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 May, 2013

Computerization causing reliability problems for Australia's VWs

All modern cars are under the control of an engine computer and we all know about computers doing strange things.  VWs seem to be prone to excessive panic in their computers:  The computer rather often puts the car into "limp mode".  "Limp mode" is in general a good thing.  It is the computer's way of protecting the car from further damage if something in the car is not working properly.   It slows the car right down among other things.  Usually, it should NEVER happen, however. But the VW computers do it a lot so either VWs have a lot of faults or the computer is wrong.

I have owned FIVE VWs in the old days when they were very simple machines and they NEVER let me down. And the two Toyotas I own now have never broken down either.  One is 15 years old and the other 8 years old.  I would never settle for less. Why should anyone?

There have been a lot of other problems with modern VWs too.  Buy Toyota

At least 15 Volkswagen owners have revealed they experienced the same terrifying loss of acceleration that appears to have led to the 2011 death of 32-year-old Melissa Ryan on the Monash Freeway.

Volkswagen, one of the most popular manufacturers in the Australian market, is facing growing pressure to tackle problems with its cars that have led to overseas recalls.

A coroner this week investigated the death of Ms Ryan, who was killed when a prime mover with two trailers hit her Golf from behind. The truck driver and Ms Ryan's family believe her car dramatically and inexplicably slowed before the crash. After Fairfax's reporting of the coronial inquest, 15 owners of Volkswagens have spoken of frightening experiences when their cars, including Golf, Passat, Polo and Eos models, suddenly lost power on highways and, in one case, a train line.

"I did not feel safe driving a car like that. It was frightening," said Jean Lim, who was driving a 2007 Golf automatic that suddenly decelerated. VW replaced the gearbox but the issue returned. Another driver, who owned a 2008 Golf automatic, said she drove "in constant terror". "The light comes up, the car just dies and you just pray that you're not smashed into," said the driver, who declined to be named

Fairfax can also confirm the federal Department of Infrastructure and Transport is investigating Ms Ryan's death. It is "liaising closely with Volkswagen Australia", spokesman Craig Stone said.

The coroner, whose decision is due in late July, will assess whether Ms Ryan's death was due to fault on the part of the truck driver, her own fault, vehicle malfunction or a combination of factors. Her car was a manual; most problems overseas with sudden deceleration in Volkswagens are found in automatics.

Volkswagen's expert witness Warren Chilvers told the inquiry the vehicle information showed no evidence to suggest the car was at fault. The truck driver, Ivan Mumford, insisted he never saw Ms Ryan's brake lights come on before the crash, but he had seen them working earlier. Fairfax is not suggesting Ms Ryan’s death is linked to a fault in her car.  Volkswagen has this year issued recalls for almost 400,000 of its cars in China and 91,000 in Japan for problems with the high-tech automatic direct shift gearbox (DSG). The DSG problems have been connected to sudden power loss.

In the US, the company issued two minor recalls related to the DSG. Then, after a federal government investigation and bad publicity,  in 2009 Volkswagen launched a service program that repaired or replaced the transmission components of about 43,000 Volkswagens and 10,300 Audis at no charge.

But the company has resisted calls – mostly made in online forums and in comments replying to motoring articles – to issue a recall in Australia. Volkswagen executive vice-president Ulrich Hackenberg said  this month that the China recall related to a problem with Chinese-built DSGs. He said DSGs in Australia were made in Europe. But the company had not revealed where the faulty Japanese DSGs were made.

Volkswagen  currently has a "campaign" – which is like a recall but driven by the manufacturer – to fix an injector problem with some diesel models. But online forums have pointed out Volkswagen has no way of getting in touch with owners who buy the cars secondhand.

David and Norma Levin  had their 2007 diesel Golf booked in for the campaign service a week after  they suffered sudden deceleration while driving to Adelaide recently. They blame the injector fault for the incident. But Volkswagen says the campaign is not about a safety problem. Volkswagen Australia declined to answer a dozen  specific questions put to it by Fairfax Media about recalls and sudden deceleration.

But spokesman Kurt McGuiness said there were no plans for recalls. "Volkswagen conducts vehicle recalls in conjunction with the relevant federal government bodies. At this time we do not plan to announce a recall. Any recalls are conducted in accordance with the Consumer Product Safety Recall Guidelines issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission."

Mr McGuiness said service campaigns are "deemed to be non-safety related in accordance with federal regulations" and are carried out within dealerships when vehicles are brought in for routine services.

The "limp home mode" – where a car reduces speed to protect the engine from extensive damage in the event of an issue arising – was not unique to Volkswagen, he said.

"Rapid deceleration is not an issue widely observed or reported with any Volkswagen vehicles ... However, should any of our customers have cause for concern with their Volkswagen vehicle, we urge them to contact our customer care team .. We are dedicated to rectify any lost confidence our customers may have in our products."

Mechanic Dean Coutts, owner and manager of Volkspower, a Volkswagen specialist, said sudden deceleration was not a problem he had seen.  "Yes we have customers who have their car go into limp mode, but that’s no different to any other manufacturer on the planet."

Fairfax also received complaints about sudden speed loss in a Ford Mondeo and a Mercedes ML 350.


Attacking Sydney's 'enclaves of Islam'

Pastor Nalliah.  Good to see that some Christians can still find Matt. 28:19-20 in their Bibles

A CONTROVERSIAL anti-Islamic political leader who says he is prepared to die for his cause has denied he is inflaming violence with a talk about "Muslim enclaves" at Blacktown tonight.

Police are on alert for the speech by Rise Up Australia Party national president Daniel Nalliah at the town's RSL and have warned Mr Nalliah and the local community to say nothing that "might incite violent or criminal behaviour".

Mr Nalliah said yesterday "gutless politicians" had to stop "pussy footing" around the issue of "Muslims taking over whole suburbs and turning them into no-go zones".

He said his "patriotic" views had led to several death threats and the machete murder of a British soldier in a London street last week was in the forefront of his mind.

"I'm not going to back off," Mr Nalliah said yesterday.  "If I have to get killed for this cause, I'm willing to do that for the sake of the future of our children."

Mr Nalliah, a migrant from Sri Lanka via Saudi Arabia, who describes himself as black, denied RUP was another "white Australia" party.

It is one of several new political parties registered in time for the federal election which are expected to attract votes from the major parties.

The spectre of Muslim ghettos was raised by a federal parliamentary committee into multiculturalism which recently handed down its report.

"References were made to Muslim 'enclaves' in Sydney and Melbourne and the riots in Cronulla in 2005 to suggest a lack of willingness on the part of Muslims to embrace the Australian lifestyle, values and behaviours," the report said.

A police spokesperson said they were aware of the speech to be delivered tonight. "Individuals and groups have a right to express their opinions as long as this is done in a lawful and respectful manner," the spokesperson said.  "We would remind people that care must be taken so nothing is said that may incite violent or criminal behaviour."

Muslim leader Keysar Trad said groups such as Rise Up Australia should be ignored: "The community should continue to ignore Islamaphobic groups such as this and let them continue to do what they want to without any publicity."


Gonski reform process 'a sham', says Victorian Education Minister

JULIA Gillard's agenda for seamless national education reform took a battering yesterday when Victoria accused the commonwealth of running a "sham", "puerile" and farcical process over her Gonski agenda.

In a further blow to the Prime Minister, Labor's last mainland Premier, Jay Weatherill, told The Australian it was "unlikely" South Australia would reach agreement on the reforms before he delivered his state budget next week.

Ms Gillard did get one Gonski victory yesterday when the ACT government agreed to her school funding reforms, joining NSW, after a deal for an additional $190 million for schools in the nation's capital in the six years from 2014.

"Every agreement gives momentum to these reforms, because it becomes clearer and clearer that this is a good way of making sure our children get a great education," Ms Gillard said at Lyneham High School in Canberra's north.

However, Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon excoriated the commonwealth over its handling of the Gonski negotiations, claiming the reforms amounted to nothing more than a slogan.

In unusually strong language, Mr Dixon said he no longer trusted the federal government over the way it had conducted the negotiations.

He said that he was being forced to read in the media about key developments in what were meant to be confidential negotiations about the future of billions of dollars worth of education funding.

"This process has been a farce and it's been a sham," Mr Dixon told parliament.

"We are not going to sign up to a slogan. We want a real funding deal. We are going to sign up to what's best for every student, school, family and taxpayer."

Senior government sources said Victoria would only now sign up to the Gonski reforms if there was a "deal breaking" offer by Canberra.

Mr Dixon, Catholic Education Commission Victoria executive director Stephen Elder and Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green have written to the Gillard government asking for four-way negotiations to address funding proposals. This is believed to be due to existing discussions having collapsed.

"The current bilateral negotiations have not achieved results we would have liked," the trio wrote in a letter to School Education Minister Peter Garrett.

Mr Dixon's outburst makes it increasingly unlikely that Ms Gillard will be able to broker a truly national approach to the Gonski reforms. While Mr Dixon has not ruled out signing up to the reforms, he has sent the clearest possible message that Victoria's support is highly conditional.

Queensland is still holding out on the reforms while Western Australia says it is not signing.

The South Australian Premier, who took on Treasury in his January frontbench reshuffle, yesterday hosed down any expectation he was about to sign up to Gonski and was just waiting for the right time to announce it with the Prime Minister before next Thursday's state budget.

"Negotiations are continuing," Mr Weatherill said.

"State government representatives held further negotiations with federal government officials earlier this week. However, there are still a number of outstanding issues between us.

"It is unlikely we will reach agreement before the state budget, but the Prime Minister has stated that states have until June 30 to reach agreement."

Sources familiar with the negotiations said the South Australian government would push the Gonski talks "down to the wire".

"It may all fall over yet; we'll likely push it right up to the last minute of the deadline," one source said.

Mr Weatherill has refused to disclose publicly the issues still to be resolved with the commonwealth. But in a letter from Mr Weatherill to non-government schools, obtained by The Australian, the Premier stated that one of the issues to be resolved was "how quickly the new funding model would be implemented in South Australia". The letter, dated May 24, also warned that, "it may not be possible to reach an agreement with the commonwealth on the Gonski reforms".

Mr Weatherill said schools should be prepared to lose funding if a deal was not struck. "It would mean a significant and immediate reduction in funding for all government and non-government schools due to the nature of the current funding arrangements with the commonwealth government," he said in the letter.

Association of Independent Schools SA chief executive Carolyn Grantskalns said she doubted any funding cuts would eventuate.

"We've seen no actual numbers . . . there is absolutely no certainty at this point," she said. "There is no certainty the state will sign up.

A spokeswoman for Mr Garrett yesterday said Mr Weatherill had expressed "strong support" for Gonski.

"We are very hopeful of reaching a deal with the South Australian government in the coming weeks," the spokeswoman said.

Ms Gillard has given the states until June 30 to sign up to her Gonski reforms, promising to deliver an extra $14.5bn plus indexation to schools over the next six years.

Wayne Swan accused the federal opposition of attempting to intimidate Coalition governments into not signing the deal.

"They have attempted to thug . . . the premiers of Queensland and other states into not accepting this deal," he said. "And what that means is they're stealing from the future and they're putting their political interests before the national interest."

School Education Minister Peter Garrett was unable to say yesterday what the year-by-year funding increases would be for schools in the ACT, but provided an assurance they would be released in coming weeks.

Under the deal signed yesterday, ACT government schools will now receive $3.3bn, the Catholic sector $900 million and the independent sector $700m over the six years from 2014.


Australian Warmists slowly backing away from alarm

They describe their figures below as "highly uncertain" but still think action must be taken!

Dramatic new research has claimed that the effects of global warming may be less than first predicted.

Australian scientists have narrowed the predicted range of global warming through groundbreaking new research.

However, the team behind it said the smaller rise could still have major effects - and warned we cannot wait for more exact figures before acting.

The paper, published in Nature Climate Change today, found that exceeding 6 degrees warming was now unlikely while exceeding 2 degrees is very likely for business-as-usual emissions.

Dr Roger Bodman from Victoria University and Professors David Karoly and Peter Rayner from the University of Melbourne have generated what they say are more reliable projections of global warming estimates at 2100.

This was achieved through a new method combining observations of carbon dioxide and global temperature variations with simple climate model simulations to project future global warming.

Team leader Dr Bodman said while continuing to narrow the range even further was possible, significant uncertainty in warming predictions would always remain due to the complexity of climate change drivers.

'This study ultimately shows why waiting for certainty will fail as a strategy,' he said.  'Some uncertainty will always remain, meaning that we need to manage the risks of warming with the knowledge we have.'

The study found 63% of uncertainty in projected warming was due to single sources – such as climate sensitivity, followed by future behaviour of the carbon cycle and the cooling effect of aerosols – while 37% of uncertainty came from the combination of these sources.

'This means that if any single uncertainty is reduced – even the most important, climate sensitivity – significant uncertainty will remain,' Dr Bodman said.


The journal article (excerpt)

Uncertainty in temperature projections reduced using carbon cycle and climate observations

Roger W. Bodman,     Peter J. Rayner     & David J. Karoly

The future behaviour of the carbon cycle is a major contributor to uncertainty in temperature projections for the twenty-first century1, 2. Using a simplified climate model3, we show that, for a given emission scenario, it is the second most important contributor to this uncertainty after climate sensitivity, followed by aerosol impacts.

Historical measurements of carbon dioxide concentrations4 have been used along with global temperature observations5 to help reduce this uncertainty. This results in an increased probability of exceeding a 2 °C global–mean temperature increase by 2100 while reducing the probability of surpassing a 6 °C threshold for non-mitigation scenarios such as the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios A1B and A1FI scenarios6, as compared with projections from the Fourth Assessment Report7 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Climate sensitivity, the response of the carbon cycle and aerosol effects remain highly uncertain but historical observations of temperature and carbon dioxide imply a trade–off between them so that temperature projections are more certain than they would be considering each factor in isolation.

As well as pointing out the promise from the formal use of observational constraints in climate projection, this also highlights the need for an holistic view of uncertainty.


30 May, 2013
ABC's new fact checker Russell Skelton accused of left-wing bias over tweets

THE ABC's new chief fact checker has been accused of left-wing bias over tweets criticising Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and other coalition MPs.

Tweets read at a budget estimates hearing last night show Fact Checking Unit editor Russell Skelton also targeted the Coalition MP controversially mocked by his wife, ABC Breakfast host Virginia Trioli, during a live television interview four years ago.

But the government last night said the opposition was trying to intimidate Mr Skelton, a Walkley Award winner and former senior newspaper journalist, adding that some of the criticisms read out were factually accurate.

Tweets show Mr Skelton often links to articles negative of Mr Abbott, who he describes as "The Monk" in some tweets, and appears to add his own criticism to the article link.

In one recent case, Mr Skelton also retweeted a tweet by someone else saying opposition senator Eric Abetz wanted to start a "race war" with Aboriginals.

In multiple tweets, Mr Skelton criticised Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce, who received an apology from Ms Trioli in 2009 after being caught on camera twirling her finger around her ear and pulling a crazy face while he spoke.

Mr Skelton described Mr Joyce in tweets as "super snide", a "dense, opportunistic carpetbagger" and "Bananaby" while referring to Joe Hockey as "not the sharpest pencil in the box".

The fact-checking unit will assess political statements ahead of the federal election and rule on their accuracy.

ABC managing director Mark Scott told the hearing a fact checker did not express opinions but rather checked claims, noting all journalists voted but the test was the content they produced.

"There is no suggestion at all a retweet is an endorsement of an view," he said of the race war tweet.

Senator Abetz questioned the appointment, saying articles by Mr Skelton had also been corrected by the ABC's Mediawatch, including for not telling both sides of a story.  "Your own Mediawatch has pinged him!" he said.

After Senator Abetz raised a tweet by Mr Skelton about a poll accompanied with the phrase "Abbott now a liability, a proverbial albatross", Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the questioning was "blatant intimidation" from the opposition.

"That would be factually accurate!" Senator Conroy said.

Mr Scott said the tweets were made before Mr Skelton’s appointment was announced.


Solar has increased electricity prices, says Qld. government

Solar power users and green schemes have been singled out by the state government as responsible for driving up the state's electricity prices.

Energy minister Mark McArdle said advice from the Queensland Competition Authority had shown the Commonwealth's Renewable Energy Target Scheme added $102 to the average electricity bill, while the Solar Bonus Scheme cost $67.

"When you add $190 for the carbon tax this means 18.9 per cent of an average $1900 annual electricity bill is made up of green schemes," Mr McArdle said in a statement.

"By 2015-16 the solar bonus scheme will increase to $276 on an average bill, which could see the price of green schemes reach $621 on average per year if the carbon tax is not repealed."

Solar Citizens, an advocacy group supported by "a number of community and industry organisations", has dismissed Mr McArdle’s statement as "unfair and misleading".

“The primary driver of rising energy bills in QLD is increasing network costs,” Solar Citizens’ campaign manager Dr Geoff Evans said.

“In fact, the Queensland Competition Authority recently released data that shows that solar users only amount to 7 per cent of a family’s electricity cost — with nearly 70 per cent of an electricity bill going to network and retail costs."

Mr McArdle issued the statement ahead of the QCA announcing on Friday an anticipated 21 to 22 per cent increase in the retail price for electricity.

When releasing its draft determination in February, the QCA laid some of the blame for the massive price hike at the state government's feet, claiming its decision to freeze the tariff 11 last year had forced the authority to play catch up.

"So low-use customers have not been paying enough to cover the costs of their supply and high-use customers have been paying more than the cost of their supply," the QCA said at the time.

"This is changing, so that customers' bills better reflect the costs of their electricity use.

"As a result, low consumption customers will see a high percentage increase in their bill as the fixed service fee is increased."

But Mr McArdle blamed green schemes, saying the state government was "looking at ways" it could reduce their impact on households.

"The overly generous solar bonus scheme gave significant cash windfalls to those customers who installed solar PV [Photovoltaic panels] on domestic roofs, but the scheme did not pass on the real costs to the electricity network, to support solar PV," he said.

"It is not right that the 80 per cent of customers who do not have solar are expected to pay the full price of the 20 per cent who have solar.

"Some customers with solar are getting a very generous $0.44 feed-in tariff (FiT) and should make a fair contribution towards the upgrade of the electricity network needed to support their solar PV."

But Mr McArdle said the government would not be changing the solar feed-in tariff that was legislated by the former government until 2028.

Mr McArdle said it would "cost other electricity consumers almost $3 billion to support".

Instead he said the government would consider "a range of other options" to make the "system more equitable".


Qld. Building Services Authority to be scrapped and replaced with new watchdog

About time

THE controversial Building Services Authority will be scrapped and replaced with a new commission in a move the Newman Government says will restore confidence in the system.

Housing Minister Tim Mander will today announce his plans to create a new building and construction watchdog after a parliamentary committee released a scathing review of the BSA last year and recommended it be replaced and the system overhauled.

He said legislation was expected to be introduced into State Parliament next week to establish the new Queensland Building and Construction Commission to take over from the BSA in January next year.

A new complaints review unit will be set up within the commission but will remain independent to ensure builders and consumers can appeal decisions, the home warranty scheme will be retained and possibly broadened while an implementation committee with also be established to help determine a new disputes and review process.

"The whole challenge has been to balance the rights of contractors and consumers," Mr Mander said. "We want both those groups, consumers and contractors to have confidence in the system."

Current BSA general manager Ian Jenning's contract will be terminated year's end but Mr Mander said Mr Jennings was welcome to apply for the new commissioner role.

"We have put together a 10-point action plan for the future," the Minister said.

The Queensland Building and Construction Commission will be run by a professional board and a commissioner.  "The commissioner will report to the board and the board will report to me," Mr Mander said.

The commission would include a number of general managers whose areas of responsibility would be firewalled from each other to avoid conflicts of interest.

A rapid dispute adjudication system will be implemented to allow builders and consumers to raise disputes before a contract is finished or terminated.

"Being able to intervene far earlier in disputes and also putting in processes that will actually stop disputes in the first place will mean there will be far less issues going to QCAT . . . " Mr Mander said. "And of course there's the right of review of decision which consumers haven't had in the past, nor builders."

A building ratings system could be introduced along with consumer incentives for those who undertake some form of education or training.

Licensing, compliance and auditing practices will also be overhauled along with the penalties scheme.


Remand prisoner severely bashed

A remand prisoner is one who has not been convicted of any crime.  There will be a big compensation claim out of this  -- which will be borne by the taxpayer

A FATHER has had three conflicting explanations of how his son suffered severe head injuries while on remand in the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre last week.

Russell Smulders is on life support in the Princess Alexandra Hospital after the mystery incident at the jail last Tuesday.

His father, Russell Smulders Snr, said he was told his son had slipped while mopping, had fallen while playing basketball and had run into a wall in a touch football game.

He said doctors told him his son's injuries were inconsistent with an accident. Corrective Services said there was no CCTV footage.

"He has severe brain damage - if he lives, he will never have any motor skills again," Mr Smulders Snr said. "He's got damage to the right temple, he's got a back head injury, he's got a shoulder injury and spinal injury."

Corrective Services yesterday said that "given the seriousness of the injuries", Commissioner Marlene Morison had asked the chief inspector to investigate.

"Early indications are the prisoner was injured while participating in supervised physical activity (touch football) in the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre gymnasium," it said.

In a separate incident, alleged loan shark and standover man Christophe Phillipe Bertomeu was taken to the PA Hospital last week after an assault by another prisoner in Arthur Gorrie.

Prison staff have also been assaulted in a series of attacks and the United Voice union says it is concerned about safety and security in the prison.

Smulders, 25, is charged with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing his wife Analeigh in the chest and stomach at Crestmead, in Logan, in November.

He was under observation after he jumped from the top floor of a building in an attempt to take his life in December, his father said.

The family has regularly featured in newspapers and magazines because of its size, with Smulders the eldest of 15 siblings.

Mr Smulders Snr said he was first advised of the injuries in a phone call from a nurse at Arthur Gorrie about 2pm last Tuesday.

"She said, 'I have an eyewitness that Russell was mopping the floor and he slipped over'," he said.

Mr Smulders Snr flew from his Sydney home to Brisbane and met hospital staff, including doctors who said his son had fallen while playing basketball.

Corrective Services subsequently told him Smulders ran into a wall while playing touch football.

"The neurosurgeon has discounted everything. None of those fit the injuries," he said.


29 May, 2013

Lawyer sued for failing to write up and sign woman's will nine days before she died

Bryan Mitchell did my will last year but took months to finalize it.  He must have had an optimistic view of my health

ESTATE lawyers will rush to write up informal wills and have them signed after a lawyer was successfully sued for failing to do a woman's will on-the-spot, nine days before she died.

The woman's son missed out on an increased slice of his mother's estate because the lawyer delayed having the new will signed because he was going on holidays.  The woman died before his return.

The son, who was to be bequeathed half his mother's family share of her estate under her instructions for the new 2010 will, was left only 25 per cent under the former will made in 2009.

He is expected to be awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

Brisbane wills and estate lawyer Bryan Mitchell, of Mitchells Solicitors, said the NSW Supreme Court case delivered on May 2 had set alarm bells ringing.

Local estate lawyers would now make sure temporary wills were signed immediately, as they could be sued in Queensland courts for similar circumstances, he said.

Mr Mitchell said while most lawyers considered it good practice to get an informal will signed on the spot, it now would become essential practice, increasing the cost of making a will.

Sydney lawyer Graham W. Howe took complete instructions from Marie Fischer, 94, of Mosman, for a new will on March 25, 2010, but told her he would get her to sign it after his Easter holiday, the NSW court heard.

Mrs Fischer, who lived with a carer, agreed to wait about two weeks, but she became ill and died, leaving her 2009 will as her final will.

On March 25 she had given Mr Howe instructions to change her executor and increase her son Henry Fischer's family share of the estate to 50 per cent.

Expert legal witness Pamela Suttor told the court Mr Howe should have prepared an informal will on March 25, or at least obtained her signature on a note recording her intentions.

Justice Christine Adamson found that Mrs Fischer had been adamant about changes she wanted made to her will and Mr Howe was negligent and breached his duty of care by not making an informal will that day.

The judge said had the informal will been prepared and signed by Mrs Fischer she was satisfied it would have been accepted as her will under the Succession Act.

She said Mr Fischer was entitled to full net loss of the further 25 per cent of the estate, which Mr Fischer calculated was $824,447.


Middle-class bludging? It's a myth

FIRST there were families. Then there were "battlers". Then "working families". Now the political spin-cycle has moved on to "modern families". Going forward.

Elections in Australia are traditionally fought and won by parties appealing to the interests of middle-income families. So this will be a strange election campaign, with both parties promising to reduce your family income.

This week the Government will introduce legislation to abolish the baby bonus. Australia's treasurer-in-waiting, Joe Hockey, will wave it through, having argued our "age of entitlement" must come to an end.

But are Aussie families really a bunch of middle-class welfare bludgers? Economists are constantly calling for family payments to middle-income families to be reduced to reduce the "churn" in the tax and welfare system. Why take with one hand only to give back with the other?

Recent studies have shown the "middle-class welfare" bogey is more myth than reality. In a new paper, Peter Whiteford, a professor of social policy at the Australian National University, argues our family benefits system is, in fact, highly targeted at low-income families.

Prof Whiteford's calculations find Australia's poorest 20 per cent of households get about $435 a week in cash benefits from the government. The top 20 per cent get only $15 a week and of that, only $1 is family benefits - the rest is aged, disability and veterans' pensions.

The poorest 20 per cent of households also pay negligible income tax, while the top fifth of households by income pay $756 a week, on average.

If the government didn't tax and redistribute, the richest 20 per cent of households would have private incomes 21 times higher than the poorest 20 per cent. As it is, once taxes and benefits are factored in, the multiple is just three to one.

Australia's poorest 20 per cent of households receive 42 per cent of government cash benefits - almost twice the developed world average of 24.4 per cent.

According to Prof Whiteford: "The idea that there are vast amounts of wasteful social security spending that can be easily cut back simply does not accord with the reality that the Australian benefit system is the most targeted to low-income groups of any developed countries."

Truth is, Australian governments have been supporting families in one way or another since just after Federation.

Bob Hawke may continue to regret his ambitious 1987 pledge that no child would live in poverty. But his boost to low-income family support did substantially reduce child poverty in this country, by as much as 50 per cent in its first year, according to some estimates. Between 1985 and 2000, Australia dropped from sixth to 16th place in the developed world rankings of rates of child poverty.

Family payment rates grew under the Howard government thanks to the mining boom, and payments were expanded further up the income scale. The proportion of couple families with children who pay no tax rose from 16 per cent in 1982 to 26 per cent under the Hawke and Keating governments, and increased again to 29 per cent under Howard. But most of that was still tightly targeted to families in the $40,000-$70,000 income brackets.

Millionaire mums getting family tax benefits and the baby bonus were always the exception rather than the norm. (It is almost forgotten that it was John Howard as treasurer in 1978 who abolished the Maternity Allowance, the precursor to the baby bonus that had been in place since 1912.)

Since the global financial crisis, the Rudd and Gillard governments have done more than they care to admit to tighten eligibility for family payments. Indexing of payment rates to general prices - not wages, which tend to grow faster - has reduced annual payments by about $500 from what they would have been.

So, although we constantly hear of "middle-class welfare", in reality it's getting harder to find. Notable exceptions include Labor's non-means-tested "schoolkids bonus" - which is really just an ad hoc payment that should rightly be abolished by an incoming Coalition government.

The Seniors Card - which entitles bearers to discounted travel and shopping - also gives a group of Australians a benefit regardless of their capacity to pay.

The childcare rebate on out-of-pocket expenses is also not means-tested, meaning a high proportion of the benefit goes to high-income women.

The Grattan Institute estimates the annual Budget deficit will yawn to about $37 billion by 2023.

Axing the baby bonus saves only about $1 billion over four years. Fixing the Budget crisis will require tax hikes or politically painful spending cuts.  Baby, you ain't seen nothing yet.



Four current articles below

Greenie regulations on Qld. coal mines eased

A LOSS of about $750 million in royalties through the flooding of central Queensland coal mines over the past three years has pushed the Government into allowing more mines in the Fitzroy River basin to release water.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the plan will be put in place next wet season after a trial among four mines found no long-term impacts on water quality.

"The pilot program carried out over the last wet season shows that this legacy mine water can be released when there are sufficient river flows, while maintaining water quality," Mr Seeney said.

Mr Seeney said Central Queensland coal mines still have an estimated 250 billion litres of excess water as a result of the recent wet seasons.

"The government will undertake detailed discussions with coal mine operators in coming months to identify the optimal solutions that may be available for each mine," he said.

"Any amendments will need to be finalised well before the next wet season, to allow coal mines to be well prepared and for the supporting monitoring programs to be up and running.

More than 30 mines in central Queensland have been flooded in the past three years and unable to release that water until heavy rains can dilute the pollutants like salt.

Only two have been able to reduce any significant amount of water hampering production at most mines.

Only about 26 billion litres was released into creek and river systems during heavy rain in January.

He said the Government would look for more options to release the water, but any amendments will need to be finalised well before the next wet season, to allow coal mines to be well prepared and for the supporting monitoring programs to be up and running.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell said an independent assessment of the pilot had proved that the measures put in place ensured water quality for drinking, agriculture and the environment was protected.

"The data shows that adequate measures are in place to ensure water quality standards have been met and I am confident that we will continue to see that in the future," Mr Powell said.


Green funding rush fires loans row as $800M push defies Tony Abbott

THE Clean Energy Finance Corporation is planning to write up to $800 million in green loans before the election, defying the Coalition's call for the agency not to sign contracts before September 14 because Tony Abbott has vowed to scrap it.

The CEFC has revealed it is in "active discussions" with 50 projects seeking $2 billion and that an additional 119 project proponents have presented proposals that are seeking finance worth $3.3bn. The figures are contained in an email from the CEFC to the opposition pleading its case not to be scrapped if the Coalition wins the election.

The CEFC was established as part of the Gillard government's Clean Energy Future package to provide finance to clean energy projects that might not otherwise be able to raise funds through the commercial banking system. It receives an allocation of $2bn a year for five years which has been locked into the government's budget through legislation.

The scale of discussions under way between the CEFC and clean energy project proponents puts it on a collision course with the Coalition, which in February wrote to the CEFC asking it not to write any loans between July 1 and the election.

Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb said the Coalition was "deeply troubled by the indecent haste to start risking many billions of dollars of borrowed money".

"There is simply no valid reason for agreements to be struck, contracts to be signed or for funds to be meted out this side of the election," Mr Robb said. "It is unconscionable. We have been crystal clear in our opposition to the CEFC and in our resolve to abolish it. We will do whatever we can to prevent $10bn of borrowed money from being wasted."

CEFC chief executive Oliver Yates last night said the agency, which can begin writing loans from July 1, would do so in an orderly way and was planning to write about $1bn worth of loans every six months.

Asked what the CEFC could write between its start date of July 1 and August 12, when the pre-election caretaker period begins, Mr Yates said he would be happy if the CEFC could write between $600m and $800m. However, all agreements would be subject to extensive due diligence.

The CEFC has revealed the full value of the 50 projects in "active discussions" is put at $4.6bn and the 119 extra projects for which submissions have been received are worth more than $6bn.

In the email to the opposition, Mr Yates said there had been a "resounding positive response to date from the market, demonstrating the significant role which the CEFC can play".

He revealed the CEFC was working on a dozen projects in Victoria that would deliver jobs and growth "but all are now in question". "These projects have a total expected size of nearly $2.5bn," he said.

The letter also revealed the CEFC had tightened its lending criteria and it had removed an assumption that it would grant or lose 7.5 per cent of the investment portfolio.

"We determined that to operate commercially the CEFC would not make grants or what was termed 'immediately impaired loans'," Mr Yates wrote. "The making of such are inconsistent with the approach of being self-sustaining and commercial."

Mr Yates argued that the difference between the CEFC and a traditional financial institution was that "we don't seek maximum profits but seek to cover operating and funding costs, and use the potential to make higher profits to secure public policy benefits and reduce the cost of moving to a lower-carbon economy".

"We will participate alongside traditional financiers and may from time to time rub shoulders as we build our market presence and financial self-sufficiency," he said. "That said, the net effect of our participation in the market will be to increase available funding opportunities for the private sector, not reduce them."

Mr Yates said the CEFC was focused on being a sustainable institution and, where a loan was written below the bond rate for a public policy purpose, another might be written at a commercial rate to ensure the business was sustainable.

In his budget reply speech this month, the Opposition Leader repeated his vow to "scrap Labor's green-loans scheme for projects that the banks won't touch".

The corporation's chairwoman and Reserve Bank board member Jillian Broadbent has previously said there was "significant appetite" for funds and has signalled that the CEFC would seek to act according to its mandate to write loans, despite the opposition's request not to do so.


Mining industry releases report stating resistance to coal seam gas projects will end expansion and sacrifice many jobs

COMMUNITY activists fighting CSG projects with "myths" are putting at risk a potential $150 billion investment bonanza, a mining industry report to be released this week warns.

And the industry is pressing the Coalition to pledge tougher workplace laws and slashed regulation before the September 14 election.

Mining company executives are pointing to an opportunity to capitalise on growing liquified natural gas (LNG) markets which could be lost to gas producers in Africa and North America.

Seven of the 13 LNG plants being built around the world are under construction in Australia but further expansion opportunities could be lost. LNG now supplies nine per cent of the world's energy and this could rise to 15 per cent by 2020, with lower carbon emissions than from coal power.

LNG demand in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to rise from 160 million tonnes a year now to 320 million tonnes by 2025, the McKinsey study found.

"The window of opportunity for LNG projects is open for about 18 months. We have momentum on projects, and want to get through that window," the outgoing Australian chair of Shell Ann Pickard told reporters in Brisbane Sunday.

Liquified Natural Gas producers increasingly are turning to coal seam gas as conventional supplies run down or prove too expensive to mine.

But in some parts of Queensland and in NSW they are being fought by an unusual combination of Greens, farmers, and broadcaster Alan Jones, a group Mr Byers said was well organised and very well funded.

The Lock the Gates Alliance representing the resistance has accused mining companies of "riding roughshod over our governments and local communities".

Mr Byers said: "Call it for what it is: it is a campaign which is based on some ideological objections to having kore gas into our energy supply system as distinct to going for more renewables."

He said the research presented on CSG was being rejected by groups claiming it would harm water supplies and wreck productive pastures.

The miners also are pointing in particular to the significantly lower labour costs in North America.

Another industry executive said Australian labor costs were not only high against those of developing nations, they were greater than those of the US and Canada in similar work.

State and federal governments both Liberal and Labor are threatening mine expansions which could see an extra $13 billion in taxes and royalties paid by 2020, according to the report commissioned the the Australian Petroleum Production Exploration Association (APPEA).

"We do have some very big hurdles in front of us in order to keep this investment wave going," said the APPEA's chief executive David Byers on Sunday.

Mr Byers said in an election year there was "a lot of people who are looking to win friends and votes by raising the hurdles that we face even higher".

"And here I'm not just talking about the Greens," Mr Byers told reporters in Brisbane.

"In recent time we've seen government of both political persuasions at both federal and state levels prone to flip flopping on gas regulation."


Brisbane City Council to relax tree and vegetation protection laws

RESIDENTS will be able to trim street trees for the first time in almost 20 years and protected growths will become easier to remove from properties under sweeping changes to Brisbane's vegetation protection rules.

In a move likely to anger some community and environmental groups, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk will today announce the proposed amendments aimed at "ensuring people's lives and homes aren't put in unnecessary danger".

The changes to the Natural Assets Local Law will affect more than 60,000 Brisbane properties housing protected trees and could have implications for about 600,000 city street trees, including Moreton Bay figs, jacarandas, red gums and hoop pines.

Anybody wishing to trim or remove protected trees from their land will still have to apply to Brisbane City Council.

However, rather than just consider the tree's health, council will place more emphasis on risks to life or property and "nuisance issues".

Residents will also no longer have to commission an arborist report before starting work.

The council is also planning to lift a 20-year ban on residents pruning street trees affecting their properties.

Currently residents must call on council to request officers carry out even the most minor trimming of street trees.

Property owners will still have to flag the pruning work with council before getting to work but can gain approval on grounds including "safety, nuisance or presentation". Cr Quirk said the changes were a "reaction to growing community concern" about protected trees being put before the rights of residents.

"There will undoubtedly be opponents to these changes, but the January storms reminded us all how easily seemingly healthy trees can cause serious harm and common sense needs to prevail," he said.

Cr Quirk said the council would continue to maintain park and street trees and carry out major work but did not want to stand in the way of residents wishing to carry out minor work on public trees affecting their properties.

On-the-spot fines of up to $550 will also be introduced for offences including unauthorised interference with a protected tree.

Key tree species covered by the Natural Assets Local Law:

* Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii). Attains heights over 25m.

* Forest Red Gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis). Attains heights over 25m. Known for dropping large branches without warning.

* Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia). Grows to 15m high x 12m wide.

* Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla). Grows, on average, 30 to 35 metres tall and 40 metres wide. The same species that famously fell over in New Farm Park.

* Leopard Tree (a common council street tree). Leopard Trees drop seed pods causing a slip hazard to pedestrians, aren't native and council no longer actively plants them.


28 May. 2013

Privacy laws stop cops tracking lawless "refugees"

PRIVACY restrictions are preventing police being told where asylum seekers are living in the community.

The Immigration Department has told a parliamentary committee that "due to privacy reasons", police were not told where boat arrivals on bridging visas are.

More than 10,000 asylum seekers who have been released have had initial security checks, but are yet to undergo screening by ASIO.

Four people in community detention have been charged with animal cruelty, theft and assault, while four on bridging visas have been charged with stalking, custody of a knife, and assaults.

Police have been called to asylum seeker housing five times over assaults from November 2011 to December last year. Four asylum seekers living in the community have since absconded and are yet to be found.

In detention centres across Australia, asylum seekers who have not had their refugee claims processed since the government began a "no advantage" policy in August have been involved in 56 critical incidents and 155 major incidents in two months to October.

Acting Opposition immigration spokesman Michael Keenan claimed police had asked for locations of asylum seekers.

"This is not only because of their responsibilities, but also because asylum seeker families particularly may require protection," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said character checks, consideration of behaviour and co-operation were taken into account before people were released and that they then had to report to the department regularly.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor's spokesman said: "This is lazy, fearmongering journalism, given that less than half of one per cent of people in community detention or on bridging visas have been criminally charged and that people are only released into the community after security checks are completed."

The revelations came as a boat carrying 82 asylum seekers arrived on the Cocos Islands, and another boat carrying 126 people was intercepted off Christmas Island, taking arrivals for May to 2963 and just over 35,000 since Julia Gillard became PM.

Since the start of the year, 10,137 people have arrived, compared with 3428 in the same period in 2012.

Immigration Department Secretary Martin Bowles yesterday told Estimates arrivals this financial year could end up reaching 25,000.

However, the Government has only budgeted for 13,200 people next financial year, in part because only 483 people arrived in the monsoonal month of January.


Northwest Qld rivers opened up to farms

The Greenies won't be happy but the Qld govt. has given them lots to fight lately so they may just lie down on this one

SIX northwest Queensland farms are now allowed to use water from Gulf river systems for irrigation after the state government granted the first licenses.

Twenty-two applicants applied for a licence to undertake irrigated farming along the Gilbert and Flinders rivers last year, Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps says.

Three of the licence holders have access to a combined total of 80,000 megalitres from the Flinders River catchment while the remaining three licence holders will be able to use 14,220 megalitres from the Gilbert River catchment.

Mr Cripps says it's an important step towards creating a sustainable irrigated agricultural industry in the Gulf Country.

The release of water strikes the right balance between development and sustainability, he added.

"It is important to note that the volumes of water we have released had been identified as unallocated under the Gulf Water Resource Plan, after environmental flows had been taken into account," Mr Cripps said.

More water from the rivers might be released for irrigation in future.

The minister said he would fast track a CSIRO and government review on the volume of water from the Gilbert and Flinders rivers that could sustainably be released.


Australia the world's happiest nation: OECD

These ratings all have an element of arbitrariness but it is interesting that Australia scores highly on many variables

Australia is still the world's happiest nation based on criteria including income, jobs, housing and health, despite some signs of a slowing economy, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Australia kept the top spot for the third straight year, leading Sweden and Canada, the Paris-based group's Better Life Index showed, when each of 11 categories surveyed in 36 nations is given equal weight.

More than 73 per cent of people aged 15 to 64 in Australia have a paid job, above the OECD average of 66 per cent, while life expectancy at birth in Australia is almost 82 years, two years higher than the OECD average, the survey showed.

Australia, the only major developed nation to avoid the 2009 worldwide recession, remains at the top of the OECD index even as the mining boom powering economic growth crests and the government forecasts unemployment will rise to 5.75 per cent by June 2014, from 5.5 per cent last month.

“Australia performs exceptionally well in measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index,” the OECD said.

The average household net-adjusted disposable income was $US28,884 a year, well above the OECD average of $US23,047. "Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards," the OECD noted.

But the organisation also pointed out that there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20 per cent of the population earn six times as much as the bottom 20 per cent.

The data also showed Australian work fewer hours a year than their OECD peers. The average Australian works 1693 hours, compared with most people in the OECD who work 1776 hours a year.

Australians also share a stronger sense of community than the OECD average. According to the the report, 94 per cent of people "believe they know someone they could rely on in a time a need, higher than the OECD average of 90 per cent.

Moreover, more Australians participate in the democratic process than anywhere else in the OECD, with 93 per cent voter turnout during the last election, the highest among the surveyed countries. The average is 72 per cent.

Australians are also more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 84 per cent of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 80 per cent.


Conservative think tank gets practical

Almost 10 years ago, the leader of an East Arnhem Aboriginal community arrived unannounced at CIS asking for help. His community’s children were not receiving any education so he feared that they would be condemned to a life on welfare. This plea led to the CIS finding practical assistance for the community and the development of our Indigenous program.

Since then, with volunteer helpers, the community has moved forward in parallel with CIS’ Indigenous policy development. Our research exposed the failure of ‘culturally appropriate’ Indigenous education while the Baniyala community now has an excellent school with the highest Indigenous school attendance in the Northern Territory.

From education, the focus has moved to housing. The community wants decent homes instead of the sub-standard dwellings into which they have been crowded. In keeping with the CIS’ liberal philosophy, we support home ownership as an alternative to public housing.

Over the last 50 years, 20% of Australia has been returned to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ownership. Few know that this land was returned without the provision for individual land title. Australia’s Indigenous lands are the largest area on earth where you are not allowed to own your home. All prosperous societies combine good governance of communal assets such as roads, parks and hospitals, with private ownership of homes and business. On Australia’s vast Indigenous lands, communal governance is poor and private ownership is non-existent. The misery of remote communities on Indigenous lands is the result.

This East Arnhem community commenced negotiations with governments and their statutory organisations to introduce 99 year leases for private housing. Progress has been slow.

To move private housing along, two modest houses have been built in Baniyala for private rental. These houses have kitchens and bathrooms - unlike the public housing provided in remote outstations. Two families now rent these houses. One family – parents plus children – was previously ‘housed’ in an 18 feet ‘donga’ container. The other family shared bedrooms in a dwelling that would be condemned as ‘unfit for human habitation’ outside Aboriginal Australia. In their new houses, these families are planting gardens and taking advantage of ‘quiet enjoyment’ – the right of a tenant or landowner to undisturbed use and enjoyment of property. When leases over the housing blocks are issued, the tenants have the option of getting a mortgage and buying these houses.

These first two houses built for private rental and ownership have easily disproved the mantras about housing on Indigenous land. For years it has been claimed that construction costs are too high and Indigenous incomes too low, and that unlike other Australians, Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders do not want to own their homes. These are excuses used to hide the discriminatory state and federal policies that deny individual property rights on Indigenous land. The CIS and a handful of volunteers are helping a remote Northern Territory community to drive changes in these policies.


27 May, 2013

Blue-collar blues as uni equality fails by degrees

Michael Thompson points out below  the lower participation by working class people in higher education but omits to make a case for that being a bad thing.  With tradesmen making a mint and graduates flipping hamburgers, I suspect it is a good thing

WHY has the participation rate in higher education of people from low socioeconomic status backgrounds - in effect the working class - changed so little during the past 40 or 50 years?

The Whitlam government's abolition of university fees from 1974 ushered in "free" education. However, "equal" education proved more elusive. According to Gough Whitlam's private secretary, Peter Wilenski, the effect of abolishing fees was "found to have had no impact on the socioeconomic distribution of the origins of university students, and was in effect a direct handout to the better off".

Several government discussion papers and the like have reviewed higher education, including the 1996 report by the then Higher Education Council and the 2008 Bradley report. They tell of little change in the participation of low SES students in higher education, with their overall proportion of enrolment having remained static at about 15 per cent across the past two decades. The latest statistics show their proportion at only 16.7 per cent of total commencements last year. And, even if more working class students attend university in the 2010s, their numbers will likely be far exceeded by increases in students coming from better-off families.

Women made up 51 per cent of all students by 1989, with those from middle-class backgrounds now over-represented by 10-15 per cent. Although women's participation is skewed towards arts-humanities, health and education, they are underrepresented in higher-degree research programs.

As for the future, the government supported the Bradley report's recommendation that by 2020 "20 per cent of undergraduate enrolments in higher education should be students from low socioeconomic backgrounds".

But people of low SES make up 25 per cent of the population (to this day they participate at only a little more than half their proportion of the population). Further, their target date of 2020 falls 12 years after it was recommended, and 46 years after Whitlam abolished fees.

The government's target for the low SES evinces a certain lack of urgency on its part. What's been going on?

In 1996, the HEC's chairman, Gordon Stanley, was adamant that the reason for the under-representation in higher education of people from low SES backgrounds is not "barriers to access"; rather, it is their "individual and family attitudes and values about higher education".

Coming from an Anglo-Celtic working-class family, and growing up in the 1950s and 60s, I naturally thought of getting a good job, an apprenticeship. Like most of those of my age around me, my horizons were narrow. No one among my immediate family or relatives had ever finished high school. And there were few visible examples of working-class success. I lacked confidence in my intellectual ability. I never dreamed of going to university.

More insidiously, the working class almost invariably is portrayed by the progressive entertainment industry and media as at best buffoons and at worst proto-Nazis. Lately it is spoken of sneeringly as "bogan". Lindsay Tanner writes that "bogan is the new word for working class", and says calling someone bogan "has become an all-purpose put-down. If you want to label someone crass, crude and stupid, bogan is the word for you."

If people are told often enough that they're dummies with nasty little prejudices, they come to believe it; they internalise it. This stereotyping of the working class as unfit serves to mask the progressives' own class interest.

The HEC warned in its report that if "the desired results to have student population more representative of the groups in the community are to be achieved, the over-representation of other groups will have to be reduced". It's a zero-sum game (in which the losses exactly equal the winnings); an increase in students from the working class means fewer from professional families, many of whom are progressives, whose main asset is knowledge: their university degrees.

The government supported the Bradley report's recommendation that institutions determine how many students to enrol; on the face of it, then, no more zero-sum game.

However, those from low SES backgrounds are likelier to have attended disadvantaged schools. They are typically ill-prepared for university and so do not satisfy the higher entry requirements for so-called professional degrees such as medicine and law, enrolling instead in business (economics and accounting) and arts-humanities.

The abolition of student quotas has seen universities lower entry requirements; now almost anyone is accepted into business and arts-humanities degrees at non-sandstone universities.

Students enrolled in business are often forced to pay the same HECS fees as those in professional degrees (although students in arts-humanities pay less). The money paid by these students has been used to cross-subsidise those in medicine and law. In effect, low SES students are subsidising wealthier students who have attended selective and non-parish Catholic schools where they have been groomed for university studies. A perverse outcome - reminding one of Wilenski's observation.

Where to begin anew?

Why not broaden working-class youths' horizons, and put an end to the undermining of their confidence?

The government supported outreach activities in communities with poor higher education participation rates, along with institutions and schools raising the aspirations of people from low SES backgrounds to attend university.

They may help broaden horizons, but as the figures quoted earlier indicate governments' track record with programs is not encouraging.

Governments could review their advertisements that reinforce the stereotyping of working-class families as dysfunctional, such as those censuring violence against women and the irresponsible behaviour by parents that can lead to underage drinking, as they almost invariably show working-class husbands, boyfriends and fathers as the perpetrators.

The government also may want to consider a prominent and ongoing national advertising campaign encouraging participation in higher education, featuring working-class male and female success stories as role models. Use of the media in this way could go a long way towards broadening working-class youths' horizons and boosting their confidence.


Homosexual nurse admits murder of old folk

As a 35-year old geriatric nurse with no family he was obviously going nowhere vocationally or in any other way so he apparently needed something to make him feel good about himself. Being Asian probably made him feel an outsider too. That he was interviewed by police BEFORE the fire suggests that he had already begun to behave erratically

No mention below of Mr Dean's "partner".  Asians are normally very law-abiding

EMOTIONS ran high for the families of 11 elderly people killed in a Sydney nursing home blaze as they heard the man responsible for their care plead guilty to murdering them.

On the first day of his four-week murder trial, Roger Dean, 37, stood with eyes downcast and hands clasped as he quietly said "guilty" to 11 counts.

He also admitted to causing grievous bodily harm to a further eight residents who were injured in the Quakers Hill nursing home fire.

Family members in the packed courtroom cried and one woman ran out of court sobbing loudly as Dean admitted his guilt.  Outside they clung to each other and wept.

Dean, who worked as a nurse in the home, started the fire in two parts of the building on November 18, 2011.

He appeared on national television in the aftermath of the blaze, describing his efforts to help rescue those trapped inside.

Firefighters and paramedics who battled the fire and helped rescue the frail residents described it as one of the worst scenes they had ever dealt with.

Elly Valkay, whose 90-year-old mother was killed in the fire, said she was relieved at the outcome.  "My perfect scenario was that he would stand up in court and say guilty to all charges," Ms Valkay told reporters.  "My prayers were answered."

Last year Dean offered to plead guilty to the manslaughter of the 11 residents but those pleas were rejected by the crown.

He also lost a bid last week to be tried by judge alone and his trial before a jury was expected to last four weeks.

Dean had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of stealing prescription drugs from the home and they will be taken into account when he is sentenced.  His case returns to court on Thursday.

Ms Valkay says she shared a close bond with her mother Neeltje Valkay, who died of smoke inhalation four days after the fire.

"It was, I think, joy in my heart to see that my mother would say yes - justice is going to be done, and we're going to see it," she told reporters.

She said her family in Australia and in Holland continued to grieve.  "I still do the wrong left-hand turn to go home and go past the nursing home, which I did every day," she said. "There's been a lot of loneliness on both sides of the world ... I still have nightmares."

Gary Barnier, managing director of Domain Principal Group, which owns the nursing home, said the events of that night had caused damage to so many lives.

"At least today justice has been done," an emotional Mr Barnier told reporters, adding he felt "not relief, just sadness" at the guilty pleas.

Despite the heroism of staff on the night, many of them struggled with feelings of guilt after the blaze, he said.

Lessons had been learnt, with fire sprinklers now mandatory across NSW, he added.  "This thing that happened was the act of one man and in no way representative of the aged care sector," Mr Barnier said.

Neale Becke, whose 96-year-old mother Doris Becke was murdered, said his mother loved kids and had "heaps of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren".

"At last we're getting justice for her," Mr Becke told reporters.

"Not just my mother but all of those down there who perished in that darn fire."


Tax failure as teens tap into goon (bulk white wine)

TERRITORY teens are loading up on cheap goon to avoid the alcopop tax, an alcohol activist has said.

And Australian drinkers have spent $4.5 billion in "alcopop" taxes that have failed to curb teen binge drinking, a federally funded study released today reveals.  The study shows the tax has not dinted the number of teenagers and young people with alcohol-related injuries.

People's Alcohol Action Coalition spokesman Dr John Boffa said alcopops were very expensive before they were loaded with the tax.

"The key problem for young people is pre-loading on cheap grog," he said.  "The grog of choice for that is cheap cask wine.

"Then they buy the more expensive alcopops later when they go out. That's why you need a floor price that does not allow for substitution."

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd slapped a 70 per cent tax increase on pre-mixed drinks - dubbed "alcopops" - in 2008 to try to curb binge drinking. But a University of Queensland analysis of 87,665 alcohol-related visits to hospital emergency departments over three years has found the tax made no difference.

"The premise was that this tax would reduce alcohol consumption among young people, as teenagers of both sexes prefer pre-mixed drinks over other forms of alcohol," the researchers concluded. "The increased tax on 'alcopops' was not associated with any reduction in hospital admissions for alcohol-related harms in Queensland 15-29-year-olds."

The lead researcher, UQ School of Population Health professor Steve Kisely, said young people had turned to other types of drink. Some bottle shops taped bottles of soft drink or fruit juice to bottles of spirits, once the tax came in.

"If teenagers are looking for a good time and find their favorite tipple of alcopops has doubled in price, they're not going to go home and have a hot mug of chocolate," he said. "They're going to find something else."


Qld. police declare they can not reduce crime unless they have more freedom to chase criminals in car

POLICE have declared they will not be able to reduce crime unless they have more freedom to chase criminals in cars.

So frustrated are police by their inability to pursue most offenders, mock-up posters ridiculing the pursuit policy are doing the rounds of stations.

One such poster shows the penguins from the animated hit Madagascar films, with their catch-cry "Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave".

Under the current policy, police must terminate a pursuit if a single road rule is broken.

Although the State Government has moved to increase penalties for people who evade police, police say that has failed to make a difference.

In the nine months since motorists were threatened with a $5000 fine and two-year licence suspension for not stopping for police, 855 people have been charged with the offence - more than three every day.

Police Minister Jack Dempsey has undertaken to review the much-maligned pursuit policy.

Acting Police Commissioner Ross Barnett said he was aware of frustration among "rank and file officers".

"But the key question for the community has to remain: Is the death of an innocent person, an innocent motorist, a price the community is prepared to pay for the unfettered right of police to pursue?" he said.

However, officers insist lives are being lost because of the reckless driving behaviour of some people who police often cannot pursue.

One officer, who did not want to be named, highlighted the recent death of Mal Osborne, 58, after his vehicle was struck by an allegedly speeding stolen car driven by a 19-year-old at Beenleigh.

He said it was a graphic reminder that offenders were driving dangerously even when they were not being pursued.

Writing in this month's Queensland Police Union journal, Metropolitan South executive Tony Collins called for a new pursuit policy that offered legal protection for officers involved.

"There is a complete lack of respect for the road rules, and stolen cars are crashing because of the way they are being driven, not because they are being chased," he wrote.

Mr Dempsey said there was a misconception of a no-pursuit policy when there was a "managed pursuit policy".

Queensland Coroner Michael Barnes reviewed the pursuit policy in 2009, following 10 deaths in four years, including that of school girl Caitlin Hanrick, 13, in 2006.

Mr Barnett said Commissioner Ian Stewart had "committed in the past to having a review of the policy within the next six months once we have sufficient data".


26 May, 2013

Gillard huffs and puffs over Tom

Empty threats.  She threatens action if what is already broadly agreed does not happen.  Just bandwagon hopping

Tom Waterhouse

SPORTS broadcasters face a complete ban on the promotion of betting odds during live sports matches in Australia.

Facing a growing public backlash over the rise of gambling advertising, Prime Minister Julia Gillard will today announce TV, radio and internet broadcasters must agree to the ban or legislation will be rushed into parliament before the September polls. Bookmakers, including the high-profile Tom Waterhouse, will be banned from appearing in the commentary team at any time and identified if interviewed outside of the venue.

Broadcasters could face a complete ban on gambling advertisements during live broadcasts if they breached the new code with the government warning that if the intensity of advertising continues to rise, it "will impose a total advertising ban". Under the proposed changes, all generic gambling broadcast advertisements will also be banned during play.

Advertising to promote gambling would be allowed before or after a game or during a scheduled break in play, including at quarter-time and half-time.


Quack medicine taught to doctors

General practitioners are receiving government-mandated training by doctors who claim vaccines are linked to autism and temper tantrums can be treated by delaying immunisation.

The body that oversees doctors will investigate how the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), which represents more than 20,000 GPs, could have approved the course as part of its "continuing professional development" program.

Ongoing education is supposed to protect patients by ensuring practitioners are trained in the most up-to-date medical evidence. But experts fear the system is failing because of inadequate oversight.

The GP training course is run by the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, which says it "does not have a policy on immunisation", and doctors should "make informed decisions determined by evidence-based science".

Its four-day course perpetuates long-discredited misinformation about immunisation, including claims childhood vaccines contain mercury. It also references researcher Andrew Wakefield, whose work was found to be wrong and tainted by financial conflicts of interest.

Australian Medical Association head Steve Hambleton said the accreditation of training courses should be reviewed.

"Clearly, this is concerning and it's not something the college or the AMA can be comfortable with, and neither can the parents of children," he said. "Colleges have a great responsibility to ensure they are doing their job."

A hospital doctor who discovered the anti-vaccination course, Martin Tio, said patients could be put at risk by misinformation. "If you are going to delay vaccination or, to use the example from the vaccine-specific course lectures, to make a case vaccines are linked to autism … it could easily discourage them from getting vaccinated."

He feared the acceptance of unscientific claims was becoming more widespread in the medical community.

Ken McLeod, from Stop the Australian (Anti)Vaccination Network, said he was aghast to see such dangerous misinformation given to doctors. "You have to wonder who let these discredited cranks in," he said.

Professor of public health at Bond University Chris Del Mar said doctor training was often influenced by vested interests and lacking an evidence base.

"There are very serious flaws in the way continuing medical education is conducted," he said. He was particularly concerned about courses run by drug companies.

Medical Board of Australia spokeswoman Nicole Newton said it would be concerned about training that was inconsistent with good medical practice. "The board will follow this up with the college," she said.

The Australian Medical Council accredited education requirements set by colleges, she said, but left the examination of individual courses to the colleges.

A spokeswoman for the RACGP would not comment on the course while it was under investigation. "The RACGP endorses and actively supports immunisation," she said. "Temper tantrums are not a recognised reason for delay of immunisations."

She emphasised there was no link between vaccines and autism and said using Mr Wakefield's research would "constitute serious academic misconduct".


Rural gamblers need the wisdom of Solomon

One man responsible for 450 hectares.  That would be a wonder in most of the Old World

Agronomist Andrew Daley and grain farmer James Bowman are smiling at the silver beads of rain water dribbling down broad leaves of a new canola crop near Harden.

The gentle patter of rain and soft cries of sheep over the hills beyond burnt stubble paddocks are in sharp contrast to farmers' nervous calls to Mr Daley about whether to risk sowing during a bone-dry autumn.

"I usually sit on my arse in autumn, but I've had every farmer ringing, very indecisive. I just say, 'keep going'," Mr Daley said.  "Ninety per cent of my farmers have put in crops.

"That extra 10 days you get from having it in early in the warmth, it makes a huge difference. Unlike out west, where some crops are not sown in a dry autumn, from about Stockinbingal (near Cootamundra) , the crops go in regardless.

"You are pretty well guaranteed some winter rain. You will get a crop of some sort. If you can't harvest it you get enough to at least cut hay."

James Bowman is one of Mr Daley's clients confident enough to invest in a 450-hectare canola crop, which needs more nitrogen than wheat.

"We've been lucky," Mr Bowman said. "We had five millimetres in a storm. Once the crop came up we knew we'd be right because the tap roots would get into the moisture."

NSW Department of Primary Industries technical specialist Peter Matthews said no useful rain fell throughout most of autumn causing growers to either delay or dry-sow early season crops such as canola.

"This year most growers don't have any subsoil moisture, so moving forward, even if we manage to get the crop in and growing, it is high risk. We are going to be very dependent on rainfall through winter and spring.

"For growers who didn't dry sow, we see a lot of growers shift out of canola, and go for lower-risk crops like wheat and barley."

The Bureau of Meteorology says there is a higher chance of a wetter than normal winter for south-east Australia.

But the bureau won't commit to either a wet La Nina or dry El Nino pattern, saying all atmospheric and oceanic indicators are showing neutral values.

Mr Daley and Mr Bowman believe growers in the Harden district de-risk crops by grazing stock on them and conserving moisture.

Better sowing technology that needs minimal tilling and relying on herbicides to kill competing weeds also helps.

Mr Daley said a new winter variety of canola needed 40 days of below 3degrees temperatures.  "That's all right, we had 50 frosts last year," he said.

Next week Mr Bowman will let out lambs on this canola crop, and expects them to put on 300 grams a day. Stock will feed on the crop until August, then it will be locked up until harvesting when it's chest height in December.



Three current reports below

Many conservative Federal politicians opposed to windfarms

Outspoken Liberal MPs plan to defy publicly the official party line by attending a Tea Party-style anti-wind-farm rally at Parliament House, widening the rift in Coalition ranks over renewable energy targets.

The Canberra rally on June 18 is being promoted through a clandestine group using a website called, which conceals the identity of many of its supporters.

Broadcaster Alan Jones is named on the site as master of ceremonies for the event, which is being touted as the "Wind Power Fraud" rally.

NSW Liberal MPs Craig Kelly and Alby Schultz are among the line-up of speakers, as is West Australian Liberal senator Chris Bach. The Coalition's star candidate to replace the retiring Mr Schultz in the seat of Hume Angus Taylor has also been recruited.

The boldness of the Liberal wind-farm opponents is raising suggestions the Coalition is about to backflip on the renewable energy target, a bipartisan commitment to source a fifth of Australia's power from renewables by 2020.

The shadow environment minister Greg Hunt recently confirmed the party's commitment to the target and chose not to chastise the MPs who had begun speaking out against it.

"The Coalition is aware of the community concerns regarding wind farms," Mr Hunt said. "We have committed to a full medical research into the potential impact if elected. It is important that MPs listen to their communities … there is no change to our support for the 20 per cent target."

During a post-budget interview with Mr Jones, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey would not be drawn on the issue, saying only that he would have to consult with his colleagues.

The rally's organisers are goading Mr Hockey to "come clean" over renewable energy.

Victorian senator John Madigan (Democratic Labor) and independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon will also speak. The pair has co-sponsored of an excessive noise bill in relation to wind farms.

Senator Xenophon said he was invited through Senator Madigan's office and didn't really know who was behind the rally.

"I don't look at all my invitations that closely," he said. "But I am happy to talk at the event and I will say that, while I do believe something should be done about climate change, the economics of wind farms don't stack up and neither do the environmental benefits."

Senator Madigan's office confirmed he was scheduled to address the gathering.

Environmental groups did not wish to comment, but it's understood plans are being considered to stage a Canberra event in support of renewable energy on the same day.


Wildlife guru is a people hater

It figures, I guess.  The USA has 300 million people.  Australia has 22 million.  The USA and Australia are about the same size geographically.  It takes a Greenie to see no room for expansion in Australia's population

ONE of the world’s leading naturalists, Sir David Attenborough, has cautioned Australia against pursuing further population growth, labelling an unlimited expansion a kind of madness.

Speaking to the Sunday Canberra Times ahead of a national tour of Australia in June, Sir David questioned why the country still found itself from time to time actively debating whether it needed to grow its population.

“Why would you want to do that? I don’t understand that. The notion that you could continue to expand and increase and grow in an infinite way on a planet which is finite, is a kind of lunacy. You can see how mad that is by the expression that you can’t believe that you can grow infinitely in a finite place – unless of course you’re an economist.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s population is estimated to grow to between 30.9 million and 42.5 million people by 2056.

The first Sustainable Australia report released earlier this month said the nation’s population was growing at 1.7 per cent, one of the fastest rates in the developed world.

In 2009 former prime minister Kevin Rudd called for a ‘Big Australia’, but his successor Julia Gillard has rejected that notion and called instead for sustainable growth.

Sir David said his tour next month was to discuss highlights of his six decades of nature filmmaking, not to speak out on environmental issues. “I’m not on a proselytising tour. On occasions I speak on these issues where it’s appropriate and where the subject has come up,” he said.

While he did not believe bureaucrats should meddle in a family’s right to have children, he said had China not introduced its controversial one-child policy in 1979 the consequences for the planet would have been catastrophic.

“One thing you can say is that in those places where women are in charge of their bodies, where they have the vote, where they are allowed to dictate what they do and what they want, whether it’s proper medical facilities for birth control, the birth rate falls,” he said.


Solar price rise to end power divide

"Investors" in government promises to lose their dividends.  LOL

AUSTRALIA'S one million rooftop solar households could be forced to pay new fixed charges to help recover billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies and make electricity prices fairer for all consumers.

A series of electricity industry reports has highlighted the inequity in existing power pricing where customers without solar panels are unfairly subsidising those with them.

Queensland Energy Minister Mark McArdle has warned that existing rooftop solar contracts will cost the state more than $2.8 billion over the next 15 years and is preparing a major submission to cabinet within a month recommending more user-pays charges. Electricity tariffs could be changed to include a higher network access charge and lower unit prices per kilowatt hour, a move that would increase the cost for rooftop solar users.

A national meeting of electricity executives in Sydney this week discussed a potential "death spiral" for the industry as high electricity prices force more people off the grid, increasing costs further for those who remained.

Mr McArdle said the number of households with rooftop solar had continued to grow despite a cutback in government subsidies and the gap between the haves and have-nots in electricity widening.

"If one group of consumers enjoys a benefit in excess of the true savings they make, other electricity customers have to pay the price of those excess benefits or lower prices," he said.

"When those doing the paying are likely those least able to afford it, and those enjoying the benefits are those likely to be most able to afford to meet their true costs, then something is truly wrong."

The problem was compounded because power companies were forced to buy high-priced electricity from rooftop solar when there was no demand for electricity from customers.

And baseload power generators were forced to run inefficiently to be ready for when "intermittent" solar power was not available.

Renewable industry lobby groups have rejected calls for a new fixed charge.

Clean Energy Council deputy chief executive Kane Thornton said: "It would be like telling early adopters of email that they need to chip in to pay for stamps."

The Greens said yesterday they would spend $405 million a year on a new federal government agency to cut spending on electricity infrastructure, improve energy efficiency, and set higher prices for renewable energy produced by households which generate solar power.

Leader Christine Milne said the Greens were the only party with innovative ideas to help Australians live a fairer, cheaper and cleaner future.

The cost of the new agency would not include the higher charges paid by electricity companies from rooftop solar under the Greens scheme. An investigation by the Queensland Productivity Commission found that, by 2015-16, most Queenslanders would be paying $276 a year or 17 per cent of their annual power bill to subsidise other residents having solar power on their roofs.

Mr McArdle said this did not include the cost of upgrading the electricity network to cope with widespread power flowing back into the grid.

A report by consultancy ACIL Tasman for the Electricity Supply Association of Australia said solar customers were overcompensated when they generated electricity and used it on site because they were not making a contribution to the cost of providing network services.

There were also issues of equity and fairness, as some customers were unable to install rooftop solar systems because they were renters or lived in an apartment.

Fairness was an issue because one customer's choice to install rooftop solar forced other customers to pay more for network service.

"The distortion could give rise to a 'price spiral' where the rising cost of electricity, driven by the ongoing reallocation of network costs, made solar increasingly attractive to customers," ACIL Tasman said.

The ESAA discussion paper, Who Pays for Solar Energy, said more than one in 10 households were generating electricity from solar panels on their roof.

"Subsidies for solar systems have to be paid for somehow," the paper said.  "Basically, households who don't have solar help pay the power bills of households who do.  "The cost of these transfers from non-solar to solar households now runs to many millions of dollars per year."

Like Queensland, all state governments have cut back their generous feed-in tariff schemes, but are likely to seriously consider the ESAA reports to move towards a fixed network access charge. Solar has posed significant problems for electricity companies in Western Australia and NSW.

The discussion paper said a new way was needed to charge consumers for the cost of the networks to make sure everybody paid their fair share.  "We have to find a more equitable way for charging for electricity that does not unfairly benefit some households because they can afford the latest technology," the discussion paper said. "Electricity consumers should pay their fair share of network costs.

"One way to make the way we pay for electricity more equitable is to change network tariffs so they better reflect underlying costs."

This could include a higher proportion of fixed network charges and a lower percentage based on the amount of electricity consumed.

Mr Thornton said calls for higher fixed charges for households with solar panels were "ridiculous".

"Similar claims that solar drives up bills because network upgrades are required to accommodate the extra electricity fed into the grid are also incorrect," he said.  "All new solar systems in Queensland are required to go through an assessment process with the distribution business to ensure they do not adversely impact on the grid."


24 May, 2013

NSW Health Minister to get tough on vaccination ignoramuses

Where taxpayer-subsidized childcare facilities are concerned, I would make a full vaccination record a condition of entry. Fanatical anti-vaccination parents can set up their own centres and infect one-another

UNVACCINATED children could be banned from childcare centres under changes to the law planned by Health Minister Jillian Skinner.

In what would be a significant victory for The Daily Telegraph's and Sunday Telegraph's "No Jab No Play" campaign, Ms Skinner revealed she was planning to act on unvaccinated children attending childcare.

"I have, for some time, been discussing with the NSW Chief Health Officer measures to deal with unvaccinated children accessing childcare services and expect to be able to introduce amending legislation in the near future," the minister said.

"No Jab, No Play" was launched this month to stop the rise in the number of children succumbing to preventable diseases because parents are failing to have them fully immunised.

Ms Skinner said any changes would allow parents with a "genuine objection" to be exempt. This would include medical reasons and "objection, on grounds such as religious beliefs".

Ms Skinner said she supported the public health benefits of vaccination.

"The truth is there is something to fear from not being vaccinated," she said.  "If you have ever seen a baby with whooping cough or a young child struggling with measles you will know vaccination is the way to go."

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said a Coalition government would allow childcare centres to turn away unvaccinated children and review benefits paid to vaccine refusers.

Opposition Leader John Robertson will introduce legislation into parliament today to give preschools and childcare centres the right to ban children who are not immunised.  However, the government is unlikely to vote for changes drafted by the opposition.

Mr Robertson said the government should be protecting preschool-aged children from preventable diseases.

"This shouldn't be about the alternative wishes of parents who choose to ignore the advice of doctors; it has to be about the health of our children and young people," he said.

 NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell said he's prepared to amend the state's anti-discrimination laws to allow preschools and care centres to refuse children who haven't been vaccinated.

Mr O'Farrell said he hadn't seen Mr Robertson's bill but his government supported in principle the right for preschools to ban unvaccinated students.   "We're happy to see what their legislation is but if we don't think their legislation reflects what we've decided, we'll introduce our own," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"We don't rule out amendments to the anti-discrimination legislation if they're necessary to uphold existing and long-standing public health practice and policies."


Independent Schools unite to oppose Labor Party reforms

INDEPENDENT schools have struck out against the Gillard government's proposed Gonski education funding changes, declaring that the budget shows not only no additional money but a "significant reduction" for non-government schools.

The Independent Schools Council of Australia has warned Julia Gillard that, without funds to replace the budget cuts, "independent schools will not be in a position to adequately support their disadvantaged students".

The ISCA, like the National Catholic Education Commission, has complained to the Prime Minister about uncertainty arising from the budget's immediate education forecasts and challenged Labor's public claims about increased funding.

There is now a unified national front from the non-government school sector querying the benefits of the Gonski reforms, undermining the Prime Minister's campaign to get the remaining five premiers and two chief ministers to sign a national agreement by June 30.

Ms Gillard has been campaigning all week to get leaders to join NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, claiming schools would be $16.2 billion worse off over 10 years if her reforms were not accepted and Tony Abbott were elected.

The Independent Education Union in NSW yesterday joined the NSW Catholic Education Commission in strongly objecting to the proposed funding changes and asking members to immediately lobby federal Labor MPs over the "little prospect of significant additional funding, to public, Catholic and independent schools in the short term".

"Catholic and independent employer associations continue to be frustrated by the lack of robustness and stability of the proposed models for funding distribution," the union said.

The letter to Ms Gillard from the Independent Schools Council of Australia, obtained by The Australian, said: "It is difficult to undertake a fully informed analysis of the budget papers due to the unusual circumstances of there being no information in the papers relating to school enrolment projections or information on growth factors beyond December 31, 2013."

Overall, the letter says, there is a "reduction in Australian government funding for schools rather than the increases to school funding that the government indicated would flow to disadvantaged students".

The council was having "difficulty reconciling" budget figures "with the government's public commitments".

Specifically, the independent schools complain about the redirection of National Plan for School Improvement funds and the loss of Targeted Programs, which appears to cut funding for the next two years.

"Without an appropriate level of replacement funding from these loadings for 2014 onwards, independent schools will not be in a position to adequately support their disadvantaged students," the letter says.

"This immediate loss of Targeted Programs means that any replacement funding is required from the first year of implementation in 2014, not phasing in to 2019 or beyond."

The National Catholic Education Commission has also "strongly expressed" its dissatisfaction to the Gillard government over "an unsatisfactory situation" on funding that "still drags on and now threatens to become a political football for several more months".

On Wednesday, the NSW head of the Catholic Education Commission, Bishop Anthony Fisher, said the process and calculations for non-government school funding for 2014 and beyond were uncertain, imprecise, extremely complex and annually variable.

Tony Abbott and the opposition education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, have accused the Gillard government of a "con" and a budget "fiddle" over the figures and rejected Labor's claims that $16.2bn will be lost to schools if the Gonski reforms are not implemented.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said last night Ms Gillard had had "positive discussions" with independent schools since the letter was written. "Funding for independent schools will increase year on year - that is clear from the budget," the spokesman said.


Good riddance to car manufacturing in Australia

Despite government directing billions of dollars in corporate welfare towards Australia’s car industry, Ford has upped stumps and will stop manufacturing cars in Australia in 2016.

While this is bad news for employees of Ford and its suppliers, it will hopefully mark the beginning of the end of wasteful government subsidies for Australia’s inefficient and expensive car industry. Check out the CIS’ press release on the Ford closures here.

To help employees in the car industry find new jobs, perhaps the government should abolish our outdated and redundant industrial award system to create a more flexible and productive labour market as outlined in a new report released today by CIS researcher Alexander Philipatos.

Unfortunately, the government probably won’t understand our recommendations, given that they are already struggling to understand their own referendum on recognising local government in the constitution.

In other news, the government is spending $2 million to prop up the ‘independent’ [Leftist] website The Conversation.  Independence from government cannot be guaranteed by government funding. That’s why the CIS has never accepted government money and never will.

Via email from CIS

Fast and loose talk about the ALP budget deficit

IT has been quite a week for economic pointy heads. First we had Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson deliver his normal post-budget speech. This year the title was "Budgeting in Challenging Times".

We then had the release of a working paper authored by a number of Treasury officials entitled "Estimating the Structural Budget Balance of the Australian Government: An Update".

And to confuse matters even more, the Parliamentary Budget Office released a report entitled "Estimates of the Structural Budget Balance of the Australian Government: 2001-02 to 2016-17".

If you are thinking it sounds like a high degree of overlap, you are not wrong.

So here is Parkinson's view of the world. "As the economy expands, government expenditure has tended to expand with it and thus the scope of government services per person has increased, albeit remaining roughly constant as a share of GDP. We also know that health and pension expenditure are set to increase further as the population ages and as changes in preferences and technology drive increased expenditure on health services."

But here's the thing - as the economy expands and per capita income rises, we should expect the role of government to diminish, not expand. As a consequence of being wealthier, the welfare bill should decline, at least relatively, and an increasing proportion of the population should purchase services privately.

That this has not occurred thus far should not deter our top economic bureaucrat from drawing our attention to the fact that government services shouldn't be regarded as superior goods - the technical term for a good or service the demand for which rises more than proportionately with income.

This point links in with one of the key messages of the Treasury working paper and the PBO report: if it were not for those damned income tax cuts implemented through 2003-04 and 2008-09, all would be hunky dory. The PBO, for instance, attributes two-thirds of the structural budget deficits in the 10 years ending 2011-12 to the income tax cuts.

Are they kidding? Are we expected to believe that the government would not have spent those extra income tax receipts? Given that the Labor government was prepared to run down the negative net debt position it inherited, raid any trust funds hanging around and borrow to spend even more money, this assumption is heroic to say the least.

And can I be just a little bit picky here? The mother-of-all income tax cuts was actually implemented by the Rudd government, after the Ruddster decided to match the proposal for income tax cuts made by John Howard in the 2007 election campaign. This round of income tax cuts was estimated to "cost" more than $30 billion.

But where is the economic modelling telling us how the economic pie has grown as a result of these income tax cuts? And where is the obvious point that people value a dollar in their own pockets more highly than they value a dollar in the pockets of Canberra bureaucrats?

Take another howler in the PBO report - it removes the stimulus spending from its calculations of the structural budget balance. Because? Evidently the $67bn in expenditure identified as "stimulus spending" is somehow not real. Weirdly, the costs of servicing the accumulated debt are included.

By excluding the stimulus spending, the PBO estimates of the structural budget deficits during the terms of the Labor government are significantly reduced. And note that the estimates in the PBO report don't line up with the Treasury estimates for 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2011-12.

On this point it is hard to disagree with Parkinson: "Those that produce structural budget balance estimates should be transparent about their methodology, clear about their assumptions and open about how sensitive the estimates are to plausible changes in key parameters."

But one of the messages of the estimates of the structural budget balances produced by Treasury and the PBO this week cannot go unchallenged. This message is that the budgetary pickle we are in is really all the fault of Howard and Peter Costello.

To be blunt, this is just rubbish. Even if we assume that Howard and Costello overspent by not producing even bigger cash surpluses, this government has had plenty of time to reverse the tax cuts and institute spending restraint. It has done neither.

And to blame other factors, such as the decision to abandon the indexation of petroleum excise, is just bizarre. Get over it, I say. The decision was taken by the Howard government. If the Labor government didn't like it, indexation could have been reinstated.

Economic pointy heads aside, I can't believe anyone is taking any notice of this arcane discussion of the true state of the budget. And bear in mind, the forecast improvement to the structural budget balance is completely dependent on the forward projections in this year's budget being met. The government has a very poor record when it comes to budget projections coming true.

The real discussion we need to have is that lower taxes are good - they encourage work effort and create incentives for investment and saving - and government spending needs to be limited and restricted to those areas with the highest net social benefits.


23 May, 2013

No global warming where I live

BRISBANE shivered through its coldest May day in 33 years yesterday.  The good news is that it will be warmer today

While city-slickers reached for their winter woollies the drought-hit west rejoiced as rain finally fell.

Trinidad, a property between Windorah and Charleville, recorded 44mm and Thargomindah had 43mm.

Brisbane recorded a maximum of just 17.6C, the coldest May day since 1980 and almost 7C below average.

Weather Bureau forecaster Matthew Bass said it was the city's coldest day since June 27 last year.

It was the coldest May day on record at Coolangatta, which recorded a high of just 16.5C.

"We had a clear night, then cloud moved over so that prevented any major heating," Mr Bass said.  "Then that combined with rain and a little evaporation cooled things down a bit."

Mr Bass said temperatures would remain 5C to 6C below average in the interior into the weekend.

Brisbane is expected to reach 23C today, 1C below average.

Isolated showers are expected over the southeast and southern interior tomorrow.  It will be fine and mostly sunny elsewhere.

Cool to cold conditions should continue for most of Queensland into next week.


Rivals trying to spike Tom

Australia's biggest corporate bookmaker, Sportingbet, has backed calls for a complete ban on the spruiking of live odds in sports broadcasts and launched a withering attack on Tom Waterhouse.

Sportingbet joined market leader Tabcorp in voicing concern at the damage being done to the gambling industry by the growing public outrage at the intrusion of betting into football coverage.

Michael Sullivan, chief executive of Sportingbet, said he would support a full ban for the good of the industry, and accused Tom Waterhouse of "acting irresponsibly".

"What he's doing now is affecting all our businesses," said Mr Sullivan. "I'm the biggest consumer of rugby league in the world and it makes me sick in the guts when he comes on TV. The frequency of his appearances is what's also driving people mad and Channel Nine has a lot to answer for.

"Prohibition of advertising full-stop is going too far but there's some middle ground. If it means banning live odds on TV to sort this out then that's what should happen. I wouldn't have a problem with it."

Tabcorp, Australia's largest betting operator, has also gone public with its concern at the public outcry and a call for the Gillard government to step in with a national regulatory framework to replace state-based systems.

It is understood Tabcorp -which is the only other live odds provider alongside Mr Waterhouse on televised sport through its expert Glenn Munsie - would support a ban as long as the playing field was equal for all wagering operators.

In a statement, Tabcorp said: "Sports betting makes up a fraction of the gambling market but we acknowledge the extent and nature of the advertising is causing growing public concern. Tabcorp supports the introduction of further controls on sports betting advertising but if they're to be effective they need to be nationally applied and enforced."

Mr Sullivan told Fairfax Media from London that he had "held his tongue" on the Waterhouse issue for 12 months but had now had enough. "About 98 per cent of the gambling market has been doing the right thing for years. Tom represents probably 2 per cent of the market. He's trying to court this hype - perhaps with an eye to selling his business - and, quite frankly, I think he's acting irresponsibly," he said.

Mr Sullivan said Sportingbet had grown from a $500 million a year business to $3 billion through promotion - "and no one said a word", he said. "We've been there building our business for 12 years, as has Sportsbet, as has Tabcorp but this whole thing is about Tom. Quite frankly, it's gone too far."

Betfair said it would be comfortable with tighter controls. The company stepped back from paying for odds placement on TV three years ago as it became established in the market.


One subbie refuses to be ground down

Getting paid is a major problem for subbies and large organizations often don't give a !@#$% about them

AN angry subcontractor on the $37.4 billion National Broadband Network has carried out a threat to rip equipment out of the ground after a dispute over pay, The Australian reports.

Barry Pringle, the director of Bench Excavation, last night ordered his crews to dig up pipes they laid six weeks ago in Adelaide's southern suburbs for Syntheo.

The Syntheo group is a joint venture between major companies Lend Lease and Service Stream, which is the biggest contractor handling the NBN rollout.

The Australian revealed on Tuesday that Mr Pringle had threatened Syntheo that he would reclaim his materials if it did not pay him about $12,500 by close of business yesterday.


Patagonian toothfish launched on Australian market

IT'S Australia's most dangerous catch, a monster from the deep hauled out of our icy Antarctic waters more than 4000km from the mainland.

The journey to get to the grounds for the Patagonian toothfish takes more than a week and boats stay out for more than 70 days at a time.

Now, after battling pirate crews, government indifference and the logistics of fishing in such challenging conditions, Perth-based Austral Fisheries is taking on a new fight - convincing Australian consumers that their catch is ethically sound and delicious.

More than 10 years ago Patagonian toothfish was in the news when the Federal Government sent boats down to the ground near Heard Island and intercepted illegal fishers.

According to Austral Fisheries chief executive David Carter this has given the fish a bad name.

"It's like trying to convince people to eat pandas," Mr Carter said.

The company is licensed to take 2000 tonnes of the fish each year and has worked to gain Marine Stewardship Council certification for sustainability.

Up to now, however, most of the fish has been exported to the United States and Japan where it is highly prized.

"We've treated it as a bit of a commodity. But it's time to tell our story and connect the things we do with consumers," Mr Carter said.

This weekend, at the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival, the fish was launched on the Australian market with the Glacier 51 brand.

Leading chefs have taken little convincing. The fish has high oil content meaning its white, waxy flesh has a unique buttery texture and also can be frozen and transported without deteriorating.

"I've never been a fan of frozen fin fish," chef and restaurant entrepreneur Neil Perry said. "But because of its oil content it freezes well and has great flavour and texture.

"And it has a phenomenal story of sustainability and the long-term vision to make it work.

"Then there is the incredible hardship of fishing in Antarctic waters. What those guys go through is extraordinary."

Italo-Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco agrees.  "Because it is fished so far under the sea where it is very cold, the meat is very white and fat and when you cook it slowly on the barbecue the taste is amazing," said the head chef at Mirazur in France, number 28 on the prestigious San Pellegrino Best Restaurants list.


22 May, 2013

Money-hungry Gillard government grabs elderly people's savings

A QUEENSLAND pensioner emerged from a quintuple heart bypass only to find his bank had emptied his account, handing more than $22,000 to the Federal Government.

Legislative changes rushed through Parliament late last year mean money can now be identified as "unclaimed" after an account has been inactive for more than three years, instead of seven years.

Banks have already begun searching for inactive accounts that fit the new definition and transferring the cash to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, as required. ASIC then passes the money to the Commonwealth of Australia Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The Australian Bankers' Association has accused the Government of putting its "own financial circumstances" ahead of customers' needs, leaving them facing "months of delays trying to reclaim their own money".

ASIC says the money can be claimed "at any time by the rightful owner", but banks have pointed out the process can take as long as six weeks.

Toowong resident Adrian Duffy is now looking at a lengthy battle to have his savings restored.

The 75-year-old spent 21 days in hospital following quintuple heart bypass surgery and a second operation in April.

When he and his wife, 57-year-old Mary-Jane, went to check their Suncorp account, they discovered their balance had plummeted from $22,616 to zero. A note on the May 1 entry read: "Closing WDL Govt unclaimed monies."

The couple had saved for 14 years in preparation for major health-related costs.

The couple are working to recover the money, but say they were lucky to have other savings.

"If we didn't have the money elsewhere, we would now have to be paying for cardiologists, visits to surgeons, ECGs, x-rays, whatever is involved in the follow up," he said.

"We would have to find money to pay them, because those people aren't going to say to you, 'we'll wait six weeks'."

While many people believe they have until May 31 to act on their dormant accounts, banks in fact must finalise their lodgements by that date.

A Treasury spokesman said the reforms were designed to "help reunite Australians with their lost money sooner, and protect them from being eroded by fees, charges and inflation".

He said interest would be paid "at the rate of CPI inflation from 1 July 2013".

National Seniors Australia chief Michael O'Neill said the changes were more likely to hit older Queenslanders, adding

the NSA had received calls from people who were "quite disturbed" to discover the changes.

Tony Burke, acting chief executive of the Australian Bankers' Association, said he believed there was "no benefit for consumers from the changes".

State Member for Indooroopilly Scott Emerson said he was "really concerned about how easily the Federal Government is able to reach in and rip money from people's accounts".

"When this was brought to my attention I've realised how rushed this legislation has been and how badly this policy has been implemented and communicated," Mr Emerson said.

Westpac and Bank of Queensland said they had been contacting affected customers.


Vegetation clearing restrictions eased in Qld.  One in the eye for Greenies

CONTROVERSIAL vegetation clearing laws which passed in parliament last night are bound to increase the rate of clearing, conservationists warn.

The Bill also included emergency amendments to allow drought-stricken cattle to graze in suitable National Parks by the end of this week.

It comes after Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke opposed the State's plans to temporarily open up the parks to graziers.

The amendments, winding back the previous Labor government's laws, marked a sad day for conservationists but were lauded by farmers.

A small group of protesters gathered outside Parliament House yesterday.

WWF director Nick Heath said it was disgraceful that Premier Campbell Newman would go back on a pre-election promise.  "'This is one of the most damaging environmental rollbacks in Australia's history," Mr Heath said.

"These amendments have stripped away protections for up to 2 million ha of bushland which is home to vulnerable native plants and animals, including koalas, cassowaries and quolls," he said.

"The green light for bulldozing of bushland will lead to an increased extinction risk for wildlife, cause soil erosion, water pollution and release millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide.

But Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps denied the changes would lead to widescale clearing, saying it would allow farmers who had been "punished" by the former government through layers of red tape.

"It is very concerning for land owners to be told when they have made such an investment that their plans have been thrown into disarray by a government for political reasons," he said.

"It is a nonsense to suggest that the clearing of vegetation is undertaken indiscriminately or without a reasoned expectation that the farm business will expand as a result."


Poisonous Leftist broadcaster whines that a story did not treat him fairly

Since when has he ever been fair to people he disagrees with?

RAY Hadley has launched a broadside at arch enemy Mike Carlton, describing him as "the most hateful and vengeful broadcaster I've ever encountered".

"His disgraceful comments following the death of Stan Zemanek set him apart from any other broadcaster or person that I've ever encountered," he told

Hadley's comments come as Carlton criticised an Australian Story profile piece on Hadley, in which an interview with Carlton was heavily edited.

"Good taste dictates you don't speak ill of the dead," Mr Hadley said. "His bad taste knows no bounds."

Earlier, Carlton launched a tirade on his Twitter page citing the Hadley profile piece as: "Chocolate box crap, which must have been done by his PR team".

He added that airing the program on the ABC was "bizarre ... a 30-minute commercial for a rival broadcaster."

His anger stems from the final cut of an interview he did for the program, which Carlton says was distorted by "selective, unethical editing".


Why schools are failing our boys

Boys will be boys, they tell us, but how many of us actually take this adage to heart and embrace it?

I am the mother of four boys, now all adults. If I think back to their childhoods and adolescence, it’s a whirlwind of movement and physicality, adventure and injury, rough and tumble play, of fart jokes and stinky sports shoes, short and to-the-point communication, and lots and lots of food and Milo. (Actually, it’s not so different when we all get together now.)

This description of life with boys won’t surprise most people – and yet why is it that the one place where children spend most of their time, school, is so stacked against meeting boys’ needs?

A recent survey in WA found that girls are starting to outperform boys in maths and science, which hasn’t been the case previously. Fantastic news for our girls – these fields badly need some gender balance, but it’s a shame if it’s at boys’ expense. We are also seeing disturbing numbers of boys in remedial classes and in behaviour management units in our schools across the country.

Boys are also more likely statistically (75% more likely than girls in fact) to die or be injured in an accident, to commit a crime, to be injured playing sport, to get cancer, to die at work, to go to prison, to be admitted to hospital and to fail school … well, boys will be boys right? But what does that mean for parents and teachers?

It’s long been acknowledged that the low number of male primary teachers is an issue and unless your son’s female teacher has brothers, how can we expect her to understand the boys in the class unless we actually talk about the differences between boys and girls, politically incorrect as that might be?

Neil Farmer in his book, Getting it Right for Boys, explains some key differences in how most boys’ and girls’ brains function and some of these are that girls have better ability for “cross talk” between their right and left hemispheres, better memory storage and are more verbal and better listeners.

These differences explain a lot of the angst that happens in our homes and schools where boys are mainly misunderstood by the opposite gender.

One of the most noticeable major differences (and yes there are always exceptions) between girls and boys in the classroom is that boys are more likely to learn through movement. Passivity numbs them to a degree.

Boys have been shown to develop their right brain before their left brain, whereas girls develop both at the same time and this partially explains why boys are often up to 18 months behind girls when they start school and why girls are more emotionally and verbally savvy.

The right brain is more about ‘doing’, creativity and intuitive processing (rather than logical) and spatial growth and awareness. This may be why most boys prefer the sandpit to drawing and painting. It may also explain why men are better at reverse parking, but hey you didn’t hear it from me.

Classrooms, especially those trying to get everyone up to scratch for the NAPLAN, aren’t really conducive to this.

The second major difference is that the amygdala is actually bigger in boys than girls so they are biologically driven to want to be warriors and superheroes and to take risks – often perceived as naughtiness.

The brain difference also explains why boys get confused around emotions. Many boys will take any emotional state – even sadness, confusion, frustration and hurt – and turn it into an anger response. So much aggression is often masking other emotional vulnerabilities.

Combine this with their extra testosterone and we have a situation where if we don’t provide our boys with plenty of opportunity to diffuse pent-up energy, it will manifest itself in disruptive, aggressive and even bullying behaviours.

It worries me that Australia’s “education revolution” is eroding critical playtime and the opportunity for physicality in our schools and the cost is high for all children but even more so for our boys – and perhaps their teachers who end up devoting more and more time to behaviour management. Boys have shorter attention spans and often need more stimulation to become engaged in activities that they perceive as ‘boring’ with little fun and lightness.

Most girls do not have the same huge need to discharge energy and can sit at desks much longer than boys without becoming restless and disruptive.

Another challenge is that boys only hear 70-75% of what girls do and that’s with eye contact. If a boy is absorbed in a play activity, or is facing away from his parent or teacher, he will generally not hear a thing being said. He also struggles with information overload – so making too many requests in one communication can create a glazed look as he fails to understand what is required of him.

We need to factor in these gender differences when we’re communicating with boys. They need all the help they can get to ensure they can thrive in our schools and in life, and reverse those scary statistics. They need boy champions to do this.


21 May, 2013

Tom says "No" to the politicians

Good on him

TOM Waterhouse has snubbed a second invitation to front a parliamentary inquiry into gambling, outraging MPs who will now decide whether to summons him.

The high-profile bookmaker and son of trainer Gai Waterhouse was issued a formal request to attend a public hearing after refusing an earlier invitation because he was busy attending the spring racing carnival.

The joint selection committee into gambling reform earlier this month delayed its report into the issue and offered Waterhouse a private hearing, anticipating he could provide valuable evidence on in-game advertising.

Committee chairman, independent MP Andrew Wilkie, said the committee would now decide whether to invoke a rarely-used power and summons him.

"My personal view is he should be summonsed," Mr Wilkie told ABC Radio.  "I don't think it's good enough that someone with such profile, someone who could help the committee so much, thinks that he's above the parliament and he can say no."

Mr Wilkie said he and several other members were personally appalled by the decision.  "How dare he show such contempt for the parliament to not accept a formal request to attend," he said.

"I mean, maybe he's starting to believe some of the media hype about him being racing royalty and above the parliament."

Mr Wilkie said Waterhouse could have genuinely assisted the committee to understand the industry better.

"(He) could have helped the committee to better understand why the industry thinks it's okay to bombard viewers with (gambling) advertising at a time of the day when a lot of children are watching TV," he said.

Waterhouse has already provided a two-page letter to the committee saying he has never intentionally targeted children in gambling advertising.

In it, he defended his controversial on-air role with Channel Nine during NRL broadcasts.  "This type of arrangement by our company ... is vital in keeping TV a viable and relevant medium to promote business," he wrote, adding that TV needed advertisers to be able to afford broadcast rights.  "In the modern age, traditional advertising (commercial ad breaks) no longer always works effectively."

The NRL told the inquiry Waterhouse's role had blurred the line between a bookmaker and a commentator and it has since been changed.

His segments are now accompanied by a graphic stating he is a bookmaker and not a commentator and he no longer holds a microphone with Channel Nine markings.


UPDATE:  Tom wins another one:  "TOM Waterhouse will be spared from facing a parliamentary inquiry on gambling he has twice snubbed, with Labor and Coalition MPs deciding not to summons the controversial bookmaker."

Poll says Senate looks good for Federal conservatives

AN Abbott government could end up controlling the Senate or have a sympathetic right-of-centre senator holding the balance of power, an opinion poll reveals.

This week's Nielsen poll, published in Fairfax newspapers, shows Labor stands to lose senators in every state and could be left with just 27 of the 76 places in the upper house.

The coalition could pick up 21 or more Senate seats at the September 14 election, giving it a total of at least 37 from July 2014 - just two short of an absolute majority.

On the cross benches would be the Greens and perhaps three independents - one from the Katter Australia Party (KAP), South Australian independent Nick Xenophon and John Madigan from the Democratic Labor Party.

Senator Madigan and the KAP senator are likely to side with the coalition on many issues.

Political scientist Nick Economou cautioned that it remained very difficult to predict Senate outcomes as the primary vote for major parties in the upper house race was usually less than in the House of Representatives.

As well, candidates were not known and neither were preference deals which would decide final Senate places in most states, he told the Australian Financial Review.

The coalition last won a Senate majority at the 2005 election, allowing former prime minister John Howard to push his controversial Work Choices legislation through parliament.

Senior Liberal George Brandis says the September election is about two houses of parliament, not one.

"People are sophisticated enough to understand that there's no point in voting to get rid of the carbon tax by voting for the coalition in the House of Representatives but leaving the Labor-Greens alliance in control in the Senate," he told Sky News.

Senator Brandis said voters were absolutely fed up with the hung parliament.

"The only way you can guarantee the next parliament won't be a hung parliament is to give the government elected in the House of Representatives a majority in the Senate as well," he said.


Clear lead for conservatives in Tasmania poll

Young Hodgman

THE Liberal Party remain clearly Tasmania's favourites for the State election, new EMRS polling has revealed.

New voting intentions figures released today show Labor has seen a boost in the polls but is still miles behind Oppostion Leader Will Hodgman and his team.

But the Tasmanian Greens have taken a significant knock in their popularity with a decrease of four points to record its lowest level since the 2010 state election.

The new polling figures also show that there is an increased level of uncertainty in the electorate as voters weigh up the alternatives less than 12 months out from the state election.

EMRS chief operations director Samuel Paske said that the latest results indicated Tasmanians were less certain of how they intended to vote than they were in the previous poll, an unusual occurrence as we draw closer to the state election.

Of those surveyed 30 per cent indicated they were undecided as to what party to vote for.

"This is the highest level of undecided vote we have recorded in our quarterly poll for the last five years and is significantly higher than that recorded this time last year," Mr Paske said.

After excluding the increased number of undecided voters, the EMRS State Voting Intentions Poll shows little change for the Liberal Party since the last poll was conducted in February 2013.

The Labor Party has received an increase with a five percentage point rise.

"Support for the Liberal Party has remained relatively stable at 54 per cent, the Labor Party has recorded an encouraging increase up 5 points since February 2013 to its highest level of support since November 2010, while the level of support for the Greens and Nick McKim as preferred Premier has decreased," Mr Paske said.

"Preferred Premier results remained similar to those seen in the February 2013 poll.

"Will Hodgman continues to have the highest level of support, with 46 per cent of all respondents nominating him as their preferred Premier, with support for Premier Lara Giddings now standing at 25 per cent, and Nick McKim receiving support from 10 per cent of those surveyed."



Three current news reports below

Conservatives' plan to dismantle carbon laws

TONY Abbott would prepare for a double-dissolution election within five months of taking office if parliament blocked the repeal of the carbon tax, under a 12-month action blueprint to transform the nation's environmental laws.

A working draft of the plan, obtained by The Weekend Australian and confirmed by opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt, sets key dates to merge federal departments, introduce a direct action plan to offset or reduce carbon dioxide emissions and confirms details of a 35-year Great Barrier Reef protection strategy.

The timetable outlines how the Coalition's environment plans would be implemented. The federal environment department would be instructed on day one of an Abbott government to prepare legislation to scrap the carbon tax. The legislation would be introduced to parliament on day 30 and preparations would be made for a double-dissolution election after five months if parliament did not agree to repeal the carbon tax.

The government can seek a double dissolution of parliament, in which an election is held for both houses, when the House of Representatives and the Senate fail to agree on a bill twice in three months.

While double dissolutions are often threatened by governments struggling to have legislation pass a hostile Senate, there have only been six double dissolutions since federation, with the last in 1975 that led to the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

Mr Hunt said yesterday the federal election would be a referendum on the carbon tax and Labor must respect the views of the electorate and not block its removal if it lost the next election.

He challenged Climate Change Minister Greg Combet to commit to honouring any election mandate to scrap the carbon tax should the Coalition be elected.

Mr Hunt said it was the Coalition's preference for parliament to scrap the tax. But he said Coalition policy was to hold a double dissolution election within 12 months if legislation to repeal it was blocked.

Even if it won government, the Coalition would not have the numbers in the Senate to guarantee passage of legislation in the upper house until at least six months after the federal election when the new Senate numbers took effect.

Mr Hunt said advice to the Coalition was that a double dissolution could be forced after eight months and an Abbott government was committed to doing so within 12 months if parliament did not agree to scrap the tax.

"It is our preference for parliament to accept our legislation," he said.

The implementation timetable builds on the Coalition's election blueprint for Australia, "Hope, Reward and Opportunity", which nominates five key policy areas, economy, communities, environment, border security and national infrastructure.

Mr Hunt confirmed the timetable, which he said had been prepared for the business community late last year.

The Business Council of Australia has mounted a strong campaign to streamline environmental regulations to cut "green tape", which it said was adding to costs and jeopardising major projects.

Julia Gillard had supported the BCA push to delegate environmental powers to the states, but the federal government abruptly withdrew its support for an immediate handover of powers at COAG last November.

Mr Hunt said the federal opposition was having "very serious discussions" with all of the Coalition states to quickly implement one-stop-shop agreements for environmental approvals.

"Some matters would be reserved where the commonwealth would be the one-stop shop but overwhelmingly it would be the states," Mr Hunt said.

The areas where the federal government would retain ultimate control include offshore commonwealth waters, nuclear matters and projects for which the state was the proponent.

Mr Hunt said the reef strategy was still being finalised but would include funding for nutrient run-off reductions, a crown of thorns starfish eradication program and a dugong and turtle protection plan.

Environment groups were concerned about a lack of detail on port development.  They said projected sediment from dredging was many times greater than what would be saved from expensive onshore run-off programs.


Survey finds a very "Green" public broadcaster

MORE than 40 per cent of ABC journalists who answered a survey question about their political attitudes are Greens supporters, four times the support the minor party enjoys in the wider population.

The journalism survey, the largest in 20 years, has found the profession is overwhelmingly left-leaning, with respondents from the ABC declaring double levels of support for the Greens compared with those from Fairfax Media and News Limited.

The survey of 605 journalists from around Australia found that just more than half described themselves as having left political views, while only 13 per cent said they were right of centre.

This tendency was most pronounced among the 34 ABC journalists who agreed to declare their voting intention, with 41 per cent of them saying they would vote for the Greens, 32 per cent declaring support for Labor and 14 per cent backing the Coalition.

In comparison, Greens voters represented 20 per cent of the 86 journalists who revealed their intentions both at News Limited, publisher of The Australian, and Fairfax. Labor was the most popular party at both major publishers, with 55 per cent support at Fairfax and 47 per cent at News Limited.

University of the Sunshine Coast senior journalism lecturer Folker Hanusch, who led the study, said the figures revealed a trend despite the small sample size.

"There is a statistically significant difference (from the ABC) to News Limited journalists and also Fairfax journalists, so we have a trend," Dr Hanusch said.

"Even though only a smaller number of journalists answered the voting intentions, which does increase the margin of error, it is still reasonable to conclude that there is a marked difference between the voting intentions of journalists at the three major media organisations. At least two-thirds of those journalists . . . would vote either Labor or the Greens. That's also interesting in terms of people accusing News Limited of a right-wing bias."

An ABC spokeswoman said the number of the broadcaster's journalists who responded to the survey was too small to draw any firm conclusions.

ABC radio presenter Mark Colvin described the result as "absolutely meaningless".

"Only a tiny proportion of ABC journalists were prepared to reveal their voting intentions," he said. "You don't know anything about the much larger percentage of ABC journalists who weren't prepared to reveal their voting intentions . . . it's absolutely ridiculous to draw conclusions from this survey on that subject."

About 61 per cents of all journalists surveyed agreed to disclose their voting habits, with 43 per cent saying they would give their first-preference vote to Labor, 30 per cent to the Coalition and 19 per cent to the Greens.

Among the 83 senior editors who took part in the survey, 43 per cent supported the Coalition, while 34 per cent backed Labor and 11 per cent supported the Greens. These figures closely matched the findings of last weekend's Newspoll, which put Coalition support in the wider population at 46 per cent, followed by Labor on 31 per cent and the Greens on 9 per cent.

Former Fairfax editor Michael Gawenda said the survey results mirrored his experience in journalism but could not be used as evidence of any bias in reporting.

Former Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Peter Fray said it suggested a larger group of ABC staff might be willing to reveal themselves as Greens supporters. "That goes to questions around culture," Fray said. "I suppose for certain people it will confirm their views of the various positionings of the three main media organisations."


Big floods not so bad after all

Greenies regularly hail floods and droughts as unmitigated disasters  -- ignoring their place in natural climate cycles.  One example of a positive outcome from an extreme weather event below

THE devastating 2011 floods have given farmers a huge boost with many drought-hit groundwater supplies completely refilled.

Queensland University of Technology researcher Matthias Raiber has found the Lockyer Valley, often referred to as Brisbane's food bowl, has benefited enormously with water supplies having recovered by an average 70 per cent.

Dr Raiber, from the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, said water quality had improved markedly on pre-flood conditions which had seen such a grim situation that farmers were drawing water that was so salty it stopped production of some crops.

The Lockyer Valley produced $230 million in agricultural products in 2010-11. 

Dr Raiber said the importance of groundwater was expected to increase in coming decades because rainfall patterns were tipped to become less predictable. He said this would impact on Australia's meagre surface supplies, which were stressed due to population growth, industry, agriculture and evaporation.

Researchers are trying to determine the extent of groundwater, which will help governments work out how much water can be drawn by irrigators.

Centre director Craig Simmons said most countries did not know how much groundwater they had or how long it took to recharge, which meant the resource could not be properly managed.

In other research, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility has found that most people whose homes were impacted by the 2011 floods did not intend to make changes to reduce vulnerability to future floods.

Lead author Deanne Bird said many residents made general improvements, such as installing their dream kitchen, rather than making their home more flood resilient.

"We saw communities getting on with their lives and largely driving their recovery with stoic endurance.

"This does not necessarily translate to adaptation to future events but it does reflect strong resilience in the community," Dr Bird said.

Sue Gordon, who runs the Gordon Country camp ground and cabins, in the Goomburra Valley on the Darling Downs said her property was flooded in 2011 and then earlier again this year but there was little that could be done to flood proof it.

"We lost kilometres of fencing," she said. "We'd only just had it repaired and we were hit again. What can you do? We've got cattle."

Ms Gordon said tourism businesses were severely damaged post floods by customers' perceptions.  "We got almost no bookings due to the belief we were not operating due to damage," she said.


20 May, 1013

Drop in doctors, rise in clerks in Tasmanian hospitals

Worldwide, hospital clerical and adminstrative staff would survive a nuclear winter

TASMANIAN hospitals are down by 120 doctors and 65 nurses but the number of clerks and administrators has gone up by 15, says health analyst Martyn Goddard.

Using Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics in the 12 months before and after extensive budget cuts, Mr Goddard said the health system's ability to deliver basic services has declined to place Tasmania second worst in the country, behind Canberra.

"This is the first comprehensive look at two years of data, before budget cuts and the year after them," he said.

Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne said Mr Goddard's argument was based on superseded data and ignored recent elective surgery expenditure.

"The number of doctors and nurses ... is actually increasing," Ms O'Byrne said.

Mr Goddard said it appeared a lot of doctors were employed bute they were only working one day a week, and nursing numbers were falsely boosted by the large amount of overtime they worked.

Tasmania was the worst on the main measure of a healthy hospital system -- the number of services for overnight patients -- which fell further behind in the period after the cuts, he said.

The number of overnight services per 1000 population fell in Tasmania from 92.2 to 89.7, while it rose nationally from 112 to 116.2.


German newsmagazine trashes Australian climate survey

German flagship news magazine Spiegel Online today has an article authored by Axel Bojanowski which takes a close look at the recent John Cook survey. German alarmists like the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research hailed it as proof that climate science was settled and done.

But Spiegel draws a different a totally conclusion.

First Bojanowski describes how a large number of Americans have serious doubts when it comes to man-made climate change, and so surveys get conducted with the aim of trying to sway public opinion. The latest was carried out by John Cook of the University of Queensland in Australia, and the results were published in the journal of Environmental Research Letters: 97% of thousands of papers surveyed agree that climate change is man-made, it asserted.

But Bojanowski trashes the findings:

    "There’s an obvious discrepancy between the public perception and reality. The authors speak about ‘consensus on man-made climate change’ – and thus this threatens to further increase confusion within the public. The survey confirms only a banality: Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that man is responsible for at least a part of the climate warming. The important question of how big is man’s part in climate change remains hotly disputed.

    In the draft of the next UN report that will summarize climate science knowledge in September, it is stated: ‘It is extremely likely that human activity is responsible for more than half of the warming since the 1950s.’ The estimations from scientists on the exact extent vary vastly – here the consensus ends.”

Bojanowski then gives Spiegel readers the results produced by Cook: “About two thirds took no position on the subject – they remained on the sidelines. 97% of the rest supported man-made impact.

Also in an additional step, 35% of the authors who took no position were left out of the survey results altogether.

A new German survey produces similar results: no consensus!

Bojanowski then reports on another still unpublished German survey conducted by the University of Mainz in Germany. Senja Post told SPIEGEL ONLINE that “123 of 292 climate scientists asked participated in the study“. The result (warmists may want to sit down before reading):

    "Only 5% of those responding believed natural factors played the main role in the warming. However, Post then asked about the extent of the man-made warming. The result looked very different. Only 59% of the scientists said the ‘climate development of the last 50 years was mostly influenced by man’s activity. One quarter of those surveyed said that human and natural factors played an equal role’.”

Only 10% of German scientists say computer models are sufficiently accurate

Bojanowski then writes that skepticism is even far more widespread when it comes to the reliability of computer models. ”Only 10% said climate models are ‘sufficiently accurate’ and only 15% said that ‘climatic processes are understood enough’ to allow climate to be calculated.”

Bojanowski sums up: “There’s plenty of fodder there to continue the ideologically influenced debate about climate – no matter what is said about consensus.”


Demand for private school places sees fees triple

40% of Australian teenagers now go to non-government schools

PRIVATE school fees have tripled in the past 20 years, as a surging demand for places has hit parents' hip pockets.

Education costs have also been blamed for skyrocketing fees at some of Victoria's elite private schools since the mid-1990s.

Independent Schools Victoria says the education CPI has increased 182 per cent in the past 20 years.

Chief executive Michelle Green said if parents stopped investing their own money in their children's schooling, taxpayers would have to foot a massive jump in the education bill.

The Herald Sun compared fees at 16 Victorian schools in 2013 with the cost of educating a student in 1995.

The fees, detailed in a 1996 Herald Sun article, increased by up to 222 per cent.

The average fee for Year 12 students is $24,081 this year; it was $8232 in 1995 - an average rise of 193 per cent.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows average weekly earnings have risen 119 per cent between 1995 and November 2012.

Australian Scholarships Group chief executive John Velegrinis said private schools did not fear the perception of being expensive.

He said they tried to invest more in modern, state-of-the-art facilities to protect their brand.

Mr Velegrinis said there was greater demand for private school spots, including from international students.

In January, the Herald Sun reported that since 2010 there had been a 1.6 per cent increase in enrolment at independent secondary schools while state high-school student numbers had fallen.

A University of Melbourne Department of Economics paper released last year concluded fees charged by independent schools were increasing at a very high rate, with more of the expense being borne by parents.

It found higher fees were charged at schools with more staff, better university entrance scores, more music and language offerings, were older, had more students from a higher socioeconomic background and fewer students from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The paper's researchers told the Herald Sun fees at low-socioeconomic status independent schools were not rising as fast as elite schools.

Victorian Parents Council executive officer Christine Delamore said the cost of providing schooling had risen at a much higher rate than CPI.


Labor's nightmare without end

The ICAC hearings have exposed the dark belly of the ALP

'I said that in my CE," Ian Macdonald politely reminded Peter Braham, SC, on Thursday. The abbreviation is shorthand used among Independent Commission Against Corruption staff for "compulsory examination", such as the one he had been secretly hauled to a year ago. So intimate has Macdonald become with the workings of a corruption probe that he couldn't help but volunteer his help.

It seemed not to matter, finally, after years of allegations about his conduct in newspapers and in Parliament and at the ICAC, that Braham, counsel assisting, was calling him a liar. "You knew you were doing something quite improper," he said. "No," Macdonald said repeatedly, inching towards the end, surely, of the horror show.

The closure of Operation Acacia - ICAC's probe into a multimillion-dollar coal licence Macdonald gave to ex-union boss John Maitland - was expected to mark the end of the commission's public hearings.

For seven months, the public has been deluged with the secrets of its previous government: the gritty, unedifying detail of how deals are nudged together.

But the ALP could at least look forward to the end of David Ipp's marathon inquiry.

In its term, the state parliamentary wing of the party enjoyed successes; it built major infrastructure including tunnels across Sydney, it expanded protections for the state's natural heritage, and it reformed policy such as workers compensation laws. It had, for a time, real traction, and a benevolent electorate. But for much of the past 10 years, Labor's government steadily lost its purchase. From a cabinet and a caucus, to a rabble. Its trophies were submerged by a rising tide of sleaze and ineptitude. And it began before Bob Carr decamped to Macquarie Bank.

In 2005 his newly-appointed housing minister, Joe Tripodi, was forced to appear before ICAC (but later cleared) over the Orange Grove affair. The following year, after Carr's departure, Aboriginal affairs minister Milton Orkopoulos was charged with sexual offences involving minors, and accusations flew that the ALP had engaged in a cover-up. Gillian Sneddon, the staffer who blew the whistle, was sacked the day she began giving evidence at his trial.

From then, the government's internal decay leached to the surface. Labor was exposed for having placed a higher value on loyalty than most other things.

The Macquarie Fields MP Steven Chaytor was cut loose in 2007 after an alleged domestic violence incident about which he was later cleared. Paul Gibson was let go over a similar historical allegation which the police never prosecuted, just hours before he was due to be sworn in as a member of cabinet.

The next year was no kinder. Talk between Wollongong businessmen around a so-called "table of knowledge" outside a kebab shop engulfed the government. In the publicity that followed a corruption inquiry, the ALP's head office was seen to have installed a culture in which it was acceptable for developers to buy access to decision-makers.

Wollongong MP Noreen Hay and the police minister (of just four days), Matt Brown, were embarrassed by a budget night party in a parliamentary office. Brown was alleged, but denied, to have climbed on top of Hay in his underwear and cavorted around the room.

"Our credibility, my credibility, is back to square one," premier Nathan Rees said at the time. But for both him and his replacement Kristina Keneally, the government's credibility never recovered.

Tony Stewart was next, dumped over allegations he bullied a staffer. John Della Bosca and David Campbell resigned after each was caught enjoying extramarital sex. Paul McLeay had been surfing the internet for pornography from his Parliament House computer.

Ian Macdonald rorted his travel expenses and was spiked. Angela D'Amore and Karyn Paluzzano fiddled their parliamentary expenses, and Tony Kelly falsified a letter as planning minister - all three were found corrupt by the ICAC.

Labor was virtually eliminated in the March 2011 state election, but that was, in fact, only the beginning.

Nineteen months later ICAC opened its most high-profile operation since Nick Greiner's inquiry. Since November, a string of Labor luminaries have filed into the witness box. Collectively their evidence has disemboweled the party.

Some were caught in the crossfire: former premiers Morris Iemma and Nathan Rees, ex-planning minister Frank Sartor, and federal minister Greg Combet, among them. Others are now defending serious accusations of impropriety.

Powerbroker Eddie Obeid could face a corruption finding over a $100 million secret coal deal with Macdonald. Former treasurer Eric Roozendaal is being investigated over a cheap car arranged for him by the family of Obeid.

And Macdonald himself has a litany of likely bad news ahead of him over three separate ICAC investigations - one involving a lunch he arranged for accused murderer Ron Medich in exchange for a hotel room and a prostitute, and two others concerning coal licences bestowed by the government during his term as resources minister.

Numerous businessmen have benefited from the decisions. Most notably Eddie Obeid's sons, and the seven investors behind Cascade Coal, including Macdonald's friend and former ALP staffer Greg Jones, and coal tycoons John Kinghorn, Travers Duncan and Brian Flannery.

On Thursday, ICAC announced it was recalling three MPs to explore Obeid's claim that Macdonald had not been in his office in 20 years of political life. And its reports, likely to make sensational findings about corrupt conduct by the former government, will dribble out from July.

Then there are the inevitable legal appeals and potential criminal charges. The DPP will be under pressure to lay charges, and Obeid and Macdonald have signalled they will appeal any adverse findings.

Worst of all is the prospect of a further public inquiry into the business activities of the Obeids. ICAC is still investigating revelations in the Herald concerning three government leases at Circular Quay that Obeid secretly controlled, his relationship with the former NSW speaker Richard Torbay, and the secret investment the Obeids negotiated with Australian Water.

With the closure of the public hearings, is the nightmare over? The answer is clearly no.


19 May, 2013

Not "discrimination" to ban prostitute from motel

THE owner of a country motel who won an appeal against a sex worker who took a discrimination case against her says she is "ecstatic" that her business reputation has been restored.

Drovers Rest Motel manager Joan Hartley, who in 2008 told the sex worker she could not come back and rent a room for prostitution, said the motel had become known as "the whorehouse of Moranbah".

"Now I just want it known as the Drovers Rest - the nice, quiet, homely, friendly place it's always been," Mrs Hartley, 67, said. "I'm not a prude. I believe there is a place for these people, but that place is not in my motel."

Mrs Hartley, who with husband Evan, 68, has been running the motel for 13 years, said it had been stressful fighting the discrimination case.

"We are ecstatic, not only for ourselves, but because we've been able to win a situation where every motel owner can say 'no' to these people because they can ruin their business reputation," Mrs Hartley said.

On Friday the Court of Appeal overturned an appeal decision in Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which the sex worker won last year.

The court heard that on June 28, 2010, the sex worker, who had stayed at the motel for prostitution purposes during the previous two years, was told she would have to stay elsewhere in future.

In 2011 the legal sex worker, who had been earning $2000 a day during sporadic visits to the Drovers Rest, lost the first round of her discrimination case against the motel, then won an appeal in QCAT.

The motel owners appealed and on Friday the Court of Appeal unanimously found in their favour.


Horrible bureaucratic bastardry by Child safety officials

THE Department of Child Safety has launched an investigation into the suspected misconduct of its staff after they failed to disclose the sexual history of a child placed with a foster family, who then went on to sexually assault their eight-year-old son.

Despite this, they are still suing the mother for neglect.

In February this year, Ethical Standards investigator Gavin Gleeson wrote to the victim's mother and her lawyer advising of the need to interview them regarding the conduct of departmental employees who were involved in the placement.

"My duty is to investigate the conduct of the departmental staff during this process, their compliance with departmental policy, procedures and guidelines and the Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service and determine if there is sufficient evidence to substantiate or otherwise allegations of suspected official misconduct," Mr Gleeson wrote in an email on February 13.

The foster mother, who cannot be identified, sued Child Safety for failing to advise of her foster child's sexual history, but the State Government has filed a taxpayer-funded claim seeking the mum pay any court-ordered compensation because she was responsible for the foster child's "conduct and behaviour", and failed to maintain a "safe environment" for her own son.

McInnes Wilson Lawyers partner Jacqui Eager, who is representing the foster mother, said the State Government continued "to maintain that the actions of the Department were not negligent and that our client and her partner are at fault for the incident".

"We will continue to strongly defend the frivolous contribution claim that the state has made against our client and continue to fight to protect her rights and recover for her compensation which she is entitled to," she said.

The Courier-Mail revealed last year an internal Child Safety review into the incident and a transcript of a meeting with Child Safety officers showed the parents asked twice if the foster child, then 15, had any history of sexualised behaviour.

The mother said she had asked the department because it was rumoured the boy had been molested.

The review said a Child Safety officer told the parents, "it was not believed (the boy) had any current sexualised behaviour" and failed to tell them of reports of past sexual incidents.

The review found the parents were not given the full and frank information they were supposed to receive under the Child Protection Act and ordered staff undergo more training.

But Child Safety officers in southeast Queensland told the parents that their office could not be held accountable for a regional office failing to reveal the boy's history. The office put the onus on the parents by saying it was up to the family to write letters to the other office seeking answers.

The department of Child Safety declined to comment because the matter is before the court.


Community never gave up on missing toddler

Australia is still a great place.  Australian police not so much

WHEN police scaled back their search for toddler Tyler Kennedy at nightfall on Friday, nearby residents refused to give up, turning out in droves to scour the thick bushland where he had disappeared.

With temperatures plunging to 6C, the community of Johns River, on the mid-north coast, feared two-year-old Tyler could die of exposure.

Last night police admitted: "In hindsight, an official search could have continued into the night," and Police Minister Mike Gallacher is demanding a police report explaining the decision to scale down the search.

Soon after the official search was scaled down at 5.30pm, more than 100 volunteers joined the only remaining police officer on the scene and the search was back on.

By 1.15am, a group of volunteers found Tyler in thick scrub just 150m from Wharf Rd, where he had wandered off from a mechanic's office about 15 hours earlier.Tyler, covered in scratches and bitterly cold, was reunited with his distraught mother Amanda Kennedy. "I was speechless when they said they had to call it off," Ms Kennedy, 21, said. "My heart stopped and I walked away. I couldn't handle it.

"We thought, 'OK, we'll call in our own search party and get everyone out there to find him'."

Her partner Tim Henson said there was no resentment towards the police who were "just following procedure"."Of course we were disappointed but it didn't stop everyone from searching," Mr Henson, 29, said.

Manning Great Lakes police commander Superintendent Peter Thurtell said the decision to scale back the search "was not made lightly".

"It came after a six-hour search of waterways and rugged bushland, which involved extensive resources from both local police and the SES," he said. "We are extremely pleased for Tyler's family that he was found safe."Supt Thurtell added: "In hindsight, an official search could have continued into the night."

Tyler wandered into the bush while his parents were getting a pink slip for their car. Police scoured the Johns River State Forest with a helicopter as local officers and SES volunteers were joined by the police dog squad before the search was suspended because of poor light.

Mr Henson said the volunteers, mobilised by phone, social media and word of mouth, arrived at the property from Port Macquarie, Kempsey and even Wollongong.

"The street was full of cars," he said. "People just kept turning up wanting to help."

Ms Kennedy said she was overwhelmed when she was finally reunited with her son.

"The first hug was amazing," she said. "It was like he was first born. It was the best hug we've had. I can't explain it. Knowing that he was out there cold and hadn't had a drink or anything to eat - it was just awful.

"I was so scared he might have tripped over and landed in water and every time I heard a train go by my heart stopped and I blocked my ears."

Just after 1am, Ms Kennedy said she thought "a fight had broken out" but it turned out to be celebration by the volunteers who found Tyler.

"Tim came running into the house yelling," she said.

"I went out and someone had him wrapped up in all these jackets and he was really really cold."

Tyler was released in good health from Port Macquarie hospital about 8.30am. He ate four Weet-Bix and a sandwich, Ms Kennedy said.


Old diggers hit by Gillard

A CRUCIAL in-home care service that provides meals for veterans and war widows has been axed by the Federal Government.

Despite a boost in defence spending of more than $5 billion in the next three years, the Commonwealth has withdrawn the funding for the Home and Community Care program.

The program provides assessment, co-ordination and home-care services tailored to the needs of ex-servicemen and women and war widows.

The move has been criticised by the RSL.

The State Government estimates more than 1500 Victorian veterans and widows will miss out on meals and more than 1500 recipients will no longer benefit from activities' groups when the funding runs dry next July.

State Health Minister David Davis has written to Veterans Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon, urging him to reconsider the cut.

Mr Davis said Victoria's war veterans deserved respect and dignity, and stripping them of these services was a slap in the face.

"This is a sad decision and it is the wrong decision," Mr Davis said.  "The purpose of this funding is to make sure we provide a high level of tailored support."

While many of the recipients will still be eligible to receive similar in-home care, Mr Davis said the veterans and war widows would be required to apply for the services through the general HACC program. That is expected to add further strain to the system.

The RSL's Victorian president, Major General David McLachlan, said the service was extremely important. He urged the Federal Government to continue to fund the program.  "Everyone wants to stay in their own home, but we need to offer these people support," he said.

"HACC has been able to assist these veterans and war widows by looking at their requirements and tailoring support to their needs."

Gen McLachlan said most of the recipients were World War II veterans or widows who had served Australia.  "You would think the Government could keep it going for the small number of veterans until they go to their final resting place," he said.

"It's providing care for the veterans that have given so much and who we can thank for the way we live life today."

The Government will save more than $25 million by axing the program. It says the money saved will be reallocated for veterans' mental health.

Mr Snowdon's spokeswoman, Lidija Ivanovski, said the Federal Budget had made no changes to the veterans' home-care program but the money had been reallocated.

"Veterans have the same right of access to Home and Community Care services as other Australians," she said. "This will not change."


17 May, 2013

Welfare blowout coming

AUSTRALIA is facing a welfare and social security bill forecast to rise to $158 billion a year in 2016-17.

Former Liberal senator Nick Minchin, the finance minister in the Howard government, warned the cost, up from $132 billion this financial year, would result in a spending squeeze, higher taxes or eligibility tightening for the vulnerable in future.

Mr Minchin said the government "has already started down that track" with the Medicare Levy increase to fund the NDIS.

Family payments, including the Baby Bonus and a promised $300-$600 increase in Family Tax Benefit A, were also slashed in Tuesday's budget.

Increased demand for the Aged Pension and disability spending account for the largest increases by category of $15.3 billion and $8.6 billion respectively.

Disability spending includes the cost of the Disability Support Pension, which is continuing to rise despite government reforms which have slightly reduced the number of recipients from almost 832,000 people to just over 824,000 and dramatically decreased the grant rate.

Four years ago, the government forecast the DSP would cost $13.2 billion this financial year but the bill instead will be $14.8 billion, rising to $17.8 billion by 2016-17.

The jump between now and 2016-17 was blamed on higher payment rates due to indexation with the cost of the dole and assistance to the sick also set to jump from $8.5 billion to $9.8 billion.

"You will have to squeeze spending seriously in other areas of the budget in order to sustain these levels of spending or eligibility for a lot of these welfare measures will have to be tightened," Mr Minchin said.

"I suspect over the medium to long term it will be a combination of both."

Mission Australia chief Toby Hall said the growing bill would become unsustainable and he warned of the consequences of an unmanageable welfare billl in Europe where spending commitments became so large governments faced with financial crises slashed assistance.

"We have absolutely got to get in and deal with the welfare system, we have to have an environment where we are working with people on Newstart to get back into work," he said.

"We have to have an environment where we are working with people on the DSP, where possible, to get back to work."

Martin Wren, head of disability employment provider NOVA, said it was essential for people's welfare that where possible they be "turned into taxpayers" rather than languish on welfare.

A spokeswoman for Disability Reform Minister Jenny Macklin said: "We currently have a negative (DSP) growth rate of minus 0.8 per cent.

The grant rate has dropped from 63.3 per cent to 42.4 per cent since government reforms started in 2010


"Prostitute" a forbidden word

I guess it sounds bad.  But what if it sounds bad because it is bad?

MISSY Higgins is locked in a bitter Twitter war with sex workers - because she used outdated language to describe a dream.

The popular Australian singer-songwriter posted on Twitter: "I dreamt I fell in love with a prostitute. She was young & I wanted to save her. Related to my thoughts about The Voice perhaps?"

But her seemingly innocent comment angered some in the sex industry.

A Twitter user with the handle WhoresEyeView snapped: "We don't need you to save us. Don't be so condescending. We are real people not extensions of ur ideals. Learn."

Missy replied: "It was a dream dude, chill out."

That sparked furious feedback.  One tweeted: "Cram the chill pill. If you bothered to learn the issues you'd understand why we can't chill."

Another fired: "If you had any idea how we hookers get treated you'd understand why I'm defensive. Grow some empathy."

After learning the term "prostitute" was offensive, Higgins later said: "I meant absolutely no disrespect by dreaming what I did. For the record, I do not, in reality, want to save any sex workers.

"I had no idea 'prostitute' is an offensive term, 'sex worker' being the preferred term by those in the field.  "Apologies to those I offended."


ALP figures on Libs' 'black hole' don't add up

IT is high time that the government dropped the rhetoric about the Coalition having a "$70 billion black hole" in its funding commitments. The numbers do not support such an attack.

Apart from the hypocrisy of a government that has failed to deliver its surplus forecast continuing to engage in such rhetoric, the $70bn figure is based on outdated assumptions.

All the more so now that the budget has been handed down and Tony Abbott has intimated that Labor's "saves" will largely be adopted by the Coalition.

Initial reports about the Coalition's $70bn funding black hole claimed that the calculation related to four years' worth of forward estimates, based on leaked internal Coalition documents. In fact it was six years' worth.

There were three main areas that accounted for the so-called black hole: the lost revenue from abolishing the carbon tax ($35bn) and the mining tax ($29.5bn), and compensation that would need to be paid to companies that had purchased carbon credits ($24bn). The remainder was made up from shortfalls pertaining to the Coalition's Direct Action Plan and various tax cuts.
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But the document was never anything more than a worst-case scenario the finance team mapped out, in the event that it retained the spending attached to the carbon and mining taxes that it always planned to abolish. That hasn't eventuated.

The carbon tax has had its revenue raising potential significantly downgraded in this year's budget. Labor's initial forecast of $29 a tonne for international carbon pricing in 2015-16 has been lowered to $12.10.

Most experts predict it is more likely to end up around $5 to $6. But it matters not because the Coalition has made it clear that it won't retain most of the compensation attached to the carbon price if it wins office.

Abbott does, however, plan to retain the pension increases and some of the family payments and higher tax thresholds, understood to the tune of $4bn annually. That said, the downgrade in the carbon price is more Labor's problem than the Coalition's, although some of the compensation has already been scrapped by the government in this year's budget.

Given that Treasury has included some heroic assumptions of where the carbon price will go after it floats in 2015-16 - $18.60 the year after, hitting $38 in 2019-20 - if Labor finds a way to win re-election, thereby retaining the carbon price, the budget is likely to again be overly optimistic in its revenue assumptions. The Coalition will face no such problem if it scraps the carbon price.

The mining tax was initially projected to collect $22.5bn during its first four years of operation, before it was downgraded to $9.1bn in the most recent midyear economic and fiscal outlook. Instead it is now expected to collect just $3.3bn, according to Treasury. But even that estimate is rather bullish, given that it only collects $200 million this financial year. Despite the fact that both the terms of trade and the dollar are not expected to change very much, Treasury estimates still suggest that the mining tax will collect 1000 per cent more in the final year of the current forward estimates ($2.2bn) than it did this year.

The only spend Labor announced that was attached to the mining tax that the Coalition has said that it will retain is the superannuation increases. But they are largely paid for by business, not the government.

Over one-third of the supposed $70bn black hole in Coalition budget planning the government has sought to attack relates to a government assertion that Abbott will need to refund the big polluters for the carbon permits they would have bought. The refund may be required if the permits are considered a property right. But the Coalition rejects this will be necessary, pointing out that carbon permits won't have even been purchased by companies by the September 14 election day.

There will be some funding shortfalls that Joe Hockey and his team will need to plug.

The Direct Action scheme and various tax cuts do remain unfunded (the Coalition rejects this). And retaining pension and family payment increases, along with the upping of the tax threshold attached to the carbon price, won't come cheap.

But the total of such shortfalls is a fraction of the $70bn black hole figure that Labor has again been trotting out this week.


Sir Lunchalot told ICAC he had a choice of either eat for free or starve

"I WOULD'VE gone broke very quickly" Ian Macdonald - aka "Sir Lunchalot" - told ICAC yesterday as he digested the prospect of paying for his own meals while a minister.

The conversation came up as ICAC asked why Mr Macdonald regularly had people seeking contracts with the government pick up the tab for meals and why the Department of Primary Industry paid for a dinner with union boss John Maitland where no departmental officials were present.

Stories have flowed during the inquiry of meals at Est, Prime and a $1800 dinner, complete with $500 magnum of pinot noir, at Catalina's in Rose Bay on December 15, 2008 as the Doyles Creek mine documents were signed.

Macdonald found himself defending one of Sydney's most famous eating establishments - Beppi's - during yesterday's evidence as he explained he did not want to meet Maitland there because it was too noisy. Perhaps it was the thought of no more prosciutto and watermelon that caused him to mount a defence.

"I shouldn't say this because Beppi's are an established old Australian firm ... but it was a noisy place when it was full," he said.

The former minister frontfooted the fact his daughter Sacha won a job through Mr Maitland in Mongolia, saying Sacha got "$29,000" for "20 months' work" and lived in one of the "most difficult places in the world, Ulan Bator". It was "not a reward".

Although there were plenty of hits in the Macdonald evidence, there was no killer blow. No sensational "ICAC loan" allegations and no sign of any payment to an offshore account or any other inducement for Mr Maitland winning a $15 million profit, other than a few fancy dinners and the job provided to Mr Macdonald's daughter.

At one point Macdonald, being criticised by Commissioner Ipp for accepting dinners, said: "Just like the current Premier going to a New Year's function on a boat on the Harbour owned by James Packer. I don't have any problem with him doing that."

By the end of the day, Mr O'Farrell had tweeted back: "Macca doesn't seem to understand lying to ICAC is an offence - I've never been on a Packer boat!" #diggingabiggerholeforhimself.

The Premier didn't reply to a question as to whose boat he was on New Years Eve. He has previously said it was with "family and friends".


16 May, 2013

Leftist government says conservatives stand for hate speech

Everything that the Left disagrees with is hate speech

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Mark Dreyfus has accused the opposition of defending hate speech, not free speech, after his Coalition counterpart George Brandis's charge that the government was waging war against freedom of expression.

Yesterday The Australian previewed a speech Senator Brandis gave at the Sydney Institute last night.

"This government is engaged in a multi-front war against the traditional liberal conception of freedom of speech," he said, "sometimes by overt acts, but just as commonly by fostering a climate of opinion in which the centrality of the right to freedom of speech . . . is increasingly being questioned."

But ahead of the address Mr Dreyfus said the words were a disguise for "Tony Abbott's real plan to strip away laws in the Racial Discrimination Act that protect people from hate speech".

He described section 18C of the act -- which was used to silence columnist Andrew Bolt -- as an essential tool in stamping out vilification based on a person's race, colour or ethnic origin, saying: "When Mr Abbott and Senator Brandis claim that repealing these laws is in the interests of freedom of speech, they really mean freedom to commit virulent hate speech."

Senator Brandis dismissed the allegation. "I'm disappointed that a barrister of Mr Dreyfus's experience would make the beginner's error of commenting on a document he has not read," he said. "Nothing in my speech says what Mr Dreyfus asserts. Perhaps I am owed an apology."

Senator Brandis said last night the Australian Human Rights Commission was helping muzzle the right to freedom of expression. He cited comments by AHRC head Gillian Triggs to a Senate estimates committee about its activities during the press freedom debate.

"At a time when . . . freedom of speech . . . has been the subject of public discussion to an unprecedented degree, the response of the government's own human rights watchdog is to emphasise its limits."


Prospects for NDIS blowout

The Centre for Independent Studies has played a leading role in the debate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the financial sustainability of the scheme into the future.

Many of these issues have finally received widespread coverage following the government’s announcement that it would break another promise and raise another tax by introducing an NDIS levy to help cover the cost of its budget deficit. The opposition quickly followed suit, announcing its support for the tax increase.

The CIS’ work on the NDIS has focused on the prospect of a financial blowout in the scheme, which is expected to provide lifetime care and support to around 441,000 people at a cost of $22 billion a year when it is fully operational in 2018–19.

These figures do not take into account the many additional financial and political risks that could affect the overall cost of the scheme.

In particular, there will be substantial political pressure to expand the scope of the scheme to the 500,000 disability pensioners who will not be eligible to receive NDIS supports. Another 600,000 people aged over 65 years who have a severe or profound disability will also be excluded from NDIS supports.

Despite an annual spend of around $22 billion, future governments will face substantial political pressure from more than 1 million people who have a vested interest in expanding the scheme even further. Disability sector workforce shortages have the potential to drive increases in the overall cost of the scheme as well.

Government expenditure on the NDIS is expected to grow at around 6% every year and has been budgeted accordingly. However, if the experiences of similar schemes like Medicare or New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation are anything to go by, the NDIS could have average annual expenditure growth of around 8% per year, which would make the entire scheme financially unsustainable in the long run.


China's hunger for Australian iron ore tipped to grow

Australia's economic fortunes have become increasingly tied to China's, and over the past decade the strength of Asia's economic giant has delivered considerable benefits to Australia.

But recent predictions from certain quarters suggest that China's growth might not be sustainable and that some large commodity exporters could be looking to take a hit in the near future.

However, enormous volumes of iron ore from the Pilbara continue to sail into Ningbo port, just south of Shanghai on China's wealthy south-eastern coastal strip.

Ningbo Port iron ore terminal general manager Han Weixu says as soon as the large ships now in port have left, others are waiting to take their berths.

He says they unload 300 iron ore ships a year – half of them from Australia.

"China needs to improve its steel production capacity for its economic development," he said.

"The iron ore we use mostly comes in from overseas and Australia is the most important import partner for us.

"In 2012, 47 million tonnes of iron ore came through this port, of which 24 million tonnes were from Australia.

"This iron ore goes to the steel factories along the Yangtze River as well as Hunan and Jiangxi provinces."

Australia's big miners are all expanding at the moment to deliver even more iron ore to China which has prompted some analysts to warn of an oversupply that could drive down prices and eat into profits.

There is also fear that steel overproduction in China could see iron ore demand fall away.

Yet Mr Han is in constant contact with China's steel companies and is well placed to hazard a guess at how much ore they will want this year and even into the future.

"In 2013, we predict we will handle 51.5 million tonnes and that Australian iron ore will increase to between 25 million and 26 million tonnes," he said.

"In 2014, we think the volume will reach 56 million tonnes and that Australian iron ore will reach 27 million to 28 million tonnes."

As China's drift to the cities goes on apace and probably still has decades to play out, what was once a country of farmers is being utterly urbanised requiring new subways, roads, bridges and the like.

Apart from the port, Ningbo is also an industrial hub which has attracted Ningbo Zhonglian Steel Structure Company - an Australian outfit building steel structures.

Chairman Sean McMonagle says the joint venture is between Queensland mining structure company Sun Engineering and partners from Canada, Britain and the United States, who have banded together to cash in on the production advantages that come with scale.

"I honestly thought I was going to come into factories where people would be in bare feet and welding with no helmets," he said.

"I went to a factory in Shanghai that had more technology than shops I'd seen in Australia had more social conscience than some shops that I'd seen in Australia.

"I thought to myself, 'if this is the competition at the price they're offering, we're doomed if we don't get on to this bandwagon'."

Because Australia avoided the worst of the global financial crisis it kept buying steel structures from the company, constructed using the same iron ore which Australia sent in the first place - much of it going back into the mining industry.

Mr McMonagle says it has experienced 20 per cent growth every year and he expects it will be better in the future.

However, he said one of the challenges - especially with as much as 95 per cent of it for export - is convincing the global market of the product's quality, so Sun Engineering tradesmen have been bought in to train local staff and ensure quality.

However, Mr McMonagle says confidence in China's immediate economic future does not only stem from the orders the company is getting.

"You look at some of the housing and building and infrastructure that's going on around us here and some of these high-rise accommodation complexes: you're talking 30, 40-storey buildings and you've got 15 of them in one development - that's just huge," he said.

"But not only have you got that you've got that happening 10 times just around this little city ... and you think this is happening all over China."


New taxes 'flogging' mining industry: CME

The WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy says the removal of immediate tax deductions for the mining sector are "flogging" an industry that is supporting the Australia economy.

The chamber's economic and tax manager Shannon Burdeu says the changes to upfront tax benefits for exploration will add an additional burden on small and mid-cap miners.

In a move expected to save billions of dollars, the Federal Government has deferred a deduction that allows miners to claim exploration costs when they take over other mining companies.

Instead they will be able to claim the deduction over 15 years or the life of the mine.

Ms Burdeu says the measure will place further strain on an industry already struggling with high production costs.

"This is just an additional tax burden on the resources sector when ideally economic policy should be looking towards creating jobs and growing the economy rather than flogging the industry that really is supporting the economy with additional tax burdens," she said.

WA's Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the changes will constrain mining growth in WA.

The CCI's chief economist John Nicolaou says targeting exploration companies is a step in the wrong direction.

"All that will do is make it more difficult and constrain the ability for these companies to fund exploration and, in effect, create new opportunities through the development of mining operations," he said.

Mr Nicolaou says the move will exacerbate already tough conditions in the industry.

"This comes at a time when business conditions are as tough as they have been for many years," he said.

"And, if the government is to deliver on its rhetoric around supporting jobs and growth, its actions shouldn't be the reverse."

Exploration in greenfields areas are still eligible for an immediate tax deduction.


15 May, 2013

Corporate regulator bombs out again

They get a few wins when people fold in fear of the legal costs but the poor quality of their decisions to prosecute often shows up when businesses put up a fight.  They were clearly wrong on this one and prosecuted on the basis of a mere surmise.  A list of their past stuff-ups (Fortescue, OneTel, Centro etc) is here  They are just arrogant and careless bureaucrats with no regard to the harm they do or the costs that they generate

An asset stripping case against former Westpoint officers Norman Carey and Graeme Rundle has spectacularly collapsed after the surprise emergence of a key document two weeks into the trial.

The document could prove the innocence of the property entrepreneurs.

Mr Carey, whose property investment business Westpoint failed in 2006 owing investors more than $388 million, tonight told Business Day he would sue the Commonwealth over the aborted trial with his legal costs at least $500,000 and his reputation damaged.

"This has hung over my head for the last five years and I’ve always maintained that I acted honestly," Mr Carey told Business Day.

"I will definitely be suing ASIC to get back my cost and damages, what ASIC are facing is effectively wrongfully accusing someone."

In a brief statement released last night ASIC said it had located an important document from a third party which ended its case against Mr Carey and Mr Rundle in the District Court of Western Australia.

"In accordance with ASIC’s procedural fairness obligations, ASIC immediately disclosed the document and copies were given to Mr Carey and Mr Rundle, and the court."

The failed case centred around the allegation that Mr Rundle and his business Westpoint dishonestly backdated the transfer of an option to buy Perth’s Warnbro Fair Shopping Centre knowing that the company was battling to survive.

It is believed the document is a detailed file from auditor KPMG which proves the option to buy the shopping centre was extended, and therefore the transfer was not backdated as alleged.

A media spokesman for ASIC last night said the regulator would not comment further on the failed case against the duo.

"Following an assessment of the document in the context of the prosecution’s case, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions yesterday advised the District Court of Western Australia that the case should proceed no further and filed notices of discontinuance," an ASIC statement said.

This allowed property spruiker Mr Carey to walk free from the Perth District Court Tuesday after the withdrawal the asset stripping charge against the former Westpoint boss and his deputy Mr Rundle.


State Government to pass laws for drought-hit farmers to feed cattle in some National Parks

THE State Government will rush legislation through Parliament next week. Drought-hit graziers will be given access to 4400sq km - five existing parks and a further eight properties bought for the public estate.

Acting Premier Jeff Seeney said the worsening drought called for action.  "This is a part of a range of drought-relieving measures the Newman Government will put together over the coming weeks and months, as we do everything possible to help those affected," he said.

Agforce chief executive Charles Burke said the move might help save the lives of 25,000 head of cattle.

The move has stunned the conservation movement, with Wildlife Queensland chief executive Des Boyland saying it was outrageous and yet another broken promise.

"Only last week the National Parks Association got an email from (National Parks Minister) Steve Dickson's office saying there will be no grazing in national parks," Mr Boyland said.

"I suppose this shouldn't come as a surprise, in view of the fact that this government is hell-bent on destroying hard-fought conservation gains."

Mr Dickson said the changes would see emergency hardship grazing authorities issued over land which had been selected on the basis of its previous grazing history and proximity to suffering properties.

"These arrangements are limited to only a select number of properties and national park land will only be available for graziers suffering from drought or wildfire and will only stay in place for a limited time to assist with the current crisis," he said.

The Nature Conservation Act will be amended so the eight properties bought with Federal Government funds will be grazed.

Moorrinya, Forest Den, Blackbraes, Nairana and Mazeppa national parks will become agistment paddocks until at least the end of 2013.


Boswell: What’s the price of marine parks propaganda?

Queensland Senator Ron Boswell has called on Environment Minister Tony Burke to detail the costs of a Labor Government “propaganda film” about its looming marine parks.

“At the same time as Treasurer Wayne Swan is likely to announce a huge multi-billion-dollar deficit in the Budget, Tony Burke has launched a completely unnecessary propaganda video,” Senator Boswell said.

“It is eight minutes of pretty pictures and mostly foreign luminaries trying to justify shutting the Coral Sea and huge swathes of ocean round the rest of Australia to fishing.

“It is absolutely nothing but propaganda. It is a platform for Minister Burke to urge people to support the Government’s marine parks decision, which is opposed by millions of recreational and commercial fishers and other people in coastal communities.

“Imposition of the new marine parks by Labor will take the overall size of Commonwealth marine parks to 3.1 million sq km, by far the largest in the world, in fact a third of the total area of marine reserves across the globe. “

Senator Boswell said the video is a “shameless waste of money” produced simply as propaganda to try to generate support for the Government.

“Labor is sending the country broke and this glossy propaganda exercise is just another Government waste of money. Come on, Mr Burke, fess up and tell Australian taxpayers what this propaganda film has cost them.”

Via email

"Fair go" fear-mongering flies in the face of facts

Instead of getting his government’s fiscal house in order, Treasurer Wayne Swan is fanning fears that the fair go is under threat. He has even called the 14 September general election a ‘referendum on the fair go.’

As my new report A Fair Go: Fact or Fiction? shows, Swan’s fair go fear-mongering is unfounded: Australians from even the poorest and least educated families are entering the ranks of the nation’s wealthiest and best educated.

Approximately 12% of sons born into the poorest 20% of families become part of the wealthiest 20% of the population as adults, and almost a third of the children of fathers who stayed at school until Year 10 or below gain university qualifications.

Just as humble beginnings are no barrier to success in Australia, a privileged background is not a substitute for ambition and ability.

Not only do 17% of sons born into the wealthiest 20% of families fall into the poorest 20% of the population as adults, but slightly more than a fifth of the children of university-educated fathers only complete Year 12 or less.

This massive movement both up and down the socioeconomic hierarchy makes our meritocratic society one of the most socially mobile in the industrialised world.

Approximately 41% of the children of parents who did not complete high school pursue tertiary education, putting Australia almost 10 percentage points ahead of its closest OECD competitor, and more than 20 percentage points ahead of the OECD average.

The earnings advantage enjoyed by the children of wealthy fathers is also only slightly higher in Australia than that of the social democratic Nordic countries, and approximately half the rate of the United States, France and the United Kingdom.

Clearly, Swan’s doom and gloom is out of touch with the evidence: Australia remains a fair go success story.

The experience of millions of Australians – from battlers who have come good to affluent first-generation migrants who arrived with little more than drive and raw talent – shows that the fair go remains the defining feature of contemporary Australia.


14 May, 2013

A silly young woman asks:  Why Australia hates thinkers

Amusing that someone pretending to sophistication should resurrect a cultural cringe of yesteryear.  Her complaint seems to be that she does not hear enough Leftist pontification around her. That the French philosophers she appears to idealize are essentially having fun in their writings has clearly escaped her.  Her humourless Leftism has betrayed her.

That Australia has an unusually high per-head output of learned papers into the world's academic journals and that several Australian universities regularly rate towards the top of world university rankings also seems to have escaped her.  Very strange doings for an "intellectual gulag"

That she dislikes popular culture is unsurprising, though.  Scorn for popular culture is common among the alleged superior beings of the Left

Alecia Simmonds

In one of Federal Parliament's many wonderful moments of Orwellian doublespeak, Labor announced recently that it would fund education through cutting education. Yes, so much did Julia Gillard appreciate the years of research conducted by Professor Gonski that she thought it best to make it more difficult next time round for Gonski and other academics to conduct research. In case none of this is making sense, Gillard recently announced that Labor will pay for part of its Gonski schools funding reforms by cutting $2.3 billion from universities. Excellent!

This may sound mad, given that universities are Australia's third-largest export industry. Social function aside, our economy needs universities. But I can also see how it makes perfect political sense for Labor to pillage the ivory tower. It wouldn't make sense in most countries. But in Straya, we don't give a dead dingo's donger about academics. Universities make a perfect target because, like few other Western countries, Australia hates thinkers.

In contrast to France, where philosophers often grace the covers of Le Monde, and England where Slavoj Zizek writes regular columns in The Guardian Weekly, Australia's public sphere looks like a desert. Each week we suffer the intellectual aridity of Peter Hartcher on anti-Gillard autopilot and the bile-flecked bleating of shock-jocks like Alan Jones.

Each week I watch Q&A praying for an expert, begging for someone who knows what they're talking about. And each week I get Joe Hildebrand accompanied by a flurry of tweets by the emotionally unstable. In fact Nick Osbaldiston and Jean-Paul Gagnon recently found in their research on Q&A that only 5 per cent of panellists since 2008 had a research background. Even in an entire show devoted to education issues, Professor Gonski sat in the shadows while Pyne and Garrett proffered glib inanities and vapid insults. No one learned anything.

My problem is not that our public sphere harbours ill-educated members (like the imbecilic Andrew Bolt who never made it past first-year uni). I think we need commentators from all walks of life. The problem is that as a country we are hostile to those who are well-educated. We prefer home-spun wisdom to years of research. Our language is peppered with vitriol reserved for those who think for a living: "chattering classes", "latte-sipping libertarians", "intellectual elites" and now Nick Cater's most unlovely term "bunyip elite".

If we want to emphasise the importance of something we say that the issue "is not just academic". Any idea that takes longer than a nano-second to understand is howled down. Or perhaps, more precisely, any idea that threatens conservative orthodoxy is consigned to the divine irrelevancy of the academy. I've never heard Tony Abbott be told that his Rhodes scholarship and privileged tertiary education meant he was out of touch with the common man. Calling someone an "intellectual elite" is simply a way of ridiculing those who think for a living about how the world can be a fairer place.

There's no doubt that Australia is a vast, sunny, intellectual gulag. The question is why. It's certainly not for want of thinkers. We're home to some brilliant minds, including Nobel-prize winning author J.M. Coetzee, cultural theorist Anna-Marie Jagose and legal theorist Martin Krygier. Yet how often do we hear them speak? Why aren't they chased down for their opinions on policy and social issues rather than wheeling out ageing politicians and professional laymen again?

Perhaps there's a link between the myth of Australian egalitarianism and anti-intellectualism. Australian history is popularly told as a story of democracy, equality and classlessness that broke from England's stuffy, poncy, aristocratic elitism. We're a place where hard yakka, not birth, will earn you success and by hard yakka we don't mean intellectual labour. Although, of course, equality is a great goal, we've interpreted it to mean cultural conformity rather than a redistribution of wealth and power. The lowest common denominator exerts a tyrannical sway and tall poppies are lopped with blood-soaked scythes. Children learn from an early age that being clever is a source of shame. Ignorance is cool.

There's also no room for cleverness in our models of masculinity or femininity. For women, intelligence equates with a dangerous independence that doesn't sit well with your role as a docile adoring fan to the boys at the pub. It's equated with sexual unattractiveness. And for men, carrying a book and using words longer than one syllable is a form of gender treason. It's as good as wearing bumless chaps to a suburban barbecue. Real blokes have practical wisdom expressed through grunts and murmurs. Real Aussie chicks just giggle.

It's not just a hostile public sphere that keeps thinkers at bay. Academics may also not want to enter public debate. And I can understand why. Firstly, they receive no rewards in terms of career advancement for writing for the public. And secondly, many may not want to engage with a knife-drawn public prone to Goldstein-style Two-Minute Twitter Hate Rituals. Academics are often timorous folk who specialise in showing the complexity of issues, not offering tweet-sized solutions. Social media doesn't democratise debate. It limits it to the resilient. Snark triumphs over insight, and commentary is reserved for those with voluminous folds of scar-tissue. Sensitive thinkers rarely fit this bill.

Ultimately, there is nothing elite about academics. Their wages are embarrassingly humble, they work ridiculously long hours and for most the aim is pretty noble – to create knowledge that will help make a better world. In a bizarre twist of logic exemplified by the short-lived Rudd mining tax, Australians have come to see elite multinational companies as having the same interests as the everyday person and academics as haughty public menaces. The former self-avowedly exists only for their own profits, the latter commits the crime of thinking about people.

It's no wonder Gillard chose to pick on academics. They're the perfect targets: too socially obscure to be missed and too loathed to be defended.


NT Chief Minister Adam Giles says fears over "Stolen Generation" are causing child neglect

Leftist fantasies hurting people, as usual

NORTHERN Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles says he will remove neglected Aboriginal children from their parents and place them in adopted homes if necessary.

Mr Giles, Australia's first indigenous state or territory leader, said governments had failed Aboriginal children because of fears they would be accused of creating a new Stolen Generation, but he would not be put off by such accusations, The NT News reports.

"Whatever we do has to be about making parents take responsibility for their kids," Mr Giles said.

"And if they won't, (we're) prepared to provide alternative solutions. If that means those kids are loved and cared for by other parents, then so be it."

Mr Giles said despite the federal intervention, only one Aboriginal child had been adopted in the past decade.

"There are situations in the Northern Territory where nobody has been prepared to support a permanent adoption of a child for fear of Stolen Generation," he told the Northern Territory News.

"There is a lineup of families out there who say, 'If you want help with children, we'll be happy to foster a child, look after a child.'"

Mr Giles, speaking in an exclusive interview, said there would not be a mass grab of children, but he and his cabinet were ready to consider cases of child neglect on a case-by-case basis and move to protect them.

"I think it needs to be negotiated (with biological parents), but there has to be a point in time where you take the necessary steps to protect children."

Mr Giles said the legal mechanisms for adoption were already available, but governments had been reluctant to act.

The result, he said, was that in towns across the Territory, numerous children wandered in high-risk situations, often fearful to go home to households awash with alcohol and violence.

"Where there are couples who wish to provide love and support for children who are neglected and not cared for properly, and it can be determined that the parents will not be able to look after their kids properly till they're older, then we need to make that opportunity available," he said.

"You mean to tell me when we've got all these alleged cases of chronic child sexual abuse, children running around on petrol, going on the streets at night sexualising themselves in some circumstances, and there's only one permanent adoption, for fear of Stolen Generation?

"That is not standing up for kids."

Mr Giles said he wanted the public to know he was prepared to act and said his cabinet was fully behind him.

"If you've got kids who aren't being looked after by their parents, there's only so many times you can try and intervene to get that right," he said.

"And if it's not working, and those kids' lives are falling apart in front of your eyes, make a decision.

"It's not like we're coming in to take kids, but where individual issues come up, we will take that decision.

"People were too scared of Stolen Generation. And I believe that's why there's a lot of kids out there with such social dysfunction."


Signs that warming scare is all hot air

    Andrew Bolt

AND so the great global warming scare dies. Around Australia, bruised taxpayers will ask each other: "What the hell was that about?"

The 10 signs of the death of the scare are unmistakable. Now it's time to hold the guilty to account.

Just why did we spend the past year paying the world's biggest carbon tax, which drove our power bills through the roof?

Why were our children forced to sit through multiple screenings of Al Gore's dodgy scare-flick An Inconvenient Truth?

Why did we scar the most beautiful parts of our coast with ludicrously expensive windfarms?

And why did so many people swallow such bull, from the British Climatic Research Unit's prediction that "children just aren't going to know what snow is" to ABC science presenter Robyn Williams' claim that 100m rises in sea levels this century were "possible, yes".

Yes, we may yet see some warming resume one day.

But we will be wiser. We have learned not to fall so fast for the end-of-the-world sermons of salvation-seekers and the tin-rattling of green carpetbaggers.  And here is why.

1st sign: The world isn't warming

Yes, the planet warmed about 0.7 degrees last century, but then halted.

Professor Richard Lindzen, arguably the world's most famous climate scientist, has argued for two years that "there has been no warming since 1997". Others date the pause as late as 2000.

Even the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admitted in its latest draft report that while its usual measurements of global temperature found some warming trends since 1998, "none of these are statistically significant".

2nd sign: The warming models are wrong

The weekend papers screamed alarm: "The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history."

But wait. Lots more carbon dioxide, but no more warming? This isn't what we were told to expect.

See, predictions the world is heating dangerously are based on mathematical models of how the climate is meant to work. Add our emissions to the equation, and scientists are meant to figure how much the world should warm. But as Professor Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told a US Congressional committee last month, those models guessed too high, and didn't predict pauses in warming longer than 17 years.

Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, found the global temperature since 2005 on the very lowest end of the widest range predicted by influential climate models.

3rd sign: Warming disasters aren't happening

In 2007, Chief Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery predicted "even the rain that falls isn't actually going to fill our dams and our river systems". But it did.

In 2001, the IPCC predicted "milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms". But the US National Snow and Ice Data Center this year tried to claim global warming had now increased snowstorms in the US.

In 2008, Greens leader Bob Brown claimed data showed "drought is the new norm across Australia's greatest foodbowl", the Murray-Darling basin. But the drought quickly broke.

Same story with so many other scares. Al Gore was wrong - the critical glaciers of the Himalayas are not vanishing, with Bristol University researchers now finding "negligible mass loss". Nor are we getting more cyclones, bigger floods, worse diseases or greater famines, as some predicted.

4th sign: People are relaxing

People are now less prone to panic, as a Lowy Institute poll confirmed.

In 2006, two in three Australians thought global warming was so serious we should act now, even if it cost us plenty. Five years later, just one in three Australians thought that.

5th sign: The rest of the world is chilling, too

The Gillard Government told us it was not ahead of the world with its carbon tax. Other countries were just as scared of global warming and keen to stop it.

Rubbish. The US still won't agree to a national carbon tax, because voters won't wear it. China, the world's biggest emitter, doesn't have one either.

And Europe, home of the world's biggest carbon trading system, is now so broke and bored with global warming that the price of its permits has fallen to under $5, a fraction of our own $23 a tonne, leaving us looking like mugs.

6th sign: Even Labor hardly seems to care now

If the Gillard Government still believed "climate change is the great moral challenge of our generation", would it have tied our own carbon trading system from 2015 to Europe's, so permits could fall as pathetically low as $5?

Would it now be considering hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to green schemes in tomorrow's Budget?

7th sign: A bit of warming seems good for us

Global production of wheat, rice and corn have all doubled since 1970, when man-made global warming is said to have really taken off.

Perhaps it's because of better farming. But more warming also means more rain in most places, and more carbon dioxide means more plant food.

8th sign: Warming seems worth the price of getting richer

More carbon dioxide is what we get when lots more people become rich, helping themselves to more electricity and all things that use it.

That is why China's carbon dioxide emissions soared as it dragged hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. China now produces a quarter of the world's man-made gases and rising. It's the price of progress.

9th sign: "Stopping" warming isn't working

Australians pay a $9 billion-a-year carbon tax and billions more in subsidies for "green" technology.

If we keep paying these billions for the next seven years, what difference will we make to the world's temperature by the end of the century?

Australia's Professor Roger Jones, a warmist, says no more than 0.0038 degrees, and that's even assuming the climate models are right.

10th sign: Sceptical scientists now get a hearing

In 2007, ABC staff protested when the ABC decided to finally show one documentary questioning the warming scare, The Great Global Warming Swindle.

The ABC compromised. The screening was given a hostile introduction and was followed with an even more hostile panel session.

That's how hard it was for sceptical scientists to get a hearing.

That wall is now breaking. Dissent is being heard, with Professor Ian Plimer's sceptical Heaven and Earth alone selling more than 40,000 copies here.

Yes, the world may start warming again. Yes, our emissions may be partly to blame.

But, no, this great scare is unforgivable. It's robbed us of cash and, worse, our reason.

Thank God for the 10 signs that this madness is over.


Gai Waterhouse pleads not guilty to two charges laid over the More Joyous affair

LEADING Sydney horse trainer Gai Waterhouse has been charged and high-profile owner John Singleton fined over the More Joyous affair.

Singleton pleaded guilty to two charges of conduct prejudicial to the image, interest and welfare of racing following a marathon hearing in Sydney which heard explosive evidence from rugby league legend Andrew Johns, retired former jockey Allan Robinson and brothel owner Eddie Hayson.

Singleton was later fined $15,000.

Waterhouse is facing two charges in relation to her handling of champion mare More Joyous in the lead-up to the Group I All Aged Stakes at Randwick  last month in which the highly-fancied Singleton-owned mare finished second last.

Another leading figure in the drawn-out  affair,  Gai's son Tom Waterhouse, escaped sanction, with chief steward Ray Murrihy saying there was insufficient evidence to charge the young bookmaker.

Singleton was charged as a result of his high-profile spat with Waterhouse, which started in the chairman's lounge at Randwick and spilled into the mounting yard, where it was captured on television and broadcast across the nation.

A remorseful Singleton immediately entered a guilty plea today but reminded stewards of his unblemished record across 40 years of registered horse ownership.

“My actions were inappropriate and regrettable,” Singleton said.  “That's why I pleaded guilty. In my 40 years of being a registered horse owner, this is my first steward's inquiry and hopefully my last.”

Murrihy said Singleton had been given a discounted penalty - down from $20,000.  “We take into account your guilty plea, your very good character in the racing industry, and we're also well aware of the many, many good things you do quite unannounced in the racing field,” Mr Murrihy said.

But the public nature of Singleton's comments was an “antagonising” factor, he said.  “You must have been aware ... that saying those things on that stage was going to attract mass coverage,” he said.

Singleton has been given two days to pay the $15,000 fine.

Gai Waterhouse was charged with failing to report More Joyous' condition and failing to keep proper records of the treatment given to the group one winner.  More Joyous was troubled by a neck condition in the lead-up to the All Aged Stakes and finished second last.

Waterhouse entered a not guilty plea to the charges.

“I was not trying to hide anything," Waterhouse said.

Waterhouse's case has been adjourned until next week.


13 May, 2013

Wayne Swan's Budget to be a sea of red ink as debts rise

When the ALP took over, Australia had ZERO Federal debt

DEBT is expected to soar over the next four years to a peak of $185 billion as the Federal Budget struggles to get back into the black, putting the nation's prized AAA credit rating in jeopardy.

Treasurer Wayne Swan's Budget this week is tipped by economists to be a sea of red ink.

This year's deficit may even run as high as $22 billion some analysts claim despite last-minute attempts to rein-in runaway spending.

Mr Swan was on Sunday forced to deny his sixth Budget would hold little credibility after the broken promises and significant forecast disparities in previous years.

In an interview with Channel Nine's Laurie Oakes, Mr Swan repeatedly rejected claims last year's Budget was "hilarious reading" or akin to a "stand-up comedy act" as he dismissed suggestions he was "smoking something" for thinking Labor could win the election.

This comes as forecasters grow increasingly worried the Federal Budget will remain in the red for a decade.

HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham is tipping this year's deficit will be $22 billion on Tuesday night and the prospects of a balanced Budget are "limited" over the medium term which will push up debt and put pressure on Australia's AAA credit rating.


10,000 new jobs if penalty rates go

MORE than 10,000 new jobs would be created around Australia should the nation's penalty rate structure be successfully revised, an independent audit has found.

In an application to be lodged later today by Restaurant & Catering Australia, new modelling has proposed the standard award wage be paid for the first five shifts in any week, regardless of whether they fell on a weekday or weekend, with penalty rates from the sixth shift onwards over a seven-day period.

Prepared by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the proposal found - if adopted - the nation would see an increase of up to 3814 additional jobs in the industry in the first year, and a further 7849 additional jobs by 2030.

John Hart, CEO of Restaurant & Catering Australia said penalty rates were pricing restaurants out of the market and threatening the employment prospects of workers.

"An award that adds 70 per cent to a Saturday wage bill and 100 per cent to an hourly rate on a Sunday is forcing owners to earn less than the minimum wage or simply close their doors," Mr Hart said.

The modelling suggested an additional 6953 jobs would be created across all industries in the first year and would also contribute towards a fall in CPI, greater economic activity and an increase in GDP.

Australian Workers Union assistant secretary Stephen Bali said it would be a "horrendous change of culture" if businesses stopped paying penalty rates.


School lunchbox bans driving parents nuts

PARENTS are in revolt over school lunchbox restrictions with four out of five complaining schools are overly concerned about food bought to school and one in three objecting to the banning of nuts.

Even the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Association says school-wide bans on nuts in lunchboxes aren't effective and the president of the Primary Principals Association Norm Hart says they are "wrong" and can't be enforced.

However Marita Ishac, the mother of seven-year-old Stephanie who suffers from a severe allergy to pistachio nuts, says nuts should be banned.

"The reaction comes on so quickly it's scary," she said. "They should be more sensitive. If they want their kids to have nuts serve them at home," she said.

The widespread angst about school food bans was uncovered in a Galaxy survey conducted on behalf of health fund Medibank Private's 24/7 advice line for Food Allergy Week.

It found 79 per cent of the 1000 people surveyed believed schools were overly concerned about the food bought in by pupils and 30 per cent disagreed with banning nuts from packed lunches.

At the same time nearly 40 per cent of respondents admitted they wouldn't know the signs of someone suffering a serious reaction to food and 47 per cent said they wouldn't know what to do if it happened.

"Lunchbox restrictions are an acutely hot topic but this must not be allowed to dilute the seriousness of food allergies," Georgia Karabatsos, Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line Medical Director says.

The president of the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Association Marita Said said there was a "lot of hysteria" about food bans and her organisation did not promote them.

"I think schools have thought this is the answer, they are petrified because we have had children die at school or on school camps," she said.

Such bans often saw children with allergies stigmatised and bullied and they allowed a handful of parents to focus on the ban rather than the restrictions of the child who had the allergy, she said.

Instead of a school-wide ban schools should look at implementing voluntary restrictions in the allergic child's class and only if they were too young to be fully aware of their diet restrictions, she said.

One in 10 children now developed a food allergy in their first year of life and schools should try to educate all students about allergy problems, how to read the signs and what to do if an emergency happened, she said.

The president of the Primary Principals Association Norm Hart said schools were taking more interest in what was in student's lunchboxes because they wanted parents to work in partnership with teachers to educate children about how to eat a healthy diet.

However, he said school wide bans on nuts were "wrong" because they gave a false sense of security to the families of children with an allergy and other parents.

"You can't enforce it, and if you say a place is free of whatever and its not you have a problem," he said.

Marita Ishac says she discovered Stephanie's allergy to pistachios when she reacted badly after eating a Lebanese sweet at the age of two.  "I hadn't given her nuts before and she had an itchy throat, then started blotching and her ears started to swell," she said.

Mrs Ishac now carries an epipen at all times and has given one to the school in case her daughteR has an attack while at school.

Marita Said says the anaphylactic reactions that are most dangerous are those where there are breathing difficulties or any swelling of the tongue or throat and onlookers should immediately administer an epipen or call an ambulance if they encountered a person suffering these symptoms.


Classy pepper from Tasmania

A native pepper bush

ACROSS Tasmania, native bushes are being stripped of their spicy black fruit as the state's pepper industry makes inroads into pantries around the world.

Native pepper, or pepperberries, grow in cool, wet habitats around Tasmania and every autumn Diemen Pepper harvests tonnes of the pea-sized fruit that is later cleaned, dried and exported.

Chris Read, from Diemen Pepper, grows some of the native pepper shrubs at his farm at Birchs Bay.

The rest is gathered from properties at Waratah and Hellyer Gorge in the North-West and Pyengana in the North-East.

"Almost every landowner around Waratah has pepper berries on their property. The spice had been largely ignored, but I put the word out and got the response I was hoping for," Mr Read said.

The native shrubs are not irrigated or sheltered and the harvest can vary greatly between seasons. "It is a good year this year, but last year the harvest was about zero, it really is hit and miss," Mr Read said.

About 80 per cent of spice packaged by Diemen Pepper is exported to North America and Europe. Local sales make up only about 1 per cent while the mainland market is growing.

The spice is now becoming a niche product among those who want to use native ingredients in Australian cuisine.

Native pepper is many times more expensive than conventional pepper.

Mr Read said he was one of only a handful of pepperberry merchants in Tasmania.  "But we are now on the cusp of a commercial enterprise for Tasmania and we are looking to perhaps invest in orchards ," he said.


12 May, 2013

A cop who makes sense

W. Aust.

POLICE chief Karl O'Callaghan will order officers to stop wasting time busting people for petty offences so they can focus on "real crime".

The Police Commissioner told The Sunday Times yesterday he was fed up with officers particularly traffic cops picking up drivers with broken brake lights when they should be chasing drink-drivers and speeders. "We're going to say to police officers, 'Don't bring me back infringements for tail lights. Bring me back evidence that you focused on the things that kill people'," Mr O'Callaghan said.

The commissioner will rein in officers, giving strict orders on what crimes to target and what suburbs to focus on, saying traffic police had too much latitude.

Mr O'Callaghan wants a greater focus on crime hot spots instead of Perth's "leafy suburbs."

"We get infringements for people who have one brake light not working or have their fog lights on. It's a real problem," Mr O'Callaghan.

"We have to make sure that more police officers focus on the things that matter to the community and not the things that matter to them.

"Where there's high rates of crime or juvenile offending, we're going to say go to those areas and patrol there all night long until we tell you to go somewhere else.

"Don't patrol down the leafy streets of some suburb where there's no crime. There's no point you being there unless you get called there specifically."

Mr O'Callaghan said questions were raised about the Christmas road safety campaign when officers issued fines to boat owners who did not have red flags on their outboard motors in Lancelin. The fines were eventually withdrawn.

"I said, 'Why did they do that? The Christmas traffic campaign is about speed and inattention and drink-driving. What are they doing giving people infringements for red flags? " he said.

"Who made that decision? Of course, they did."


Exaggerated Greenpeace Ad dumped

The Nine Network has been accused by Greenpeace of buckling under pressure from the beverage industry for the last-minute yanking of an ad promoting recycling from its Friday night football coverage.

A 45-second version of the ad on YouTube has been among the most popular in Australia, with more than half a million views since its launch this week.

It features people sipping soft drinks on the beach, as birds drop from the sky and wash up dead, with discarded plastic blamed.
Coke and birds

Birds and beverages don't go together, Greenpeace says.

"[The network] took the money and now they've bottled it,” Greenpeace campaigner Reece Turner said.

"There's something seriously wrong when TV networks are happy to show gambling, rape and pillage, but are too afraid to air an ad for recycling."

Mr Turner said the environmental group had taken pains to ensure the ad did not breach copyright rules and avoided the display of company logos. The online version of the ad, though, briefly shows the Coca-Cola brand.

Greenpeace paid $22,000 for the half-minute slot, to be aired during Friday night's NRL match between Wests Tigers and Cronulla Sharks. NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell is known to be a keen Tigers fan, and Greenpeace said it was aiming to get his attention ahead of a key meeting on a national recycling plan by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).


For its part, Nine said it dropped the ad after deciding its content was "offensive".

"We had no issue in taking the original booking from Greenpeace but on reviewing the content we deemed it to be offensive to our viewers and so advised the client we would not proceed with the placement on the network," said Peter Wiltshire, Nine Network director of sales and marketing. "We have refunded the original deposit."

Coca-Cola Amatil referred requests for comment to the Nine Network.

The US soft drinks giant, along with other beverage makers, has opposed a national recycling scheme modelled on South Australia's plan.

That state pays a 10˘ refund on most cans and bottles in a scheme that has operated for about 35 years. Versions of the scheme have lately won support elsewhere in Australia.

The decision on taking SA's plan nationally "really lies with O'Farrell", said Mr Turner. "We think if O'Farrell comes out in support of this scheme, we could have a national roll-out."

James Mathews, a spokesman for the Australian Food and Grocery Council, said its members – including Coca-Cola – were in favour of a national recycling scheme, but not one requiring container deposits.

Mr Mathews said the option was “a lot more expensive” than other measures, such as an expansion of roadside collection points – one of 10 programs being reviewed by COAG.

The "National Bin Network" would cost as little as $51 million compared with $1.76 billion for the deposit scheme. Average household grocery costs would rise 1.35 per cent under the latter plan, and have twice the inflationary impact of the carbon price, Mr Mathews said.

Greenpeace and its actions "put Evel Knievel to shame for the stunts that they perform", he said, referring to the late American daredevil.


Many alternative medicines fail test

Three-quarters of the complementary medicines reviewed by the national drug regulator have failed government checks, exposing consumers to false health claims that lack scientific evidence.

Consumer law and health experts say the figures show the tip of the iceberg, with thousands of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements going unchecked for safety or efficacy.

Chief executive of the Consumers Health Forum Carol Bennett said the figure was astounding. "That's way too high, it's outrageous that we continue to allow that level of non-compliance.

"It's extraordinarily concerning that people are putting their hands in their pockets to spend $2 billion a year on these products," she said.

A law lecturer at the University of Canberra, Bruce Arnold, said products that did not comply with federal regulations should be "named and shamed" through government media campaigns.

"I suspect what is happening is they are picking up on a range of claims being made about the products that simply aren't true," he said. "You might infer that particular businesses are actively marketing in a way they know does not comply with requirements."

Figures provided by the Therapeutic Goods Administration show only 25 per cent of the 79 low-risk complementary medicines assessed between September and December met federal rules.

Low-risk products cannot make claims about treating specific diseases, but can claim to improve health if the companies hold research proving this is the case.

More than 10,000 complementary and alternative medicines are listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. Low-risk medications can be "listed" through a self-assessment system in which companies attest to their containing only pre-approved, low-risk ingredients and there is evidence supporting the claims they make for health enhancement.

A spokeswoman for the register said that, of the products that failed the review, five had their listing cancelled and their names published on the register's website.

"While the TGA ensures that complementary medicines are manufactured safely and do not contain prohibited substances, it does not test these low-risk medicines and cannot guarantee they work." The registry was working to reform the system, she said.

An adjunct Associate Professor in the school of public health at La Trobe University, Ken Harvey, said the register should publish more details of companies that breached standards.

He said that since November 2010 at least 47 complaints had been referred to the register by its complaints resolution panel because of non-compliance, but only eight companies had been named on the website.

"Some of these TGA outcomes merely record continued non-compliance," he said. "The end result is a market flooded with shonky products, making it very difficult for consumers and health professionals to pick the small amount of evidence-based wheat from the voluminous, hype-driven chaff."

A government brief prepared by the Department of Health and released in late 2010 found that, based on 2009-10 data, as many as 90 per cent of complementary medicines failed to comply.

That review, of 31 products, found 20 had labels that could mislead consumers, 22 had manufacturing or quality problems, and 14 lacked evidence to substantiate claims made about the medicines.


New authoritarian Federal regulations on childcare to hit families with higher costs

QUEENSLAND families will be slugged with increased childcare costs as the industry struggles to meet new reforms.

From January 2014, long-day care facilities will require an early childhood teacher to be in attendance and at least 50 per cent of staff to have - or be working towards - a diploma-level qualification or higher.

Childcare Queensland chief executive Gwynn Bridge said families would feel the impact of the new legislation.

"Higher regulations means higher costs for families," Ms Bridge said. "Families cannot afford to pay any more, they are being pushed to the point they cannot pay and we are seeing drop outs throughout the country.

"The reforms should not be enforced until the government can pay for them, not families."

The other big problem, she said, was there simply were not enough early childhood teachers in Queensland.

"We are expecting 500 or 600 additional teachers are needed," Ms Bridge said.

Karana Downs Childcare Centre director Janine Aggett agreed, saying: "I do not think we have enough qualified teachers to step in to the roles. Also when it come to the qualified educators with a diploma, many people are unsure if their qualifications meet the requirements."

Ms Aggett said price hikes were inevitable.

"It will have to affect prices, unless the government is going to offer subsidies into the future," Ms Aggett said.

Mission Australia CEO Toby Hall said the out-of-pocket costs for families with two kids in care ranged from 12 per cent of the household's income for those earning less than $75,000, to 14 per cent for those earning $135,000.

The average cost for having a child in day care have increased up to $7.08 per day in the past year.

Ms Bridge said that was minimal compared to what was coming.


10 May, 2013

Branson tells UQ forum not to waste money on degrees

Billionaire Sir Richard Branson used a university-sponsored lunch to tell a room full of MBAs, undergraduates and high schoolers not to waste money on business degrees.

The entrepreneur and businessman also said the Australian economy would benefit from the adoption of a formal quota system to get more women on big company boards.

Speaking as a guest of the University of Queensland Business School, Sir Richard said there was an argument to be made in favour of redirecting government funding from the tertiary system into the hands of would-be business students by way of an entrepreneurial fund.

His comments come as the Gillard Government propsoses $2.8 billion worth of cuts to universities and self education to free up funds for its Gonski school reforms.

“When it comes to things like business education, we have an interesting debate," Sir Richard said.  “[Success] is far tougher to teach at university.

“As an entrepreneur, you just need to be able to add up, subtract and multiply.  "You should be able to do that by the time you're 15.

"What matters is you create products that people really want.  "You can always get someone else to add up the figures for you.”

Mick Spencer, a young business leader and successful entrepreneur who sat with Sir Richard on the panel, agreed with the Virgin boss's appraisal.

The 22-year-old OnTheGo founder said universities teach people to become employees, not employers, and that undergraduates interning at his company often said they learned more on the job than in the lecture theatre.

"It would be better if there was more real-life experience put into universities," he said.

But Professor Andrew Griffiths, Dean of the UQ Business School and fellow panel member said that's exactly what modern tertiary institutions offered.

"Part of that is saying that as a university, as a business school, we're about lifelong learning," Professor Griffiths said.

His view was echoed by Professor Iain Watson, Executive Dean, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law from the UQ Business School who listed several of the university's programs that connected students with the “real world”.

"We pride ourselves on our educational program," he said.

"It's without question the relevance of that and the recognition of that that's really important to us."

On the subject of what could be done to improve Australia's business culture Sir Richard said now was the time to tap into the Asian market and take advantage of its geographical proximity to booming South East Asian economies.

However it was another recommendation that stirred whoops from the room. "I think that companies as a whole should embrace ... women more," he said.  "It's incredible that most boardrooms have a maximum of one or two women in them."

He says since Scandinavia "forced" businesses to include women on boards, there had been significant improvements to their business culture, society and bottom line.

"I haven't managed to get that in our own companies," he says. "I think it's something that needs to be forced through by law."


NT Teachers slam Education Minister who wants them to work more

TEACHERS wanted to go on strike and picket outside the Education Minister's office after he said they had a lot of "down time" and could afford to look after more students.

Education Minister Peter Chandler made the comments after his Government decided to increase student-teacher ratios in senior and middle schools.  The ratios determine how many teachers are sent to a school, not the number of students in each class.

He  said on Friday: "There's quite a bit of down time for teachers.  "If there's 27 students in a class with one teacher, but you've got a teacher-student ratio of 14:1, what are all the other teachers doing?"

Australian Education Union NT president Matthew Cranitch   said teachers were "livid" and wanted to protest after they read the comments.

"It demonstrated to me, and many others, that he doesn't quite understand education and what teachers actually do," he said.

Mr Cranitch said primary school teachers were given three hours of non-classroom time a week, while middle and senior school teachers had 5.2 hours.

"In that time they've got to do all the marking, preparation, writing reports," he said.  "The list goes on and on."

Mr Chandler last week announced  middle school ratios would increase from 17 students per teacher to 20 and in high schools, from 14 students per teacher to 18.

He said it was part of a plan to improve education in the early years with transition to Year 2 classes seeing a drop from 22 students per teacher to 20.

He said there was no clear research that suggested students performed better in small classes and said fringe subjects, such as drama or languages, would not necessarily be cut because it was up to the individual school how  to distribute the teachers.

Opposition leader Delia Lawrie said the plan would see good teachers forced out of the Territory.


Retrospective legislation disallowed

It is sometimes attempted in a good cause but is always obnoxious in principle

The High Court has ruled a 2011 law targeting welfare recipients cannot be applied retrospectively.

In a test case, Victorian single mother Kelli Keating challenged the law after Centrelink tried to prosecute her for overpayments of $6,942 in 2009.

The Federal Government had changed the law after an earlier High Court challenge over whether omitting to inform Centrelink of changes in income was criminal or not.

The law was made retrospective to 2000 to ensure up to 15,000 prosecutions since then would not be compromised.

The court has found the omission is a criminal act but not if it occurred before the new law was introduced.


How to save the health system

This week, the CIS released the third TARGET30 report on Australia’s unsustainable health system.

The report, Saving Medicare But NOT As We Currently Know It, argues that creating a health savings-based system would go a long way in solving the affordability problems facing Medicare.

Instead of the federal government paying for medical services and medications through the MBS and PBS, these health dollars could be better used to fund contributions to personal Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which people would use to pay for their own health care.

Because they would be spending their own money, consumers would become far more cost-conscious users of health care. Overuse of heavily subsidised health services would be reduced, and as HSA balances increased, health costs would be shifted off government.

The principle of allowing people to save up to pay for health care is not as radical as it might seem, given that a similar approach has either been proposed or implemented in other ageing-sensitive areas of government expenditure.

The definitive 2012 Productivity Commission report into the challenges facing the aged care sector recommended that capital and operating costs for nursing home providers be self-financed by requiring residents to pay an accommodation bond.

The commission recognised that the only feasible way of addressing the financial sustainability challenges facing the aged care sector was to release the equity accumulated in the family home. Bonds are financed by requiring residents of aged care facilities to sell or reverse-mortgage the family home, the principal asset most Australians use to save for over the course of their lives.

Thanks to the compulsory superannuation system (and tighter means testing), Australia does not face as large an unfunded public pension liability as comparable countries in the OECD.

Only modest growth in the cost of the old age pension of 1.2% of GDP is expected by mid-century due to the self-funding of retirement incomes having reduced government responsibility for the cost of caring for the elderly.

We need to make the same transition to a pre-funded health system if health care is to be affordable in the twenty-first century.


9 May, 2013

Homosexuality critic for the Senate?

A TOOWOOMBA doctor who has compared gay surrogacy to the Stolen Generations and claims "a gay person can stop being gay" has survived the LNP's vetting process and will stand as a candidate for Barnaby Joyce's Senate spot.

Dr David van Gend is among a dozen candidates who were yesterday named by the party as possible replacements for Mr Joyce, who will resign to contest the NSW Lower House seat of New England. Mr Joyce's replacement will be selected by the party's state council on May 25 in Mackay.

Former LNP treasurer Barry O'Sullivan has also officially entered the race, which has left some party members unimpressed.

But Dr van Gend - who was vetted by the party's "applicant review committee" over the weekend - could prove to be the more controversial candidate.

In June 2011, he wrote a column for The Courier-Mail comparing the Stolen Generations with what he called the "'gay stolen generation' of children forcibly deprived of a mother".  "The offence is the same; only the justification changes," he wrote.

"This time round the justification for separating a baby from the love of its mother is that it meets the emotional needs of homosexual men."

On March 20, Dr van Gend reiterated, via Twitter, his belief in the comparison and implied a national apology for gay surrogacy was needed.

"3 ways to force a child from her mother: #StolenGenerations; #ForcedAdoption and #GaySurrogacy by two men; a #NationalApology for only 2," he tweeted.

He has also written that "a black person cannot stop being black, but a gay person can stop being gay".

"Homosexual people are able, where motivated, to modify unwanted homosexual attractions and even achieve complete transformation to a heterosexual orientation, as documented in peer-reviewed clinical papers, such as that published by American psychiatrist Robert Spitzer in 2003," he wrote.

Other candidates running for Mr Joyce's senate position include former NSW MP Larry Anthony and Western Downs mayor Ray Brown.

Dr van Gend did not return calls for comment last night.


Qld. Attorney-General takes fun out of youth detention centres

BUCKING bulls, jumping castles and scuba diving lessons have been scrapped at youth detention centres in a bid to take the fun out of being locked up.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has revealed he has no problem being the fun police and said even more perks for juvenile offenders could be chopped.

Mr Bleijie has asked the Justice Department for a brief on initiatives implemented to "strengthen operations" at the state's two detention centres and scope for further cuts.

Mr Bleijie said statistics showed that 30 per cent of young offenders had been in detention five times or more.  "It's not a holiday camp," he said.

The hard line follows The Courier-Mail yesterday reporting that Mr Bleijie was considering plans to force juvenile offenders to make amends to their victims.

While stakeholders were not highly critical of this, they rejected plans to remove the principle of detention as last resort.

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman yesterday challenged Mr Bleijie to provide evidence that youth crime was out of control in the community.

"The President of the Childrens Court's latest report shows a 20 per cent decrease in children appearing," he said.

Mr O'Gorman said Mr Bleijie was dealing with the lives and the future of youth, and should make policies based on evidence.

Mr Bleijie said youth crime was "not going away".  "Ultimately, we want to change the culture of youth crime and reduce the number of repeat offenders," he said.

"The same report (referred to by Mr O'Gorman) shows there has been a 9.7 per cent increase in the number of offences being committed."

Youth Affairs Network of Queensland director Siyavash Doostkhah said the plan could send more youths to detention at a time when money was tight.

It costs $660 a day to house a person in a youth detention centre. As of yesterday, there were 179 young offenders in youth detention centres - 124 in Brisbane Youth Detention Centre and 55 in Cleveland Youth Detention Centre.

Mr Bleijie said if the principle of detention as a last resort were changed, it could allow courts to consider a broader range of options when sentencing young offenders.


Australia's swamps not up to snuff, according to Greenies

Murray-Darling Basin lakes and the Coorong lagoons in South Australia would be deemed critically endangered under a new global system to rank the conservation status of ecosystems in the same way as threatened species.

In a paper published in the journal PLoS ONE on Thursday, a team of international scientists will outline the proposed system, which would act as a companion to the global "red list" of threatened species managed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Under the new system, conservation ratings would be given to ecosystems - a collection of plants and animals that exist in an area of land or water that interact - from critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, near threatened and least concern.

Instead of deeming an ecosystem extinct, as in an animal, they would instead be classified "collapsed". Examples of ecosystems include coral reefs, forests and lakes.

The team studied 20 ecosystems around the world to test the ecosystem red list. Eight were in Australia, including the Coorong lagoons, the swamps, marshes and lakes of the Murray-Darling Basin, and coolibah-black box woodlands.

The researchers found one collapsed ecosystem among the 20 studied - the Aral Sea, in Central Asia. Once one of the largest lakes in the world, the Aral Sea was drained for irrigation in the 1960s and has since nearly disappeared

In Australia, the Coorong lagoons, near the mouth of the Murray, were found to be critically endangered.

Professor David Keith, of the University of NSW, a lead author of the paper, said the Coorong scored the rating because of the pace of fish species and vegetation decline, along with a rise in salinity, during the millennium drought between 2000 and 2010.

He said heavy rains in recent years had given Australia a second chance to better manage the lagoons.

The lakes, swamps and marshes of the Murray-Darling were deemed endangered to critically endangered, while coolibah-black box woodlands were classified endangered.

Professor Keith said the new ranking system was important because not enough was known about most of the world's plant and animal species. "Globally, only 3 per cent of species have so far been assessed for their status; we don't know much about the remainder yet," he said.

"What the ecosystem assessment does is step back to a more general assessment that includes some consideration of all the species that are components of those systems.  "So it is a more general way of casting the net across a much wider set of biodiversity and the species that make up an ecosystem."


Spiralling healthcare costs are the parasite feeding on the economy

A similar sound can be heard in Washington, Tokyo, Beijing, London and throughout the eurozone - the thrum of government printing presses as central banks try to print, print, print their governments out of political trouble. Australia is not immune to this rising global tide, so borrowing here is cheap, stock prices are rising and real estate is rebounding.

Yet Australian consumers remain cautious amid all the cheap money, because households are being smarter than their federal government.

On the eve of the Swansong federal budget, expect reminders about what Treasurer Wayne Swan promised when he introduced last year's federal budget: "In an uncertain and fast-changing world, we walk tall as a nation confidently living within its means. This budget delivers a surplus this coming year, on time, as promised, and surpluses each year after that, strengthening over time … The deficit years of the global recession are behind us. The surplus years are here."

This sounded dubious on the night and has proved to be delusional. Electorates do not like bombast, delusion and wishful thinking from governments (except in France, where they demand it), so the mute button seems to have been applied by millions of Australians to the utterances of Swan and Prime Minister Julia Gillard. People do not trust spendthrift politicians for guidance about what this rising ocean of cheap money means. My top preferred option is someone who has created $270 billion in market value: Warren Buffett.

He recently had plenty to say about all this cheap money during an interview with US financial channel CNBC.

"Throughout the world, decisions are being made on the basis that money is free," he said. "There is going to be a problem when they [central banks] unwind [the money printing] … How extreme it gets, I don't know. It will be the biggest economic event we've seen in a long time."

In other words, we are in bubble territory. Again.

He is especially askance at fixed-term deposits at a time of rampant money-printing.  "Interest rates are to investments like gravity is to physics," he said. "Everything goes off interest rates … The dumbest investment is a long-term government bond.".

So buying bonds with an interest rate of virtually zero is a fool's game. Speaking of fools, Buffett does not buy the nonsense coming out of western Europe that the eurozone has touched bottom.

"They still haven't worked out a sustainable system for the Euro," he said. "The inconsistency of fiscal policies of [governments] who are tying themselves to a common monetary unit [the Euro] has to be solved. And we haven't got there."

This bespeaks fundamental change. Either the eurozone has to be broken up, or democracy as it is commonly understood in Europe has to be replaced by a super-government in Brussels. Either outcome will be a political earthquake. Structural changes are coming in the major economies that will be a disaster for politicians on the wrong side of these changes.

Buffett says he will not be deterred by noise and tumult, even if it gets very tumultuous (as it will in France). He offers the calm of the long view.

"I bought my first stock when we were losing the war in the Pacific," he said. "Since then, the Dow [Jones Industrial Average] has gone from 92 to 14,000. And headlines were terrible but we have such a strong country we will overcome what 535 people [in Congress] do over time."

He feels similarly sanguine about western Europe, in the long-term, after a period of pain.

"I'm always positive about the economy in the long-range," he said. "In my lifetime, there has been a sixfold growth in [US] GDP [gross domestic product]. You have millions and millions of people trying to figure out how to make their lives better tomorrow. They create companies."

Note his use of the term "companies", not bureaucracies.

Buffett believes the greatest single threat to budget stability in the US is the rise in healthcare spending and liabilities, which is exactly the same great financial challenge facing Australian governments.

"If you go back to 1970, there were six leading economies in the world and healthcare [costs] were 5.5 per cent of GDP," he said. "Now the US is at 17 per cent and nobody else is above 11 per cent. So that is a 6 per cent of GDP cost we are bearing that our competitors are not … This is the tapeworm in the American economy."

Ouch. The same parasite is at work here, where real healthcare spending has blown out by more than 50 per cent over the past decade and multibillion-dollar obligations are being added by the Gillard government, to be funded by … fairy dust.


8 May, 2013

Small taxpayers suffer because of bad carbon tax bet.  Lifting the tax-free threshold would have greatly helped the poor

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has confirmed the 2015 tax cut associated with the carbon trading scheme will not go ahead because of the drop in the carbon price in Europe.

Mr Combet says the Government know thinks the carbon price will not be as high as the $29 per tonne originally forecast.

He says that means there will not be a need to increase the tax free threshold as promised.

"Those tax cuts were were to be in the order of a $1.59 per week for most people earning up to $80,000 a year," he said.

"I say they're deferred, because when the carbon price rises again in the future, those tax cuts will still be implemented at that point in time.

Last month the price of carbon in Europe plunged as much as 45 per cent after the European Parliament rejected an emergency plan that would have forced companies to pay more for polluting.

Carbon permits dropped to as little as 2.63 euros ($3.34) a tonne, and German power prices for next year fell to their lowest level since 2007.

At the time Mr Combet said the upcoming budget would need to take the EU price plunge into account.


Teachers furious over the creation of new private schools in Canberra

They don't like anyone  escaping their Leftist grip

The ACT government has approved three new private schools - two Christian and one Islamic - to be built in the ACT despite vehement protests from public education groups that they threaten the viability of government schools and could "cannibalise" enrolments.

The Australian Education Union and Save Our Schools Lobby are also furious that the government has made no public announcement on the approvals despite ACT Education Minister Joy Burch giving the green light in December 2012.

Brindabella Christian College has been allowed to establish a campus at the old Charnwood High School, while the Seventh Day Adventist-run Canberra Christian College will build a school in the new Molonglo suburb of Wright, and the At Taqwa Islamic School has been approved for Gungahlin.

A spokesman for Ms Burch said the approvals could be found on the Education Directorate website and did not warrant a press release.

The union's ACT branch secretary Glenn Fowler condemned government "secrecy" surrounding the decision saying there had been high community interest in the outcome.

"The fact that vast sums of public money will be used to subsidise these private creations means that the public must be informed of the ACT government's decisions," he said.

Save Our Schools campaigner Trevor Cobbold said the the decision would draw enrolments from existing schools in Belconnen, add to excess capacity and threaten the future of some schools.

"The minister's approval of a new school in Belconnen defies all logic. It contradicts the government's own long-term policy to reduce excess school capacity in the region," he said. Both believed it was insulting to the public to approve a private school in Belconnen after the distressing closure of Flynn Primary School in 2006.

"Cannibalisation is the only possible outcome," Mr Fowler said. "This represents a significant shift in priorities and members of the public should have a genuine say as to whether this is the way they want the ACT to go."

Mr Cobbold said the new Brindabella Christian School campus in Charnwood would be within a few hundred metres of Charnwood-Dunlop Primary and St Thomas Aquinas Primary schools. Flynn Primary - just over a kilometre away - was closed despite public outcry because the government said there was over-capacity in the region.

Mr Cobbold said there was no case for another private school in Belconnen given there were nearly 2000

excess places in government schools in north-west Belconnen and projected population growth in Belconnen to 2021 was estimated at only 0.3 per cent a year, compared with the ACT average of 1.4 per cent.

But Ms Burch countered that the latest ACT school census showed North Belconnen enrolments had shown continued growth - up by 135 students this year. At Taqwa Islamic School's application indicated Belconnen or Gungahlin as potential sites, but approval has been limited to Gungahlin.

While Mr Cobbold accused the directorate of failing to adequately assess the impact on schools as required by the ACT Education Act 2004, Ms Burch said she followed the act's requirements and it provided "limited grounds" on which an application could be refused.

She invited the union and Save Our Schools to make submissions for changes to the decision-making process with respect to in-principle approvals of non-government schools. "The government's firm belief is the continued growth and community confidence in government schools is achieved through our continued investment … in quality teachers, and quality infrastructure," she said. "It is not achieved by stifling the growth of the non-government sector."


A step towards justice for Roseanne Catt

Framed by two slimeballs, one of whom was a NSW cop.  Amazing that after 22 years this matter has not yet been finalized.  Police as a protected species responsible, I guess.  Background here

A New South Wales woman who was wrongfully jailed for ten years has won her High Court bid to seek compensation on the basis of a malicious prosecution.

Roseanne Beckett, from Wollongong, was jailed in 1991 for allegedly trying to solicit others to kill her husband, Barry Catt, as well as attempting to poison him with lithium.

The charges were quashed in a 2005 appeal, but there was never a re-trial because the New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to pursue the matter.

Ms Beckett had tried to sue for malicious prosecution but was told she would have to prove her innocence first.

She had asked the High Court to review the law.

Speaking outside the high court a short time ago, Roseanne Beckett has expressed her relief at the decision.

"I'm over the moon, I'm numb and it's 25 years in the making, a very hard slog," she said.  "But thank God I've achieved it what people thought was the unachievable.

"It just speaks volumes to every Australian out there, if you're passionate about something just don't leave it."


Amazing: Federal Public service shrinks

Fiddled books, I suspect. Whole new bureaucracies have been created under Gillard.  But I guess they are not included

The federal public service shed more than 2,000 positions last year, the first time in a decade the bureaucracy has shrunk.

The latest Australian Public Service (APS) jobs snapshot by the Public Service Commission shows in December 2012 there were 165,598 public servants.  But six months earlier in June, there were more than 168,000 workers.

Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood says it is due to several rounds of government cost-cutting.  "This decline in job numbers is due to the 4 per cent efficiency dividend and other savings measures," she said.

"What's happened is that agencies have run out of easy efficiencies and now we are just seeing cuts to jobs and services."

Ms Flood fears there are more job cuts to come.  "This will be the largest fall since we saw the cuts in the late '90s and obviously we're concerned about what will happen both with next week's budget, but also with what the Coalition is proposing of much larger cuts if they win government," she said.


7 May, 2013

The Singleton/Waterhouse clash

Below are what I think are the main points to come out of the enquiry so far.  Young Tom seems to be smiling his way through it.  Unlike Leftists, I admire success and the meteoric rise of Tom makes him one of my favourite people.  And Gai is a former student of mine

And Gai can hardly be accused of poor judgment in running the horse when Singleton's own people also said it should run

The whole episode has sparked great interest among Australians as bookies are almost like royalty here.  And Tom is now the biggest bookie of them all

Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy asked Gai Waterhouse if she had relayed any information about the condition of the horse to her son.

"I'll happily swear on a Bible, the first time I made contact with my son was after the race when Mr Singleton screamed abuse at me," she said.

Mr Singleton told stewards he had not been aware there was any problem with More Joyous until race day. He accepted the advice of his racing manager, Duncan Grimley, and veterinarian Dr John Peatfield that his champion mare was fit to run but heeded Mr Grimley's advice "not to bet". Then Mr Singleton told stewards he received a phone call from Allan Robinson with some information about the condition of More Joyous and rang Johns to clarify.

"I had massive concerns when I heard Allan Robinson and Andrew Johns passed on information which Duncan Grimley said was a bit too close to the bone," he said.

The owner and trainer had a heated discussion about More Joyous's fitness earlier at the race meeting before clashing again in the mounting yard just prior to the race.

"I wasn't happy. I was what Andrew Johns would call 'agitated'," he said.

"I would say drunk," Gai Waterhouse interjected.

Mr Singleton replied: "I had two to three beers before (the race) and as much as I could after."

Just before the adjournment of the inquiry, Gai Waterhouse had a final crack: "If Mr Singleton shut his mouth we wouldn't be here."

"But the mare still came second last," Mr Singleton replied.

"She is a seven-year-old. She's old - just like you," Waterhouse said. The inquiry will resume at a date to be fixed.


More background here.

Young criminals could be forced to make amends to victims under planned shake-up of juvenile justice system

YOUNG criminals could be forced to make amends to their victims under a new "community reparation" model that ensures juveniles take personal responsibility for their crimes.

The Newman Government's planned overhaul of the juvenile justice system has "everything on the table", including expanding orders that ensure delinquent youths help fix what they break.

And in one of the most significant proposals, the Government has revealed some Queenslanders believe they would be safer if the principle of locking up youths as a last resort was removed from the Youth Justice Act.

A proposed overhaul to the Act also includes making it an offence for a juvenile offender to breach their bail conditions, and targeting recidivist youths under a prolific offender program.

While not speaking about any individual case, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the community was fed up with arrogant repeat offenders.

"You've got to think of the victims," Mr Bleijie said. "Victims want people to be held responsible. (Repairing damage) can all be part of community reparations."

The premise of personal responsibility would be an extension of mandatory laws to be introduced this year that would force youths convicted of a graffiti offence to spend up to 20 hours repairing the damage.

Last week a 16-year-old boy walked free from court despite punching 93-year-old Harold Dickson during a violent home invasion at Inala last year.

The boy and his co-accused, Kye Thomas Nicholls, 22, were armed with knives when they demanded money from Mr Dickson and his 91-year-old wife, Ronnie.

In District Court in Brisbane on Friday, the 16-year-old smirked during the proceedings.

Nicholls received four months jail but will be free in a few months.

Mr Bleijie is now seeking information about the case from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Under the Act, police and courts assess the type of offence the youth is charged with, take into account the offending history and risk to community safety and, in the first instance, must consider options such as bail or community-based orders.

It means many violent offenders can walk free from court without serving any time.

In March, Mr Bleijie asked Queenslanders to complete a survey that will help form the Government's blueprint for youth justice, to be announced this year.

Exclusively obtained by The Courier-Mail, the results revealed that three-quarters of the 2000 respondents had been victims of crime.

Most respondents agreed that it should be an offence if youths breached their bail conditions - currently it is not an offence - and courts should be able to consider an adult offender's juvenile criminal history.

Half also agreed with removing the principle of detention as a last resort.

Mr Bleijie said that some parents admitted to him that they could not control their troubled teenage children, and "begged and pleaded" for help.

"Some parents are at a wit's end on what to do," Mr Bleijie said.

He said the private sector might be asked to help provide services for wayward youths. It could include help for those with alcohol and drug addiction.

"People still need to be held responsible for their actions," he said.

"Just because they were high on drugs should not excuse them for what they've done."


The Curse of Government Help

"The indisposition of the aborigines to manual labor is well known; but as they can obtain work of various kinds in the country they should not only be induced to take it, but they should be discouraged from remaining in comparative idleness at mission stations, where they will certainly abide as long as they are provided with food and clothing, without some corresponding demand being made upon their labor."  - Phillip Gidley King and Edmund Fosbery, report on missions to Aborigines, 1882

It's so interesting to me that the economic debate in the USA can exist without a debate on the surge in food stamps and associated government sponsored benefits like tax credits, cell phones and extended unemployment benefits. The elephant in the room seems to be the dishonest ability to talk about people becoming lazy and unmotivated. The increasing lack of desire to work is eating away at the foundation of the nation. Unfortunately it's become a racial issue in America and when that doesn't work any detractors from the current system simply hate children.

Of course all races receive food stamps and of course it's rife with fraud and abuse.

While I think we need to take care of taxpayer funds there is an element to this situation that is even more important. It gets back to the notion of caring. It goes hand in hand with the development of the modern welfare state born of goodwill but now doing more harm than good. Take the aborigines of Australia, who somehow managed to survive for 50,000 years before the arrival of the British without a modern welfare state. The colonization of the people and capture of the land changed the old way of life.

Perhaps defeat took away something but without a doubt many wondered right out of the gate if welfare was doing more harm than good for the aboriginal people of Australia. Colonization of Australia began in 1788 and times were good from the end of the so-called Convict Era (1838) to the economic depression of 1890s (America suffered through a series of depressions and panics during the same decade). While times were good, private donations were made to help aboriginals adjust to their new country but the three main funds went bust.

Enter the government to fill the void, going from distribution of an annual blanket to being caretaker. Immediately there was debate over who should get benefits, how much those benefits should be and what the government expected in return. It was the beginning of a debate that continues to this day.

In the beginning it was clear that able-bodied men that wanted to work would always step in when given a chance, and those that would rather not work would avoid it at all costs - especially if that cost was nothing.

Literature from Stolen Generations, which chronicles life for the aboriginals, points to a trend of fewer and fewer able bodied men willing to do the work that coincided with greater and greater amounts of welfare benefits. As it turns out, the Aborigine Protection Board created, even encouraged, a proud people to become lazy and indifferent. Make no mistake, the aborigines of Australia have endured atrocities and even today sections of the nation's constitution allow government to disqualify particular races from voting and can make laws that apply to specific races.

Aborigines make up 2% of the nation's population but 25% of the prison population and have a life expectancy 17 years less than other Australians. Complicating matters is the same dilemma facing all nations that have offered generous welfare benefits for decades.

How to be less generous in the hopes of weaning people off assistance and into actually becoming productive members of society when so many entities have vested interested in people staying on government benefits. The power of each individual on the planet is transferable, much like the Faustian tale of exchanging one's soul in the afterlife for good times on earth. The deeper one gets into this arrangement the more difficult to climb out and being born into such circumstances makes escape a Herculean task.


Funding students based on Indigeneity demeaning and wasteful

The Labor government’s education proposal adds grants for Indigenous students on top of the Gonski recommendations for increased school funding. This proposal does not take into account the overwhelming evidence that funding is not a principal constraint on educational outcomes in Australia.

Past funding increases have failed to close the COAG ‘gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

The 2012 NAPLAN results showed that a ‘gap’ persists between the majority of students (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) who pass literacy and numeracy tests and a minority of Indigenous students who fail.

A majority of Indigenous students – at least 120,000 out of a total of 180,000 students enrolled – pass NAPLAN. These students attend a large range of mainstream private and government schools. They are mainly the children of working parents who ensure that their children attend school regularly and achieve good results. These successful students and their parents are demeaned and stigmatised by being classed as ‘disadvantaged’ just because of their Indigenous ancestry.

Some 40,000 failing Indigenous students attend schools that concentrate students from low socioeconomic and often welfare-dependent backgrounds. Employers constantly complain that these schools produce school leavers who cannot read, write or count and are not ‘job ready.’ Low socioeconomic characteristics contribute to poor attendance and behavioural problems that undermine school performance. Good teachers leave such schools. Parents enrol their children in performing schools. In the absence of strong principals, such schools become ‘residualised.’

Another 20,000 Indigenous students attend separate ‘Indigenous’ schools in remote communities that have no individual property rights and, therefore, no economy or jobs. These Indigenous schools have developed separate curriculums and teaching standards that fail to deliver literacy and numeracy. There are still 40 Homeland Learning Centres in the Northern Territory that do not have qualified teachers every school day. Although many students do not speak ‘standard’ English, unlike schools with high concentrations of immigrants, Indigenous schools do not have ESL teachers. Attendance is usually poor in Indigenous schools, and more than 90% of the students fail NAPLAN tests.

There is no correlation between funding per student and education performance. Indigenous schools already receive the highest funding, often more than $30,000 per student – more than three times the mainstream school average per student. Yet (with a few notable reformed exceptions), Indigenous school NAPLAN results are persistently at the bottom of all Australian schools.

Using ethnic characteristics to identify students who should receive additional education funding is doubly wrong: Indigeneity is not the cause of high failure rates so race-based funding will not reduce failure rates. Poor teaching, not lack of funds, is real reason for poor educational outcomes.


6 May, 2013

Australian Medical Association angered over claims by president of the Australian Vaccination Network

A LEADING anti-vaccination group has sparked alarm by warning parents not to trust their doctor's advice on whether to have their children vaccinated.

The new president of the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) Greg Beattie says parents should instead consult books and "health professionals who maybe aren't in the medical mainstream".

And he warns parents who do vaccinate their children they may be "jeopardising their children's health".

As concerns mount that 70,000 Australian children have not been vaccinated and conscientious objection rates are rising, Mr Beattie says his advice to parents is: "Don't trust the judgement of your GP."

"If you read one good book on vaccinations you'll probably know ten times more than your average GP," he told News Limited in an exclusive interview.

"I'm not saying don't talk to your GP, I'm saying don't rely on them for your decision, you need to know they are handed their adopted stance. They are taught what to say about vaccination ... look into it yourself and then make up your mind," he said.

Australian Medical Association chief Dr Steve Hambleton expressed outrage that the AVN was "running down the skills of doctors each of whom has spent a decade in training".

While he urged parents to self-,Dr Hambleton said they should do so using trusted sources such as the Academy of Science's booklet The Science of Immunisation or the Australian Immunisation Handbook or the Immunise Australia website.

Admitting there were side effects from vaccines, Dr Hambleton said they were usually minor and far better than the death and illness caused by the actual disease.

And he conceded that no vaccine was 100 per cent effective which was why immunisation rates needed to remain high to provide herd immunity to protect those in whom the vaccine did not work.

"Doctors are trained to assess evidence and make recommendations based on risks and benefits," he said.

Mr Beattie said he refused to immunise six of his seven children after his first child was vaccinated but still contracted measles.

The AVN leader said he didn't believe that parents who don't vaccinate their children are putting their lives at risk.

"I think there is a possibility, in fact, that parents who do vaccinate their children are quite possibly jeopardising their children's health," he said.

Some children are more susceptible than others the physical deterioration after vaccination and this is "something that one day science will catch up with", he says.

Mr Beattie denies that immunisation is responsible for the dramatic reduction in killer infectious diseases in the last century.

Although a document from the Australian Academy of Science supporting immunisation clearly shows disease rates dropped dramatically after vaccinations were introduced, Mr Beattie said "the vast majority in deaths from these diseases occurred before the vaccines were even available".

His alternative explanation is that disease reduction is due to "improved nutrition, improved sanitation, improved socio-economic circumstances in general".

Mr Beattie has written two books opposing immunisation and lost a legal fight in the late 1990's against a council childcare centre that refused to admit his unvaccinated children.

He says the idea that unvaccinated children should be excluded from a social event or situation "is quite ludicrous".

The AVN has recently been embroiled in a number of legal battles over its anti-vaccination message and will next month fight an attempt by the NSW Fair Trading to force it to change its name.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek backed doctors and healthcare professionals, saying through a spokesman dismissing their help could be a serious risk.

"Doctors and health professionals are the best people to talk to about vaccination," the spokesman said.  "Ignoring their advice and relying on unscientific opinion can have serious consequences."


Ambulance staff furious now a groper demoted for sexual harassment will return to work alongside complainants

AMBULANCE workers are furious a manager demoted for sexual harassment will be retrained and returned to work alongside his complainants.

The Courier-Mail has been told the Department of Community Safety Ethical Standards Unit investigated allegations of "inappropriate interaction with female staff members" by the senior Queensland Ambulance Service employee.

"The QAS takes breaches of this policy very seriously," a department spokesman said.  "After careful consideration the QAS determined the appropriate penalty to be demotion to a base grade position.  This demotion constitutes a significant reduction of approximately $47,000 per annum in base salary.

"To ensure no recurrence of such behaviour other actions have been commenced including a range of retraining, formalised continuous supervision and commencement of a structured Performance Improvement Plan."

However, workers at the communications centre involved say it is outrageous the man will be allowed back to sit among those who complained about his actions.

"This is just not fair on the girls," one source said.  "There were a number of complaints and they included unwanted physical contact . . . touching of arms, shoulders and backs, as well as lewd comments."

Counselling was provided to staff following the reported incidents.

United Voice, the professional ambulance officers union, has informed QAS it will seek further discussions over the matter.

"We have concerns about the implementation of these recommendations and the impact they will have on our members," a spokeswoman said. "We have been working with members involved."

A QAS spokesman said the staff member involved had expressed remorse and formally apologised.  "The QAS is confident that appropriate action has been taken to address the concerns of the complainants and mitigate the risk of further breaches of the code upon the staff member's return."


A bus stop where the bus never comes

The idea of waiting for a bus that is never going to come may seem infuriating, but for dementia patients a fake bus stop reduces anxiety and wandering.

The phenomena is becoming more common, particularly in Europe, and two University of Canberra post-graduate Occupational Therapy students have just incorporated one into an exploratory garden they've built in a south coast nursing home.

Sophie Trevillian, 24, and Josie Reeves, 25, have spent the past six weeks planning, sourcing funding and materials and executing an upgrade of the garden of the Basin View Masonic Village, with the aim of providing meaningful activity for dementia patients. It includes a herb garden, fishing boat, chook pen - and a bus stop.

"When we were in the planning stages … what we noticed [was] residents were looking for the bus stop or asking what time the bus was coming," Ms Reeves said.

"[Dementia patients] go back to the activities they used to do, so a lot of them want to catch a bus. [They think] they've got to go home tonight because they've got to go to their mum's house, or they need to wait for the kids at the bus stop … so by having a physical object for them to see and not look any more for the bus stop … that makes them feel calm," Ms Trevillian added.

For dementia patients with poor short-term memory, the fact the bus never comes is irrelevant.

It's a simple solution, underpinned by an occupational therapy theory that all people, regardless of any impairment, need to occupy their time in a way that will give them a sense of purpose and enjoyment.

"What the students have done by developing the exploratory garden is really to provide some objects and opportunities for the residents with dementia to do the things they remember doing from the past, such as catching the bus, going fishing in a tinny, picking vegetables and flowers, feeding the chooks, collecting eggs," Associate Professor Alison Wicks, the students' supervisor, said.

"When they do that now it brings back that same sense of purpose and meaning and satisfaction that it did … maybe 30, 40 years ago."

Ms Trevillian, who recruited her father, his bobcat and a friend to come from Canberra to donate a week of their time, said the garden will not only stimulate memories, but also topics of conversation and interaction with visitors.

And with evidence that meaningful occupation can reduce the need for medication, the students and Professor Wicks will be documenting the process and results at a conference in Japan next year, with hopes the partnership can extend to more care facilities in the region.


Fiscal fixes

Everyone now agrees the nation’s public finances are in need of repair, but not on why or how. Is the problem too little revenue or too much spending?

The Gillard government wants us to believe the problem is one of unprecedented revenue shortfalls leading to unexpected deficits. But this begs the question, ‘shortfalls relative to what?’ This year’s budget was based on an estimated 11.8% surge in revenue, which was probably never realistic to start with.

The day after the prime minister’s declaration of war on the deficit using taxpayers as cannon fodder, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released new data that help shed light on the nature of the underlying problem. Yes, revenue has been weak for the last few years, but expenditure has been strong.

All levels of government combined (Commonwealth, state and local) spent the equivalent of 35.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011/12. This was the second-highest figure on record, exceeded only when the Rudd government’s stimulus spending was at its peak in 2009/10. (The 10-year average before the financial crisis was 34.1% of GDP.) Spending was far too slow to recede after the stimulus. It actually went up as a share of GDP between 2010/11 and 2011/12. Even before the stimulus spending, the size of government was excessive, leading not to deficits at that time but to an excessive tax burden.

We don’t yet have comparable figures for 2012/13, but every indication is that the fundamental fiscal problem is a size-of-government problem rather than a revenue shortfall (which is not to deny that depressed revenue is also contributing to the deficits).

In March, The Centre for Independent Studies launched its TARGET30 campaign aimed at reducing the size of government to 30% of GDP or less over 10 years. If achieved, this would not only solve the deficit problem but also create room for much-needed shrinkage of the tax burden through tax cuts, restructuring, and in some cases, outright abolition. At that time, the ABS figures were available only up to 2010/11 and revealed that the size of government was just below 35% of GDP. The 2011/12 figures show that the task has not become any easier, but remains readily achievable through a combination of spending restraint and economic growth.


5 May, 2013

Abbott rules out homosexual unions

Tony Abbott has doused expectations of any change on same-sex unions in the next Parliament, predicting that a significant majority of Coalition MPs will share his strong opposition to gay marriage.

Mr Abbott has dismissed speculation that he would facilitate a conscience vote in the Coalition party room after the September election, telling Fairfax Media he did not anticipate "much enthusiasm" to revisit the issue.

"I don't think anyone should expect that this is necessarily going to come up in the next parliament," Mr Abbott said in an exclusive interview.

"It will ultimately be a matter for the post-election party room if it comes up, but I am strongly opposed to any change and I imagine that a strong majority in the Coalition party room will remain opposed to any change."

In the interview, Mr Abbott also:

 * Signalled the Coalition would unveil "significant, but not scary" changes to workplace laws when it suited tactically, saying no one should assume further changes would follow in the second term of an Abbott government.

 * Recommitted himself to implementing his promised paid parental leave scheme in full in the first term should he win the election.

 * Promised a hard line on asylum seekers found to be refugees but deemed security threats by ASIO, declaring: "People should not come illegally to this country. That's the bottom line, mate."

Mr Abbott said the issue of same-sex marriage had been subject to a vote in this Parliament that was "fairly decisive".

Although the Coalition had not allowed a free vote, he believed a dozen - "at most" - Coalition MPs would have voted in favour of change. "So it still would have been pretty decisively beaten, regardless of the fact that we didn't have a free vote," he said.

"Now, an incoming Coalition government is going to have a lot on its plate, so I can't see much enthusiasm for having another go at this from the Coalition. That's not to say that others might have a go at it."

Mr Abbott conceded that his sister, Christine, who is gay, is a passionate supporter of change and that his wife and three daughters were "probably less traditional than I am on this one".

But he said they did not see the issue as a No.1 priority, and likened expectations of change to the republican debate in the 1990s. "Everyone thought a republic was inevitable as well, and no one thinks it's inevitable any time soon now."

On asylum seekers, Mr Abbott said he would be dismayed if, by the end of the first term of a Coalition government, "we hadn't substantially stopped the flow".

Pressed on which of the Coalition's three policy tools - offshore processing, temporary protection visas and turning back boats when safe - would have the most impact, Mr Abbott said: "I think all of them are important, but there's a fourth which is critical as well, and that's having much better relationships with Indonesia."

Mr Abbott would not commit to continue with reviews of adverse ASIO assessments by former judge Margaret Stone, saying: "Without wanting to say that an adverse ASIO assessment is identical to the finding of a court, almost anyone who has had an adverse finding made against that person is going to regard it as unfair and will have a story.

"Now, whether the story is credible or whether the story does in fact render unjustified the adverse assessment, well that's a matter for judgment. So, look, let's see what this process produces."

He rejected alternatives to detention for those whose adverse assessments were upheld.

"Anybody who turns up illegally in Australia cannot expect to subjected to anything other than rigorous processes," he said.

"And, if the processes produce an adverse finding, well, they've got to expect potentially a long period of detention - indefinite detention - unless another country is prepared to take them or unless they are prepared to go back to the country where they came from."


Woe!  Australia has not "reported" to that great heap of corruption that is the United Nations

Just Greenies at work trying to impose their anti-human values on everyone else.  To them, no proof is needed that human activity is harming the reef.  That is just axiomatic to them -- they just  want to stop everything.  There's no such thing as a happy Greenie

THE Great Barrier Reef is set to be named as a World Heritage Site in danger by UNESCO next month.

A long-awaited assessment of the reef by UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), released on Friday evening, says decisive action must be taken to avoid a listing in June.

The report claims the federal and Queensland governments have failed to improve water quality or halt coastal developments that could impact the reef.

Only one annual water quality report card has been published, in 2011, which covered 2009.  A second report card was due in early 2012, but it's yet to be delivered.

The report also says there's been no clear commitment by the either federal or Queensland governments to limit port developments near the reef.  Instead about 43 proposals are under assessment.

"The above-mentioned issues represent a potential danger to the outstanding universal value of the property," the report said.

"The World Heritage Centre and IUCN ... recommend that the committee consider the Great Barrier Reef for inscription on the list of World Heritage in Danger ... in absence of a firm and demonstrable commitment on these priority issues."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Federal Government was committed to keeping the reef a great heritage area for the world.

"In the last couple of weeks I announced a $200 million reef rescue commitment," she told reporters in Melbourne.  "We are very committed and we'll continue to pursue those kind of commitments in the future."

But Greens Senator Larissa Waters called on Liberal and Labor to support a Senate bill which would adopt the World Heritage Committee's recommendations as law.

"The Newman and Gillard governments have continued to fast-track mega industrial ports alongside the reef," she said.  "Protecting the Great Barrier Reef must be beyond politics and all parties should support my bill."

World Wildlife Fund spokesman Richard Leck said UNESCO had put Australia in the sin bin.  "We will likely see a reef showdown this June," he told AAP.

The only other world heritage sites in danger that aren't in a developing country or an active war zone are the UK's Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City and Florida's Everglades.


Pedophilia hysteria:  Police investigate frolicking child

It wasn't the original plan for Emma and her grandfather Leo to head to Balmoral Beach, but the six-year-old "water baby" had set her heart on it.

"We hadn't packed her swimming costume but she was in one of her determined moods so I certainly wouldn't have dared say no," said 70-year-old Leo, who was helping Emma's busy parents last Tuesday.

When the pair arrived at lunchtime, Emma stripped off her clothes, including her T-shirt, despite Leo's suggestion she keep it on. She then happily splashed in the shallows for about half an hour while Leo kept a watchful eye a short distance away.

"She didn't stop beaming from the time she got in to the time she got out," he said.

But he was left shaken by what happened next.  "I helped Emma get dressed and then the police arrived," he said. "They wanted my name, they took my identification. They also talked to Emma and asked her name and date of birth. They informed me a complaint had been lodged."

NSW Police confirmed an anonymous call was received from a member of the public expressing concern about an elderly man "sitting with a naked child at the beach".

While it took a matter of minutes for the officers to establish that a misunderstanding had occurred, the issue did not end there.

In the days since, a bewildered Leo has questioned his own role in the incident. "Should I have insisted she keep her top on?" he asked, adding: "Would they still have complained anyway?"

His questions don't stop there: "Would this have happened if I had been a female? Would it have occurred had I been a younger man?

"I would like to meet the person who made the call. I'd like to ask why they couldn't have at least approached me, so we could have avoided all this."

But the person most affected has been Emma herself.  "When she got in the bath that night, she said: 'I did something wrong, I'm in trouble'," her mother Jessica said. "This was a child in her element. Who could have complained about that? If she was in distress, sure, people should maybe call the cops then. She was totally carefree.

"It's not long before she'll lose that and become more body conscious."

Chief executive of the Australian Childhood Foundation and registered psychologist Joe Tucci said raising community awareness about child abuse had inadvertently triggered "widespread anxiety" instead of "confidence".

"In the past, adults would turn a blind eye. These days, more people respond … but not necessarily in a helpful way. In this case, the execution is not what I would have recommended.

"Given it was so public, the person could have at least approached the grandfather for a few words. Yes, it might have ended up being a little embarrassing to both parties but at least it would have avoided that young girl's involvement and negative experience with police."

But Hetty Johnston, founder of child protection advocate Bravehearts, disagreed. "That member of the public did what, we hope, everyone now does in such situations.

"They held concerns so in the best interests of that child, they called police. It was not a malicious or vindictive move. It turned out to be a false alarm and that's great."

Detective Acting Superintendent Linda Howlett, the acting Sex Crimes Squad commander, agreed.

"It's better to be safe than sorry," she said. "If a member of the public does see something that causes them concern, we encourage them to contact police and we will follow that up."

But several days on, Jessica still cannot help but feel the situation was overblown. "It started several years ago with families not being able to take photos of their own children at swimming pools and now it seems to have progressed to scenarios like this," she said.

"As a society, I believe we have grown too paranoid. I feel so sorry for all the grandfathers who face this sort of scrutiny and persecution, simply for spending time with their grandkids."


Outrage at long wait for ambulances in NSW

Almost 300 patients in need of immediate medical assistance waited more than 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive last year, including 50 potentially life threatening cases when the patient waited more than an hour.

Sydney ambulance logs for 2011-12, released under a Freedom of Information request, show "workload" was the second-most common reason for the response times in the 50 longest "priority one" cases, in which an ambulance should have arrived within minutes. There were 279 cases when ambulances took longer than 45 minutes.

Among these cases were people who had fallen unconscious and had difficulty breathing, people with heart problems and chest pains, and trauma cases.

In one case, it took an hour for an ambulance to arrive at a Castle Hill doctor's surgery despite an ambulance station being located in the same suburb. Paramedics recorded "workload" as the reason.

An ambulance sent from Campbelltown was stuck in traffic for 83 minutes on a motorway as it attempted to reach Minto. Distance was the most common reason for delays of more than an hour.

Wayne Flint, the secretary for the Emergency Medical Service Protection Association, said trolley blockages in hospitals, and using ambulances to transfer patients between outlying and metropolitan hospitals, was tying up crews.

"They have to get vehicles to attend from much further distances," he said. "Two weeks ago Manly had to send a car from Lane Cove," Mr Flint said.

Opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald said the situation was clearly unacceptable.

"We have people in distress waiting too long for ambulances because they are stuck in hospitals. The real problem is bed blockage in emergency departments, which takes a third of ambulances off the road."

Paramedics are obliged to stay with patients in emergency until a bed is found, and a third of ambulances took more than 30 minutes to offload patients last year, he said.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner said reforms being made to the ambulance service included "improving rosters for paramedics to further improve response times and separating non-emergency patient transport from urgent medical retrieval".

A NSW Ambulance spokeswoman said half of the 50 worst response times were because of the long distance to reach people in the Hawkesbury area. Wisemans Ferry and Webbs Creek had some of the biggest waits.

Bunny Roberts, the manager of the Del Rio resort at Webbs Creek, has made 000 emergency calls for guests with snake bites, a brain haemorrhage, breathing difficulties and a four-year-old girl with a fish hook in her leg. Sometimes a helicopter came, but often it was an hour's wait for an ambulance. "An hour's wait if you are in a diabolic situation is a long time," Ms Roberts said.

Guests were usually "horrified".


3 May, 2013

Monash University 'sexist' cupcakes furore

This is an established way of  highlighting official discrimination but all the evidence shows that, other things being equal, there is NO discrimination against women in the workforce

MONASH University students are in a social media frenzy about a "sexist" campaign where men were charged 20c more than women for a cupcake.

The Student Association’s Women’s Department sold the cupcakes as part of a campaign to highlight gender wage differences.

The cakes were $1 for men, 80c for women and 60c for transgender students.

A Facebook post calling the stall sexist has received nearly 1500 likes and attracted more than 900 comments on the invite-only Monash StalkerSpace Facebook page.

Tess Gian posted: “to the ‘Women’s’ stand on clayton campus selling cupcakes … that is not feminism. that’s sexism. You want to demand equality? It goes both ways.”

A Monash Student Association public affairs officer, who did not want to be named, said the stall aimed to “raise awareness of the gender pay gaps” that exist in the workplace. It was not sexist but “positive discrimination”.

Monash University law student Louisa Ashton, 21, was among those who stepped in to defend the campaign on Facebook.

Ms Ashton told Waverley Leader many of the angry students had missed the point.

“They were selling the cupcakes to reflect the exact pay differences in society,” she said.  “I think it was quite brilliant actually. It got people talking."

But Stefan Kotzamanis was one of many who slammed the idea.  “They honestly met in a group and thought having different prices based on sexes was a good idea?”

Rachel Archie Wall-e posted: “the best thing they could think of doing was baking? to promote women's rights? i don't want to inadvertently stereotype but their choice surprises me.”

More than 180 people "liked" her post.

The stall was held on the Menzies lawn at Monash and organised by the Monash Student Association’s Women’s Department for Blue Stockings Week, which celebrates women in higher education.


Catholic schools worst hit under Federal Government reforms of education funding

ABOUT one in six Queensland schools will be worse off under the Federal Government's Gonski reforms, according to a letter signed by Premier Campbell Newman and sent to principals.

Catholic schools in low socio-economic areas will be hit hardest, says the letter, which contains a list of funding decreases for about 300 individual schools for the year 2019.

Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Mike Byrne said the potential impact on schools continued to fluctuate, along with continuing negotiations with the Federal Government, and the process was causing "a great deal of uncertainty".

Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said they had 33 schools on the list and also raised concerns about uncertainty around the details of the proposed funding model.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said it was believed the State Government's list was incorrect and called on Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett to refute it.

A spokeswoman for Mr Garrett last night maintained no Queensland school would be worse off.  "From 2014-19 there will be more funding for all schools, including growth of at least 3 per cent," she said.

"Queensland schools will only be worse off if the reforms don't go ahead because the state has not committed to decent indexation or extra investment."

According to the letter sent by Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek's office, Brisbane Grammar and Girls Grammar schools, Churchie, Brisbane Boys' College and Somerville House all face losses, while remote, rural and regional state schools like Bajool, Emu Creek and Goomeri also face declines.

Schools in low socio-economic areas make regular appearances on the list, despite Gonski providing loadings for disadvantaged students.

Catholic schools have the 10 biggest decreases - most in low socio-economic areas.

In the letter Mr Newman and Mr Langbroek write "while Queensland would have been delighted to be the first state to sign up to these reforms ... we still have serious concerns".

"At this point in negotiations, the Federal Government's financial models indicate that about 300 Queensland schools will be worse off by signing up to the Gonski formula, in its present form," the letter states.


Contestability is the key

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman writes below

MANY of the Commission of Audit recommendations relate to the issue of contestability, which essentially means testing how services can best be delivered for Queenslanders.

Contestability is a process, not an outcome. It doesn't mean that services will be outsourced to the private sector. It doesn't mean that services will be retained.

It's about ensuring Queenslanders get the best service at the best price.

Despite scaremongering from the union bosses and Labor, contestability and outsourcing of Government services have been happening for years.

For example, public hospital services are already provided by the Mater (a non-government hospital in Brisbane) and Noosa (operated by a private provider)

It's interesting to note that under the former Labor government, outsourcing of Queensland Health services grew by more than 24 per cent from $792 million in 2008-09 to $986 million in 2011-12.

Similarly, bus services in southeast Queensland are provided by 17 different bus operators, 16 of which are private operators. Each contracted bus operator owns the assets used to deliver the services and is required to meet specific standards.

Further, nearly two thirds of the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services' budget is provided to non-government organisations to deliver services on behalf of the Government.

I firmly believe Queenslanders care much less about who is the provider than they care about access, quality and timeliness of the services they receive - as well as how much tax they have to pay.  They care about real outcomes, not bureaucratic inputs.

Today in Queensland there are Queenslanders who need services and are not receiving them because the way they have been delivered has not changed for decades.

There are public servants who want to do more for their fellow Queenslanders but have not been provided with the tools to help them to do it.

There are private sector operators and non-government organisations that have new ideas and ways of approaching problems that are not being heard.  That has to change. That will change.

The Government's response to the Commission of Audit report is about ensuring our public service is the best in Australia - efficient, effective and totally committed to delivering for the people of Queensland.

Our response is a plan for Queensland's future. It's a plan to create jobs and supercharge the state's economy, making the most of our natural resources and the talents of our people, while ensuring we enhance essential services and protect those who need a helping hand.

It's about ensuring Queensland remains a great state, with great opportunities.


Hunting renewed for NSW forests

Recreational hunting has been approved in 180 state forests for a further 10 years despite a cloud hanging over the governance of the Game Council NSW, responsible for overseeing the program.

The decision was announced by Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson. The review of the governance of the Game Council has delayed the introduction of hunting in the state's national parks until at least mid-June. It was prompted by an investigation into whether one the council's senior executives, Greg McFarland and a council volunteer illegally killed a goat on private land.

In March, Mr O'Farrell told parliament the report by the Internal Audit Bureau, passed to the police, revealed evidence of "alleged illegal activities". Mr McFarland, who was the council's acting chief executive, denies the allegations.

The Premier said the IAB report also identified "possible breaches of Game Council policies and procedures, information which raises questions about governance procedures within the Game Council".

National parks would not be opened to hunting until the government had responded to the review, Mr O'Farrell said.

The review, by retired public servant Steve Dunn, was initially due by May 31 but this was recently extended to mid-June.

Greens MP David Shoebridge questioned the decision to re-declare the state forests for recreational hunting: "If the government has safety concerns about the Game Council operating hunting in national parks, then how can they extend their oversight in state forests for another decade?"

A spokeswoman for Ms Hodgkinson said "the re-declaration process is entirely separate from the Dunn review." She said Game Council licensed hunters "have been assisting with feral and game animal control in declared state forests for seven years. There have been no incidents which suggest any changes to the arrangement are required."

Hunting was to begin in 79 national parks and reserves last month under a deal struck between Mr O'Farrell and the Shooters and Fishers Party to secure passage of electricity privatisation legislation.


2 May, 2013

Taxi drivers bar Aboriginal actors

Unsaid below is that most Melbourne taxi-drivers are Indians and that they have had huge troubles with refugee Africans robbing  and attacking them.  An Indian would be unlikely to be able to tell one black from another. The Aborigines were in other words victims of the politically correct refugee policy that imported large numbers of Africans, with their usual high propensity for crime, into Australia.  If you were an Indian taxi driver in Melbourne, you would run from black faces too

Aboriginal actors in town to rehearse an indigenous version of King Lear were repeatedly refused a fare by taxi drivers in Southbank on Monday night, and racially abused on the St Kilda tram Tuesday morning while making their way back to work.

The Malthouse Theatre is now scrambling to find Southbank accommodation for the cast, which includes eminent actors such as Tom E Lewis, star of Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, Rabbit-Proof Fence star Natasha Wanganeen, Redfern Now star Jada Alberts, Chooky Dancer Djamangi Gaykamangu, and Ten Canoes actor Frances Djulibing.

Four separate cabs booked to pick up the performers from the Malthouse on Monday from 6.30pm refused the fare once they arrived and saw the passengers, according to actor Jada Alberts.

"It was a series of cabs," Ms Alberts told ABC Melbourne radio. "As one would rock up, then they would say they couldn't go that distance and drive away. It happened once they'd arrived, when they met the passengers."

Ms Alberts said that a white theatre worker was successful in hailing a cab to take the performers to their St Kilda hotel but "as she goes to usher the company into the vehicle, the cab driver gets a look at them and says 'can't do it' and drives away."

The fifth cab booked by the Malthouse did agree to take the performers to St Kilda.

This comes six months after musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu was refused a fare over the colour of his skin outside the Palais Theatre last December.

Although the Malthouse issued the cast with Myki cards so they could travel around Melbourne, several of the cast members were bailed up on the St Kilda tram on Tuesday morning by a fellow passenger who yelled that "you Aboriginal people, you don't exist in this country, you don't even have tickets". The passenger then told the driver to call the police and evict the Aboriginal passengers, a request the driver ignored.

"I know that it's not a usual occurrence, for those things to happen within the space of 24 hours was pretty heart-breaking for all of us to deal with," Ms Alberts said.

Playwright and actor Jada Alberts, left. Photo: Anthony Johnson
"We are now looking at accommodation options for all the artists within walking distance of the Malthouse so that they don't ever have to deal with this again," says the Malthouse's media manager Maria O'Dwyer.

"Obviously, this has been an extremely distressing situation and we are very upset that a very vocal minority in the Melbourne community have treated our artists with such disrespect – it's quite devastating that they have been subjected to such repeated racism in 'cosmopolitan' Melbourne."

"Some [drivers] pulled over for me (I am not Aboriginal), but drove away when I tried to usher the Aboriginal actors into the taxi. I tried hailing passing-by taxis with the same result (despite their lights indicating that they were available)," she wrote.

"The assumption that we have made is that the decision not to allow these people entry to your taxis was based in racism. Although, if you can offer any other explanation, I would love to hear it.

"I invite this as I am eager not to believe that I witnessed such a hideous display of racism, and that such disgusting and shameful acts are still taking place towards Aboriginal people in Australia."


Dispersing bat colonies is now a local council problem in Qld.

War on green tape

THE State Government has washed its hands of troublesome bat colonies by handing over responsibility for dispersing their camps to local government.

Previously councils have had to apply for a state permit to move the creatures to ensure cruelty issues were addressed.

Bats have become an urban issue since widespread clearing has seen them move in to heavily treed urban areas and the advent of two bat-borne viruses - Hendra and lyssavirus.

In March Premier Campbell Newman moved to shift blame about flying fox camps away from the Government to councils by threatening to mobilise his own bat squad to cull the native creatures, an action that would be illegal.

Mr Newman said he would charge "lily-livered councils" for the bat squad because they were not applying for mitigation permits.

The Government has already approved the shooting of flying foxes by farmers and amended laws to ensure they did not receive the same protection under cruelty laws as other native wildlife.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the move was in line with the Government's war on green tape.

"We appreciate the significant impact flying foxes have had on some towns across Queensland and these new measures will make it easier for local communities to minimise those problems," Mr Powell said.

Councils in designated urban areas would be given the authority to make their own decisions to disperse or otherwise manage flying fox roosts consistent with an agreed code of practice.

Mr Powell said the flying fox dispersal was a complex issue and consideration had to be given to where the animals might go once they were moved on.

"We believe those decisions are best left to ... local governments," he said.

The authority would apply for non-lethal removal and the dispersal of animals would need to comply with Commonwealth, state and local government laws.

Wildlife Preservation Society chief executive Des Boyland said the move was clear evidence that the Government was giving up on caring for native fauna.

"They've given up on caring for the environment (vegetation clearing and national park development). That's obvious. What's next 'roos?" he said.

Mr Boyland said it was ironic that the move to resolve problems with councils might see the local authorities clashing with the Federal Government's powerful Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act because it protected grey headed and spectacled flying foxes.

"I don't think anyone can move their camps without impacting on the EPBC Act," he said.

Mr Boyland said the issue should be handled on the basis of science and real amenity impacts, rather than fear or ignorance.



I was first in the door at my local Dan Murphy's today and got  a single bottle for $669 -- JR

After months of frantic anticipation, excited previews and controversial price rises, Australia can pull the cork on the latest release of Penfolds icon Grange shiraz after it was officially unveiled this morning.

Ground Zero was Penfolds' home base at Magill Estate in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs, where chief winemaker Peter Gago opened the first bottle at 7.30am to share a taste with loyal followers of the wine, which is traditionally launched every year on the first Thursday in May.

A queue of Grange fans lined up at the Magill Estate cellar door to match their first sip of Grange with breakfast treats before forking out a whopping $785 for each bottle of the much lauded 2008 vintage shiraz.

The wine was originally priced at $685 when first soft-launched to media and trade in early March, but after an extraordinary 100 points out of 100 review by the respected international review The Wine Advocate, Penfolds executives raised the price again by $100, citing unprecedented global demand after the review had put pressure on supplies.

The Wine Advocate review included the lines: "This is clearly a wonderfully opulent and a magic vintage for this label".

Other leading critics also have pointed the wine highly, with James Halliday scoring it 98 points, Tyson Stelzer 99 points, and Philip White at strong 96 +++ points , his pluses indicating it will be better in many years to come and calling it "the Grangiest Grange in many many years."


Cheques to die within five years following 66 per cent drop in use

THE cheque has one foot in the grave with predictions it could be killed off within just five years.

It has raised fears the move could result in a repeat of the massive backlash that resulted in the UK and saw the decision to ban cheques overturned.

The Australian Payments and Clearing Association's Milestones Report released today showed cheque use plummeted by 66 per cent in the 10 years to December.

The report stated it was only a matter of time before the downhill shift saw cheques wiped out completely.

"Based on the current rate of decline and assuming no plateau in cheque use, it could be predicted that cheques will no longer be used in Australia in 2018," the report stated.

But a similar move in the UK to ban cheques by October 2018 provided disastrous and strategic business relations company RFi's director, Alan Shields said it resulted in a complete backflip.

"You have to look at what happened in the UK, the UK Payments Council said they were getting rid of cheques but there was such a backlash they had to do a 180," he said.

"They wouldn't want to go down the same road as the UK."

The UK Payments Council postponed its decision in 2011 to ban cheques following significant outrage and announced, "cheques will continue for as long as customers need them."

Mr Shields said the death of the cheque would be inevitable if businesses started to turn away cheques.

"It's going to be contingent on people accepting cheques, if they stop accepting cheques then that's going to be the biggest nail in the coffin," he said.

"The people that use them are a minority but it's not going to be an easy drug to kick."

APCA's report found between December 2011 and December 2012 the total number of cheques written fell by 12.5 per cent from 256 million to 224 million per year.

APCA chief executive Chris Hamilton said the dramatic shift away from cheque use forced its future to be seriously questioned.

"There's a lot of nostalgia, there's lot of history associated with cheques . . . but they really are quite expensive as a payment medium," he said.

"As people find good electronic alternatives and as they live more of their lives online and electronically then the cheque is just less useful.

"This is a product that's gradually phasing itself out, our biggest concern in all of that is there are still some people including older Australians or for historical reasons those people that are still very attached to their cheques."

The report said cheques volumes had fallen across the world with data compiled from 19 developed countries including Australia and found volumes fell from 34 billion in 2010 to 31.6 billion in 2011.


1 May, 2013

A new tax!  Leftism never changes

THE federal government will reportedly announce that it's funding its National Disability Insurance Scheme with a special Medicare-style levy set at 0.5 per cent.

Fairfax reports the government decided to introduce the special tax, which in effect takes the 1.5 per cent Medicare levy to 2.0 per cent, following an expenditure review committee meeting on Tuesday.

The Australian says Prime Minister Julia Gillard is expected to announce details of the levy as early as Wednesday.

Ms Gillard is also expected also announce a clampdown on the disability support pension scheme when she delivers a speech in Melbourne, the paper says.

The special tax is expected to start next year and raise $3.5 billion a year towards the federal government's major share of the disability insurance scheme.


Public servants fewer in number and made to move where most needed another major shake-up

QUEENSLAND'S public servants will become fewer in number and be made to go where they are most needed under another major shake-up proposed by the Commission of Audit report.

Treasurer Tim Nicholls would not say if more job cuts were on the cards, but said the government was expecting the 200,000-strong public service to reduce by one-third in the next five years due to natural attrition, retirement and "other options being taken up".

"You cannot continue to increase the size of the public sector because that just means more and more of the problems we face now (such as) an unsustainable deficit," Mr Nicholls said.

"Hard actions needed to be taken."

He said recommendations to give the private sector the chance to compete with the public sector for work in a wide range of areas would help make Queensland's public service the best in the country.

"What we see is an opportunity to upskill the public servants to give them the skills necessary to deliver the services that we believe Queenslanders want and need," said Mr Nicholls.

"(At the same time) we're going to be testing the opportunity for delivery of services and the best way to deliver those services."

The Public Service Act will be amended to allow employees to be appointed to a generic level rather than a specific position in the public service and the "reasonable grounds" test for transfers will be removed to allow workers to be sent where they are needed.

Temporary attraction and retention incentives will be offered to "meet specific labour market recruiting pressures" but only in "limited circumstances".

The latest planned overhaul angered Together Queensland state secretary Alex Scott who said it was clear the government could not be taken at face value on the topic of job cuts, following on from 14,000 redundancies in the past year.

"Less than four months ago, the Premier said there'd be no jobs lost as a result of the Audit Commission," said Mr Scott.

"What we know now today is that their election commitment and their statements can never be taken at their word."

He said the push to open up much of the government sector to market competition would lead to "cheaper services, not better services".

"This Government was elected to revitalise frontline services but today's report clearly indicates they will be privatising those services instead," Mr Scott said.

"The privatisation of frontline services will lead to as cheap as possible services, rather than the best possible services and Queenslanders deserve better."

John Battams from the Queensland Council of Unions predicted workers would register their opposition to the Costello report at Sunday's Labour Day March.

"We believe the march on Sunday will be one of the biggest on record," said Mr Battams.

"People are angry and it'll be a march not just by trade unionists but by members of the community who are extremely concerned about the direction in which this government is lurching."


Bureaucratic craziness

Australian Army banned from recruiting New Zealanders

Due to an apparent anomaly in the Defence Instructions, the 648,000 New Zealanders living permanently in Australia are barred from joining either the permanent or reserve defence forces of their adopted country.

Former Kiwi soldier Duncan Sandilands, whose grandfather helped to forge the Anzac legend during a four-month stint in the trenches at Gallipoli, tried to join the Australian Army Reserve in 2007 but was refused.

"I passed all the tests with flying colours and was then told I wasn't eligible," he said.

The super fit mountaineer is now 53 years old and he has launched a campaign with Brisbane-based human rights barrister Mark Plunkett to change the rules so that he and the estimated five Kiwis a week who try and join up can be granted entry.

The Kiwi ban applies despite the fact that Defence is recruiting troops from Britain, South Africa, Canada and the US and is offering fast tracked citizenship in return.

Citizenship is granted to overseas troops after 90 days permanent or six months reserve service.

A 2008 letter from the head of defence force recruiting urged Mr Sandilands to lobby the Department of Immigration for a policy change regarding Kiwi eligibility.

Under the terms of the Special Category Visa (SCV) that applies to New Zealanders living in Australia they are prevented from applying for permanent residency and citizenship as required by Defence.

Mr Sandilands has lived, worked and paid taxes in Australia since 2004, but he can't serve his adopted country.

"Australia is now my home and I want to give something back to the country," Mr Sandilands said.  "I have a right to defend this country that is now my home.

"I will win this, I have got right on my side," he said.

Mr Sandilands said he had spent $100,000 on the fight so far and he was determined to see it through.

60,000 Kiwis came to Australia last year and more than 78 per cent of all New Zealanders living here are in full-time work compared with 60 per cent of Australians.

Mr Plunkett has written to the government seeking a ministerial direction to exempt Kiwis living here on an SCV from the requirements of the Defence Directive.

"With the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli soon to be upon us it is propitious to lift this apartheid-like ban on Australian New Zealanders living permanently in Australia from being disqualified from ADF recruitment," Mr Plunkett said.


Fred Nile calls for clear choice on homosexuals

As same-sex marriage advocates voiced their fears about a divisive referendum, Mr Nile joined the Australian Christian Lobby in calling for the matter to be settled by the public on election day.

He said his Christian Democratic Party had been "pipped at the post" by the independent Tony Windsor in calling for a question on gay marriage to be added to a referendum, expected to be announced soon, on constitutional recognition for local government.

Marriage equality activists are concerned that what they describe as "cashed-up" church groups would bring on a pre-referendum battle that would polarise society and "demonise" gay and lesbian people. Mr Nile and Australian Christian Lobby spokesman Lyle Shelton confirmed significant resources would be thrown behind any "no" campaign.

"This is something that people are very passionate about," Mr Shelton said.

Before Labor's 2011 national conference, the group collected more than 100,000 signatures against gay marriage and Mr Shelton predicted a referendum would fail.

"I would think that if the arguments were presented in a balanced way without the accusations of homophobia or bigotry that are often put towards those who support marriage, I think there would be every chance that people would stick with what has been the status quo for millennia," he said.

The stance of the Christian groups exposed divisions in the gay marriage lobby. Fairfax Media understands that Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who has portfolio responsibility for marriage equality, lobbied leader Christine Milne to reverse her support for a referendum.

In comments that confirmed she had been forced into a U-turn, Senator Milne said a referendum would be a "distraction" and the issue should be settled by Parliament. "The only impediment is that the Coalition won't provide a conscience vote," she said.

Australian Marriage Equality national convener Rodney Croome said: "We fear cashed-up opponents of marriage equality would exploit a referendum to polarise the electorate and demonise gay and lesbian people in a way that will impact badly, particularly on young gay people."


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative