bureau of Statistics has spent building and advertising a free app, called Run That Town, where players can make imaginary planning decisions in various neighbourhoods, based on data from the 2011 census.

WasteWatch never advocated abolishing or radically revising the census, but we did suggest that this game was possibly not the best use of taxpayer money.

Naturally, the Guardian became hot under the collar, and courageously leapt to the ABS’ defence, ruing the day we ever “cloak[ed ourselves] in borrowed academic robes” and strode forth to destroy the origins of Christianity and sewerage.

If we weren’t allegedly so busy indulging in the “privileged giggling of the unimaginative”, we might point out to the Guardian that evidence-based policy is one of the cornerstones of the CIS. WasteWatch might even dare to point out that the proposal to change the way the census runs came from the ABS itself, and not our unholy hands.

And we would agree with the ABS that spending $440 million of taxpayer money on a census, just because King Herod might have appreciated it, doesn’t qualify as a good example of evidence-based policy, if there is a cheaper, more efficient way of getting similarly reliable information.

But the Guardian knows all this already, they just didn’t want to let the evidence base get in the way of a good story.

So we will take our “desiccated attitude towards government and governance” back to our favourite task of apparently undermining “the basic foundations of the modern state.”

We’ll let you know when we’re done.


NSW Government slams Labor's plan to defer stamp duty for first home buyers

Another Leftist scheme that looks good -- but only if you don't look too deeply

The Baird government has rubbished a proposal by Labor leader Luke Foley to allow first home buyers to defer stamp duty payments, saying it could create a financial trap for young families.

Under Labor's plan, first home buyers purchasing a property to the value of $750,000 would be able to spread stamp duty over five years, rather than paying the tax in a lump sum at the time of purchase.

Responding to the idea, Treasurer Andrew Constance said a similar scheme was in place in the mid-1990s. But it was abandoned by the then Labor government because it was placing a burden on home buyers.

"Under Labor's plan, new home buyers who purchase a $750,000 home and defer paying $29,240 in stamp duty will then be slugged every month, when they can least afford it," Mr Constance said.

Mr Constance drew attention to former Labor Treasurer Michael Egan's 1998 budget, in which he dropped a similar scheme. Mr Egan told Parliament the scheme was not working party because first home buyers "find that they are creating a later financial trap, with almost 48 per cent of them in arrears."

The differnce in the mid-1990s scheme, however, was that home buyers could choose between defering stamp duty payments or taking a one-off discount.

Labor says its $60 million "Help for Homes" package, which has been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, would help about 37,000 home buyers.

In the Central Coast on Monday, Mr Foley said: "The barriers are greater than ever before for first home buyers, particularly in Sydney."

Mr Foley said the size of the stamp duty debt would increase over the five years in line with inflation.

"There will be no less revenue to the state, but there will obviously be a deferral of the revenue received," Mr Foley said.

Current policies target stamp duty relief at people buying new properties, rather than existing homes. The state government in effect waives stamp duty on new properties valued up to $550,000 and offers concessions on homes between $550,000 and $650,000.

Speaking in Parramatta, Premier Mike Baird said Labor's plan "was a policy proposal that has been around for a considerable period".

"There is a huge array of doubt in terms of how much that sort of policy will cost, what sort of benefit it will deliver," Mr Baird said.

He added: "I think that we have looked after first home buyers every day that we have been in government by providing incentives for new dwellings."


It's still a happy meal in Australia for McDonald's

McDonald's offers some of the world's best value food, and it's yummy too.  It's mainly snobs who scorn it

McDonald's sales and visits have increased in Australia over the half year, proving a bright spot for the world's biggest restaurant chain as it is racked by falling global sales and food shocks in Asia.

McDonald's released its sales figures this morning, which showed global comparable sales fell by a deeper-than-expected 1.7 per cent in February, but there was another "positive result" for Australia.

Analysts had expected global comparable sales to fall by 0.3 per cent, according to Bloomberg. The results makes it nine straight monthly falls. 

Comparable sales in the US were down 4 per cent in February, Europe bucked the trend with a 0.7 per cent rise, and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Asia (APMEA) sales were down 4.4 per cent.

The US-based fast-food giant says Australia is one of four priority markets. It does not break out sales for its 940-odd Australian stores, about 80 per cent of which it says are franchised. 

But the last annual accounts for McDonald's Australia Holdings show a 25 per cent increase in profit to $234.4 million, despite receipts from customers edging down to $1.06 billion.

McDonald's Australia Holdings paid $40 million in dividends in the 2013 calendar year, from $14 million the year before, and invested $177.6 million in new property, plant and equipment. 

And as McDonald's seeks to "reset" its business after a "disappointing" 2014, it has declared Australia to be a "great spot in our overall turnaround with positive comparable sales and guest counts since September of last year."

"The team has re-energised the business with strong promotions and relevant menu items and they are fuelling this momentum with additional excitement around digital initiatives and the rollout of Create Your Taste across the majority of the market this year," Kevin Ozan, chief financial officer, told analysts last week.

Create Your Taste, burgers made fresh to order, is in 16 Australian stores and McDonald's plans to roll them out across 800 - except for those in shopping centres - by the end of June. This expansion will soak up some of the $US2 billion McDonalds plans to spend this year.

By contrast, Create Your Taste is in just 15 stores in the US and McDonald's said it "may" help Australian and US franchisees with rollout costs estimated at between $US100,000 and $US150,000 a store.

In the competitive $11 billion Australia fast-food market, in which market darling Domino's Pizza is seeking to increase its 8 per cent share, McDonald's in January offered free fries and soft drinks with Big Mac purchases. It has also offered a "Loose Change Menu" for years, selling small items for $3 and under.

And after expanding its menu to include items such as steak and aioli rolls, smoothies, frappes and grilled warm chicken salads, McDonald's is now looking to reduce the number of products it sells.

Chief administrative officer Pete Bensen said: "Part of it is frankly looking at low moving items and taking them off the menu, but some of that is looking at how we actually display and market it.

"So it could be something like maybe in the drive-thru you ... only display the items that make up 80 per cent of our sales and you could significantly reduce the clutter."

McDonald's this week reported continued troubles in Japan, after a series of food scandals: the rationing of fries, and the finding of a human tooth in fries and plastic in chicken nuggets.

"APMEA's February comparable sales decreased 4.4 per cent due primarily to the broad-based consumer perception issues in Japan, partly offset by a benefit from the shift in timing of Chinese New Year in China and certain other markets, as well as positive results in Australia," it said.

"Rebuilding brand trust by strengthening McDonald's quality and value perceptions is one of APMEA's top priorities for 2015.

APMEA accounted for $US6.3 billion of McDonalds $US27.4 billion global sales in 2014.

Last week's official retail figures show spending on cafes, restaurants and takeaway food rose 0.3 per cent in January, or 2 per cent seasonally adjusted, to almost $3.4 billion.


10 March, 2015

Fairfax spite

Fake but accurate.  I have read the Sydney Morning Herald just about every day since Abbott was elected and I have yet to see there favourable mention of anything Abbott has done.  The SMH has been relentlessly shrill and negative about him

Treasurer Joe Hockey could not allow "scurrilous and false allegations about corruption" reported by Fairfax Media to remain unchallenged, his lawyers have told the opening of a defamation trial.

Mr Hockey says Fairfax Media defamed him in a series of articles in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times about his relationship with a Liberal Party fundraising body the North Sydney Forum, published on May 5, 2014.

His barrister, Bruce McClintock, SC, told the Federal Court Mr Hockey's case is that Fairfax Media editors were motivated to publish "extraordinarily serious allegations" that they "knew were false" because they had to publish a correction to an earlier article about Mr Hockey.

"It was an act of petty spite," Mr McClintock said. In that article, published on March 21, 2014, the papers said Mr Hockey repaid money to Australian Water Holdings, a company that has been the subject of an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

In fact it was the North Sydney Forum that repaid the money. The papers ran an apology the following day. Subsequent emails and text messages between Fairfax Media editors and political reporters show the decision to publish the "Treasurer for Sale" series of articles was a "calculated plan" written to "exact revenge", Mr McClintock said.

In a series of text messages, Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir told The Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden that he was angry at being contacted at 2.15am by Mr Hockey's staff.  "They have a f---ing hide," he said. "I feel pissed off they called me so early."

Holden replied: "The simplest approach is to dig into NSF… in that story you can run Hockey's claim he knew nothing … beyond that, f--- him.  "Amazing they freeze us out and then think they have the relationship that allows them to call in the middle of the night."

Goodsir said: "Are we not better to have a red hot go at the issue next week, and really go for it … after the day we've had, I ain't going to run this – but am more than keen to develop a North Sydney Forum plan for next week."

He instructed Herald state political editor Sean Nicholls to dig into the North Sydney Forum.

On March 27, Goodsir wrote: "F---ing Brilliant … given what Andrew and I endured last week with Hockey, I want to have this nailed to the cross in more ways than one … keep digging Sean… I have long dreamed (well, only since last Friday), of a headline that screams: Sloppy Joe! I think we are not far off, but perhaps even more serious than that."

Mr Hockey claims that, as a result of the articles, he has been "greatly injured, shunned and avoided and his reputation has been and will be bought into disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt".

He says Fairfax Media's "over sensational, extravagant and unfair presentation" of the articles indicated an "intent to injure" him.

Mr McClintock told the court that Mr Hockey had called Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood over the March 21 article.

He said Mr Hywood replied: "Be thankful you are getting what you are [an apology]." Mr McClintock said Mr Hywood warned Mr Hockey to "be careful" that if the matter went to court "you are not another Craig Thomson".

He said it appeared the publication of the articles was timed to be just before Mr Hockey handed down his first budget and that they remain online despite there not being a contention by Fairfax Media that what was published is true.

Mr McClintock said the placard (poster) and headline "Treasurer for Sale" clearly accused Mr Hockey of corruption.  "There is no innocent explanation for those words," he said.  "Could there be a more serious allegation made against the Treasurer of Australia?"

Mr McClintock said that, when Mr Hockey first saw the articles, he was "angry and upset". The treasurer spoke to many people that day, and most said their reaction to the article was that it was accusing him of corruption.

Mr McClintock said a tweet by former Liberal PM Malcolm Fraser was an example of the way the publication was interpreted by readers. Mr Fraser's tweet said in part: "Treasurer for sale: Joe Hockey offers privileged access. Using Ministerial office for fund raising corrupt." It contained a link to the original story.

Mr McClintock said Australians expected their elected representatives to have broad shoulders. "In the rough and tumble of political life, harsh things are going to be said, even false things," Mr McClintock said.  "There are some things, however, no politician could allow to pass unchallenged."

Mr McClintock said his client's reputation was "spotless" and there could be no more serious allegation than a claim a person was corrupt.

He is claiming damages, including aggravated damages, interest and costs, although the amount of damages is not specified.

Fairfax Media says it had no intention of implying that Mr Hockey was prepared to accept bribes and that Goodsir did not equate the headline "Treasurer for Sale" with corruption.


Australia rates a zero as Big Solar booms around the world

Well-done, Australia!

Figures released on Friday by utility solar analysts show that global capacity of utility-scale PV generating capacity at the end of 2014 reached 35.9GW.

The data shows that new plant commissioned during the year totalled 14.2 GW, almost doubling the record of 7.4 GW set the previous year – and equal to the entire installed capacity up to the end of 2012.

Worldwide utility-scale photovoltaic power generation is now fairly evenly split between the three leading continents; Asia, Europe and North America. 2014 is the first year when Africa and South America started to show meaningful contributions.

But where is Australia? Every continent increased its volume compared to 2013 – except Australia, which rates zeros on new annual capacity and cumulative operating capacity. (Actually, on cumulative capacity it would rate at 30MW – the Royalla and Greenough River solar plants – but that is 0.03GW, and Wiki-Solar only goes one decimal point).

“Even Europe returned to growth, after declines in 2012 and 2013,” said Wiki-Solar founder Philip Wolfe.

“Performance at the national level is however more variable. Europe’s resurgence – after the 2012 policy changes in the traditional powerhouse of Germany – has been fuelled mainly by a buoyant British market.”

Wiki-Solar predicts that the UK will this month leapfrog India, and maybe even Germany, to become the world’s third or fourth largest market; driven by a flood of projects racing to beat legislative changes. The country then risks following other European markets into a period of stagnation.

Meanwhile Germany is trialling a new approach to utility-scale solar, which may see growth re-starting in coming years.

“Only the US, China and India can claim consistent longer-term growth”, says Wolfe; though he believes that the drivers in countries like Chile, Japan and Canada look relatively stable.

“I am hoping they too will become sustainable markets for the industry.”


BBC defends all-white cast for Australian history series

The first fleet was British (though there were a couple of black convicts) so picturing them as white is accurate.  They did of course have some contact with Aborigines but on only a very small scale

A new seven-part BBC drama series about the arrival of the first fleet in Sydney has drawn big TV audiences in the UK, despite the surprising decision not to include any indigenous cast members.

Banished, filmed partly in Sydney and starring David Wenham as Governor Arthur Phillip, won its timeslot on Thursday with 3.4 million viewers on BBC Two.

However, the series, which is plainly aimed at an English audience, will not screen here until a date yet to be decided in June.

Co-producer Jimmy McGovern has defended the decision to omit indigenous people from the series.

"It is difficult to exaggerate how important is it to get the portrayal of indigenous Australians right," he said. "In recent years I have been fortunate enough to work with a group of aboriginal people as story editor on Redfern Now, a contemporary urban drama.

"The time-frame in Banished is very short – something just over two weeks – and there is not sufficient time to develop and do justice to indigenous characters. Hopefully if there's another series there would be time to collaborate and get any representation right."

Banished, which also stars Russell Tovey (Being Human), MyAnna Buring (Ripper Street) and Ryan Corr (Wolf Creek 2), was filmed on location at Manly Dam and in Sydney's Royal National Park, with the interiors shot in Manchester.

Described as being "loosely inspired" by the events of 1788, Wenham said he was initially cautious about issues of historical accuracy in the series.

"I was concerned about it at first but having reading the script I'm actually surprised how much of it that is supposedly fiction in the script did in fact exist," he says. "Some of those characters that I thought were fictional did exist. "It's not taking huge liberties at all."

Co-producer Sita Williams also insisted that Banished has no pretensions to strict historical accuracy.  "This is our 1788," she says, " isn't a historical drama, this is a drama inspired by the arrival of the first fleet in 1788."

So far, the series has received only mixed reviews from British critics


'Britain's white jihadi' a teen from Australia

A westerner pictured alongside Islamic State group fighters and dubbed by media as "Britain's white jihadi" is in fact a teenager from Australia who converted to Islam, a report said Monday.

A picture of the meek-looking youth, holding a rifle and sitting in between two jihadists with a black IS flag in the background, emerged on Twitter in late December.

At the time the militant group, which has run rampant through swathes of Iraq and Syria, hailed his recruitment as "a major coup" with the British media dubbing him "Britain's white jihadi".

Doubts about the authenticity of the picture subsequently emerged after a blogger claimed he had fabricated the image to hoax the British press.

But Australia's Fairfax Media said the photograph had now been positively identified by friends of the teenager and members of two mosques in Melbourne.

It identified him as a former high-achieving 18-year-old student called Jake, declining to reveal his full name at the request of a family member.

He was described as a maths whiz who attended the Craigieburn Secondary College in Melbourne but dropped out in the middle of last year after converting to Islam and buying a one-way ticket to Istanbul en route to Iraq and Syria.

His identification came after Australia stopped two teenage brothers at Sydney airport believed to be heading to the Middle East to fight, amid growing concern in Western countries over young people joining jihadist groups.

That case followed three British schoolgirls leaving their London homes to join IS in Syria in February.

"He used to come here when we had a big lecture," Abu Zaid, a committee member of the Hume Islamic Youth Centre in Coolaroo, told Fairfax Media of Jake.

"He was a very quiet guy, he stuck to himself. We weren't close to him. I didn't see any of the people (getting) close to him."

The newspaper said the youth now goes by the Islamic names Abdur Raheem or Abu Abdullah.

It said that two months after his disappearance, he contacted his family to tell them he was in Iraq training for a "martyrdom mission" with a suicide vest.

He later called again to say he was "too scared to do it and he prefers being a soldier" and was planning to travel to Syria.

Around 140 Australians have travelled to fight with IS and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, with another 150 supporting them at home, the government has said.

Former immigration minister Scott Morrison said the case showed indoctrination was happening in unexpected places.

"It's very hard to make assumptions on who's going to fall prey to the death cult," he said of IS, adding that the government needed "every available tool to stop people joining the fight overseas".


9 March, 2015

Must not criticise homosexuality

[Public] Broadcaster SBS has pulled the Australian Marriage Forum's anti same-sex marriage television advertisement from their Sunday night telecast of the 37th Sydney Mardi Gras.

The 43-second TV ad aired on Channel 7 and 9 on Saturday while the parade was underway and shows a mother sitting at a playground table with her young daughter while her husband and son play on a slide in the background.  "We hear a lot about marriage equality, but what about equality for kids?" the woman says.

The advertisement also features David van Gend, the president of the Australian Marriage Forum and a family doctor, who is described on-screen only as a "family doctor".  "So-called marriage equality forces a child to miss out on a mother or a father," Dr van Gend says. "That's not equality for the kids who miss out. That's not marriage."

The ad was part of the Forum's campaign opposing same-sex marriage, called "Think of the Child".

Dr van Gend said the ad was booked and paid for but he received an email from SBS on Friday saying they had pulled it.

"Our review board has instructed that SBS has the right to choose what ads we run, and I've unfortunately been instructed to advise you that we choose not to run this TVC for the Marriage Forum during the Mardi Gras telecast," the email from SBS sales manager for Queensland, Nick Belof, said.  An SBS spokesperson told Fairfax Media that it reserved the right "to determine what advertisements it broadcasts".

Dr van Gend said the pulling of the ad was a "suppression of free speech".  "It is outrageous for a taxpayer funded broadcaster like SBS to apply censorship to one side of the debate on same-sex marriage," he said.

"SBS gives free airtime for them to make their political point on 'marriage equality', but refuses to show even one minute of a paid ad presenting an opposing view."

The advertisement had received regulatory approval as a political advertisement in February, the Forum said.

Dr van Gend has asked the advertising agency the Forum was using to obtain a further explanation from SBS. The agency has been told SBS will give a further explanation next week.

Not-for-profit organisation Australian Marriage Equality's national director, Rodney Croome, said the ad was "actually harming the many Australian children being raised by same-sex couples because it defends discrimination against their families".

"Don't be precious. The Mardi Gras is a protest march, an aggressively political rally and they pride themselves in being contentious and provocative," Dr van Gend said.

The Australian Marriage Forum's website was registered by the Australian Christian Lobby in 2011.

The advertisement triggered a social media backlash, with a petition set up to remove the ad from television.

At the same time, the Christian Democratic Party was using social media to run an anti-Mardi Gras advertisement featuring a photo of a heterosexual couple and a baby with the caption: "parenting, not promiscuity is worth celebrating".

Christian Democratic Party leader the Reverend Fred Nile posted his party's ad on Twitter on Saturday, with the hastag "Mardi Gras 2015".

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage, said: "Same-sex couples make excellent parents, and the children of same-sex couples deserve the right to have married parents.

"I would like to dismiss the ads as being on the fringe of public opinion and clearly not representative of the way in which a strong majority of Australians support the LGBTI [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex] community, but I think we also can't underestimate the damage that these ads can do to vulnerable LGBTI people."

Labor Opposition Leader Luke Foley, who has previously voted against same-sex marriage, told Fairfax last month that he had "an open mind" on the issue and would "continue to reflect" on it.

Premier Mike Baird has said he is personally opposed to same-sex marriage but supports a conscience vote on the issue.


Anti-Semitism is much older than Israel

'Harry Potter' star Miriam Margolyes has form. Noted for her vehement anti-Israel views, the Jewish actress didn't hold back when she appeared on Monday night's Q&A. 

Asked to explain the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, and also in Australia, Margoyles had her answer ready to hand: it is all because of Israel and what it is doing to defend itself in Gaza. 

According to Margolyes, people associate Israel with Jews, and Jews are killing innocent people. Therefore the actions of Israel makes people hate Jews. 

Stop the killing, she seems to think, and the Jew-hatred will stop too. 

It's nonsense. Jews were hated long before the state of Israel was lawfully created in 1948 with the endorsement of the United Nations. Since then, Israel has had to defend itself against Arab states pledged to keep the hatred alive. 

Palestinians have also long been relentless enemies of Israel. Since Israel left Gaza in 2005, more than 11,000 rockets have been fired from there into Israel.

Hamas was elected the governing party. Its charter commits Hamas to destroy Israel and murder Jews, and it counts on the support of Iran which has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map".
Many celebrities and fashionable intellectuals in the West are also determined to destroy Israel. Their weapon of choice is not the Qassam rocket but economic sanctions. 

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign was launched in 2005 by 171 Palestinian NGOs to force Israel to comply "with its obligations under international law." 

BDS claims to focus on Israel's abuse of power and not on Jewish people or Judaism but the campaign objectives show this is not a nuanced critique of Israeli government policy. Instead it is a sustained attack on the very existence of the State of Israel itself. 

Of course, BDS defenders like to point out that Jews like Miriam Margolyes are also questioning Israel's legitimacy. So how can BDS be anti-Semitic?  But claiming that Jewish support somehow sanctifies BDS paints nothing more than a thin veneer of moral respectability over an ancient toxic bigotry. 

Whatever form it takes today, whether physical attack or economic strangulation, there is an old name for this bigotry: anti-Semitism - the hatred of Jews. 

And this hatred is alive once more. Israel's policy in Gaza is just an excuse and not the cause. BDS activists, Muslim leaders and Islamist tyrants are all standing shoulder to shoulder against the Jews.

By trying to explain anti-Semitism away, Miriam Margolyes only legitimises the new and heightened dangers faced by Jews in Europe and around the world.


The Iron Law of Medicare

 The Abbott Government has finally ditched the $5 GP co-payment. This comes in the same week that the latest Intergenerational Report has once again warned about the budgetary consequences of the rising cost of Medicare. 

Regardless of the pressures health expenditure will place on federal finances in an ageing Australia, the Prime Minister has said that the plan to introduce a modest amount of cost-sharing for GP services is 'dead, buried and cremated.' 

Advocates of a 'free and universal' health system will undoubtedly rejoice. But inconsistencies across the health system persist, including the co-payments for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, especially the $6.90 per script paid by concession card holders. Also contradictory is Medicare Levy Surcharge which, by forcing higher income earners to take out private health insurance to gain an exemption, is a de-facto Medicare means test. 

The overarching hypocrisy remains the fact that a 'free' health system isn't free. It has to be funded by governments that have to choose between competing priorities when deciding how to allocate scare resources. 

These decisions involve opportunity costs. That health spending crowds out other government activity is lost on those who argue that political considerations should dictate health policy because the Australian people 'regard universal health care as a right.'

What needs to be factored in to the health debate is that the so-called 'right to Medicare' involves trading off other important 'rights', such as:

    The right to affordable housing and getting to work - Since the inception of Medicare in 1984, the ever-increasing cost of the 'free' public hospital system has consumed higher proportions of State government budgets. This has lead to cut backs or under-investment in other key areas such as housing and transport infrastructure. Longer travel times due to congestion, and higher house prices due to lack of land release, are the results.

    The right to chronic care - Medicare is primarily a fee-for-service payment system for medical services, which also provides access to hospital care subject to waiting times for many treatments. What Medicare does not do is provide full courses of treatment, including allied health services and medications, for patients with chronic conditions. Like hospital waiting lists, this is a form of rationing, or restricting the availability of services, to offset the high cost of providing 'free' GP and other medical care to all comers.  In order to receive all beneficial care, many chronically-ill patients face high out-of-pocket expenses.

    The right not to beggar future generations - Pay-As-You-Go taxpayer-funded health systems such as Medicare were created during an era when health care was relatively cheap and basic. The increased sophistication of modern medicine, combined with longevity (increased life-spans), is remorselessly driving up health costs. This will impose considerable burdens on the smaller proportion of the population that is of working age in the years ahead, who will face either higher taxes, or cuts to other services, or both, to pay for Medicare. This may mean that future generations will not enjoy rising living standards at the same rate as previous generations.

The rights we don't have because of the right to universal health care might be termed the Iron Law of Medicare: a government big enough to give you free health services, is too big to give you many important things you need.


Powerful owl spotted in suburban Canberra park

Bird enthusiasts are in a flutter after a rare sighting of Australia's largest owl, the powerful owl, spotted devouring ringtail possums and sulphur-crested cockatoos in a suburban Canberra park.

The owl has taken up long-term residence in Haig Park near the CBD, and bird watchers from across the country and even overseas have flocked to catch a glimpse of it.

An owl expert said while the powerful owl did hunt at night, there was little chance it would sink its talons into Canberrans or their pets.

"It is classified as an apex predator, so what they will do is hunt a variety of food, mainly tree-dwelling mammals," National Zoo and Aquarium senior keeper Brendan Sheean said.

Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG) member Terry Bell said the big predator had been caught on camera devouring sugar gliders and feathery cousins, like Canberra's emblem bird the gang-gang cockatoo.

"These feathers in front of me which are sections of wings showing grey with pinkish feathers... I would think that they are actually from galahs," he said.

Mr Bell was among the first to spot owl scats on the tarmac outside the Turner Bowling Club in north Canberra and then locate the powerful owl in large oak trees in the adjoining Haig Park.

He said powerful owl populations were in decline in Sydney and across New South Wales and the birds were classified as vulnerable.

That meant bird enthusiasts from far and wide had been staking out the park for months, armed with tripods and binoculars. "Keen bird watchers can really travel vast distances to come and see a bird they hadn't seen before. That becomes a sort of 'lifer' for them," he said.

Mr Sheean said the owl may also have moved to the park looking for a mate.  He said once partnered, powerful owls could breed for 30 years, and the season of owl love was fast approaching.

"There's plenty of food and it could have been a young one that might have turned up looking for a new territory," he said.

He said a DNA test was required to confirm whether the owl was a he or she, and keen bird watchers had already sent feather samples in for testing.

"A lot of people love owls," he said. "They are such a beautiful animal that is normally involved in a lot of mythical legend, and to see one during the daytime is very uncommon."


8 March, 2015

An email to the Indonesian embassy in Canberra

Forwarded to me by my Charters Towers correspondent

These two convicted drug smugglers were found guilty in a fair trial nearly ten years ago. The appeal process has been long and drawn out, no fair person would deny that they have not had a fair hearing, in fact probably too many hearings. There is no doubt that in other Asian countries such as Malaysia or Singapore they would have long since been hanged.

 In this case the appeal process has been drawn out to an extraordinary degree, their sentence has been confirmed by the President of Indonesia and if he relents at this eleventh hour he will be the butt of many critical jokes in this country and be made out to be quite gutless.

Australian political leaders in government and opposition are a weak-kneed lot, they are doing Australia a disservice. Even our Australian federal police have no confidence in our political leaders or our judiciary and that is why they asked their Indonesian counterparts to intercept the drug smugglers.

If Sukumaran and Chan had been caught in Australia they would have been released from jail now, definitely no wiser. Many say they are now rehabilitated however for them it should be too late. Let them pay for their crimes and they will never do anything criminal again.

Too many of these people or their parents were welcomed to Australia and in gratitude become criminals. In conclusion, please be advised that at least 50% of the population here think you are doing the right thing with these proposed executions. The convicted convicts are at least dying like men by being shot by the firing squad. Hanging is definitely a more unmanly humiliating end.

Greenie hypocrisy about law enforcement

Sr is an abbreviation for "Senator".  In the days before Environmentalism, Sr Rhiannon was on the far Left, a Trotskyite.  She still is, with the Green party simply being a convenient way into parliament for her.  And she retains all the old Trotskyite sympathy for union thuggery.  Trots see union militancy as a way of breaking down "the system" that they hate

And Sr Cameron is an old Clydeside unionist -- and there is no-one who hates "the bosses" like one of those.  It's a great pity that he did not remain in Scotland among his fellow destroyers of jobs.  A considerable fraction of the world's ships were once built on the Clyde but union demands and delays drove away orders to the Far East and not much is built there now

For the past week we've heard the Greens rage about the supposed character assassination of Professor Gillian Triggs, the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, because her performances before Senate hearings in November and February have received legitimate cross-examination, which never crossed over to personal attacks.

It was the Greens who chose to cross that line. The line was not just crossed, it was obliterated.  Senator Lee Rhiannon, Greens NSW, delivered a speech on Tuesday night that was smearing at its most abject.

Under the privilege of Parliament on Tuesday night, Sr Rhiannon began a speech with these words:

"Nigel Hadgkiss, director of the Fair Work Building and Construction inspectorate, has framed his career and, indeed, his life, as a crime fighter, exposing corruption, drug runners and criminals."

"[But his career] is about reducing the pay workers take home at the end of the week and reducing the rights of workers to ensure they have a safe workplace …"

"It is only legitimate that Australians know who he is ... In 1989, as a Winston Churchill Fellow, the Hadgkiss CV tells us he studied methods for combatting organised crime in Northern Ireland …

"The Royal Ulster Constabulary - known as the RUC - was the local police force in Northern Ireland until 2001… In 1989, the RUC… was involved with paramilitaries in carrying out brutal crimes, including murder… There is no suggestion that Hadgkiss was involved in crimes committed by the RUC. However, why does he promote this visit as a study trip to examine methods of fighting organised crime?"

"When one reads about the extent of collusion between the RUC and paramilitaries, it is hard to imagine what form combatting organised crime could have taken in Northern Ireland in 1989 and what a visiting police officer from Australia would have studied… I urge Hadgkiss to provide details about his past… We do know that Hadgkiss' career has been under a cloud at least since the 1990s …"

Here is Sr Rhiannon's logic: Nigel Hadgkiss studied in Ulster in 1989. Paramilitants committed murders in Ulster in 1989. Paramilitants were linked with the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Therefore Mr Hadgkiss needs to explain what black arts he was studying in Northern Ireland.

Worse, the smear was delivered in support of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, which for decades has been riddled with systemic corruption, intimidation and violence. This is the union that has sub-contracted bikie gangs as enforcers.

Sr Rhiannon's brazenness shocked the government member on chamber duty, Nationals Senator Barry O'Sullivan: "I have only been here a year, but tonight's presentation was one of the most scurrilous abuses of the protection of this Senate I have seen."

A similarly methodical attempt at character assassination of Hadgkiss had been made last Thursday by Labor's designated parliamentary apologist, rationaliser and attack dog for the CFMEU, Senator Doug Cameron.

The senator engaged in yet another tortuous inquisition of Mr Hadgkiss, asking 128 questions, all suggestive that he has colluded with construction companies. Labor's tactics are a clear message of intimidation to senior public servants whose jobs involve investigating union corruption and intimidation.

Sr Cameron: "Have you attended a board-room meeting and that company has been involved in litigation that the fair work building commission has taken, against, say, a union?

After about an hour of this, Sr Cameron suddenly fell silent when the subject turned to the intimidation of Mr Hadgkiss' staff, especially his female staff.   

Mr Hadgkiss: "We have 25 documented cases of serious security matters involving my staff in recent years. Invariably these involve 'scab sheets' where the identity of investigators is put up - their personal details, their home and their telephone numbers - particularly female staff members are rung at home at night and abused.

Sr O'Sullivan: "You are sitting awfully quietly there, Doug."

Sr Bridget McKenzie (committee chair): "What about social media - Facebook or Twitter?"

Mr Hadgkiss: "Yes, that obviously is used, references such as 'dogs' and other delightful terms towards my staff."

Sr McKenzie: "It is clear that the CFMEU and its ilk are actually engaged in behaviour that is very likely to destroy people's lives."

Mr Hadgkiss: "It has destroyed people's lives."

Sr Cameron remained silent.


Constitutional recognition of Indigenous people 'racist': David Leyonhjelm

Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm has come out against the Federal Government's push to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution.  Late last year, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was prepared to "sweat blood" to ensure Indigenous people received constitutional recognition.

But Senator Leyonhjelm has told the Upper House the proposed legislation singles out Aboriginal people on the basis of race.  iving legal recognition to characteristics held by certain persons — particularly when those characteristics are inherent, like ancestry — represents a perverse sort of racism," he said.

"Although it appears positive, it still singles some people out on the basis of race."

He also described the bill as divisive, quoting part of the legislation, which reads: "The Parliament, on behalf of the people of Australia, acknowledges and respects the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples."

"This is divisive," Senator Leyonhjelm said. "It is likely that some Australians do not respect the cultures, languages or heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

"What is the Parliament doing to these people when it asserts that the people of Australia respect Aboriginal cultures? It is casting them as 'un-Australian'."

Senator Leyonhjelm also quoted part of the legislation which read: "The Parliament, on behalf of the people of Australia, acknowledges the continuing relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with their traditional lands and waters."

He warned that it stereotyped Indigenous people.  "It is likely that some Aboriginal people do not have a relationship with traditional lands and waters," he said.

"What is the Parliament doing to these people when it asserts that Aboriginal peoples have such a relationship? It is denying their Aboriginality."

Current constitution allows for racial discrimination: Gooda

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said recognising Indigenous people in the constitution is about "removing the existing race discrimination from the constitution".

"If you support race equality, it's important to understand that the Constitution doesn't currently reflect that. It allows for race discrimination today," he said.

"It's too early for anyone to be so trenchantly opposed to this. Let's remember this is an opportunity to make progress in the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

"I encourage all Australians to get across this issue so they can make an informed decision."

The push to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution has bipartisan support.

The Prime Minister has said he would like a referendum on the issue to happen on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum.


Muslim man, 27, sentenced to 10 years jail for persistent sexual abuse of 12-year-old child bride

A MAN who married a 12-year-old child bride in an Islamic ceremony and got her pregnant has been sentenced to at least seven-and-a-half years in jail.

The 27-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to a maximum jail term of 10 years with a non-parole period of seven and a half years in the Downing Centre District Court today.

The pair “married” in an Islamic ceremony in the girl’s living room in the Hunter region last January and the man later pleaded guilty to one count of persistent sexual abuse of a child.

In sentencing the man, Judge Deborah Sweeney said the man “deliberately” pursued the girl despite two imams telling him that marrying her was illegal in Australia.

The imams had told him “it is illegal here, you will get in trouble” and “it is not allowed”.  “He was well aware that his conduct was illegal,” Judge Sweeney said.

The man began sending the girl a flood of text messages which the girl initially ignored.  She then texted back and eventually agreed to marry him.

After a living room ceremony performed under sharia law the pair had sex, including oral sex, several times a day for about a month.

“This type of intercourse with a child is considered to be the most serious type,” Judge Sweeney said.

In addressing the defence’s point that the girl was mature, sophisticated and intelligent for her age, Judge Sweeney said “she may be intelligent for a 12-year-old girl but she was still a 12-year-old girl”.

Judge Sweeney said young girls like her needed protection from the “sexual exploitation of adults”.

The statement of facts has revealed that soon after the man was charged, the child was taken for a medical examination.

The girl, who is now 14, was suffering from “sharp right lower abdominal pain” and medical tests revealed that she was having “an ectopic pregnancy and miscarried”.  An ectopic pregnancy is when the pregnancy develops outside the uterus and in many cases in one of the fallopian tubes.

The man will be eligible for parole in 2021.


Number of new Australian millionaires hits five-year high

Australia minted 43,500 new millionaires in 2014 because of strong equity and investment property markets, representing the biggest growth of high net worth investors in the past five years as the rich comb for new areas to park their funds, Investment Trends research shows.

The country is home to 443,500 "high net worth" (HNW) investors; those with investable assets of more than $1 million.

This group controls $1.6 trillion in assets, nearly equivalent to the entire retirement savings industry. There are also 580,000 "emerging" high net worth Australians with $500,000 to $1 million in investable assets.

"If asset values continue to increase, then we can definitely also expect to see the growth in the number of high net worth investors in Australia continue," said Recep Peker, senior analyst at Investment Trends, adding that strong returns from the equities market and property last year helped propel the growth of HNW investors in the market.

Despite their booming wealth, the research found that only 40 per cent of high net worth individuals sought professional advice last year, down from 44 per cent in 2013, and more than 250,000 of these investors had unmet financial advice needs.

Irene Guiamatsia, an analyst at Investment Trends, said high net worth investors would be prepared to spend an additional $560 million annually on advice, on top of the $1.9 billion they were already paying, providing "a tangible opportunity for the financial advice industry".

The research found that ANZ Private Bank took the lead in client satisfaction for private banking last year, edging ahead of NAB Private.  ANZ has been concentrating on more personalised services and access to relevant technical specialists.

Companies such as Perpetual are also ramping up their efforts to focus on HNW clients.  Perpetual chief executive Geoff Lloyd said the company had about 50 advisers who focused onHNW investors with an average balance of $2.5 million.  Perpetual had the capacity to grow its client base by a further 15 per cent to 20 per cent as demand for advice ramped up, Mr Lloyd said.

The data also comes as advisers grapple with a series of scandals that have rocked the sector in the past year. These include Commonwealth Financial Planning and Macquarie Private Wealth planners who were embroiled in cases of dodgy advice that cost investors millions of dollars, and, more recently, National Australia Bank sacked 37 financial planners for bad advice.

Despite the negativity, demand for advice remained alive and well across the HNW sector and planners were ramping up their focus on these investors, Investment Trends argued.  "Since 2011, there has been a 66 per cent increase in the proportion of financial planners who are HNW focused," Mr Peker said.

The largest barrier preventing rich investors from taking up investment advice was the preference for control.  "Advisers need to spin their proposition in a manner which also gives their clients the confidence that they'll be able to maintain some degree of control," he said.


6 March, 2015

Are Islam's conservative social values a potential support for conservative political parties in Australia?

The writer below thinks that Muslims should be recruitable by Australia's conservative political parties.  He overlooks much, however.  It is true that Muslim values are conservative in some ways but Islam is also a supremacist religion that regards all non-Muslims as inferior and unworthy of support or respect.  It is a hate-based religion.  To anybody with Christian traditions that seems incredible but a reading of the Koran (start at Surah 9) will confirm it. 

The ALP is however also a hate-based party, as all Leftist parties are, so Muslim votes for it show where their deep motivations lie. Both the Left and Islam want to "fundamentally transform" (to use Obama's phrase) the countries in which they live. And the gentle values of Christian teaching simply seem weak and foolish to Muslims

During the 2013 election the Australian Broadcasting Corporation commissioned an online poll known as “Vote Compass” where voters were asked their opinion on several hot-button issues in Australian politics. This article uses those published results as a source.

When I ask people where they think the most conservative electorates of Australia are, their answers are usually the same. They are quick to mention electorates like Maranoa in Queensland, good rural voters in the capable hands of my party, the National Party. It is true that on most issues of traditional family and moral values the electorate of Maranoa or ones like it in Australia usually hold firm in respecting the values that have forged us as a nation.

On the issue of gay marriage, Maranoa is the most strongly opposed. On whether Australia should become a Republic, the voters of Maranoa are the most strongly opposed. On another issue of great concern to Australians, whether terminating the life of an unborn child should be less accessible – Maranoa comes in third.

Neighbouring Groom (another stalwart Liberal-National seat) leads the country in voters who reject the notion that a child should be killed for being inconvenient to their mother. You might not guess which electorate holds second place…

I am of course speaking of the Western-Sydney division of Chifley. The seat is named after an icon of the ALP, Ben Chifley (often called the founder of the modern Labor Party) and has been firmly held by the Labor Party since it’s creation in 1969. What the electorate has become famous, or even infamous for in recent years is being the seat of Labor MP Ed Husic, the first Muslim member of Australian Parliament and the first Minister of any Australian Government sworn in on the Quran. I do not consider this a positive or a negative event in our democratic history, merely a reflection of changing times and demographics in this country.

A change that shows what it takes for the Australian Labor Party to field a socially conservative candidate in its modern student-pandering era. A change that shows the heart of Labor conservatism is no longer truly at the hands of Catholic trade unionists behind closed doors, but Muslim voters on the streets and in the houses and businesses of places like Western Sydney.

A quick look at those of the Labor front-bench who voted against their publicity advisor’s wishes (a great crime in Labor circles) and supported traditional marriage in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government shows that so called Labor conservatives like Chris Bowen, Tony Burke and Ed Husic are respecting the wishes of their large Muslim constituent bases by supporting causes like the protection of marriage and the unborn. For this small glimmer of hope in the social policy of the Labor government, we have them (this minority of Muslim voters) to thank.

Why is it though, that in these majority Muslim divisions we see the re-election of progressive political parties? Sure, people like Bowen, Burke and Husic respect the wishes of their electorates and support causes relevant to Christian and Muslim families alike – but by voting for the Labor Party, Muslim voters are outright rejecting the national preservation of traditional family and moral values.

I honestly believe that the reason Muslims turn so often to the Labor Party is due to the outright xenophobia produced in the media and by many members (and some MP’s) of the Liberal and National parties towards Muslim-Australians. While the ALP in a shrewd political move races to accept Muslims and cater for them at a political level, it seems that the right of Australian politics does all it can to foster a jingoistic fear of all Muslims as terrorists, unable to integrate with multicultural Australia or even as backward and insular – perhaps so far as morally or religiously bankrupt. In my experience with the Australian Muslim community, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Muslim community I know and have grown to love are caring, devoted family people, a true community and one that by and large respects the religious and moral traditions set forth by the Quran and to a large degree also presented in our own Christian Bible. As seen by the Vote Compass results, Muslim communities reject abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia. They value time with their family, fight to retain their traditions and culture – and most of all love and treasure their religious freedoms and teachings.

I ask you how this is different to the Australian Christian? We should all be devoted to preserving the traditional family unit, fighting for the rights of the unborn and giving everyone the right to worship in peace and respect. This is why I will ask every one of you reading who is a member of a conservative political party – Nationals, Liberals, Katterites or Family First – to find a Muslim, a good-hearted, Australian Muslim connected to his or her community, sit them down for lunch or dinner and by the end of the conversation sign them up to your party.

At a time when half the membership of the Liberal Party would scoff at the idea of regular church attendance or call you an extremist for merely supporting the right to life of a child – we need these committed conservatives and family-people. We need to visit our local mosques like we visit our local churches, to find fast friends in the Muslim community of Australia and to convince them that we (the Coalition or conservatives generally) are not their enemy.

We need to field good, conservative Muslim candidates in electorates like Chifley, McMahon and Watson because there is nothing intrinsically holding Labor to these seats. We need to inspire the new generations of migrant, refugee and minority that we are the party for them, the movement for them. We need to show Muslim-Australians that the Coalition is there to support them in owning a home, starting a business and caring for their family like we did for Italian, Greek, Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees before them, among others.

These candidates will be all you could ask for in a good conservative Liberal. Supportive of a child’s right to life, supportive of traditional marriage, supportive of freedoms of religion and religious expression – and to support the principles of good mainstream Australian moral values.

Within the next ten years, we can see traditional Labor holdouts turn blue as our new members embrace the economic opportunities that the Coalition offers while still maintaining their traditional cultural and religious views and values. We can help turn the tide of a continued shift to the left within our own party ranks with this fresh injection of traditionalism, and most importantly we can fight the ugly head of racism and xenophobia within the conservative movement.

Many people say you only fear what you do not know, so I say to all young conservatives in this nation – go and get to know your local Muslim community, you may well have more in common than you first thought.


Official Federal report finds climate change benefits

Climate change could have positive economic spin-offs, a new government report says.  It's only one sentence in a vast bureaucratic document but it is a sign of the times to see some realism creeping into officialdom

The Intergenerational Report released on Thursday includes a chapter on "managing the environment", which has been a feature of previous versions of the five-yearly economic and budget update.

The report sets out the government's plan to reduce carbon pollution through its $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund.

But it also says "some economic effects may be beneficial".  "Where regions become warmer or wetter this may allow for increased agricultural output - while others may be harmful," the report said.

"For example, lower rainfall may reduce crop yields, or transport infrastructure (such as roads, ports and rail networks) may become more susceptible to damage from extreme weather events."

The report reinforces the government's aim to cut emissions by five per cent on 2000 levels by 2020.

But, despite the report being about Australia in the period to 2055, it does not discuss a possible new target.

"Australia will meet its Kyoto target for 2020 and will join with the international community to establish post-2020 targets with the aim of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions," it said.

"The international community has agreed to aim to keep global warming to a less than two degrees celsius increase above pre-industrial climate levels."

The intergenerational report produced by Labor in 2010 found that unmitigated climate change would leave Australian GDP in 2100 about eight per cent lower than the level it would be in the absence of climate change.

Former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello's 2007 report concluded: "There does seem to be consensus around the fact that significant levels of global warming imply losses in global GDP over the longer term that should be factored into the policy choices made today."


Stay out of my child's lunch box

As a brand new school mum, I've recently discovered that schools have assumed the role of the Lunch Box Police. Every morning tea and lunch is a test to see if kids and their parents have faithfully followed the laws of healthy eating.

It's a nice idea, but it's questionable whether this has anything to do with health. In fact, in the quest to promote nutrition, schools may unintentionally be damaging kids' relationship with food.

One school in Brisbane is so strict that the children have to show their lunch boxes to the class each morning. I know of one child who is so anxious about having 'bad' food in his lunchbox that he doesn't want to go to school.

Another school in Melbourne's eastern suburbs was conducting food inspections at the school gate, prohibiting 'junk food' from entering the school grounds. Some enterprising pre-teens had an early lesson in supply and demand and realised that prohibition is a golden marketing opportunity. They started a black market trafficking doughnuts behind the school shed.

"What more evidence to do you need that food policing by schools is dangerous?" asks Clinical Psychologist Louise Adams. "It's teaching kids to hide their eating and to binge eat."

Adams who runs Treat Yourself Well Sydney, a healthy weight management clinic, says that the risks of schools having food policies far outweigh the benefits.

"From the US research, we can see that this sort of food policing has not resulted in a reduction of body weight in children," she says.

"As a psychologist specialising in this area, all I can see happening is that children are developing a fear of food. Fear is not going to make children healthy; it's just going to make their relationship with food disturbed."

The food rules of most schools appear to be less extreme than the examples above, but they are still inappropriate, if not damaging.

At two of the primary schools in my inner-Melbourne suburb, children are only allowed to eat fruit, vegetables and yoghurt for morning tea. This means that by lunchtime the kids are often starving. This is hardly conducive to learning.

But even worse, it's teaching children not to trust their bodies, and to develop an almost hysterical fear of certain foods.

One friend packed a biscuit made by grandma for her daughter's morning tea. Her daughter came home feeling embarrassed that she had 'bad' food in her lunch box.

"I put one biscuit in, not six," says my friend. "What's missing from this situation is the love and care that grandma put into making special biscuits for her granddaughter."

I've put a lot of effort into teaching my daughter to listen to her body and to decide when she is hungry and when she is full. If she's hungry and wants to eat two sandwiches for morning tea, then I encourage it. I don't tell her that she should ignore her appetite and only eat carrot sticks.

And we never discuss food in moral terms. There's no 'good' or 'bad' or 'healthy' or 'unhealthy' food in our house. Consequently, there's no shame or guilt.

But the food policies of these schools undermine our efforts as parents to help our kids develop healthy relationships with food.

It's also a stretch well beyond the school's realm of authority. As a parent, what goes into my child's lunch box should be my decision. It's based on our family values, my intimate knowledge of my child's current appetite, preferences, and wellbeing, our family budget, and what's in the cupboard.

So long as it doesn't threaten the wellbeing and health of other children — as, say, peanuts and nuts do — then it shouldn't be the concern of the school.

Coincidently, Adams' daughter came home from her school on Sydney's northern beaches just last week, distressed because she had a muffin for lunch and she was told that it was unhealthy.

"My daughter was told that she should only eat fruit and vegetables and there was such shame on her face, like she'd really done something terrible," Adams says.

"Kids go from just eating food and being in tune with their bodies, to being scared and feeling worried that they are doing something wrong. This is the breeding ground for an eating disorder."

Adams says that schools should not be delivering any health messages about food to children. 

"Kids are very black and white. Their capacity for nuance is not developed. If we tell them that something is good and something is bad, they believe that absolutely. Then they relate it to themselves, that they are then a good or bad person.'

"Maybe we as parents need some support and help with how to provide a variety of foods to our kids, but it's psychologically damaging and unnecessary to discuss it with children."

There is no doubt that the schools mean well and they are implementing their food policies with the best of intentions. But given that school food policies have not resulted in a reduction of childhood obesity and that eating disorders are skyrocketing, it's time for schools to examine if they are actually contributing to the problems they are trying to solve.


Australia almost top in world ranking of retiree welfare

Using some rather dubious reasoning -- but it may be true nonetheless

Australia is one of the best places in the world to grow old in. And that's official.  A global index that measures the welfare of retirees puts Australia near the top, with a system that is improving relative to that in other countries.

While Switzerland takes out the top spot in the 2015 Global Retirement Index, Australia's position has improved to third in 2015 from 11th in 2013 and 5th in 2014.

The index, which is produced by Natixis Global Asset Management, one of the biggest fund managers in the world, is based on more than just retiree finances.

It scores countries on 20 performance indicators including health of retirees and access to quality health services as well as their safety and having the means to live comfortably.

It also rates the performance of each economy. Natixis then combines scores to produce an overall ranking.

Eight of the 10 highest-ranked nations are northern European. Australia shares third place in the 2015 rankings with Iceland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark.

Australia scores well in all categories and particularly well in health and quality of life. While there is much hand-wringing in Australia about the state of the economy, it performs well by international standards.

Natixis says Australia has relatively low levels of public debt, strong bank balance sheets and low levels of inflation.

It has been one of the faster-growing developed economies with low levels of unemployment.

Natixis also notes Australia benefits from a strong welfare system and high income equality.

The only black mark is Australia's high per capita levels of carbon dioxide emissions and a lack of action to help tackle climate change. Australia scores only 28 per cent on climate change, one of the lowest scores in the world. The United States ranks 19th behind South Korea, Japan and the Czech Republic.

It is estimated that only about half of the workers in the United States are covered by a workplace retirement plan. Australia has had compulsory superannuation since 1992.

New Zealand, which ranks highly in 10th place, has a government-administered superannuation program called KiwiSaver.

The United Kingdom ranks 22nd. The country had experienced a "stronger-than-most" economic recovery in 2014 after several years of stagnant growth following the financial crisis, Natixis says.

However, government debt was higher than average and real incomes have yet to benefit significantly from improving fundamentals, the fund manager notes. An extended period of low interest rates in the United Kingdom also makes it difficult for retirees to save.


5 March, 2015

Australia's net foreign debt approaches $1 trillion, trade figures show

When John Howard left office and handed over to the Rudd/Gillard circus, there was ZERO Federal debt

The latest official trade figures show Australia's net foreign debt has hit a new record and is approaching $1 trillion. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows net foreign debt grew to $924.8 billion in the December quarter.  That is 4 per cent higher than the prior quarter's debt of $886.8 billion.

"Our high level of foreign debt represents a risk - if export income was to dry up it would constitute a problem," CommSec chief economist Craig James said of the figures.  "But exports continue to rise, resulting in our debt servicing ratio improving to the best levels in almost 30 years."

Today's data also suggests that Australian economic growth data due out on Wednesday could be better than expected.

The ABS figures show net exports will add 0.7 percentage points to the gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the three months to December.  That is better than the 0.6 percentage points economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected.

The current account deficit in today's figures was also better than had been anticipated, falling from a revised $12.13 billion in the September quarter to $9.59 billion.


Police investigate Save the Children "whistleblowers" over Nauru abuse report

Whistleblowers or liars?  Lying comes easily to the Left.  They NEED lies.  Reality is too inconvenient

Child protection whistleblowers who alerted the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to child sexual abuse, violence and self-harm on Nauru are being investigated by the Australian federal police.

Guardian Australia has discovered the AFP has been asked by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to investigate Save the Children staff who anonymously wrote a submission to the commission’s inquiry, outlining cases of sexual and physical abuse of children, and acts of self-harm.

Submission 183 said: “We believe that the children have been subjected to multiple violations of their human rights and wrongdoing from multiple parties.

“Unfortunately, due to confidentiality clauses that have been imposed on us by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, we are unable to provide our full names and … titles … However, we believe the evidence that will be submitted will validate the statements that we are making in this submission.”

The submission detailed specific allegations – including names and dates – of sexual abuse of child detainees, violence and bullying of children, suicide attempts by children and medical neglect.

Appended to the submission as evidence of its claims were more than 100 working documents from Nauru, including minutes of meetings, incident reports, intelligence notes, and email correspondence.

Submission 183 was made public by the AHRC, but the appended documents were not.

The commission’s inquiry, which attracted more than 200 submissions, has been intensely controversial since its report, The Forgotten Children, was launched in February.

The report is excoriating of both Labor and Coalition administrations for their policies and practice of detaining children.

The commission was refused permission to visit Nauru. It relied on first-hand professional accounts such as submission 183, and testimony from detainees. The commission found: “Children on Nauru are suffering from extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress.”

Tony Abbott has rejected the report as partisan, and a “transparent stitch-up”.

The AFP confirmed to the commission it was investigating the author or authors of submission 183 over the attached working documents.

Police are investigating a suspected breach of section 70 of the Crimes Act, concerning “disclosure of information by commonwealth officers”. A single disclosure carries a penalty of up to two years in jail.

Guardian Australia sought access to the suppressed documents attached to submission 183 under freedom of information laws, but was refused access. Guardian Australia was told by the AHRC the release of the documents would prejudice a police investigation that was underway.

The AHRC said: “In oral submissions from the Australian federal police they have confirmed there is a current investigation into the unauthorised disclosure of the documents attached to submission 183.”

“The department and the AFP submit, and I accept, that disclosure of the documents would … prejudice the investigation”.

The immigration department told the AHRC the documents’ release would “attract media attention” leading to a “real risk that material witnesses may be discouraged from volunteering information”.

The immigration department confirmed to Guardian Australia the AFP investigation was commenced at its request.

“As the AFP is currently investigating this issue, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time,” a department spokeswoman said.

A spokesman said Save the Children was aware of the AFP investigation and would cooperate fully with police inquiries.

“The Forgotten Children report confirms Save the Children’s view that prolonged, mandatory detention of children has profound and devastating impacts on their physical and mental wellbeing. Our staff remain firmly focused on doing everything in their power to minimise such harm, to the extent possible in the circumstances,” the spokesman said.

The AFP confirmed to Guardian Australia it had “accepted the matter for investigation” and that the investigation was ongoing.

According to the AHRC, the attached documents withheld included: Transfield Services incident investigation reports; the identities of confidential intelligence sources within the detention centre, and; “Wilson’s case notes dealing with a number of ongoing issues in relating to bullying, racial tension, allegations of assault by a member of staff, sexual assault harassment and intimated and specific threats to public safety”.

Transfield Services said the public release of documents detailing its operations and conditions on Nauru would reveal personal details of detainees and compromise its ability to keep order.

“We are concerned that the disclosure of such documents may lead to incidents of protest and riots as disclosure of such material may also enable others to use the information to the detriment of the good order of the operations of the regional processing centres,” it said.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the government was obsessed with shutting down voices of dissent, instead of addressing the issue of child abuse.

“This is just another case of the Abbott government shooting the messenger. Witch-hunts and cover ups won’t keep the children on Nauru safe from harm.”

The AFP is regularly asked to investigate leaks of information from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.


Israel to blame for Australia's rise in anti-Semitism: Margolyes

Obviously a Leftist -- in good historical company.  Karl Marx hated Jews too  -- even though he was one

Jewish actress Miriam Margolyes says that anti-Semitism is rising in Australia and Israel is to blame.  Ms Margolyes’ comments, which sent “Miriam” trending across Australian Twitter accounts, came in response to a question from an audience member during the ABC’s Q&A program.

Speaking in the wake of the #IllRideWithYou campaign which supported Muslim Australians following the Sydney siege, questioner Erin Gordon asked the show’s panellists why Australian Jews had not seen the same levels of support.  “Who would ride with us, the Australian Jews if we were to travel in particular areas of Sydney and our religious clothing?” she said.

“Anti-Semitic attacks have risen 35 per cent in the past year and physical incidents 200 per cent. Why is there this precedent, yet we have received no widespread support from the general public?”

Ms Margolyes, who was raised in a Jewish household, said it was an uncomfortable truth, but people “don’t like Jews” due to the actions of Israel.  She said the “appalling treatment of the Israelis towards the Palestinian and the settlements that have been built in contravention of the United Nations rulings “ had led to an increase in anti-Semitism.

“We have to just keep fighting about it and demand that we are given the respect that all citizens should enjoy and a sense of safety that all citizens should enjoy,” she said.

Her views were disputed by Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who said he defended Israel’s ability to “secure itself against some very hostile neighbours”.

Mr Frydenberg, also Jewish, said that instead some anti-Semitism was being driven by “hate media”.  “People are being taught very young that Israel is always the source of all bad in that part of the world,” he said.

Their comments follow a number of anti-Semitic incidents in Australia, including the distribution of flyers calling for “White Australia” to “wake up” throughout Sydney.

Anti-Muslim sentiment and widespread racism was also discussed, with panellist Trisha Jha speaking on her discomfort following the Cronulla riots in 2005.

Ms Jha, a policy analyst for the Centre for Independent Studies, said the riots were a good example of where racism comes from.

“That’s fundamentally from hatred,” she said.

“I know that it was something I felt uncomfortable about for many years as being visibly different.

“I think that the kind of fear that [the questioner] was discussing, the kind of fear I have felt is something that only our fellow Australians can kind of smooth away. I think that's something that Australia needs to work on.”


Greens introduce bill to ban fracking in South Australia

The Greens have tabled a bill that would ban fracking in South Australia, despite also instigating a parliamentary inquiry tasked with gathering scientific evidence about the merits of the mining practice.

SA Greens leader Mark Parnell successfully introduced the motion for a parliamentary inquiry into fracking in the south-east of SA in November 2014, receiving backing from the Liberal Party.

The purpose of the inquiry is to gather scientific evidence about the potential risks and impacts of fracking in the region and then make recommendations to Government about whether it should be allowed.

ABC Rural has been told those recommendations are "a long way off" but on Wednesday the Greens tabled a bill that would enforce an immediate ban on all fracking in the state and also give landholders the right to "say no" to coal and gas mining on their land.

Greens Senator Penny Wright rejected the suggestion the bill was merely symbolic.  "We're working very hard to get support," she said.

"At the moment in states across Australia there currently aren't any legal rights really to protect [farmers'] land, to protect their water rights and essentially we know this is about protecting the climate as well.

"We're really keen to see some of those people who know that this is wrong stand up with the Greens and support this bill."

When asked about the Greens' evidence that fracking would have adverse effects on the state, Senator Wright referred to interstate and overseas examples.

"Some countries, like France, have actually banned fracking outright," she said.  "Others have moratoriums in place, because there's mounting evidence that there's an unprecedented level of risk to water and food supplies by this particular practice and there's so much scientific uncertainty."

The pre-emptive bill raises questions about whether the Greens will back recommendations that arise from the parliamentary inquiry in the south-east.

"The validity of the findings will depend on the terms of reference and the quality of the evidence that we hear," Senator Wright said.

"Ultimately the proof of the pudding will be in the eating and the quality of the report and the degree to which it's influenced by some evidence and not others.

"Certainly the jury's out on that particular inquiry but we can't ignore the fact that there is evidence coming from the rest of Australia and internationally that there are real concerns."


4 March, 2015

Big decline in Post Office services underway

Email has taken over.  Even so, four days to deliver an ordinary letter is egregious.  We allegedly have overnight delivery in metro areas at present.  These changes will make snail mail even more unpopular.  It's a dance of death they are performing, not a survival bid

Cabinet has approved a proposal by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to introduce a two-tiered pricing scheme for letter deliveries that is expected to see basic stamp prices increase to $1.  The reforms will allow Australia Post to introduce a "regular" and "priority" letters service. Letters sent with a "regular" stamp will arrive an average of two days later than they do currently, with mail within metropolitan areas arriving a day later than the current timetable.

Australia Post was expected to apply to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to increase the cost of a "regular" stamp from 70 cents to $1 when the new regulations come into effect. 

Safeguards will be put in place so that prices remain frozen at current levels for concession card holders, including pensioners. And Christmas cards could still be sent with a 65 cent stamp, Australia Post chief executive Ahmed Fahour said at a press conference in Melbourne on Tuesday.

"These reforms mean we will be able to reduce our losses in the letters business and we will be aiming to get it back to break-even," Mr Fahour said.

"The letters business won't make a profit, and that is not our objective. Our objective is to reduce the losses so that we can support five days a week delivery of mail and secure the future of post offices across the country."

Australia Post would keep about 4400 post offices, including 2500 in regional areas, and at least 10,000 post boxes. It currently has 15,805 post boxes.

About 97 per cent of letters sent in Australia were posted by government or businesses. Mr Fahour said there was no correlation between the cost of sending a letter and mail volumes, rather increased online communication affected mail volumes. 

Australia Post will be able to charge what it likes for a "priority" stamp, which would see a letter delivered on the current timetable. Regular mail would take four days, allowing Australia Post to save money on air freight. Posties would still deliver mail five days a week. 

Priority stamps are expected to cost around $1.50 when they are introduced and prices could rise to $2 in later years.

The reforms are aimed at stemming the bleeding in Australia Post's letters division. Australia Post last week announced a first-half profit of just $98 million - a dive driven by mounting losses of $151 million in its letters business.

A report by the Boston Consulting Group, commissioned by the government, forecast that Australia Post's letters business would lose $12 billion over the next decade. Australia Post management hopes the reforms announced by the government will cut these losses in half to $6 billion.

Mr Fahour also defended his salary of $4.6 million a year - the highest paid public servant in Australia - saying 75 per cent of Australia Post's activity was commercial logistics and it was a "highly successful business".  The latest annual report revealed 409 managers and executives at Australia Post were earning more than $195,000 a year. 

The new regulations do not require changes to legislation but can be disallowed by the Senate.


The Liberals plotting against Tony Abbott are gutless hypocrites

What a bunch of shameless, gutless hypocrites. For three years in opposition, the Liberals hammered their counterparts in the Labor Party for being dysfunctional and poll-driven. For seriously thinking that a change in leadership could wash away a litany of stuff-ups and broken promises. The feud between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd turned the whole government into a running joke, which limped torturously from one punchline to the next.

Now, less than 18 months after assuming power, these same Liberals are preparing to tear down their own Prime Minister without the slightest hint of shame. Can’t they see their own astounding hypocrisy?

Tony Abbott has done some infuriating things. We all get that. Having told us he’d run a government based on trust, without any surprises or excuses, he proceeded to abandon a catalogue of promises.

He’s also done some stupid things. A certain knighthood springs to mind. And it’s become abundantly clear that Mr Abbott has concentrated power in his own office, failing to consult his colleagues.

Obviously, the man needs to improve. More than a few Australians would happily see him undergo a full personality transplant as well. But whatever your opinion of Tony Abbott, the malcontents in his own party who would have him replaced are no better.

Mr Abbott has been thrown a lifeline this morning, with the Coalition clawing back some ground lost to Labor in the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll. However, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull still has a 20-percentage-point lead over Mr Abbott, a statistic that will keep leadership questions alive.

This shows that the instability within the Liberal Party isn’t a noble crusade to rid the country of an inept Prime Minister. If Mr Abbott were ahead in the polls, there would be no leadership gossip. It’s about the hyperactive self-preservation instinct of the average Canberra politician, and nothing more. Whenever electoral defeat looms, the panic sets in.

Now the Liberals are looking to Malcolm Turnbull, the Anointed One in waiting. Why? A huge slice of the party room can’t stand him. An equally sizeable chunk of the Liberal base would only vote for him with its nose firmly pinched.

More importantly, Mr Turnbull hasn’t said he would change the government’s stance on any issue. There’s only one reason for his favouritism to replace Mr Abbott: Polls show that, when non-Liberal voters are included, Mr Turnbull is the preferred Prime Minister. It’s just a popularity contest.

“Oh, hello. No, I wasn’t plotting back here. I was just practising being loyal to the PM.

“Oh, hello. No, I wasn’t plotting back here. I was just practising being loyal to the PM. Yeah. That’s what I was doing.” Source: News Corp Australia

The agitators on Mr Abbott’s backbench, and in his cabinet for that matter, could be pressuring him to change his unpopular policies. Instead, they just want to change the salesman. It’s pointless. It’s pathetic. It’s horribly familiar. And it’s an unbearably hollow rationale for changing the country’s leader.

Mr Abbott has been Prime Minister for half a term. If the Liberals knife him after such a short period, they’ll be sinking to even lower depths than the government they used to mock. This, after explicitly promising to act like adults.

I wouldn’t necessarily regret the end of Tony Abbott’s prime ministership any more than I’d welcome the start of Malcolm Turnbull’s. This isn’t about the leader, it’s about the basic principle that our representatives should spend their days worrying about policy, not poll numbers. That they should protect our jobs, not their own.

So here’s a simple message for any Liberal politician who happens to be plotting away: Enough. Pull your head in, reacquaint yourself with your spine and get back to governing. And while you’re at it, try to do a better job. We’ve put up with this leadership rubbish for far too long.


Australian Customs officials board illegal Patagonian toothfish poaching boat

But do nothing other than look around!

An Illegal fishing boat which had been operating in the Southern Ocean has been located and boarded by Australian Maritime officials.  The Kunlun had been illegally taking Patagonian toothfish from Antarctic waters and is wanted by Interpol.

The New Zealand Navy first found the vessel during a patrol of the ocean six weeks ago.  Then the Sea Shepherd Conservation group chased the ship for a week after finding it in Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone near Antarctica.

Australian Customs officials found and intercepted the ship near the Cocos Islands yesterday.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck, said the vessel had been monitored for some time.

We certainly applaud the actions of the Australian Government in finally taking action against illegal fishing in the southern ocean and boarding the Kunlun.

The Kunlun is on the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) international blacklist of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) vessels.

The New Zealand government said the Kunlun and two other boats had been illegally fishing in the southern ocean for months.

New Zealand's foreign minister, Murray McCully, said he was pleased officials had intercepted the Kunlun.  "We are of course delighted to see that the Australian vessels have been able to gain access and add to the evidence," he said.

"We want to put these people out of business and anything that's going to contribute to that process is very welcome."

Sea Shepherd captain Peter Hammarstedt said he wanted to see the boat impounded.  "It is a poaching vessel that was originally intercepted by the New Zealand Navy," he said.

"It was subsequently shut down from fishing by Sea Shepherd and we certainly applaud the actions of the Australian Government in finally taking action against illegal fishing in the southern ocean and boarding the Kunlun."

He said he suspected the vessel was en route from the Antarctic to South East Asia to offload its illegal catch.

Senator Colebeck said it would be illegal for Australian officials to arrest the boat's crew because it was on the high seas.

But Mr Hammarstedt said the ship's crew needed to face justice.  "Australia has every right to arrest this poaching vessel and we now expect to see it brought to the nearest Australian port to see justice done," he said.

The Kunlun is now heading north and Australia will be watching where it goes.  The Kunlun is one of six ships which is believed to engage in IUU fishing for Patagonian toothfish in the southern ocean.


Glencore slashes Australian coal production, jobs on the line

Swiss miner Glencore is set to permanently cut production from its Australian coal mines in a move that could jeopardise close to 100 local jobs.

After closing its mines for three weeks over the Christmas period, Glencore said on Friday it would reduce coal production in Australia by 15 million tonnes in 2015.

That could represent a cut of more than 20 per cent from its total production in Australia.

Glencore produced 60 million tonnes of thermal coal in Australia during 2014, and about 9.5 million tonnes of coking coal during the same year.

In a statement, Glencore said the cuts would "more closely align" its coal output with customer demand levels, and could see some expansion projects slowed.

"We will defer some projects and ensure that inventory management and blending are optimised," the miner said in a statement.

The move comes less than a year after Glencore tried to merge its Australian coal division with Rio Tinto's, and demonstrates the predicament the Australian coal sector finds its self in.

The production cuts could cast doubt on the prospect of expansions at the company's Rollaston and Mt Owen coal mines. Glencore chose not to go ahead with the development of a multi-billion dollar coal mine and rail project at Wandoan in Queensland over a year ago.

In January a Glencore subsidiary in South Africa said it would reduce coal output by 5 million tonnes this year as a result of the market downturn.

Overnight Brazilian miner Vale confirmed that it had impaired the value of its Australian coal mines by 71 per cent during 2014, and said there was little hope of coal prices improving in the near future.

"Looking forward, we expect the coal market to remain oversupplied in 2015. Despite production cutbacks in North America and Australia, which will probably become more effective throughout the year, the decrease in volumes will continue be offset by new supply coming from new expansion projects in Australia and Mozambique," the Brazilian miner said overnight.

"These additional volumes are being supported by lower production costs due to depressed international oil prices and depreciated currencies in producers' countries compared to the US dollar."

Rio Tinto has also announced today it will break up its energy division, with its coal assets forming a new division called "copper and coal".


3 March, 2015

Who or what is a 'leading military planner'?

Rodger Shanahan comments on the claim that Abbott wanted to invade Iraq

During my Army career I was a military planner. I worked on lots of plans. Most were never executed, but others were. Some were standing plans that were annually revised, while others were worked up at the behest of someone higher up the operational chain. I got to know the ADF planning process pretty well and became someone that could be described as a 'military planner'.

In the ADF, you could say the Chief of the Defence Force is formally the 'leading military planner', given he is the one who provides military advice to the Government and 'owns' Joint Operations Command. In practical terms though, the Chief of Joint Operations has carriage of developing operational plans, so he is really the ADF's leading military planner.

Service chiefs would have input into the plans as they are developed, but they aren't planners in their own right. They have a 'raise, train and sustain' responsibility, but not a operational military planning function.

So when The Australian penned this exclusive expose of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's plan to invade Iraq, I was intrigued.

According to the story, the PM raised an operational planning idea in his office and then sought the advice of Australia's 'leading military planners'. Not the normal way of doing things, for sure, but plausible. By the time I got to the second paragraph, however, my 'sloppy journalism' warning light began flashing. And when I noticed that the article failed to define who 'Australia's leading military planners' were, the light stopped flashing and just stayed on.

Then the Chief of Defence Force weighed in to say the matter had never been raised with him formally or informally, and the vultures began to circle over the entrails of The Australian's sensational but poorly researched exclusive.

I assumed that a correction would ensue and that the journalist would have been advised by a military planner of the dictum that one should 'never reinforce failure'. So when The Australian clarified the situation this weekend I was somewhat surprised to find more imprecision and hype.

The previously reported 'unilateral invasion of Iraq' that was discussed with 'leading military planners' was now a dinner party discussion where the PM expressed frustration at the slow pace of deployment of ADF elements into Iraq (damn that Iraqi sovereignty issue) and perhaps asked aloud why we couldn't just take Mosul quickly. The main guest was the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, who The Australian breathlessly claimed was 'the Pentagon's senior official overseeing the US-led war against Islamic State in Iraq'.

Even though the term 'overseeing' is left undefined, I'm pretty sure that the senior Pentagon official overseeing the war would be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force provides air force capabilities to the CENTCOM commander (based in Florida), who actually oversees the operational conduct of the war. The US Navy, Army and Marine commanders do the same for their service branches.

But never mind, one shouldn't let inconvenient facts get in the way of a good story. Rather, my attention was focused on the fact that the people objecting to the PM's proposal had in the space of a week gone from 'Australia's leading military planners' to 'others at the table'. Perhaps the confusion over who Australia's leading military planners are could be put to bed if the list of those attending the dinner was published by the newspaper.

After reading both stories all I know is that if, during my time in the Army, I briefed an operational plan to a real 'leading military planner' that was equally poorly staffed and thought through, I would have been told in no uncertain terms where I had failed to meet expectations 

To use a military planning term, it would appear that in writing about the military planning process the journalist in question has, either wittingly or unwittingly, been part of someone's anti-Abbott 'shaping and influencing' operation.


Historic documents show half of Australia’s warming trend is due to “adjustments”

Adjustments that cool historic temperatures have almost doubled Australia’s rate of warming

There was a time back in 1933 when the CSIRO was called CSIR and meteorologists figured that with 74 years of weather data on Australia, they really ought to publish a serious document collating all the monthly averages at hundreds of weather stations around Australia.

Little did they know that years later, despite their best efforts, much of the same data would be forgotten and unused or would be adjusted, decades after the fact, and sometimes by as much as one or two degrees.

Twenty years later The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics would publish an Official Year Book of Australia which included the mean temperature readings from 1911 to 1940 at 44 locations.

Chris Gillham has spent months poring over both these historic datasets, as well as the BoM’s Climate Data Online (CDO) which has the recent temperatures at these old stations. He also compares these old records to the new versions in the BOM’s all new, all marvelous, best quality ACORN dataset. He has published all the results and tables comparing CDO, CSIR and Year Book versions.

He analyzes them in many ways – sometimes by looking at small subsets or large groups of the 226 CSIR stations. But it doesn’t much matter which way the data is grouped, the results always show that the historic records had warmer average temperatures before they were adjusted and put into the modern ACORN dataset. The adjustments cool historic averages by around 0.4 degrees, which sounds small, but the entire extent of a century of warming is only 0.9 degrees C. So the adjustments themselves are the source of almost half of the warming trend.

The big question then is whether the adjustments are necessary. If the old measurements were accurate as is, Australia has only warmed by half a degree. In the 44 stations listed in the Year Book from 1911-1940, the maxima at the same sites is now about half a degree warmer in the new millenia. The minima are about the same.

Remember that these sites from 1911-1940 were all recorded with modern Stevenson Screen equipment.  Furthermore, since that era the biggest change in those sites has been from the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect as the towns and cities grew up around the sites. In some places this effect may already have been warming those thermometers in the first half of the last century, but in others UHI can make 5 to 7 degrees difference.

If Australian thermometers are recording half a degree higher than they were 70 – 100 years ago, we have to ask how much of that warming is the UHI effect? Common sense would suggest that if these older stations need any correction, it should be upward rather than downward to compensate for the modern increase in concrete, buildings and roads. Alternatively, to compare old readings in unpopulated areas with modern ones, we would think the modern temperatures should be adjusted down, rather than the older ones.

Chris Gillham discusses the potential size of the UHI changes:

“In 2012 and 2013 it was anticipated that UHI warming in south-eastern Australia will continue to intensify by approximately 1C per decade over and above that caused by global warming (Voogt 2002), with tests in 1992 showing a UHI influence up to 7.2C between the Melbourne CBD and rural areas. [PDF]

Smaller but significant UHI influences were found in regional towns, with a 1994 test observing a UHI intensity up to 5.4C between the centre of a Victorian town and its rural outskirts.” 

The situation with adjustments stays roughly the same if we go back even further. Gillham compared 226 stations during the period from 1855 -1931 and the average is about half a degree less than what it is now — from 2000-2014.

The first station in the CSIR record, Melbourne, starts in 1855. Each year, new stations came online. By 1865 there are ten stations and by 1880 there are nearly 30.

Ideally we could compare 50 stations which didn’t move or start and stop over the same period, but even the ACORN dataset in the 1900s doesn’t do that, introducing new stations up to the 1970s.

It is hard to draw conclusions from the CSIR record as is. But neither can it be ignored. Roughly two thirds of the temperatures were recorded on Stevenson screens, but much of the data in the 1800s was recorded on screens, sheds and shades until Stevenson screens were introduced across Australia over the 20 year period from 1887 – 1907. And scientists in the 1930s were very much aware of the effect of slight changes in screens as one long running comparison of different screens side by side had already been going for over 30 years in Adelaide. (I’ll write more on that soon).

It’s rough but, as rough guides go, it’s the only data we have. Other peer reviewed papers have estimated Australia’s average temperature change to 0.09C  in 1000AD based on two groves of trees in Tasmania and New Zealand. Wouldn’t thermometers be kinda useful?

One small piece of good news is that at least the early CDO records maintained by the BoM online appear to match the averages within the Year Book and CSIR tables. At least the copies of the original data put online are accurate as far as these rough tests go.

The Bottom line

There is a treasure trove of information in these historic documents for people interested in long-term climate.

The difference between the original records and the adjusted ACORN dataset suggests that the adjustments cooled original temperatures by 0.4C between 1910 and 1940, which means that around 45% of the modern “warming” trend is due to these homogenisations and adjustments which have not been independently justified and oddly appear to go in the opposite direction to what common sense would suggest might be necessary. In the older and larger CSIR tables, there is an overall cooling adjustments of 0.5C.

Thanks to Chris Gillham for the massive amount of data crunching and tracking it takes to provide meaningful numbers.

Chris Gillham’s Conclusions:

Downward ACORN adjustment of historic temperature records from weather stations before 1940 adds 0.3C or 0.4C to Australia’s rate of climate warming since 1910 but the reason for the downward adjustments is unclear.

Various timescale and station comparisons show insignificant changes or warming up to 0.5C from 1931 to 2000-14. These temperatures from 1855 to 1940 are compared to what the BoM describes as the hottest decade ever recorded in Australia (2014 claimed as the third hottest).

Other historic documents add weight to the evidence that pre-1910 temperatures were not significantly cooler than current readings.

For example, On the Climate of the Yass-Canberra District published in 1910 by Commonwealth Meteorologist Henry Hunt shows temperatures at 10 locations were on average 0.1C warmer in all years before 1909 than in 2004-2013. Hunt also presents 1909 summer and winter mean temperatures at six northern Australia locations which average 0.2C warmer than those locations in 2004-2013 (download PDF).

The CSIR and Year Book temperature datasets are unadjusted records compiled by Australia’s leading scientists and weather experts in the mid 20th century and are accurate but differ from BoM records that are adjusted in both RAW and ACORN.

Their dataset timescales include the first 85 years of temperature recording at most weather stations across Australia in a network more than twice as large as ACORN, and their averages are a legitimate historic record indicating climate warming has been significantly less than calculated with adjusted data since 1910.


Huge debt left for Australia by irresponsible socialists

AUSTRALIA faces a debt bomb so huge it will represent half the nation’s entire economy within two decades unless tough action is taken, according to Joe Hockey’s intergenerational report.

The long- awaited report has delivered a stunning warning to Labor, the Senate and voters on the huge challenges the nation faces if political leaders fail to act.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott dropped a hint yesterday the unpopular Medicare co-payment would be dumped, admitting it was “no secret’’ he was rethinking the policy.

However, the intergenerational report warns higher taxes or lower spending on health and education face future generations unless tough action is taken now.

The report, to be released on Thursday, reveals if the Government did not change Labor’s current budget settings, net debt would represent a 50 per cent share of the nation’s entire economy within 20 years.  Currently, Australia’s net debt represents 15pc of gross domestic product.

Modelling by PricewaterhouseCoopers has previously suggested the debt is on track to reach a trillion dollars by 2037, even if savings stalled by the Senate are factored in.

Without change over the next 50 years, net debt will swallow the economy and be equal to 100pc of the entire Australian economy by 2065.

Tony Abbott plans to use the report to help reset his government after weeks of leadership speculation.  Yesterday, he predicted the report would help explain to voters why he had taken tough action in the budget to reduce spending.

“One of the things that you’ll notice when the intergenerational report comes out at the end of the week, you will notice what the impact of last year’s structural reforms would be on our long-term fiscal situation,’’ Mr Abbott said.

“You’ll understand better why we ... put forward these long-term structural reforms, but what you will also notice is the extent of the progress that has already been made.

“The extent of the fiscal repair that has already been achieved under this government ... At the moment there is an out-of-character tendency on the part of Australians ... to focus on the glass half empty.  “What I think we will be able to much more clearly see (after the report’s release) is the glass half full.’’

Labor leader Bill Shorten is blocking $4.5b in budget measures his own party proposed when in government including cancelling tax cuts linked to the carbon price.

According to the budget papers, Australia’s debt was $224 billion. Australia paid $10 billion in interest payments on that debt — around $1 billion a month — last year alone.

But while Australia’s debt is expected to be among the fastest-rising in the world over this decade, it is modest by international standards.

Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is a measures of national income and output and is equal to the total expenditures for all goods and services produced.

When the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Labor government left office it recorded the second largest debt position of all previous governments over the reporting period with only the Hawke/Keating Labor government experiencing a higher debt position.


Taxman takes aim at dodgy colleges

DOOR-TO-DOOR selling, cold calling and other aggressive marketing tactics helped two private colleges sign up more than 10,000 students to expensive taxpayer-funded Business Diplomas in 2013, many of which will never be completed.

Careers Australia Education Institute, a subsidiary of Acquire Learning, signed up 6,165 students to the popular course in 2013 — an extra 5,266 students from the year before — for a total of $51,227,115 worth in government loans.

That represented a 586 per cent increase in students on 2012.

At the same time, the Australian College of Training & Employment, trading as Evocca College, signed up 4,047 students for $39,127,500 worth of government loans. That represented an additional 1,858 students on the prior year, or a 118 per cent increase.

Only two other private colleges came close: Productivity Partners Pty Ltd, trading as Captain Cook Colleges, signed up 736 students for $6,064,000 worth of loans, while Study Group Australia Pty Ltd, trading as Taylors UniLink, signed up 330 students for $3,259,670 worth of loans.

The Business Diploma gold rush highlights just part of the bigger picture, with growing signs of a crackdown on the current sector arrangements which allow private colleges to make massive profits through state and federal government funding.

A Senate inquiry into the vocational education and training sector will table its first interim report today. The report is expected to raise concerns about the vast profits being made by private companies, with public hearings in coming months tipped to focus on the economics of allowing for-profit vocational training.

According to a University of Sydney study, some of Australia’s largest training companies have reported profit margins of more than 50 per cent.

Figures released by Assistant Training Minister Simon Birmingham last week revealed the government spent $1.615 billion in VET FEE-HELP loans last year for 189,000 students at 254 training providers, representing a blowout of $315 million.

Modelling by the Grattan Institute estimates 40 per cent of those loans will never be repaid, as many debtors’ salaries won’t reach the repayment threshold of $53,345, meaning taxpayers will foot the bill.

Education Department data shows only 26 per cent of the 30,595 students who enrolled in vocational education and training FEE-HELP courses in 2011 finished their course within three years, with just 7 per cent completing their online course.

Senator Birmingham last week announced audits of 23 colleges to investigate “allegations of unscrupulous marketing and other practices intended to exploit” the VET FEE-HELP system.

In its submission to the Senate inquiry, the Redfern Legal Centre highlighted the case of one of its clients, ‘John’, a Disability Support Pensioner who lives in public housing in Surry Hills in inner Sydney.

John is from a non-English speaking background and suffers from acute mental illness, including schizophrenia and trauma-related illness.

“In early 2014, a door-to-door marketing agent, acting on behalf of a [registered training organisation], knocked on John’s front door,” the Centre wrote.

“The marketing agency was very pushy and kept telling John he would receive a free laptop and tablet — all he needed to do was sign up for this ‘free government funded course’.”

According to the Centre, John was enrolled in two different ‘business management’ style courses with two separate RTOs. With the help of his social worker, John found a few months later that he would be liable for more than $10,000 in course fees.

“John’s story highlights the impact of misleading and deceptive marketing practices, which target and exploit vulnerable consumers,” the Centre wrote. “Unfortunately, John’s case is far from uncommon.”


2 March, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on ructions in the Liberal party

Fracking to go ahead in NT

THE Northern Territory lacks the proper regulatory environment to go ahead with fracking, a report has found, as the government moves forward to permit the practice.

THE Hydraulic Fracturing Inquiry report recommends laws to effectively manage environmental risks associated with the practice, which on Thursday was banned for a further five years in Tasmania. "There is no justification whatsoever for the imposition of a moratorium," the report read.

Mines and Energy Minister Dave Tollner said the government would "broadly" adopt all six recommendations in the report, which the NT government released on Thursday.

"Obviously there's been a lot of heat in community debate on the issue and the government is very keen to get the community on board," Mr Tollner told reporters.

The government is considering drawing up exclusion zones around regional centres to allay health concerns by residents.

Mr Tollner said it could take a year or longer to set up the right regulations; meanwhile, there are 24 wells in the works to be drilled this year.

While the regulations are being redrawn, operators will have to abide by a set of "guiding principles", and if they violate them they will be forced to stop work, Mr Tollner said.

But relying on operators to monitor themselves is "completely nonsensical", said David Morris, principal lawyer for the NT Environmental Defenders Office (EDO).

"If you've got a good operator things will probably be done in accordance with the guidelines, and if you've got a bad operator they won't," he told AAP.

Mr Morris said mining often occurred in remote parts of the NT, with the closest populations being indigenous communities who often didn't fully understand the science.

Mr Tollner said mining groups needed to communicate better with the community in explaining fracking processes.  "We expect them to be very upfront and transparent with the community and they have to explain exactly what they're doing," he said.

The report is "a victory for science over scaremongering," said Steven Gerhardy, NT director of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

He said the report offered a "sensible blueprint" for the shale gas industry, which could provide jobs, investment and improved infrastructure in remote and regional areas.


Are there any honest cops in NSW?

The former NSW Crime Commission chief Phillip Bradley has sensationally accused police commissioner Andrew Scipione and his predecessor Ken Moroney of giving "demonstrably wrong" evidence to a parliamentary inquiry examining a long-running bugging scandal.

In an explosive submission to the committee conducting the inquiry, whose final report is being tabled on Wednesday, Mr Bradley says the suggestion by the pair that the Crime Commission "obstructed" an internal investigation into the scandal is "demonstrably wrong and must be rejected".

But Mr Scipione has rejected Mr Bradley's claim in his own last-minute submission to the inquiry.

In it he quotes from an annexure to an official report by the Inspector of the Police Integrity Commission David Levine that says the Crime Commission had "refused to supply" key documents and other material to the internal investigation.

"I therefore do not accept the statement ... that the evidence provided by myself and Mr Moroney was 'demonstrably wrong and must be rejected'," Mr Scipione says.

The dispute opens a new front in the decades-old bugging scandal around an operation codenamed Mascot, which ran between 1999 and 2001.

Mascot - a joint operation between the Police Integrity Commission, the NSW Crime Commission and police internal affairs -  used a corrupt former policeman, code named M5, to target allegedly corrupt police with a listening device.

But it emerged there was insufficient or no evidence of wrongdoing by many of the more than 100 police and civilians whose names appeared on warrants issued by the Supreme Court.

The scandal has rocked the highest offices in the NSW Police as Deputy commissioner Catherine Burn was team leader of Mascot, which bugged her fellow deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas more than a decade ago.

Complaints about Mascot were initially investigated by an internal police inquiry, Strike Force Emblems.

But in their evidence to the inquiry Mr Scipione and Mr Moroney said Strikeforce Emblems had been impeded by the Crime Commission's reluctance to hand over key documents, citing secrecy provisions.

Mr Scipione said Mr Moroney had advised him that this meant nothing more could be done and this was one reason for him not pursuing the matter when he was appointed commissioner in 2007.

However, in a letter from his lawyer, Arthur Moses, SC, published by the committee on Tuesday Mr Bradley takes issue with this version of events.

It says that a document was tabled at a July 2004 meeting of the Crime Commission Management Committee which contained "specific references to attempts that had been made by the crime Commission and indeed the Management Committee itself to facilitate the dissemination of information relevant to the investigation".

The letter says the document also sets out the impediments to the handing over of the information and the reasons for the investigation being "ultimately discontinued by resolution of the management committee whose members at the time included Mr Moroney and then police minister John Watkins.

Mr Moses says Mr Bradley - who gave in-camera evidence to the inquiry - regards the document as "crucial because it refutes the allegation that has been repeated many times; to the effect that the Crime Commission obstructed the proper and timely grievance of police officers named in certain affidavits and warrants".

The letter says Mr Bradley believes the July 2004 document represents "a fair and proper understanding of the role of the NSW Crime Commission in this unfortunate matter".

But in response, Mr Scipione has written to the inquiry saying it was "most unfortunate" Mr Bradley's letter was not made available to him by the committee before he gave evidence if it was in its possession.

Mr Scipione says his evidence was based on findings of the Strike Force Emblems report which stated that "investigations could not be progressed as limited material was supplied by the NSW CC" and that the commission had not allowed officers to be interviewed.

He also cites the annexure to Mr Levine's report on the Emblems investigation that says the Crime Commission "refused to supply" material including affidavits underpinning applications for listening device warrants.

Mr Scipione says this led him to believe it was "more than open to conclude"  that the Crime Commission had refused access to material sought by Emblems investigators.

In fact, the July 2004 document was tabled by committee member David Shoebridge on January 29 this year.

In it, Mr Bradley outlines the Crime Commission's willingness to consider requests for information by Strike Force Emblems subject to legal and other considerations.

But he also says he has "concerns" about Strike Force Emblems - which he says were shared by then commissioner Ken Moroney - because confidential details about its work were being leaked to the media.

"Because of those concerns, I cannot provide highly confidential information to that Task Force," he wrote.

On Wednesday the inquiry's report recommended that the state government issue a formal apology to Mr Kaldas over being targeted by the operation.

It emerged during the inquiry that Mr Kaldas was named in 80 warrants for listening devices issued to Mascot.

It also recommends an apology be given to Channel Seven journalist Steve Barrett, who was named on 52 warrants.

It is critical of police commissioners over what it says is a lack of action to resolve complaints over the decade-old scandal.

The report also recommends the NSW government establish "a single, well resourced police oversight body that deals with complaints, quickly, fairly and independently".

In 2012 the government commissioned NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour to examine the issue. Concerns over the length of his inquiry sparked the parliamentary inquiry last last year.

Mr Barbour is now due to report by July.


The tyranny of health in Australia

It’s a funny old place, Australia. We have a peculiar love of rules and regulations that sets us apart from other liberal democracies. No other country in the free world imposes such stringent controls on individual behaviour – even when that behaviour puts no one else at risk.

Bicycle helmets are the obvious example. Australia and New Zealand, much to the bemusement of foreign visitors, are the only countries that force you to wear one. The strange thing is, we don’t even like cycling. Only 16 per cent of Australians ride a bicycle every week. In Denmark and the Netherlands that figure is above 40 per cent. The world champions of pedal power don’t see helmets as a necessity, but for some reason we in Australia do.

In 2011, the Australian government introduced one of the most radical anti-tobacco laws in modern history. Plain packaging was not designed to protect innocent bystanders from second-hand smoke, but rather to control individual decision-making. Australia was the first country to do this. And yet we already had some of the lowest smoking rates in the developed world. Of the 34 countries in the OECD, Australia consistently ranks in the bottom five for tobacco use.

Responding to an apparent alcohol crisis in 2014, we introduced the strictest licensing laws this side of Saudi Arabia. The crisis, meanwhile, is a complete myth. We drink far less per head than we did in the 1970s, and our consumption has fallen every year since 2007. Today, 14 countries in the OECD drink more than we do, and that’s not even counting the vodka-drenched lands of the former Soviet Union. You want to see an alcohol crisis? Book a flight to Belarus.

Something is clearly out of whack here. Our public health policies lack any sense of proportion or balance. You would expect the harshest laws to be reserved for the greatest crises, but in Australia the opposite is true. We apply draconian, heavy-handed treatment to what are comparatively minor issues. In doing so, we trample the right of adult individuals to make their own lifestyle choices.

Is Australia exceptional? Do we actually need all these crazy rules? Are we really so different from our cousins in Europe who get along just fine without them?

I don’t think Australians are that exceptional. I think the public-health lobby has sold us a great big lie. Our political debate has been hijacked by a gang of moral crusaders and neo-prohibitionists. They’ve convinced us that we can’t be trusted to act responsibly – that we need protection from ourselves.

So where does it end? Once we accept that the government can nullify our basic rights in the name of making us healthier, we set ourselves a very dangerous precedent. Imagine all the health problems that could be fixed if we simply stopped giving a shit about individual liberty.

Take skin cancer. Australia has the highest rates of melanoma in the world. So why not enforce the use of sunscreen, in the same way we enforce the use of bicycle helmets? It wouldn’t be hard to do. The police could set up RSTs (Random Sunscreen Tests) on our popular beaches.

Most of us don’t visit the GP as often as we should. That could be fixed with a compulsory check-up every six months, for every person in the country. Miss your appointment and you get a fine – just like when you fail to vote in an election. If we can force people into a polling booth, we can force them into a doctor’s office.

But why stop there? To tackle obesity, we could have mandatory exercise programs. Everyone is legally obliged to burn a minimum number of calories per week. A simple device like the Fitbit could record our workout sessions and report the data to the health authorities. If your calorie-count starts slipping, you can expect a letter in the mail.

Now this all sounds a bit far-fetched, I agree. And that’s precisely my point. A few decades ago, most of our current health-and-safety regulations would have seemed equally ridiculous.

Think about it. When Malcolm Fraser was Australian prime minister, who could have imagined a $150 fine for not wearing a bicycle helmet? Or a ban on children doing handstands and cartwheels and bringing birthday cakes to school? Today’s absurdity is tomorrow’s reality.

Which brings us to the final question. What will Australian society look like in 30 or 40 years? On current trends, we’ll be living under some kind of public-health dictatorship, where clean living is not a choice, but an obligation – a sacred national duty. You won’t even have to think about your own health and safety anymore, because Big Brother has already made the hard choices for you.

It’s time we had a serious conversation about where the public-health lobby is leading us.


Parents face childcare centre ban if immunisations are not up to date

PARENTS will be turned away from childcare centres next year if their child’s immunisations are not up to date and they refuse to be counselled by a doctor.

State health and education departments have begun drafting new laws so the Andrews Government can enforce its no jab, no play policy in 2016.

The Department of Health and Human Services is consulting with NSW officials about their scheme, which was introduced in January last year.

In NSW, parents who object to vaccinations must consult with a doctor about health risks, and get an exemption certificate if they fail to heed advice.

Childcare centres can be fined $4000 if they enrol a child who has not been vaccinated and who does not have an exemption certificate.

The Sunday Herald Sun understands the Victorian Government wants new laws in place by the start of school term 1 next year.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the aim was to ensure people who don’t vaccinate children “receive the best medical advice so that they are fully informed about the risks of their decision”.

“People are entitled to their opinions, but let’s be very clear: not vaccinating a child puts them and other children at risk of dangerous diseases and illnesses,” she said.

“The Department of Health and Human Services is consulting with its counterparts in NSW about their introduction of no jab, no play laws last year, to ensure we adopt best practice and benefit from their experience and the experiences of childcare and immunisation providers and families.”

A Sunday Herald Sun investigation this year found that immunisation rates in some council areas have dropped well below 90 per cent.  Victoria’s chief health officer is aiming to get immunisation rates above 95 per cent.

Virologist and vaccination campaigner Dr David Hawkes said Labor’s plan was a “fantastic idea”.  “It’s a really good way of ensuring that if people are busy, or if you missed a vaccination because you were overseas or sick, then you can get up to speed,” he said.

Tasha David, president of the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Association, said the policy was unfair.


1 March, 2015

Upping the heat on climate number-crunchers

CRICKET legend Donald Bradman is a useful metaphor for the escalating global row over claims the world’s leading climate agencies have been messing with the weather.

Imagine, for instance, if some bureau of sport were to revise the Don’s batting average in Test cricket down from 99.94 to 75 after adjusting for anomalies and deleting innings of 200 runs or more.

What if the bureau then claimed another batsman had exceeded the Don’s revamped record to become the greatest ever?

Critics could be told the adjustments “don’t matter” because they had not affected overall global batting averages. Just as many batsmen had been adjusted up as down. And complaints could easily be dismissed as the “cherrypicking” of a few, isolated batsmen.

David Stockwell, Australian Research Council grant recipient and adjunct researcher at Central Queensland University, raised the Bradman analogy in his submission to a newly formed independent panel that will oversee the operation of the Bureau of Meteorology’s national temperature dataset.

Stockwell was highlighting public concerns at the BoM’s use of homogenisation techniques to adjust historical temperature records to remove anomalies and produce a national dataset called ACORN-SAT (Australian Climate Observations Reference Network — Surface Air Temperature). The panel, or technical advisory forum, which will hold its first discussions with BoM staff on Monday, was formed in December after a series of questions were raised publicly about the treatment of historic temperature records that has resulted in temperature trends at some Australian sites being changed from long-term cooling to warming.

Liberal senator Simon Birmingham, former parliamentary secretary to Environment Minister Greg Hunt, instructed BoM to fast-track the appointment of the panel, which was recommended in 2011 in a peer review of ACORN-SAT’s establishment. The make-up of the panel was announced by Birmingham’s replacement as parliamentary secretary, Bob Baldwin, in January.

In the meantime, controversy about homogenisation of climate records has exploded into a global concern after similar trend changes to those raised in Australia were identified in Paraguay and in the Arctic. Accusations of “fraud” and “criminality” have been made against some of the world’s leading weather agencies. There is now the prospect of a US Senate inquiry.

Respected US climate scientist Judith Curry has facilitated a wideranging debate on the issue, saying more research was needed, but that it is probably not the “smoking gun” for climate science, as some had claimed.

There is a long history regarding complaints about how climate data has been handled by authorities and how poorly those making complaints have been treated.

The general trend is made clear in a 2007 email exchange, now known as Climategate, between a senior BoM official and scientists at East Anglia University in Britain. BoM’s David Jones said Australian sceptics could be easily dissuaded if deluged with data.

“Fortunately in Australia our sceptics are rather scientifically incompetent,” Jones wrote. “It is also easier for us in that we have a policy of providing any complainer with every single station observation when they question our data (this usually snows them)”, he said.

Even better, noted East Anglia University’s Phil Jones, was to give troublemakers a big package of data with key information missing, making it impossible to decipher.

But more than seven years on, as the world’s weather bureaus report more and more broken temperature records and further examples emerge of incongruous adjustments, the pressure is building for a transparent process to finally untangle the numbers.

In Australia, ACORN-SAT was created in 2009 to replace BoM’s so-called high-quality dataset after questions were raised about the quality and accuracy of that network.

ACORN-SAT, which the Senate was told this week is managed by a two-person team in BoM, uses information from a select range of weather stations and computer modelling to compile its national temperature record. The data is also used to help create the global temperature record.

The panel to oversee ACORN-SAT will be headed by CSIRO scientist Ron Sandland and includes a wide range of experts in statistics and mathematics.

Sandland tells Inquirer he will hold a teleconference with BoM on Monday to decide how the process would be run.

The panel was first recommended by a peer review in September 2011 headed by Ken Matthews. The peer review gave ACORN-SAT a glowing report, describing it as conforming to world’s best practice. But it also called for greater transparency, better communication and independent oversight.

Despite criticisms about transparency and the results of homogenisation at some sites by members of the public, BoM was slow to act on the peer review recommendation to establish a technical advisory forum.

BoM is one of Australia’s most widely trusted organisations. Millions of people use its online weather services and a Senate estimates hearing was told this week that more than 30,000 people followed BoM’s Twitter feed in the wake of cyclones Marcia and Lam, which landed simultaneously in Queensland and the Northern Territory this week.

However, as one of the government’s lead agencies on climate change, BoM has come under greater scrutiny. A vocal chorus has been claiming that there is a pattern of historic temperatures being reduced to make the warming trend of the late 21st century look more acute.

The questioners were quickly labelled “amateurs” by atmospheric scientist David Karoly, from the University of Melbourne, as he and other climate science academics rushed to support BoM’s work.

But the issue has exploded internationally following a declaration by US agencies NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that 2014 was the hottest year on record. As in Australia, regions were found where warming temperature trends had been created or increased through a process of homogenising records with neighbouring areas, some in other countries hundreds of kilometres away.

Published examples include Paraguay in South America and the Arctic, where a warm period in the 1930s and a well-documented period of intense cold around 1970 were erased from the record by homogenisation to give a steady rising temperature trend.

“How can we believe in ‘global warming’ when the temperature records providing the ‘evidence’ for that warming cannot be trusted?” asked British contrarian and climate change sceptic James Dellingpole.

“I’m not saying there has been no 20th-century global warming, I think there probably has been,” he said. “But I don’t honestly know. The worrying part … is that neither — it would appear — do the scientists.”

The website of Britain’s The Sunday Telegraph registered more than 30,000 comments under an article by columnist Christopher Booker saying the fiddling of temperature data has been “the biggest science scandal ever”. “What is now needed is a meticulous analysis of all the data, to establish just how far these adjustments have distorted the picture the world has been given,” Booker wrote.

The integrity of global temperature records after homogenisation is fiercely defended by global climate agencies, despite the fact that satellite measurements available from 1979 show a slightly different warming trend to surface-based records.

Australia’s BoM has issued two statements ahead of the Sandland review panel. In one it says temperature records are influenced by a range of factors such as changes to site surrounds, measurement methods and the relocation of ­stations.

“Such changes introduce biases into the climate record that need to be adjusted for, prior to analysis,’’ BoM says.

“Adjusting for these biases, a process known as homogenisation is carried out by meteorological authorities around the world as best practice, to ensure that climate data is consistent through time.”

BoM’s American counterpart, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Centre, says for global temperatures it is important to keep in mind that the largest adjustment in the global surface temperature record occurs over the oceans.

“All NOAA methodologies go through the peer-review process standard in scientific inquiry,” it says. Despite this, there remains enormous and heated debate about the issue.

Climate scientist Curry has opened an online debate that includes key scientists from the independent organisation Berkeley Earth, which compiles its own global temperature record, the results of which accord with those of other international agencies.

The Berkeley scientists conclude that Dellingpole and Booker’s claims of the “biggest fraud” of all time and a “criminal action” by climate scientists amount to nothing.

“Globally, the effect of adjustments is minor because on average the biases that require adjustments mostly cancel each other out,” they say.

But their web post generated heated discussion covering both the science of homogenisation and the standing of science.

European climate change economist Richard Tol, responding to Curry’s post, says the more important question raised by the debate over temperatures is perhaps why the public has lost so much trust in climate science that it prefers to believe columnists such as Booker over climate scientists at Berkeley. A Telegraph poll suggested that 90 per cent of 110,000 readers had sided with Booker.

“I would hypothesise that the constant stream of climate nonsense — we’re all gonna die, last chance to save the planet, climate change is coming to blow over your house and eat your dog — has made people rather suspicious of anything climate ‘scientists’ say,” according to Tol.

“If my hypothesis is correct, instead of arguing with Booker about the details of homogenisation, you should call out the alarmists.”

Curry tells Inquirer her main conclusions from the heated exchange in response to the Berkeley post are that “the stated uncertainties in global average temperatures are too small”.

“More research needs to be done to understand the impacts of the adjustments and to make individual locations more consistent with the historical record,” she says.

She says much more data work is needed to clarify the temperatures in the Arctic, which is a big source of difference among the different datasets in the northern hemisphere.

“I suspect that all this won’t change the qualitative result from the dataset, that is that the Earth is warming,” Curry says.

The way in which the Australian review of the BoM ACORN-SAT data is conducted could go a long way towards answering some of the questions being asked worldwide.

A common criticism of climate authorities such as BoM is that ­justifications for temperature smoothing may sound reasonable in the broad, but are often poorly explained in the detail of individual adjustments.

It is the task of the high-powered review panel to satisfy itself that the integrity given to BoM’s dataset by the initial peer review has been maintained. Sitting on the panel with Sandland will be:

*  Bob Vincent, emeritus professor in the school of chemistry and physics at the University of Adelaide.

*  Phillip Gould, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

*  John Henstridge, who founded Data Analysis Australia, now the largest private statistical organisation in Australia,

*  Susan Linacre, a former president of the International Association of Survey Statisticians.

*  Michael Martin, professor of statistics in the research school of finance, actuarial studies and applied statistics at Australian National University.

*  Patty Solomon, professor of statistical bioinformatics at the University of Adelaide.

*  Terry Speed, a former president of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.

Declining an invitation for David Jones, BoM’s manager of climate change and prediction, to write for Inquirer, a BoM spokeswoman says establishment of the technical advisory forum will provide “an independent framework for quality assurance tests and analysis of the bureau’s climate dataset, and it would not be appropriate to pre-empt this process.”

But critics of BoM are already lining up to have their questions answered.

Research academic Jennifer Marohasy has accused BoM of using “creative accounting practices” in both the homogenisation of data to remodel individual series as well as the choice of stations and time periods when the individual series are combined to calculate a national average for each year.

Marohasy says BoM’s methodologies have turned a cycle of warming and cooling over the past century into one of continuous warming.

In a submission to the review group, Marohasy makes three recommendations to render the overall official national temperature trend for Australia “more consistent with history, and reasonable accounting practices”.

The first is to use the same locations when calculating average mean temperatures for different years.

Marohasy’s research shows that while the national average temperature is calculated from a set of just 104 weather stations, the same 104 stations are not used every year.

“In particular, hotter places are added later in the time series, which currently begins in 1910”, she says.  “For example, Wilcannia is a very hot town in western NSW.  “There is a long continuous maximum temperature record for Wilcannia that extends back to 1881, but the bureau only adds Wilcannia into the mix from 1957.

“Obviously, if the national average temperature is calculated from a mix of hotter locations in the 1990s than, say, in the 1920s, then it will appear that Australia was hotter in the 1990s, even if the temperatures at individual weather recording stations were the same during these two periods,” Marohasy says.

Her second recommendation is to start the official record from 1880, not 1910, thus including the hot years of the Federation drought in the official record.

Lastly, Marohasy says adjustments should not be made to temperature series unless an irregularity exists in the original series that was caused by a known, documented change in the equipment at that weather recording station and/or a known change in the siting of the equipment.

Her view is supported by retired certified practising accountant Merrick Thomson, who has told the panel there is a lack of transparency associated with the change in the mix of weather stations used to calculate the national average.

Thomson says when BoM transitioned to the new ACORN-SAT system in 2012 it removed 57 stations from its calculations, replacing them with 36 on average hotter stations.

“I calculate that this had the effect of increasing the recorded Australian average temperature by 0.42C, independently of any actual real change in temperature,” Thompson says.

“Of the 57 stations removed from the calculation of the national average temperature, only three have actually closed as weather stations,” he adds.

Thomson asks the panel: “Why was the mix of stations changed with the transition to ACORN-SAT, and why was this not explained and declared, particularly given that it has resulted in a large increase in the 2013 annual temperature for Australia, I calculate 0.56 degree Celsius?”

He asks what criteria were used to determine whether a station becomes part of the national network.

Stockwell says although many had rushed to defend the BoM, saying the adjustments “don’t matter” as they do not change the global temperature graphs appreciably, they clearly do matter to a lot of people.

In a submission to the panel, Stockwell highlights what he considered unsound practices by BoM in handling the national data.

“Every portrayal of historical data should be historically accurate,” he says, “else it becomes revisionism and strays out of the domain of science and into the domain of ideology and politics.”

Self-declared “citizen scientist” Ken Stewart has been more pointed. “The apparent lack of quality assurance means ACORN-SAT is not fit for the purpose of serious climate analysis including the calculation of annual temperature trends, identifying hottest or coldest days on record, analysing the intensity, duration and frequency of heatwaves, matching rainfall with temperature, calculating monthly means or medians, and calculating diurnal temperature range,” he says.

“In conclusion, ACORN-SAT is not reliable and should be scrapped.

“ACORN-SAT shows adjustments that distort the temperature record and do not follow the stated procedures in the bureau’s own technical papers, generating warming biases at a large number of sites, thus greatly increasing the network wide trends,” Stewart says in his submission.

“Furthermore, the bureau does not take account of uncertainty, and the data are generally riddled with errors indicating poor quality assurance.

“Finally, its authors have not followed up on most undertakings made more than three years ago to permit replication and improve transparency.

The obvious and widespread depth of feeling about BoM’s ­treatment of historical records ­underscores the wisdom of recommendations made by the 2011 ACORN-SAT peer review.

The review panel encouraged BoM to improve the public transparency of ACORN-SAT arrangements.

“This will not only build public confidence in the dataset but should assist the bureau in its continuous improvement efforts and its responsiveness to data users,” the peer review panel said.

“The panel also encourages the bureau to more systematically document the process used, and to be used, in the development and operations of ACORN-SAT.

“Some aspects of current arrangements for measurement, curation and analysis are non-transparent even internally, and are therefore subject to significant ‘key persons risk’, as well as inconsistency over time.”

Current criticism of BoM over the temperature series is obviously unfamiliar territory for what remains one of Australia’s most highly regarded public institutions.

This criticism is by no means an existential threat to BoM but a rigorous and transparent review of ACORN-SAT data, methodology and communication is clearly needed, and long overdue.


Bendigo councillor Elise Chapman tweets graphic female genital mutilation photos

Bendigo councillor Elise Chapman has been outspoken against Islam in her campaign to stop a $3 million mosque development approved by Bendigo City Council in June 2014.

A mosque supporter had sent a message to Chapman on Twitter saying she hoped the mosque would get built soon.

“It’s great to see someone who cares about all Bendigo residents and their religions,” the supporter tweeted.

Ms Chapman responded with the image showing five babies with bloody wounds.  “Oh, we could have this here too? Would you like your fanny sliced off,” she captioned the photo.

“Yes. I’m opposed to female genital mutilation, child brides, inequality, women beating, all part of Quran, read it.”

Ms Chapman was one of two councillors who voted against approving the mosque, which would include two prayer rooms, a shop and community sports centre.

The project has been the subject of vocal protests and a social media campaign from opponents, including 350 who submitted formal objections to the council.  About 40 letters of support were also received.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearings into the development are ongoing.


Abbott hurting union brand? Brothers are doing it themselves

AT the front of the room, ACTU secretary Dave Oliver was railing against the Abbott government, accusing it of trying to “damage the branding of our movement and besmirch our reputation”. Moments later, at the back of the room, one proud union man proved the movement didn’t need help from the Coalition or a royal commission to remind Australians that militancy and thuggery have not been eradicated from its ranks.

Addressing the Maritime Union of Australia state conference in Western Australia yesterday, Mr Oliver strongly endorsed the tactics of the militant union, praising controversial WA secretary and Labor Party powerbroker Chris Cain for “giving the bosses the shits” and “energising” his members who have secured big pay rises on the wharves.

But his staunch defence of the MUA came just minutes before one of the union’s members physically assaulted a journalist from The Australian, who had been invited to cover the conference in Fremantle.

The member — whom MUA leaders last night declined to identify — approached WA chief reporter Andrew Burrell during Mr Oliver’s speech and ordered him to leave the meeting, claiming the media were not allowed to be present. When Burrell said he had been invited to cover the event by the MUA, the man said: “I’m a f..king member here, mate. We can throw you out any time we want.”

He then knocked the journalist off his chair, pushed him to the ground and grabbed him as he lay on the floor, before being pulled away by fellow members.

Alerted to the incident, Mr Cain demanded The Australian’s photographer Colin Murty hand over the camera’s memory card, but Murty refused. Mr Cain then ordered the reporter and photographer to leave.

Last night, Labor Party elder Martin Ferguson, a former federal minister and ACTU president, called on Mr Oliver to ensure that a full investigation was carried out by the MUA, which he has previously described as a “rogue” union.

“I am calling on the secretary of the ACTU to disassociate himself from this public display of thuggery by a member of the MUA,” Mr Ferguson said.

“The ACTU should also request its affiliate fully co-operate in a full and proper investigation into the assault. This should be condemned at the highest possible levels of the union movement, including by Dave Oliver.”

MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin, who also spoke at the conference, confirmed he had told the meeting the media would be allowed to stay for his speech and that of Mr Oliver.  He described the incident as “a complete cock-up”.

Mr Crumlin condemned the attack on Burrell, whom he phoned after the incident to apologise on behalf of the union. “I don’t know if this guy (the MUA member) has got anger-management problems ... I am very sorry,” he said.

Mr Crumlin characterised the attack as an aberration ­rather than a sign of a wider violent element within the union that needed to be dealt with.

Whether the MUA member who attacked Burrell ought to be expelled was a matter for the local branch, Mr Crumlin said.  “Workers need to be prot­ected on the job whether you are a journalist or a wharfie,” he said. “The branch will deal with it. I don’t even know who he was.”

Mr Crumlin said workplace safety was at the heart of what the MUA stood for. “You are in a troubled situation if you cannot guarantee a worker’s safety in a trade union room,” Mr Crumlin said.

Asked if he would take action as the WA branch head, Mr Cain said he did not know enough about what had happened to say whether the MUA would expel the member.  “It seemed like a little bit of a kerfuffle ... I’m not saying anything until I find out more,” he said. “I’m looking at it.”

Mr Cain, who has previously faced assault charges, has been accused of holding the resources sector to ransom through ­excessive claims for better pay and conditions.

Two years ago he told the MUA state conference that “laws need to be broken, you’re going to get locked up” in the fight for better conditions.

Asked about the assault in Canberra today, Labor leader Bill Shorten said: “I don’t know anything about that.  “But what I do say very clearly is that there is no time for any assault or violence full stop, if someone has broken the law then they deserve to get the full punishment that the law metes out. I have no time for any of that conduct.”

Employment Minister Eric Abetz today called on Mr Shorten to distance himself from the MUA and recalled the Labor leader had spoken at the same conference two years ago and said he wanted to bottle the spirit of the union.

“Bill Shorten must now distance himself from Australia’s most militant union following reports today that a journalist invited by the MUA to its Western Australia conference was assaulted during an address by ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver,” SEnator Abetz said.

“Bill Shorten addressed the same conference in 2013 as Workplace Relations Minister saying: “I wish we could bottle a bit of the spirit here and spread it on perhaps some of the members in the Labor caucus because nothing is gone until it’s over.”

“Bill Shorten must today tell the Australian people if he still want’s to ‘bottle the spirit’ of this union or if he will once and for all cut ties with the MUA and reject its future donations and votes at Labor conferences,” Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz said today.

“This division of this union in particular is brazen about breaking laws and have even been found guilty, by courts of law, of harrassing and intimidating workers.”

“Mr Shorten should follow the example set by a true Labor leader former Minister and ACTU President Martin Ferguson who has condemned this attack and the culture of militancy that exists in some unions like the MUA.”

“Mr Shorten must decide – is he on the side of the honest worker or on the side of militant union bosses who condone law breaking and refuse to properly investigate or refer to authorities an assault at their own conference?”


Stakes are high in Mike Baird’s privatisation push

THE NSW state election next month is probably the most important poll for economic reform held in Australia since John Howard’s 1998 election victory on the GST-led tax package that saw Howard re-elected with a savage cut in his majority.

This is a pent-up conflict of ideas with vast consequences. Liberal Premier Mike Baird will test a relatively new concept of privatisation, called asset recycling, which means the long-term lease of 49 per cent of the NSW electricity network to fund a $20 billion infrastructure plan for the state. Baird’s strategy is privatisation not for debt reduction but to generate capital for projects pivotal to Sydney’s future. His purpose is to tackle crippling NSW bottlenecks by funding urban road projects, a second harbour rail crossing and regional and city investments. In theory this should vest privatisation, invariably unpopular, with a new selling point.

Baird, like Howard in 1998, seeks a public mandate for sweeping reform. Those drumbeaters damning Tony Abbott for refusing to put the hard decisions to the people at the 2013 election and then engaging in a breach of trust are conspicuously silent about Baird’s honesty and effort to maintain community faith.

Following the humiliating loss of the Newman government in Queensland, where privatisation was the main policy issue, Baird seeks a re-run with the NSW result having national ramifications.

Media focus on Abbott as a liability for Baird is inevitable but misses the bigger story. Defeat for Baird would constitute the most lethal blow for market-based economic reform for years. It would prove that even an appealing leader such as Baird, who had redefined the privatisation issue, enjoyed a large majority and faced a still discredited ALP, could not prevail on an agenda that, in essence, was rational and modest.

The NSW Labor Party under new leader Luke Foley is waging an aggressive negative campaign. Unions NSW with its deep pockets, has launched its campaign “NSW Not For Sale”, a powerful slogan.

The union campaign involves door-knocking, phone and digital, radio and television arms in a strategy that has helped the unions deliver the scalps of the ­Victorian and Queensland governments. Federal ALP leader, Bill Shorten, has committed to the anti-privatisation crusade.

Nothing better illustrates the policy and ideological gulf in Australian politics today. The message from Unions NSW secretary, Mark Lennon, is that Baird wants “to flog off the public’s vital assets to the private sector as quickly as possible”. Lennon said the “undeniable fact” was that the people of NSW rejected Baird’s agenda. The ALP-union position is that privatisation means higher power prices for consumers and, ultimately, this is its popular hook.

In fact, there is much evidence to the contrary. The election row over privatisation merely betrays the sad nature of our public policy debate and the decline of the ALP from the Hawke-Keating era.

In its 2013 report on Electricity Network Regulation the Productivity Commission said electricity prices had risen by 70 per cent in real terms over the previous five years with structural problems most apparent in NSW. Transmission and distribution in NSW, Tasmania and Queensland were state-owned but in private hands in Victoria and South Australia.

“The rationale for state-ownership of electricity network businesses no longer holds,” the report said. It found state governments imposed many constraints on corporations they owned — social, environmental and procurement obligations as well as worker benefits often incompatible with a business operation.

The Productivity Commission concluded: “There are strong arguments for privatisation of these businesses. There is no evidence that the productivity, reliability, quality or cost performance of private-sector electricity network businesses is worse than their public sector equivalents. To the contrary, the evidence in Australia and internationally suggests that such private sector enterprises are more efficient.”

This directly rebuts the ALP-union campaign. Referring to the experience in Victoria and South Australia, the report said there had been “few problems” in those states. It said that “privatisation is not a radical move”.

Nothing could be more removed from the doom being predicted for NSW.

An Ernst and Young report last year for the NSW Treasury found the states with government-owned businesses (NSW and Queensland) had substantially higher electricity price increases than states with privatised businesses where, over time, there had been decreases in network charges.

Foundation chairman of the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, Tom Parry, has said that “on almost all measures” costs in the NSW and Queensland system are “significantly higher” than in Victoria and South Australia. He said the “facts” were the government-owned systems had greater inefficiency, higher operating costs and higher levels of unwarranted capital spend.

Some Labor figures, such as shadow treasurer Chris Bowen, claim that privatising electricity should be rejected because it is a monopoly.

The Productivity Commission repudiates this view. It says privatisation is not deregulation. It argues a strong regulatory regime is the logical companion to any sell-off to ensure it delivers gains for consumers.

The issue is a profound insight into the modern ALP. How mad is it that the ALP as a party dedicated to improved living standards is reduced to hugging poles and wires? In their hearts many ALP figures know this is a fraud.

Former NSW premier Morris Iemma, staying out of this campaign, favours the sell-off. Iemma was destroyed by the unions and party when, as premier, he tried to sell the retailers and lease the generators. Who was backing Iemma? Paul Keating, of course.

In truth, this issue is a deal-breaker for the unions. Labor is trapped by its structural ties to the unions, the anti-privatisation culture of progressive politics and the desperate hope that populist hostility to privatisation will save its lowly fortunes at the ballot box.

The scare campaign will be ferocious. Conducted in the name of the people, the real purpose is to retain union privileges and de facto management control of state enterprise.

Labor today is a party of formidable election technique and obsolete policy prejudices. But the stakes for NSW and the nation are immense.


HOME (Index page)

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.

In most Australian States there are two conservative political parties, the city-based Liberal party and the rural-based National party. But in Queensland those two parties are amalgamated as the LNP.

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

"Digger" is an honorific term for an Australian soldier

Another lesson in Australian: When an Australian calls someone a "big-noter", he is saying that the person is a chronic and rather pathetic seeker of admiration -- as in someone who often pulls out "big notes" (e.g. $100.00 bills) to pay for things, thus endeavouring to create the impression that he is rich. The term describes the mentality rather than the actual behavior with money and it aptly describes many Leftists. When they purport to show "compassion" by advocating things that cost themselves nothing (e.g. advocating more taxes on "the rich" to help "the poor"), an Australian might say that the Leftist is "big-noting himself". There is an example of the usage here. The term conveys contempt. There is a wise description of Australians generally here

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

My son Joe

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative

Bureaucracy: "One of the constant laments of doctors and nurses working with NSW Health is the incredible and increasing bureaucracy," she said. "It is completely obstructive to providing a service."

Revered Labour Party leader Gough Whitlam was a very erudite man so he cannot have been unaware of the similarities of his famous phrase “the Party, the platform, the people” with an earlier slogan: "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer". It's basically the same slogan in reverse order.

Australia's original inhabitants were a race of pygmies, some of whom survived into modern times in the mountainous regions of the Atherton tableland in far North Queensland. See also here. Below is a picture of one of them taken in 2007, when she was 105 years old and 3'7" tall

Julia Gillard, a failed feminist flop. She was given the job of Prime Minister of Australia but her feminist preaching was so unpopular that she was booted out of the job by her own Leftist party. Her signature "achievements" were the carbon tax and the mining tax, both of which were repealed by the next government.

A great little kid

In November 2007, a four-year-old boy was found playing in a croc-infested Territory creek after sneaking off pig hunting alone with four dogs and a puppy. The toddler was found five-and-a-half hours after he set off from his parents' house playing in a creek with the puppy. Amazingly, Daniel Woditj also swam two creeks known to be inhabited by crocs during his adventurous romp. Mr Knight said that after walking for several kilometres, Daniel came to a creek and swam across it. Four of his dogs "bailed up" at the creek but the youngster continued on undaunted with his puppy to a second creek. Mr Knight said Daniel swam the second croc-infested creek and walked on for several more kilometres. "Captain is a hard bushman and Daniel is following in his footsteps. They breed them tough out bush."

Index page for this site


"Tongue Tied"
"Dissecting Leftism" (Backup here)
"Australian Politics"
"Education Watch International"
"Political Correctness Watch"
"Greenie Watch"
"Western Heart"


"Marx & Engels in their own words"
"A scripture blog"
"Some memoirs"
To be continued ....
Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).
Queensland Police -- A barrel with lots of bad apples
Australian Police News
Paralipomena (3)
Of Interest


"Food & Health Skeptic"
"Eye on Britain"
"Immigration Watch International".
"Leftists as Elitists"
Socialized Medicine
QANTAS -- A dying octopus
BRIAN LEITER (Ladderman)
Obama Watch
Obama Watch (2)
Dissecting Leftism -- Large font site
Michael Darby
Paralipomena (2)
AGL -- A bumbling monster
Telstra/Bigpond follies
Optus bungling
Vodafrauds (vodafone)
Bank of Queensland blues

There are also two blogspot blogs which record what I think are my main recent articles here and here. Similar content can be more conveniently accessed via my subject-indexed list of short articles here or here (I rarely write long articles these days)

Main academic menu
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basic home page
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Selected pictures from blogs (Backup here)
Another picture page (Best with broadband. Rarely updated)

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