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, 2015

Action on damage to the GBR

I love reading the far-Left "New Matilda".  They are such crooks.  The article below is critical of the Abbott government in being slow to prosecute an erring Chinese shipping company.  It TOTALLY omits to mention that the accident happened during the Leftist Rudd regime and that the Leftists had 3 YEARS to do something but did nothing.  If they had a shred of decency the Matildas would be CONGRATULATING Abbott.  But there's no decency in Leftism -- only rage, hate anger and lies

The Abbott government is finally moving to sue a Chinese shipping company that destroyed a section of the Great Barrier Reef in 2010. But Greens Environment spokesperson, Larissa Waters wants action on repair. Thom Mitchell reports.

The federal government is suing a Chinese company which caused “the largest known direct impact on a coral reef” when one of its ships ran aground in the Great Barrier Reef off Rockhampton in 2010.

The Chinese-registered Shen Neng 1 ran aground on April 3 in 2010, and “despite ongoing attempts to have the ship’s owner pay for damages, the Commonwealth was unsuccessful in securing funds from the ship owner or its insurer to clean-up and remediate the site”.

Yesterday, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) announced that the government has been left with “no alternative but to take legal action in the Federal Court”.

“This has been a great disappointment, particularly given the nature and scale of the incident, and GBRMPA remains concerned about the long-term health of the shoal,” said Dr Russell Reichelt, the Authority’s Chairman.

“The Commonwealth is seeking damages from the ship’s owner for the cost of remediation of the shoal or, as an alternative, orders requiring remediation of the shoal by the ship’s owner.”

A government report into the incident, handed down in June 2011, examined the affect the ship’s grounding had on the reef.

“The vessel grounding caused significant impacts to the habitats of Douglas Shoal, with extensive areas of severe physical damage to, and destruction of, the shoal habitats and considerable contamination by toxic chemicals,” the report found.

Around 115,000 square metres of the shoal were “severely damaged or destroyed” as the ship remained grounded for nine days, and 400,000 more square metres suffered “patchy or moderate” damage.

In a statement yesterday, Dr Reichelt said contamination from toxic chemicals was of ongoing concern.

“Contamination of sediments by tributyltin, a highly toxic component of anti-foulant paint now banned in Australia for current use, was severe, although highly patchy,” according to the GBRMPA report.

“Strong mixing of the waters over the shoal will mean that the effects of this contamination may be spread very widely, well beyond the area of direct contact with the ship's hull.

“There was also significant pollution by oil, and by oil dispersants, at the time of the grounding,” with oil found on islands up to 25 kilometres from the grounding site.

The government’s announcement that it will go to the courts to try to seek funding for rehabilitation comes off the back of allegations on Tuesday that it has so far failed in that task.


Must not show ferals as feral

Mt. Druitt is a Sydney suburb with a very low rating on socio-economic status:  Much welfare dependency and crime

The bosses behind the controversial program, Struggle Street, will be asked to defend the show at federal parliament on Wednesday.  SBS CEO Michael Ebeid will be questioned about how the show was funded in a Senate Estimates hearing.

Mr Ebeid's parliamentary appearance comes after Labor MP Ed Husic said the show treated people in Mt Druitt, a suburb in Sydney's west, as 'comedic fodder'. 

Mr Husic, whose electorate includes where the show was filmed, used debate in parliament about increasing SBS advertising to blast the public broadcaster.

SBS used questionable methods and ethics while filming and then put together promotions that ridiculed his constituents, he told parliament on Tuesday.

'They were treated as simple comedic fodder by SBS, there to be denigrated and demeaned and all for one purpose and one purpose only: to boost ratings,' Mr Husic said, according to the AAP.

'If SBS wants more advertising to promote this type of rubbish TV that has gone on and demeaned the people of the area that I represent, then quite frankly ... they should not have the opportunity.'

Mr Husic's comments were backed up by Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, who will be one of the people to question Mr Ebeid, according to News Corp Australia.

'What the officials from SBS need to do is explain how that was a good use of taxpayer dollars and how that meets their greater charter,' Mr Dastyari said.

The documentary was heavily criticised when it aired, however it also proved a ratings winner for the network with almost 2 million people tuning in to watch it over the two weeks it aired.

Some families who appear in the series believe were been unfairly depicted.  Ashley and Peta Kennedy decided to take part in the SBS three-part series because they wanted to show viewers how they ended up doing it tough - instead they feel they have been portrayed as 'bogans'.

Their Willmot street is made up of a mix of housing commission and privately owned properties, which they say is 'free from drug dealers and hoons'.

'I'm not out there robbing people. I don't drink or smoke. We're everyday battlers keeping our family together,' Grandfather Ashley Kennedy told Daily Mail Australia.  'We like living here, this area is nice. Of course there's riffraff but not everyone is off the rails or on drugs.'

The couple are unemployed and have 10 kids and 18 grandchildren between them.


ABC radio host describes Osama Bin Laden as an 'honoured and respected sheikh' who was a victim of a 'smear campaign'

An Australian radio host has claimed that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was an 'honoured and respected sheik' and has slamming the U.S. for releasing details of his porn collection – bizarrely labelling it a 'smear campaign'.

Steven Austin, morning radio host for the ABC in Queensland, shared his controversial opinion on a Tuesday morning during a segment on advertising called 'The Hidden Persuaders'.

The topic of the conversation was 'the branding of al Queda', which prompted Mr Austin to defend the militant Islamist organisation's founder from accusations of having a porn collection.

'It's fascinating to me that Osama bin Laden, the leader of this jihad, this honoured and respected sheik, was very aware of his media image of al-Quaeda,' Mr Austin said.

The reference to Bin Laden as an 'honoured and respected sheik' has been questioned given the devastation he wrought as a terrorist.

The jihad leader declared war on the U.S. and was responsible for ordering terror attacks, including the September 11 attacks which killed 2996 innocent civilians.

However, the ABC presenter chose to lambast the U.S. for informing the public about Mr bin Laden's porn collection, which Mr Austin suggested never existed.  'When (the United States) dealt with Mr bin Laden, the sheik, they captured a range of documents and book and more – they said he had a collection of porn,' said Mr Austin during the ABC program.  'That looked like a public relations smear to me.'

'You often find that stuff comes out of the US that's about controversial figures, where they always insert that line. So I'd treat that with a certain level of dubiousness,' Mr Austin said during the segment.

The U.S. claimed they discovered the terrorist's extensive porn collection at his hideout, a Pakistani residential compound where he was shot and killed on May 2, 2011.

Mr Austin says it is fascinating to consider bin Laden's fascination with al Quada's media image throughout his time in hiding.

The ABC have defended Mr Austin's comments, insisting his comments do not reflect the presenter's own personal opinion, but rather a description of how bin Laden was seen by his supporters.  'It was not a personal judgment,' an ABC spokesperson told The Courier Mail.

'With respect to the pornography stash and the 'publish relations smear' reference – this is exactly what the segment is about, discussing advertising and how it shapes our lives.'


Ireland abandons its children

Ireland has written a social suicide note and we grieve for her. But we will not follow her.  More than half the Irish have voted for homosexual marriage, seduced by celebrities to violate something they once held sacred: the life between mother, father and child.

From today, the Irish Constitution assumes a mother does not matter to a baby, and a father is irrelevant to his son. That is madness.

A constitutional right to same-sex marriage means a constitutional right to same-sex adoption and surrogacy, and that means motherless and fatherless families are now enshrined as an ideal in the Irish Constitution.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said the vote was “Yes to love” -- but there are children who will never know the love of their mother because of  Friday’s  constitutional amendment. He said it was “Yes to inclusion” -- but it deliberately excludes children of same-sex couples from “the natural and fundamental group unit of society”, which is how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes the trinity of mother, father and child. 

If equality for gay adults means inequality for kids, where is the justice in that?

If removing spurious discrimination against gay adults means imposing genuine discrimination on children who are deliberately deprived of a mother or a father, what is the reason to celebrate?

Gay Irish celebrity blogger Paddy Manning  rejected claims  of discrimination against gay couples, saying, “Marriage is, at its heart, about children and providing those children with their biological parents. Recognising difference is not discrimination.”

Here in Australia, there is no unjust discrimination against same-sex couples in any way, be it taxation, superannuation, Medicare, next of kin status or any other matter, since Federal Parliament amended eighty-five laws in 2008. Same sex couples have full relationship equality and are free to live as they choose; they do not have the right to choose a motherless or fatherless existence for a little child.

Here in Australia, we will resist the dementia that is afflicting the decadent West. If we are the last country standing, we will still not abolish a child’s birthright to the love of her mum or her dad just to gratify the demands of homosexual adults.

Nor will we let our children be taught in school, by force of gay marriage law, that the sexual relationship of two men is no different, legally or morally, to a child’s mother and father in marriage.

For serious gay activists the greatest cultural gain of this referendum will be that all Irish children must now be instructed in the constitutional normality, indeed desirability, of homosexual behaviour, and conscientious objectors will be silenced by the big stick of anti-discrimination law.

We have observed many instances of homosexual enforcement in jurisdictions that have legalised gay marriage: parents in Massachusetts have been denied the right to withdraw their child from lessons by gay activists and church adoption agencies in England have had to close rather than adopt babies to homosexual households. A teacher in London was demoted for refusing to read a storybook to her class promoting same-sex marriage, and the former Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, was reported to police by a Greens Party MP for teaching Christian doctrine on marriage during a sermon. 

This is the uncivil future under a gay marriage regime, and yet the good-natured Irish succumbed to the stupidity of nice. They were trying to be kind to the two percent of their neighbours who identify as same-sex attracted, without understanding that gay strategists have despised marriage for decades as a patriarchal repressive institution and only want it now because it brings with it the power to compel social attitudes.

In Australia we will not be that stupid. There are ways of being kind to our gay neighbours that do not involve violating the foundational relationship of human society: mother, father, child.


Reflections of an Australian diplomat

Dealing with dictators:  Matthew Neuhaus’s career as a diplomat has taken him face?to-face with some of the world’s most intimidating leaders

It was 1997, and Matthew Neuhaus had just been appointed Australia’s High Commissioner to Nigeria. His first challenge was to present his credentials to General Sani Abacha, military ruler of the African nation and one of the modern era’s most ruthless dictators.

“This was a seriously scary thing to do,” relates Neuhaus (BA ’80, LLB ’82). “Abacha had just [in November 1995] executed political activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Australia had been involved in suspending Nigeria from the Commonwealth.

“I went to present my credentials, and he was sitting there in dark glasses with a pistol beside him, and you felt he might just pick it up and shoot you.”

That meeting set the tone for Neuhaus’s diplomatic career. After Nigeria, he ran the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Political Affairs Division, locking horns with an array of despots, including Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama. He was then posted to Zimbabwe, where the ageing President Robert Mugabe, he observes, is “probably now regarded as the dictator from Central Casting”.

“I often say that if I ever write an autobiography, I’ll call it Dealing with dictators,” the 55-year-old chuckles.

The son of Australian missionaries, Neuhaus grew up in Tanzania, speaking Swahili. He was 16 when the family returned to Australia. In 1976, with just a year or so of formal schooling, he enrolled at the University of Sydney, his father’s alma mater.

The University “opened the door to a wider world”, recalls Neuhaus. Lecturers such as Professor Neville Meaney, who taught his history honours year, and the late Professor David Johnson, an international law expert, were particularly inspirational. He became involved in student politics, encountering, among others, Tony Abbott, who was already earning a reputation as a political bruiser.

Sydney also gave him “a sense of place”. Over a coffee at the Law School café during a quick visit home, he recounts: “I always used to love walking across to the Quadrangle, where I did most of my work … Coming out of the suburbs every day to somewhere like this … you could see there was a goal to work towards and a place for you in the world.”

That place, he decided – guided by Meaney, an Australian foreign policy doyen, and Johnson, who had close links with the United Nations – was the diplomatic service.

And so, after graduating he found himself back in Africa: first Kenya, then Nigeria, and now Zimbabwe, as Ambassador. In between came postings to Port Moresby and the UN, as well as London.

Ask Neuhaus about the diplomat’s role and he quotes two common myths: “that you’re sent abroad to lie for your country and you’re saying nice things all the time.”

What guides him, in reality, is “what we like to call Australian values, many of which are now international values: good governance, democracy, a free society and people’s right to have a say in their lives”.

Just as important as furthering your country’s interests, he says, is standing up for those values, and supporting those standing up for them.

When he first met Mugabe, for example, the Zimbabwean President declared that violence was an inevitable part of the electoral process. Neuhaus politely differed. “I said, ‘No, Your Excellency, I really cannot agree with that. We always manage to have peaceful elections in Australia – quite contentious sometimes, but always very peaceful – and I can’t see why that can’t happen here’.”

Perhaps he made an impression. The country’s next elections, in 2013, were peaceful. But they were not, as Mugabe claimed, “free, fair and credible”. Neuhaus, who had witnessed blatant poll rigging, was outspoken in his criticism, calling the process “fatally flawed”.

Is there an idealistic side to the job? “You know, as a student you’re quite idealistic and looking for opportunities to make a difference. A career in diplomacy does enable you to keep some of that idealism and work for a better world, particularly in a place like Africa.”

At university, Neuhaus says, through his classes in history, philosophy and law, and his involvement in student politics, he imbibed the values that underpin his professional life.

It was an era in which the ideological battles of the Cold War were playing out across Australian campuses, and he found Sydney “in foment”.

Tony Abbott was waging war on compulsory student union fees and a Students’ Representative Council (SRC) dominated by militant left-wingers. Neuhaus remembers the young Abbott, later to become a good friend, as a “natural scrapper” who “had strong beliefs and was already pretty conservative and controversial … [with] a certain charm and charisma in rallying people around him”.

Other contemporaries included Tanya Coleman, who went on to marry future federal treasurer Peter Costello, and Lucy Hughes, who later became Sydney’s first female Lord Mayor (and married Liberal politician Malcolm Turnbull). Neuhaus – who also fondly recalls his time in the Sydney University Regiment – was eventually elected to the SRC himself.

He reveals that he always expected to enter politics after a spell as a diplomat. However, when the opportunity arose for him to make the transition, he was appointed to the Commonwealth Secretariat role and chose that career path instead.

Lately he has felt perturbed by the “increasing negative discourse” in Australian politics, which shocked a visiting delegation of Zimbabwean women politicians last year, he says. “They said to me: ‘We thought we were bad in the Zimbabwean Parliament, the way we shout at each other and carry on, but then we saw the Australian Parliament and realised maybe we aren’t so bad.’

“That’s unfortunate, because we want them to learn to be more understanding of one another, particularly because in Africa that can become a matter of life and death.”



29 May, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says the exposure of corruption in football is long overdue

Treatment of Illegal immigrants:  This should be widely publicized

More from the deceitful far-Leftist "New Matilda" below.  It will undoubtedly  prove to be a farrago of lies, distortions and selective reporting but it is just the thing to ensure that the boats go elsewhere:  As they are now indeed doing.  So the more the claims below become known among prospective illegals the better it will be for the Australian taxpayer. The claims would make a good deterrent.  I note that it was largely widely published disturbances at detention centres during the Howard government that dried up the flow of boats at that time.

I have not followed the various claims made about the detention centres on Nauru and elsewhere but I do know that the second last case below is grossly misrepresented.  They omit to mention that Barati was as obnoxious as only a Iranian Muslim can be -- both scorning and abusing the native guards and organizing non-co-operation with them.  He may not have known how thin the ice was under his feet.  Melanesians are not like patient old Anglo-Saxons.  They are a warlike people who don't take aggression or insult lying down.  They strike back. And they went for Barati and got him.  It's a wonder he got away with his antics as long as he did

And, insofar as there has been bad behaviour among the mostly Muslim illegals, who is to blame for that?  Judging by current events in the Middle East, shocking behaviour towards one-another is deeply Muslim.  The Australian government did build secure accommodation units on Nauru to help safeguard women and children  but the illegals burnt the buildings concerned down.  So now they just get tents, which no doubt are much less pleasant all round

The Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill is currently being reviewed by the Senate. The bill will broaden powers of immigration detention centre staff to use force and will reduce their accountability, placing detention centre operations outside the rule of law.

Having glimpsed immigration detention through the eyes of former Nauru medical staff at a public lecture last week, this is a sobering thought. Speakers described an environment of “dark, chilling lawlessness” rife with sexual assault and abuse, where detainees are known by number rather than name, and where grown women are so frightened that they wet the bed at night.

A nurse and a doctor risked the legal ramifications of breaching their confidentiality agreement in order to speak on behalf of detainees, placing their duty of care to patients first. Among the numerous stories they recounted were those of a seven-year-old who had attempted to hang herself with electric cable ties, a woman denied sanitary pads, soiled and leaving a trail of blood and blood clots where she walked, and another, having been raped in the shower, dismissed by the detention centre psychologist for dressing ‘provocatively’.

We heard that the Government has never disputed the Australian Human Rights Commission findings that from January 2013 to March 2014 there were 233 assaults in detention involving children, 128 children who threatened self-harm and 105 children monitored for self-harm.

At an earlier public lecture in March this year, titled “The Bludgeoning of Chance”, barrister Julian Burnside AO QC also recounted personal stories of detainees.

He described the experience of an 11-year-old girl whose family had fled religious persecution in Iran. After 15 to 18 months in detention in 2002, showing clear signs of trauma, the young girl tried to hang herself with a bed sheet. Her mother, brother and little sister found her hanging, still suffocating but alive.

After relating her story, among others, Julian Burnside said, “In my naivety, I thought that if the rest of Australia knew the things that I had learned, the Government’s refugee policy would not long survive.”

Yet here we are, 13 years later. Detainee Reza Barati has been murdered in offshore detention, bludgeoned in the head according to witnesses, using a stick weaponised with nails, then kicked by a group of guards and finally killed with a rock that was smashed against his head. Witnesses to the event have allegedly been tied to chairs by Wilson guards, beaten, and threatened with rape unless they withdraw their testimony.

Even more recently a five-year-old girl showing signs of sexual abuse has tried to kill herself to avoid being sent back to Nauru. An 8 year-old has drawn a picture of a guard with an erect penis before flinging himself into his mother’s arms in distress. A group of babies and their parents are being transferred to Nauru despite the Government knowing, and having known since November 2013 that it is sending them into an environment of physical and sexual abuse.


Shorten stunt on homosexual marriage

The Irish vote was largely fueled by disgust at their perverted Catholic priests.  Priestly perversion has so antagonized once Holy Ireland that people leapt at the chance to defy priestly teaching. 

Australians, however have never been majority Catholic nor were Australian priests treated like Gods, as they were in Ireland.  So it should not be assumed that Australian voters would do as the Irish did. 

Public opinion polls do show majority support for homosexual marriage in Australia but the recent British election shows that the polls can get it badly wrong on sensitive questions.

 Personally, as a libertarian, I think government should get out of the marriage business altogether and leave it to the churches and the freedom of contract. Alabama has just enacted that so it is not hard

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has confirmed Labor will move a bill to legalise same-sex marriage next week.

The move follows an announcement by the Greens that their Marriage Equality Bill would be brought on for debate in the Senate on June 18 with a view to vote on November 12.

In a statement, Mr Shorten said the time had come for Parliament to debate marriage equality and that he found it unacceptable current laws excluded some individuals.

The bill will come before the House of Representatives on Monday.

"I know this private members bill will not have the universal support of my colleagues," Mr Shorten said.  "It will challenge the deeply held personal beliefs of MPs and senators on both sides of politics.

"This is why Labor members have the freedom to vote their conscience, a freedom Tony Abbott is currently denying his party."

Even with a conscience vote in the Labor Party, Mr Shorten does not have the numbers to pass his bill.

Rather he is using it to urge the Prime Minister to grant a conscience vote to his MPs, something the Coalition already appears to be edging towards.

In recent days, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull described Australia as the "odd one out" on same-sex marriage among Commonwealth nations including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada.

Renewed debate in Australia has been triggered by Ireland's vote in favour of marriage equality in a referendum at the weekend.

"The world isn't waiting for Tony Abbott and our Parliament shouldn't have to," Mr Shorten said.  "I know there are Coalition MPs who'd support marriage equality if Tony Abbott granted them a free vote."

Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos said the Coalition had been waiting to see how the Labor Party would move on the matter. "I know some of my colleagues, like Warren Entsch and others, want to raise the issue and have talked about having game plans on this," he said.  "So we'll wait until next week, but certainly I would support a conscience vote on this."


"Women's spaces"

If you Google "women's space" you will find examples from all sorts of times and places of feminists demanding such spaces.  They want man-free zones, where they can escape from the "patriarchy"

Such demands are more evidence of how egocentric radical feminists and Leftists generally are.  If any other demographic category made such demands, that would be roundly condemned as segregation, apartheid, discrimination etc.  "Segregation is good if we do it but bad if anybody else does it" is the implicit message.

It is not however an explicit message. My son reports that when he was recently on the campus of the University of Queensland -- of which he and I are both graduates -- he was approached by some young women who were handing out small gifts to anyone who signed a petition demanding a women's space on that campus.

He agreed to sign their petition, saying, "I think any group should have the right to exclude people they don't like".  This utterance was greeted with horror, his signature was rejected and he did not get his gift.  He was describing plainly what they wanted but they could not admit that -- in the best traditions of Leftist denialism.  They no doubt thought of themselves as enemies of "discrimination".

And we can see how deeply entrenched the hypocrisy and dishonesty is when we reflect that feminists have a long history of opposing men's spaces.  For over a hundred years all Australian towns had a men's space -- the public bar of a local hotel.  Women were not allowed there.  There was a separate "Ladies' lounge" where women drank.

Feminists have completely destroyed that.  Women are now allowed in all bars, sometimes by force of law.  I remember the process  well. The big watering hole for UQ students was always "The Regatta", a large and imposing hotel on the way back into town from the university.  And it too once denied women admittance to its public bar.  So what did feminists do?  They barged in anyway and chained themselves to various objects to make it difficult to remove them. They did so until the rule excluding them was abandoned.

And the efforts of women to have the membership of various gentlemen's clubs "opened up" are well known. Most such clubs have succumbed.  That men might enjoy a place where they are free from women is not considered. But a place where women are free from men is just fine, righteous even.

So how does this ethical black hole arise?  It arises from the general lack of principles among Leftists.  Leftists are sub-clinical psychopaths.  In pursuit of their hates, Leftists can turn around and march in opposite directions at the drop of a hat. 

The classic example of that was the wharfies (dockers,  longshoremen) during WWII.  Nazism and Communism were always sibling rivals and outside Germany, dock workers were systematically Communist sympathizers.  Not a few were actual members of the local Communist party.  So when Hitler and Stalin jointly invaded the long-suffering Poles, dock workers did all they could to hinder the war effort against the Nazi/Soviet alliance.  But when Hitler turned on his ally and invaded Russia, the dock workers, particularly in America, suddenly ceased their obstruction of the war effort. It was their hate that guided them, not any high principle.  Stalin hated "the rich" and so did they -- so they were consistent only in supporting him.

But be that as it may, what is clearly going on among the radical feminists is an inability to empathize -- an ability to see everything only in the light of what they want.  They have no principles and no honour or ethics of any kind.  What they want defines righteous and nothing else matters.  They are moral imbeciles.  Their hate and anger is so strong that it blinds them to all else, even to basic decency and fairness.

Why do some women get that way?  In the universities these days they are taught that.  Barely articulate cries of feminist rage pass as education these days.  In the society at large, however, feminism can be a temporary refuge from a bad experiece -- a relationship breakup usually.  Such a refuge is usually abandoned after a time -- for a man.  Lifelong feminism however can result from some physical difference -- abnormal hormone levels usually -- but it is more likely to be a convenient way to express the woman's Leftism, her hatred of the society about her generally.

It is sick

Wedgetail aircraft declared fully ready -- at last

ONCE in danger of being branded a costly turkey, the RAAF's Wedgetail aircraft are now flying high.

AFTER more than 1200 hours directing Australian and coalition aircraft in strike missions against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the six E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft have been declared fully operationally ready.

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said Australia now had the most advanced air battle space management capability in the world.

But this didn't come easy.  A succession of technical problems with the aircraft's advanced radar raised concerns that the entire project could be cancelled.

US aerospace company Boeing was named as preferred tenderer for the $3.5 billion project in 1999, with the first two aircraft promised for late 2006. It was named Wedgetail after the high-flying all-seeing Australian native eagle.

But in mid-2006, defence revealed technical problems. The delay eventually exceeded four years, with the government enforcing contract provisions which required Boeing to deliver what it promised.

Problems weren't with the aircraft, the proven Boeing 737, but with the Northrop Grumman radar, able to watch out over 400 kilometres, directing fighters to any threat.

The government commissioned the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory to assess radar performance and judge whether it could ever achieve desired capability. It concluded it could.

RAAF deputy chief Air Vice-Marshal Gavin Davies said Wedgetail now provided Australia with the ability to control and survey vast areas of operation.

"The aircraft's advanced multi-role radar gives the Air Force the ability to survey, command, control and co-ordinate a joint air, sea and land operations in real time," he said in a statement.


28 May, 2015


For his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has just drawn TWO cartoons -- one about homosexual marriage in Ireland and another about returning Jihadis.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 'dismayed' at Australia's treatment of asylum seekers

To be criticized by Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein is an honour.  What does this Pharisee have to say about the human rights of women in Muslim countries?  Matthew 7:3-5 refers

The United Nations' top official on refugees has slammed Australia before an international audience, saying he is "dismayed" by the country's treatment of asylum seekers in detention in the context of the accelerating migration crisis in south-east Asia and Europe.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raâ??ad Al Hussein, told the Human Rights Council overnight in Geneva that he was "alarmed" by the current migration crises, calling on countries to put human rights first and to approach the issue "far more" comprehensively.

"The paramount concern of all actors must be the human rights of the people who have embarked on their desperate voyage out of fear and need," he said.

This year more than 1050 people have died at sea after fleeing from Myanmar and Bangladesh, while more than 1800 have died in the Mediterranean, Mr Hussein said.

"I am also dismayed that in Australia, people on boats intercepted at sea are sent to detention centres where conditions are inadequate," he said.

"In the first quarter of this year, 25,000 people have set out to sea from Myanmar and Bangladesh – some fleeing persecution in Myanmar, and others fleeing the poverty that besets both countries."

He said a "large proportion" of them were stateless and refugees in need of international protection and that people smugglers had violently abused and robbed many people who were attempting to leave their countries.

"As the special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar told the council in March, Rohingya people in [displacement] camps have told her that they had only two options: 'stay and die' or 'leave by boat'," he said.

Daniel Webb, director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said an urgent humanitarian crisis was unfolding and Australia should do more to help.

"A wealthy, developed and fundamentally decent nation like Australia should be part of the solution. Instead, we're being called out on the world stage as part of the problem," he said.

"While the UN is urging countries to respect international law and share responsibility, Australia is breaching international law in order to shift it."

This is not the first time Mr Hussein, who is a Jordanian prince, has criticised Australia for its treatment of asylum seekers.

In his maiden speech as Commissioner for the UNHCR in September, he said Australia's policy of offshore processing of asylum seekers and intercepting and turning back vessels was leading to a "chain of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and possible torture following return to home countries".

Last week when asked whether Australia would offer resettlement to any of the thousands of migrants caught up in south-east Asia's refugee crisis, Prime Minister Tony Abbott replied "nope, nope, nope".

In March, after a UN report found that Australia was violating the rights of asylum seekers on multiple fronts, Mr Abbott said he was "sick of being lectured to by the United Nations".

"I really think Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations, particularly, particularly given that we have stopped the boats, and by stopping the boats, we have ended the deaths at sea," Mr Abbott said.

"The most humanitarian, the most decent, the most compassionate thing you can do is stop these boats because hundreds, we think about 1200 in fact, drowned at sea during the flourishing of the people-smuggling trade under the former government," he said.


Australia's dependence on China just went up a notch

New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that not only is China our most important trade partner, it’s also on the brink of becoming number one for investment as well.

It was back in 2007 that the value of two-way trade with China overtook Japan but, as of a couple years ago, Australia’s investment links with China had yet to budge.

In 2011 and 2012, two-way investment -- Chinese investment in Australia plus Australian investment in China -- rose by $13.5 billion. That was less than 10 per cent of the increase with the US, historically our most important source and destination of international investment.

But what a change 2013 and 2014 brought.

Earlier this month the ABS said that two-way investment with China leapt by $71.3bn. This was just a whisker under the $75.6bn recorded with the US and accounted for 30 per cent of the increase with all countries.

And get this -- it wasn’t just because China upped its investment in Australia. Nearly half (44 per cent) was due to a big jump in Australian investment in China.

In fact, last year Australian investment in China topped Chinese investment in Australia by more than 40 per cent. You don’t hear about this amid the shrill cries that China is buying the farm and the family home.

But with the continued opening of China’s domestic capital markets to foreign investors, official interest rates more than double ours and its stock market on a bull run, it’s not surprising that more and more Aussies are snapping up Chinese assets.

What does all this mean?

Fundamentally, it’s a good news story.

Treasurer Joe Hockey was right when he said in the recent Federal Budget that Australia would benefit from its major trading partners, led by China, growing at a faster rate than the global average. It’s better to have investment links with faster growing economies as well.

The catch is, that if Australia’s exposure to China wasn’t already sky high, it certainly is now. That makes the forecasts of Chinese growth found in the budget papers all the more crucial.

The Commonwealth Treasury sees China expanding at between 6 to 7 per cent for the next three years. While this is in line with what the IMF and World Bank are saying, some think it’s too rosy.

After all, real estate investment in the year to April was up just 6 per cent. That’s the slowest rate of growth since early 2009 when China was in the midst of a GFC slump. The growth in industrial production is at GFC lows too.

But this is looking for Chinese growth in the wrong place. Its economy has moved on: no longer does growth rely on making even more T-shirts and building more roads, now it’s about online retailing and peer-to-peer lending.

Last year, the secondary sector led by manufacturing and construction, contributed 43 per cent of China’s growth. Services delivered 52 per cent. And in the first quarter of this year, services were responsible for 55 per cent. The trend is clear.

China’s ‘new normal’ growth of between 6 and 7 per cent overall, means 8 per cent in the services sector. That pace hasn’t slowed over the past three years.

Earlier this week, HSBC said that its Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was stuck in contraction. But as far as crystal balls go, better to gaze into the services PMI.

Throughout 2015, that has not only been in expansion territory but steadily strengthening as well.

A lot has changed in China and in Australia’s economic relationship with China in recent years. But the big truth remains the same: we’re far better off being exposed to China than any other major economy.


More solar panel subsidies die

Waste of money in Spain, USA, Britain and Germany and now Australia.  Aussie solar panels suck money from the poor and hand it to the rich

The cost of climate-change-inspired subsidies to boost the installation of rooftop solar systems has forced consumers who don’t have solar panels (the poor people) to pay $14bn to the rich people who do, but the Aussies are coming to their senses.

With 1.4m households having solar panels, Australia has the highest proportion in the world of households with solar panels, but the ill-advised subsidies that allowed them, plus presumably their marketing, outweigh any good they do by $9 billion. Unbelievable.

A report on the electricity market by the Grattan Institute think tank reveals that solar feed-in tariffs, which over-pay owners of solar panels for the power they supply to the grid, have created “a policy mess”. Well, that’s hardly surprising, considering the subsidies were the only financial reason to instal the things.

Anyway, it wants pricing reforms. The electricity price does not increase at peak times, so consumers who don’t have solar panels subsidise those who do, even though solar owners place the same strain on the distribution network. That’s because peak use of power usually occurs in the early evening when (surprise) the sun goes down.

While solar panels have cut emissions they have proved very costly—the equivalent of a carbon price of $170 a tonne. Emissions could have been reduced more cheaply and fairly. The Australian carbon price right now sits at $13.95 a tonne. The electricity regulator will require those with solar panels to pay more than before, so the installation of new solar panels in most capital cities will no longer be profitable.

Climate sceptics have been asking about discrepancies in the economics of solar panels for years. We still have questions about their carbon footprint, but they become moot as solar panels are killed off by economics.

Solar panels are fine in deserts, coral atolls and yachts, but they’ll never securely run a household or a steel mill—especially at night.


Gas exploration licence extension not ruled out by NSW Premier after court overturned suspension

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird has not rule out extending Metgasco's drilling licence in the state's north, after a court overturned the State Government's attempt to suspend it.

In April, the Supreme Court lifted the suspension of the gas company's licence to drill a test well at its Rosella site near Bentley.

The suspension was imposed a year ago amid allegations of inadequate community consultation.  But the court found the Government had acted improperly, overturning the decision and awarding costs to Metgasco.

The Government has now confirmed it will not appeal against the court ruling, but Metgasco has pushed for an out-of-court compensation settlement and a possible four-year licence extension.

It also wants police protection at the drilling site at Bentley, which has previously been hindered by months of protests and blockades.

Mr Baird said the Government is in talks with Metgasco, but will not confirm what options are on the table.  "I'm not going to rule anything in or out now," Mr Baird said.  "What I will be saying is we are happy to negotiate directly with them.  "We have a buyback scheme that sits there across the state at the moment and we are talking to all players about that."

Metgasco's managing director, Peter Henderson, said the Government's decision not to appeal came as no surprise. "We had a very strong court position," he said.

"Had the Government appealed the decision, it would have sent a terrible message to industry in New South Wales and would also have wasted public funds.  "We were confident that had it been taken to appeal, we would have won again."


Public servants banned from wearing ugg boots, onesies

Ever thought about wearing ugg boots to work? How about a onesie?

If you work at the Immigration Department, your time has run out.  The department has a new dress code and comfort dressing is out.

"There are certain things that wouldn't constitute professional business dress and that would be things like jeans, thongs, ugg boots and so on," the department's Jan Dorrington told a Senate committee.

"I couldn't imagine that many people would be rocking up to work in ugg boots," asked Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

"Ah, you'd be surprised, Senator," Ms Dorrington replied. Her boss, department secretary Mike Pezzullo, quickly agreed, revealing how he came to learn about the onesie.

"At one point Ms Dorrington came to me with a number of matters that had arisen and I was asked to, if you like, rule or make a determination around something called the wearing of onesies," he said.  "I didn't even know what a onesie was and I was shown pictures of such garb."

Queensland Liberal Senator Ian MacDonald was keen for Mr Pezzullo to share his newfound knowledge.  "Tell me what it is so we all know," the senator said.

"Ah, I had to put it out of my head very quickly, Senator," Mr Pezzullo replied. "I guess in the old days you would have called it a boiler suit of some description."

So far no-one has been disciplined under the new rules. Mr Pezzullo said he did not think they were "draconian" but rather about "basic professionalism".

For the record, the Macquarie Dictionary describes a onesie as: "A loose-fitting one-piece suit, usually of a stretch fabric, gathered at the wrists and ankles and loose at the crotch." [i.e. an adult baby suit]


27 May, 2015

CSIRO is censoring its own scientists

And they lie to cover up the censorship

Patrick Moore

During my tour of Australian capitals last year, speaking about climate change, I was always eager to share a bright spot of news about the world’s driest places.

Your very own CSIRO, in collaboration with the Australian National University, had published a study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 2013 that deserved wide acclaim. Very few people in my audiences were aware of it, despite the fact the CSIRO had published a synopsis of the paper on its own website titled “Deserts ‘greening’ from rising CO2”.

The paper reported on the work of Randall Donohue of the Land and Water division of the CSIRO and his colleagues who had conducted an 18year study of global vegetation from satellite observations. They determined that from 1982 to 2010 the fertilisation effect from increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere had resulted in an 11 per cent increase in foliage in arid regions across the globe.

This includes large areas of Western Australia, subSaharan Africa, India and the Great Plains of North America. You would think with all the talk of drought and climate crisis this would have made the front page of every newspaper in Australia, and the world for that matter. But no, it appears to be a case of inconvenient truth.

So inconvenient that when the CSIRO revamped its website a few weeks ago it decided to delete the page on the greening deserts in Australia and around the world. I reported this omission to my friend and colleague Paul Evans, of Sydney, who runs communications for the Galileo Movement, the group that helped organise my tour of Australia last October.

He made an inquiry of the CSIRO and received this reply: “Dear Paul, You may be wondering why we changed our website ... The web page “Deserts greening from rising CO2” was published in 2013, and our new website is focused on our current research and services, not on past research and outcomes.”

Does this not beg the definition of current? So 2013 is now ancient history, sort of like alchemy and astrology from the 15th century? And it’s not as if the “greening” has ended. It continues apace and will accelerate as CO2 levels finally rise from near plant starvation levels before the Industrial Revolution to levels that provide a decent meal for our best friends, the photosynthetic plants we depend on for our existence.

This research is critical to our understanding of the actual effect of increased CO2 as opposed to the hypothetical effect.

One could assume from CSIRO’s reply that all references to science done before 2013 have now been purged from the superuptodate CSIRO website. But a quick look tells us otherwise. All you need do is go to the CSIRO page that contains the 2014 report State of the Climate. There you will find that, of the 146 science papers listed to support the concern for changes in the climate, none of them are more recent than 2013 and nearly all of them are older.

The climate report is complete with the usual “homogenised” temperature records and warnings about ocean acidification.

Clearly a double standard has been applied and clearly the CSIRO is effectively censoring its own scientists for daring to find a positive result from increased CO2.

The Australian public, and in particular its science institutions, should demand that this study be reinstated on the CSIRO website with a link from the home page. It is a brilliant piece of work and demonstrates that CO2 is food for plants and that our agriculture and forestry will benefit greatly from increased levels in the air.

During the first 15 years of this century, ever-increasing emissions of CO2 have not produced any statistically significant warming, while they have accelerated the growth of plants, especially in arid regions. The reason higher CO2 is resulting in increased plant growth is because during the past millions of years it had steadily declined to levels too low for plants to realise their full potential.

Higher levels of CO2 have been the norm throughout the history of life. It has been only during recent times (the past few million years) that CO2 had sunk to such low levels that it slowed the growth of plants significantly. Then humans began to put some of it back where it came from in the first place.

People don’t stop to think that the fossil fuels we are burning today are made from plants and plankton that took CO2 from the atmosphere as food for themselves, using solar energy to convert the CO2into sugars. Fossil fuels are 100 per cent organic, were made with solar power, and the byproduct of burning them is food for plants.

The CSIRO’s reply refers to the study of CO2’s fertiliser effect as “past research and outcomes”. Does this mean it has not only deleted the study from its website but also have discontinued this important work? One fears this to be true.

Australians should not only demand that the study be fully reinstated on the website but that the CSIRO be instructed to put it back on its agenda, perhaps this time with a strong focus on how CO2 is benefiting Australian forests and farming.

It’s time to stop demonising CO2 and to recognise it as the giver of life that it is.

The Australian of May 23rd.

Compulsory maths and science? You’ve got to be joking Christopher Pyne

Jenna Martin

THE news that Christopher Pyne is pushing to make maths and science compulsory for students in senior years has enraged me. It has infuriated me. It has made me exasperated, incensed and irate. Words I use with flourish because I’m a student of English. Not maths.

But let me be clear, this is not about Maths vs. English. This is about the right to not be EXTRA miserable in the most painful, boring two years of your young life: years 11 and 12.

When I was 7 my teacher- a boorish, balding man with a permanently blank expression, sat my parents down and told them, plain and simple, I wasn’t good at maths. This isn’t so shocking in itself. What is more shocking is the fact that he followed this up with the statement, “It’s not her thing, so she really shouldn’t worry about it.”

I remember I was mortified. I was a nerd and a shameless teachers pet: there was something I wasn’t good at?!

The fact is that while it probably wasn’t PC to tell a kid she was crap at something and shouldn’t bother trying, the truth is, he was kind of right. I know the counter argument: kids are blanks slates. Their brains are just vats, waiting, desperate to be filled, opened and inspired. They can learn anything, right?


You see, the fact is, I did try. I was determined to prove that teacher wrong. I was sure I could handle complicated equations and solve quantum physics … if only I knew what quantum physics actually were.

I tried harder at maths than almost anything in my life. But despite all my efforts, and all my extra hours of studying, I felt like a failure. I’d been losing sleep trying to study and worse than that, my other, better subjects were suffering.

The fact is, despite my determination to rally against my year 3 teacher, I just didn’t have a maths brain. I didn’t have a science brain either. I still don’t.

I put up with isosceles triangles and the periodic table for far too long. Every class was a struggle, every exam was a stress. I hated those lessons. Once I missed a maths test because I was throwing up with panic in the toilet. I hated how, even with great teachers, my useless, ineffectual maths brain made me feel tiny and stupid.

In the meantime, in every other area, I thrived. I escaped in Shakespeare and Jane Austen. I topped the class in modern history. I represented the school in a public speaking competition. When it came time to make my decisions for year 11 and 12, there was no question: Goodbye science. Goodbye maths.

That was 15 years ago and I’ve never looked back. I may not have known at the age of 16 exactly what I was going to do with my life … but I knew I wasn’t going to work for the CSIRO. Or get into aeronautical engineering. Or even become an accountant.

I can accept studying maths up until Year 10 (despite never in my adult life needing to know anything mathematical I couldn’t do with a calculator), but when it comes time to pick the subjects that are going to dictate your results and your university opportunities, it’s downright cruel to force students not to play to their strengths.

The government has suggested that up to 75% of the fastest growing jobs involve science, technology, engineering or maths, so called “STEM” skills. This may be true. But the fact is, forcing people to study these subjects against their natural ability will take time away from pursuing their strengths. And getting into most of those industries involves a tertiary qualification anyway: high school maths ain’t gonna cut it.

I was a bright student, but I certainly wasn’t an all-rounder. In my HSC I did nothing but humanities and my marks were high enough for law school. If I’d have been forced to study maths? No chance of that.

(I should also note that three of my friends also nixed the sciences. All of them got 99+ for the HSC and one now holds a job in Mr Pyne’s own government.)

High school is awful for most people. Teenagers already have to deal with hideous pimples and sexual frustration. They also have to figure out who the hell they are and what they can contribute to the world. Schools should be striving to help kids discover exactly what this is. Whether it’s English, history, sports, languages, the arts OR, indeed, maths and science. None should be prioritised over the other.

Try everything, sure. But if at once you try and don’t succeed- especially if you hate it- don’t try harder, do something else you like better. Something that inspires you. Or at the very least, something that doesn’t make you throw up.


Creeping fairness a blow to Labor’s class warriors

There was more disappointing news for the hand-wringing industry last week when an OECD report found Australia to be a remarkably fair place.

The poor are getting richer and the rich are getting poorer while those in the middle are doing very nicely, thank you.

“Between 2007 and 2011, the income of the bottom 10 per cent increased by 2 per cent while incomes at the top declined by 1 per cent,” the OECD found.

“This pattern is very different from most OECD countries, where the bottom 10 per cent fared worst during the same period.”

Median net wealth in Australia has increased at a faster rate than wealth in the upper percentiles, leading the OECD to conclude “inequality at the top of the wealth distribution has receded”.

What will become of the unsold copies of Labor’s assistant Treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh’s book Battlers and Billionaires now its thesis has been knocked firmly on the head?

Leigh makes it plain on the back cover: rising inequality “risks cleaving us into two Australias, occupying fundamentally different worlds”.

Oh dear. Will Leigh’s publishers be forced to pulp the remaining stock? Or will Battlers and Billionaires, like Wayne Swan’s Postcode, gain cult status as an item of class-war kitsch to be put on ironic display alongside 1950s pulp science fiction? Yes children, they really did believe that one day cars would fly.

Leigh made a spirited attempt to tap the global market for have-and-have-not literature that the global financial crisis spawned: Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s The Spirit Level , Joseph Stig­litz’s The Price of Inequality and Thomas Piketty’s gloomy tome Capital in the Twenty-First Century, to name but three.

Translating this North Atlantic-centric thesis into Australian proved to be a difficult task, however. As DH Lawrence noted in his novel Kangaroo, Australians are allowed to be better off than their neighbours; they’re just not allowed to be better. “And there is all the difference in the world between feeling better than your fellow man and merely feeling better-off,” Lawrence wrote.

Leigh did his best, but by page 99 he was flagging. “The more I looked at the data, the less certain I became that inequality was an unmitigated evil … inequality appears to be good for growth and to have no substantial effects on crime.” Presumably it was too late to turn back. Leigh had signed Morry Schwartz’s contract, the vol-au-vent and chardonnay had been ordered for the launch and Leigh had no choice but to limp on for another 50 pages. And there it should have rested, but by that stage the Labor Party was running low on ideas, so Bill Shorten picked up the fairness theme and ran with it.

Labor is “the party of prosperity — and the party of fairness”, Shorten told the National Policy Forum in March last year. The party’s mission is “to help those struck down by the shafts of fate … to lift people up, and gather them in”.

Call it, if you will, the Hanna-Barbera cartoons approach to character development: Tom v Jerry, Yogi Bear v Ranger Smith and Shorten v Tony Abbott, the cackling villain with his dastardly plan to turn Australia into “a colder, meaner, narrower place”.

For a while it seemed to work, helped along by Joe Hockey’s ambitious first budget, which despite — or perhaps because of — its ser­ious intent was too easily portrayed as unfair.

It was clear long before the Treasurer’s second budget, however, that the Opposition Leader needed another tune. When he was invited to discuss his reply to the budget with the ABC’s Leigh Sales, it was surprising he was not better prepared. Hadn’t he seen Hockey’s hammering earlier in the week that left the studio looking like a Vietnamese abattoir?

Sales: “Less than two years ago, Australians voted to get rid of the Labor government that they didn’t like. Leaving aside leadership instability, what will be your point of difference to the Rudd-Gillard government?”

Shorten: “Well, first of all, what I’m interested in is my point of difference to Tony Abbott.’’

Sales: “But Australians need to know that when they vote for you they’re not voting for a return to the Rudd-Gillard era that they didn’t like.”

Shorten: “Well, we’re a far more united team.”

To which Sales could have replied by repeating her first question, but mindful perhaps that the kiddies might not yet be in bed, she decided to move on.

Nick Dyrenfurth, one of the more astute Labor thinkers, went to the heart of Shorten’s problem last week in an article in The Monthly.

“A motto of ‘Australia will be fairer’ cannot suffice,” Dyrenfurth writes. “Fairness cannot of itself fix the structural budget deficit, develop a consensual pro-worker, pro-business economy where people actually make things and hold down stable, well-paid jobs, or address issues as diverse as an ageing population, terrorism and climate change.

“It is not alarmist to think that Labor is sleepwalking to electoral disaster … Labor’s avoidance of debt-and-deficit politics is the highest of high-risk strategies.”

Many who believe ideas still matter in politics, such as The Australian’s Paul Kelly, were encouraged by Labor’s Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen’s National Press Club speech last week. Bowen’s own book, Hearts & Minds, grapples with the issues a progress-driven party — as opposed to a progressively driven party — must confront.

Unfortunately, as Henry Ergas pointed out on these pages yesterday, Bowen’s plan to turn the next election into a referendum on superannuation concessions is based on flawed economic assumptions, albeit assumptions made by Treasury. It is also flawed politics, relying on false arguments about fairness to conduct a covert expedition in class war.

Nevertheless Bowen, like Dyren­furth, must be having kittens about the agenda for the party’s national conference in July: gay marriage, asylum-seekers, Pales­tine and party reform. “This is scarcely the message it should send swinging voters,” Dyrenfurth writes.

Fortunately some in the party are still prepared to argue the politics of common sense. It is not entirely clear, however, who — if anyone — is listening.


Islamic State: Australia open to possibility of deploying more forces after Ramadi, Palmyra losses

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has left open the possibility of sending more troops to Iraq, after the US defence secretary accused local forces of lacking the will to fight the Islamic State (IS) group.

IS fighters have appeared on the back foot in Iraq in recent months, but twin offensives on Ramadi and on the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra have swung the momentum.

The loss of Ramadi, capital of Iraq's largest province of Anbar, raised questions over the strategy adopted not only by Baghdad, but also by Washington to tackle IS.

Pentagon chief Ashton Carter told CNN that Baghdad's worst military defeat in almost a year could have been avoided. "What apparently happened was the Iraqi forces showed no will to fight," he said.  "They were not outnumbered, and they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and they failed to fight and withdrew from the site."

Australia currently has about 600 personnel involved in the fight against the IS group as part of "Operation Okra", as well as 300 soldiers attached to Task Group Taji which is helping to train Iraqi forces.  "The serious setback in Ramadi just emphasises how challenging the task is and how necessary the task is," Mr Abbott said.

"The final point I should make is that the one Iraqi security force element that most stuck to its post and withdrew from Ramadi as a formed unit, as opposed to a disorganised group, was the unit, the counter-terrorism service of the Iraqi security forces that we have been advising and assisting in our initial placement at Baghdad International Airport," he told reporters in Canberra.

But Mr Abbott did not rule out Australia bolstering its contribution if the US chose to increase its military commitment.

"The United States is obviously the leading Western country," Mr Abbott said.  "We don't expect the United States to do what needs to be done in the defence of decency right around the world on its own and that's why Australia has been more than ready to be an utterly reliable partner to the United States.

"I think in this, as in so many things, the world does look to the United States for leadership.  "As always, we stand ready to work with our partners and allies, the United States, the Iraqis, our other international and regional partners, to do what we can to help.  "It's quite a substantial contribution that we are already making."


26 May, 2015

Qld. Chief Justice Tim Carmody: I’ll quit to ‘stop the bleeding’

His fellow judges thought he had jumped the queue in becoming CJ.  Judges tend to be very status and seniority conscious

The Chief Justice of Queensland, Tim Carmody, is poised to quit in what he describes as a bid to “stop the bleeding” and end extra­ordinary tensions unleashed at the judiciary’s highest levels.

In an exclusive interview with The Australian, Chief Justice Carmody yesterday revealed his intention to resign from a job he started just 10 months ago, saying the in-fighting and dysfunction had become untenable, with no ­realistic prospect of improvement.

However, he wants the four-month-old Labor government led by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to agree on a new reform agenda for the courts, including the establishment of a judicial commission, that would follow his departure.

As he would be giving up a ­career, salary and benefits worth almost $500,000 a year three years before becoming eligible for a generous judicial pension, “fairness and just terms” would also need to be agreed in a bipartisan way with the government and the opposition.

Chief Justice Carmody revealed he had told the Attorney-General, Yvette D’Ath, in the middle of last month of his preparedness to resign to ensure the judiciary’s reputation would not be further trashed by the ongoing and unprecedented row with fellow judges.

He said he was still waiting to learn what steps, if any, were being contemplated by the government to resolve a crisis that has seen judges warring publicly — and one secretly recording a heated private conversation with him in his chambers.

“I want to find a solution and I want others to help find it,’’ he told The Australian in a candid interview at his inner-Brisbane home yesterday.

“Because this is not just about me, it’s about the court. It’s about the system. It needs a considered response from all sides that have the best interests of this important social institution in mind. I have one senior judge who won’t sit with me on any cases. I have another senior judge who secretly records a conversation with me. “That makes governance and my ability to do my job impossible.

“I have to balance what gives the most net gain to the people of Queensland — me staying, or me going. My view is that I will leave if there is that net gain and that’s how it looks to me at the moment.

“If I know that the reforms that need to be done will be done, then I will leave on just terms. There are reforms and changes that need to be made that I can’t make by staying.

“It upsets me so much that we have reached this low point — that the court is at such a point that it can even happen, and that it is not tenable for me to continue as Chief Justice in the circumstances.

“It also shows that the reason I went there, the changes I wanted to make which are overdue, can’t be done. I can’t do what I set out to do.

“It is an opportunity lost because of the behaviour of others. But bad behaviour can’t be rewarded.”

The decision of Chief Justice Carmody to flag an exit strategy will be welcomed by the overwhelming majority of the judges on the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, most of whom have ­signalled their lack of confidence in him.

It is also likely to be welcomed by the new Labor government after it had inherited the Chief ­Justice, a highly controversial ­appointment by the then Liberal National Party premier Campbell Newman last year. Strong critic­isms of the appointment by former and serving judges, and leading legal figures including former solicitor-general Walter Sofronoff QC and the former anti-corruption inquiry chief Tony Fitzgerald QC, have not abated.

Many of the judges and legal figures who have questioned Chief Justice Carmody’s credentials have also privately, and publicly, depicted him as a political stooge for the LNP. They have pointed to some of his comments and ­actions to support the proposition.

A senior trial judge, John Byrne, secretly used his smartphone earlier this year to record a private, heated and expletive-laden conversation in which the Chief Justice accused some of the judges of being like “scum” for undermining him, and for the hurt caused to his wife and family.

Justice Byrne was recording the conversation because he was concerned about the prospect of a possible inappropriate interference by the Chief Justice in a case on a disputed election result which, if the case had proceeded, could have led to the LNP being in a position to form a government for its second term despite the January poll result.

Chief Justice Carmody rejected as fanciful and ludicrous the suggestion he has been a political stooge or would do anything to compromise justice. “Make no mistake: their purpose from the beginning has been to oust me from this position,” he said­. “In their minds, I didn’t deserve it, should never have been offered it, should not have taken it and should not have dared to think I was capable of discharging the obligations of high office.

“I have no doubt that seeing the back of me has been the ­single-minded objective of a hard core of judges and others from outside the court with simil­ar views and goals.

“Well, they might end up achieving that but the cost of that triumph will be a lost opportunity for the people of Queensland and the legal system.

“If I thought the judges would get in behind me and support me instead of undermining me, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but they are not going to do that.

“The people of Queensland are the losers here. They deserve a court that engages with them, that they respect and trust and that is accountable for what is done, not only through the judgments they write but through their conduct and how they treat other human beings.”

Chief Justice Carmody warned that the fight over his position set a “precedent that if judges whinge and whine long enough and loud enough and damage the very thing they are there to look after, they can achieve the goal, which in this case was ousting me”.

“That is the thing that concerns me, that the will of the executive and, through the executive, the will of the people, can be effectively sabotaged by other interest group. My going would be an historical artefact but nobody who has had a hand in my going should be rewarded for their bad behaviour.”

His wife, Acting Magistrate Robyn Carmody, said: “I support Tim’s decision to offer to resign to break this impasse. He is an honourable, decent man with a proven track record in reform. As a family, we pay a heavy price for lending him to public service. We will always support him.”

‘A significant gesture’

Queensland’s Attorney-General has welcomed the Chief Justice’s offer to resign, describing it as a “significant gesture,” writes Sarah Elks.

Yvette D’Ath confirmed she had a meeting with embattled Chief Justice Tim Carmody weeks ago, in which he offered to quit the state’s top judicial position if reforms were introduced, including a judicial commission.

Ms D’Ath told ABC Radio in Brisbane this morning that she welcomed Justice Carmody’s move.

“I consider that a significant gesture to put the court’s interest before himself,” she said.

Ms D’Ath has no legal power to make Chief Justice Carmody resign, until he reaches the retirement age of 70. She said she would consult on the concept of a “judicial commission”, which New South Wales already has, but said she could not change pension arrangements for Justice Carmody.

Any offer of an early pension would be an “inducement” she said, and a criminal offence.

Shadow Attorney-General Ian Walker, a solicitor before entering parliament, said the decision was “distressing” but “gracious”.

“The CJ has made a gracious and generous offer to move in a certain direction to resolve the matter...that’s something we should be appreciative of him for,” Mr Walker told ABC Radio, adding it was a concern the situation had come to that.

Mr Walker said it was now up to the government to work out whether Justice Carmody’s offer could be accepted.


NSW government to pull pin on ads in Leftist paper

Hot on the heels of Qantas dumping Fairfax newspapers from its lounges, planes and gates, the Libs are preparing to pull their advertising spend from The Sydney Morning Herald.

The NSW government spends close to $2 million a year on recruitment advertising and The Herald has historically carried the lion’s share of the state government’s job advertisements.

Senior Liberals have discussed with NSW Finance Minister ­Dominic Perrottet removing the ad spend from the SMH.

It is understood Perrottet is open to the suggestion and is examining alternatives such as more digital advertising or a forum that is accessible to all taxpayers. He has ruled out advertising on the Services NSW website.

The official reason for the ­potential move is to find a more cost-effective and efficient way of advertising public service positions to ensure they’re accessible to all of the public, not only the Herald’s readers.

But Fairfax Media’s prominent coverage of ICAC’s public shaming of Liberal MPs and their staff would not have helped.

It is reminiscent of changes made by federal Labor to remove print as an essential component of government advertising campaigns. This was interpreted by some as punishment for News Corp’s critical coverage of the Gillard and Rudd governments and prominent campaigns on their stimulus package rollout.


Fake couples who marry for a visa and claim single welfare benefits will be stripped of entitlements

FAKE couples who have orchestrated “contrived marriages” to gain Aussie visas and then claim separate welfare cheques will be stripped of entitlements as part of a nationwide crackdown to be announced by the Federal Government today.

Thousands of people have potentially declared sponsorship of a partner for immigration purposes but are then claiming single welfare payments because they are not together.

The Daily Telegraph has learned taxpayers were milked $132.7 million last year in welfare payments that were fraudulent.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Human Services Minister Marise Payne will today announce a new data matching system which will find couples who claim to be either married or in a de facto relationship but are providing separate departments with different information.

Legitimate couples, who are happily married, but claim to have split so they can earn more money from separate payments will also be targeted.

Australia’s welfare bill is expected to balloon by close to $40 billion over the forward estimates, from $150 billion to almost $190 billion.

Mr Dutton confirmed “contrived marriages” were on the rise. “Last year, my department identified an increase in the number of allegations relating to the facilitating of contrived marriages,” he said.

“This data-matching program is part of a whole-of-government approach to fraud detection and prevention. People who deliberately take advantage of Australia’s welfare and migration system will be caught.’’

Those found to have defrauded the system face losing their visa, being forced to pay back the money and criminal charges.

Mr Dutton said visas obtained through fraudulent relationships cost taxpayers significant amounts of money and blocked genuine people from being granted a spot in Australia.

Senator Payne said some legitimate couples had worked out they are financially better off to pretend they have split, yet remain a couple.

“The Government is committed to protecting taxpayers’ money and the integrity of Australia’s social security system by ensuring people receive the right payment at the right time.’’

The announcement comes after the government yesterday confirmed yesterday a senior Australian Federal Police officer will be hired to head a crack welfare taskforce to identify fraud.

Last year the government cracked down on the $16 billion Disability Support Pension rort, ordering new applicants to see a Commonwealth appointed doctor to determine if they were eligible for the welfare.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government was committed to cracking down on welfare cheats.

Eight out of 10 Australian taxpayers are needed just to cover the national welfare bill. The partner visa data-matching program will begin next month and initially run for a year.


Jeep complaints now under official investigation

CONSUMER cops are investigating whether the maker of Jeep has misled car owners about their rights to refunds or replacements.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been gathering evidence from angry customers, including Ashton Wood, who raised $19,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to destroy his faulty vehicle after attempting — unsuccessfully — to use “guarantees” enshrined in law to push for a refund or replacement. The ACCC in now grilling dealers.

Jeep’s parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is aware of the probe, which is understood to also cover Fiats. No other carmaker is under investigation.

If the ACCC believes FCA customers have been misled, it could ask the Federal Court to impose multimillion-dollar fines, as well as other sanctions.

But for FCA the even-more-significant consequence of an adverse finding would be its effect on what have been rapidly growing sales. Australians spent about $1.5 billion on new Jeeps alone last year, up 37 per cent on 2013.

An ACCC spokeswoman told News Corp Australia the focus “of our inquiries is to determine whether claims are being handled consistently with the consumer guarantee provisions and ensuring consumers are not being misled about their rights”.

The spokeswoman said the ACCC could not name the carmaker under investigation, but she did say there was only one.

News Corp Australia has spoken to four FCA car-brand owners who have been interviewed by the ACCC as part of its probe.  Furthermore, FCA has confirmed it is the subject of the ACCC investigation.

A spokesman told News Corp Australia that “FCA Australia President and CEO, Patrick Dougherty, has referenced his significant global experience in aftersales and customer care in personally addressing any potential issues in the Australian business, increasing resources, improving logistics, and streamlining our process of working with dealers.”

“We are encouraged by the positive response from our dealers around the country and the huge majority of owners who tell us that the investment we have made, and are making, in boosting our customer service is paying off.

“We will continue to work with all of our customers to ensure they are happy in their vehicles. We are unable to comment on the actions of the ACCC.”

Federal laws that took effect in 2011 provide consumers with guarantees that new vehicles are of “acceptable quality” — meaning they must be safe, durable and free of defects — and fit for any purpose the customer or supplier has specified. They must also match their description.

If there is a “major” failure to meet any of these guarantees, a customer is entitled to choose between a refund, replacement or compensation. The Federal Government has told the motor industry a major failure is when “a reasonable consumer would not have bought the motor vehicle if they had known about the full extent of the problem. For example, no reasonable consumer would buy a new car with so many recurring faults that the car has spent more time off the road than on it because several mechanics have been unable to solve the problem”.

Being unsafe is considered another major failure.

Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Gerard Brody — who believes Australia needs a so-called “lemon law”, as exists in California — said: “This issue demonstrates that the consumer guarantee regime works when businesses are amenable to providing repairs, refunds or replacements, but if they are not it can be challenging if not impossible for consumers to assert their rights”.

FCA sells about 50,000 cars a year in Australia. Jeep is its most popular brand, with sales of more than 30,000 in 2014. Jeep’s flagship is the Grand Cherokee, which is the nation’s most popular large SUV, bought by nearly 17,000 families last year alone.


25 May, 2015

Another ALP in­fight as union heavy ques­tions Qld. re­cruit­ment pol­icy

A FOR­MER top union boss and suc­cess­ful state La­bor trea­surer has called for less union in­flu­ence in the party, say­ing the move­ment has a skewed hold over the party.  Ex-NSW trea­surer Michael Costa said La­bor was now dogged by “a ger­ry­man­der in favour of the unions”.

The La­bor stal­wart made the com­ments as Premier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk and her Cabi­net col­leagues yes­ter­day in­sisted their move to re­quire pub­lic ser­vants to re­cruit new union mem­bers was noth­ing new.

The La­bor stal­wart made the com­ments as Premier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk and her Cabi­net col­leagues yes­ter­day in­sisted their move to re­quire pub­lic ser­vants to re­cruit new union mem­bers was noth­ing new.

The qui­etly re­in­stated “union en­cour­age­ment pol­icy”, re­vealed yes­ter­day in The Courier-Mail, was blasted by Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott as “de­liv­er­ing for the unions”.

“I’m al­ways dis­ap­pointed when any gov­ern­ment gov­erns for one sec­tion of the com­mu­nity rather than ev­ery­one and this is a gov­ern­ment here in Queens­land which was elected on union money and on union cam­paign­ing,” he said.

Mr Costa said there should be a level play­ing field within the work­force, adding that his com­ments were rel­e­vant across the board and not just to Queens­land.

“Govern­ments shouldn’t ac­tively dis­cour­age union­ism, but they shouldn’t ac­tively en­cour­age it ei­ther,” he said. “There needs to be a re­duc­tion of union in­flu­ence in the La­bor Party.”

The Courier-Mail can re­veal union bosses played a role in push­ing for the pol­icy, which will boost mem­ber­ship. It comes at a time its num­bers within the pub­lic ser­vice are flag­ging.

It also comes just weeks af­ter The Courier-Mail re­vealed key union bosses were boast­ing about the in­flu­ence they now wield within the new Govern­ment.

The an­nual re­port for the To­gether Union, one of the big­gest pub­lic sec­tor unions, shows its mem­ber­ship num­bers have fallen to about 28,000 peo­ple, from more than 38,000 in 2012, its low­est level since 2006.

To­gether Union sec­re­tary Alex Scott ad­mit­ted to the union play­ing a role in dis­cus­sions around the union en­cour­age­ment pol­icy.  “We asked them to con­sider reis­su­ing the de­part­ment pol­icy to make it sim­pler as well,” he said.  “We ar­gued it was a le­gal en­ti­tle­ment ... it’s help­ful to have it as part of the de­part­ment pol­icy.”

But Mr Scott said it re­flected a clause within ex­ist­ing en­ter­prise bar­gain­ing agree­ments, which New­man gov­ern­ment laws had made un­en­force­able.

Shadow At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Ian Walker said the pol­icy saw bal­ance tip in favour of unions.  “There is a role for unions but it shouldn’t get to the point where the Govern­ment … be­comes their de facto re­cruit­ment agency,” he said.

Queens­land Coun­cil of Unions boss John Bat­tams said his or­gan­i­sa­tion played no role post-elec­tion in ne­go­ti­at­ing for or dis­cussing the pol­icy, but had raised it be­fore­hand.  “The role we played was to get the com­mit­ment be­fore the elec­tion. We just ex­pected it to hap­pen and it did,” he said.  “A Govern­ment keep­ing com­mit­ments shouldn’t be coloured as pay­back.”

He said there were more than 100,000 pub­lic sec­tor work­ers who were union mem­bers.

Depart­ment of Premier and Cabi­net di­rec­tor-gen­eral Dave Ste­wart has been charged with en­sur­ing all other di­rec­tors-gen­eral put the pol­icy into ef­fect.

Ms Palaszczuk said the pol­icy had been in place for a decade be­fore for­mer pre­mier Camp­bell New­man.


A dramatic testimony to the wreckage of the Australian economy by the Rudd/Gillard regime

While Rudd and Gillard were running up half a trillion in debt, and getting nothing for it, John Key was governing N.Z. prudently

Australia's warmer climate and higher wages have long lured droves of New Zealanders across the Tasman Sea with the aim of making a better life in the 'lucky country'.

But with Australia's economy stumbling and New Zealand's improving, the trend has begun to reverse.

New Zealand figures released Thursday showed that in April, for the first time in 24 years, 100 more people moved east from Australia to New Zealand than moved in the opposite direction.

The trend has been emerging for some time. Two years ago, a net 34,000 New Zealanders moved to Australia. That fell to 11,000 last year and to 1,900 in the most recent data for this year.

An agreement between Australia and New Zealand allows citizens of both nations to live and work in either country.

In New Zealand, the loss of its people over decades to its larger neighbor has proved a political sore point.

In 2008, when the current prime minister John Key was the leader of the political opposition, he stood in an empty sports stadium in Wellington to illustrate the thousands of people who were leaving each year and vowed to turn that around.

Robert Muldoon, who was prime minister in the 1970s and '80s, once quipped that the exodus raised the average IQ of both countries.

But now, the turnaround may pose new political challenges. The figures released Thursday show record annual immigration of 57,000 people to New Zealand, which added more than 1 percent to the population of 4.5 million. Many people believe immigration is helping fuel skyrocketing home prices in the largest city, Auckland.

Australia's economy has been struggling after the price of iron ore, its most lucrative export, slumped due to a slowdown in China's economy. Still, Australia's debt level remains low compared with most countries and its standard of living higher than in New Zealand.

New Zealand has been enjoying relatively strong economic growth, and its unemployment rate has dropped to 5.8 percent, below Australia's rate of 6.2 percent. But it, too, faces economic challenges, including lower prices for its agricultural exports due to the slowdown in China.


Australian food companies feed investor returns

Buttressed by demand from the emerging economies to the nation's north, Australia's $50 billion agribusiness sector is burgeoning. But the paradox for the sector is that it struggles to attract capital from Australia's super funds.

A recent survey of 114 superannuation funds, commissioned by accounting group BDO and conducted by the University of Queensland Business School's commercial arm UniQuest, found that Australia's super funds invest on average just 0.3 per cent of their assets in the agriculture sector.

In contrast, overseas pension funds are "very keen" on Australian agribusiness assets, says Tim Biggs, founding partner and chief investment officer at agribusiness investment firm Laguna Bay Pastoral Company. "We find that the North American pension funds really 'get' the Australian agribusiness investment opportunity.

"Australia's real natural advantage is that it produces some of the highest-quality agricultural products in the world, both bulk and niche, with an impeccable record of safety and traceability, it is on the doorstep of the emerging consumers in Asia who want traceable, repetitively deliverable high-quality product, and it has excellent logistics to export that produce," Biggs says.

US-based pension funds are even more conscious, says Biggs, of the institutional investor's holy grail: authentic uncorrelated returns. "Agricultural investments are generally negatively correlated to financial investments, stocks and bonds. They have different return streams, and thus can diversify an investment portfolio more widely."

US investors also have concerns about the drought in California, he says. "Ninety per cent of the world's almonds come from the San Joaquin Valley in California. That has always given the Australian producers a classic counter-seasonal export opportunity, but now in the US, they're thinking, 'What if we don't have the water to feed our crops?'" If the water situation in California gets worse, investors will be looking at Australia, he says.


The final piece of evidence in Australia's favour is that when the pension funds investigate this market they see "probably the most sophisticated water trading market in the world," says Biggs. "Australia confronted the value of water a long time ago, and we price water appropriately." Producers in the US are being forced to confront the value of water, he says.

The water market in Australia can offer investors uncorrelated returns, but it is still small, says Cullen Gunn, director and CEO of farmland and water investment manager Kilter Rural. He says about $1 billion of water is traded annually, most of it in the Murray-Darling Basin, which produces one-third of Australia's food, almost all of its rice and cotton, and 45 per cent of its dairy output.

"The Australian water market channels water up the economic value chain, to where it finds its highest-value use," says Gunn. "The primary vehicle is a water entitlement, which is a perpetual share of water available in the system. Then there is the secondary vehicle, the allocation, which can differ depending on the amount of water in the system.

"They're both tradeable, but the allocations trade much more readily, and are a lot more volatile. They're sold to producers who need water for their crops. The sale of allocations creates yield," he says.

Kilter Rural manages both water and farmland investments for super funds, and says the "uncorrelated returns story" is slowly gaining traction, as is the level of returns. But he says many funds consider the market to be too small.

"If we're trading $1 billion a year, that is, pardon the pun, not liquid enough for most super funds, who simply like to invest in bigger licks," says Gunn. "They know that given the emerging demand from Asia for food, as an investor, holding agricultural land and water rights makes a lot of sense, but they'd like to see the market a bit bigger."

Gunn says holding entitlements and selling allocations will deliver between 4 per cent and 7 per cent a year, but it's volatile between seasons. "We're moving more towards generating investment products built around leasing water, where there is an indexed lease rate that is really the same as a commercial office lease." The leases generate between 5 per cent and 8 per cent a year, indexed and reviewed annually, he says, with a diversity of clients; dairy farms, nut and fruit growers.

"It's a terrific asset, because you're investing in the major input to meeting the export demand for Australian food, but you're not taking the agricultural risk of producing that food."

Michael Dundon, CEO at the $13 billion not-for-profit super fund VicSuper, has invested in water holdings and environmental remediation through Kilter. While mostly happy with the experience, Dundon sees the problems that other super funds may have in making similar forays.

"We're getting close to generating 9 per cent a year, after tax, which is where we wanted to be with a long-term investment, and it is uncorrelated return," Dundon says. "But at the same time, there is a scale question, and it's probably fair to say that super funds find themselves fairly constrained in that market. Large funds tend to want to invest more than the market can accommodate. We've yet to work out how much further would we be prepared to go."

One factor that may induce more super funds to consider these types of investments, he says, is that the return is "truly" uncorrelated. "A lot of what are considered 'alternative' investments, which purport to offer uncorrelated returns, are in reality hedge funds and absolute-return strategies, and that's not truly uncorrelated, in our view," says Dundon.

VicSuper does not consider its agribusiness and water holdings as part of its "alternative investments" exposure: it allocates them to "real assets", along with infrastructure and direct property. "We would have 7 per cent to 8 per cent in real assets, and within that, probably about 2 per cent of the fund would be in agribusiness/water.

"In this asset class, I think funds are going to want to invest directly. If they view it as a 'real asset' play, they're probably not going to want to go through ASX-listed stocks," he says.

Shane Kelly, principal at agribusiness corporate advisor Latitude 232, says the next generation of investment products will offer super funds exposure to agribusiness, without the need to take on operating and commodity risk. "Super funds that have previously had bad experiences in agriculture were primarily involved in owning and operating farms. Super funds need stable returns, so it makes sense for them to steer clear of operating and commodity risk and focus on buy and lease back investment models that deliver regular income and long term capital growth," Kelly says. 

"There is opportunity for super funds to own the underlying land assets, which will be leased to good operators, such as a blue-chip, large-scale family company or a corporate agribusiness. In some instances this may involve taking land off-balance sheet, while in others it will support an expansion of the area under management. This approach ensures that the people who have the experience operate the farms, while the super funds can earn stable returns from leases that will vary from 4 per cent to 10 per cent, depending on the risk weighting applied to the commodity sector and the quality of the counter-party involved."

Another potential approach is the "agri private equity" style of fund, such as the new Food and Fibre Fund offered by 3F Asset Management. "We're concentrating on assets that sit in the supply chain, between the farm gate and an Asian consumer," says 3F director Craig Anderson. "That could be on the input side – such as services that get supplied to farmers, machinery businesses, agronomic services, technology providers that increase efficiency and effectiveness of Australian agriculture – and then on the output side, from storage to logistics to wholesaling, cold-storage and transport and even distribution assets in Asia."

Anderson says the fund would either buy or invest in those businesses, "like a normal private equity player would".


Australia could miss out on second LNG boom, Chevron says

Natural gas exports have been touted as Australia's great white hope to replace plunging iron ore earnings, but oil major Chevron has warned the nation risks missing out on the next wave of investment.

Among the problems were too much regulation to get approvals, an inflexible industrial relations systems, high labour costs and taxes and government policies that don't support investment, said Chevron's Australian managing director Roy Krzywosinski.

He also took a veiled swipe at Australia's services companies that supply the industry, suggesting they needed to lift their game and better support oil and gas producers.

Australia's march to soon becoming the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas was a success story but its rapid growth was unprecedented and testing the capacity of those services industries, he said.

There was a potential $US100 billion ($127 billion) waiting in the wings with the associated economic benefits if the next wave of investment could be attracted.

However global competition was increasing, particularly with the new waves of US LNG projects due to an abundance of gas there driven by the onshore shale boom.

Not enough co-operation on logistics between LNG projects was occurring either to drive down costs, as mostly occurred in the Gulf of Mexico and North Sea, he said.

"We need to recognise there has not been a final investment decision on an Australian LNG development since 2012," Mr Krzywosinski told the Australian Petroleum and Exploration Association conference.

"As many of us forewarned, the second wave of LNG investment for Australia - which promised to deliver further benefits - is at serious risk of not happening, at least in the foreseeable future.

"A major contributor is Australia's falling international competitiveness."

Seven new LNG plants are due to come online over the next three years to add to the three current ones, with Chevron involved in building two of them: Gorgon and Wheatstone in Western Australia.


24 May, 2015

Australia preparing to transfer refugees to Cambodia, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says

Australia is in the process of transferring a small group of refugees to Cambodia under a resettlement deal between the two countries, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says.

It is believed the four who accepted the deal were an Iranian couple, a single Iranian man and an ethnic Rohingya man from Myanmar who were taken from Nauru to Darwin about two weeks ago.

The four were being housed on Nauru after trying to reach Australia by boat.

Mr Dutton said the Government hopes more refugees on Nauru will take up the offer to be resettled.

"In time that is certainly the Government's aim and we've had a first small group that we have been working with to send across to Cambodia," he said.

"I welcome very much the partnership we have with the Cambodian Government."

It is unclear when the four will be flown out.

In September, Cambodia agreed to resettle potentially hundreds of refugees held on Nauru in exchange for an extra $40 million in aid from Canberra.

International human rights groups have condemned the deal, saying Cambodia is incapable of providing proper care for asylum seekers.


Australia one of world’s richest, most equal countries: OECD

Australia is not only one of the wealthiest countries in the world but also has one of the most equal distributions of wealth.

A new OECD study on inequality shows that Australia also stands out as one of the only advanced countries where the distrib­ution of income has become more equal over the seven years since the global financial crisis.

The study blames the spread of part-time and temporary work for the worsening of inequality elsewhere in the world but finds that in Australia non-standard working arrangements often generate higher incomes.

The richest 5 per cent of Australian households have a net wealth equivalent to $US2.2 million ($2.78m), which is marginally above the OECD average, while the richest 1 per cent have net wealth equivalent to $US4.5m, slightly below the average.

However, the middle 60 per cent of households have net wealth of $US211,000, which is 41 per cent higher than the OECD average of $US140,000.

By contrast, in the US — which has the greatest inequality of wealth — the richest 1 per cent have assets of $US15m while the median household has assets of only $US56,724.

The four countries with more equal distributions of wealth than Australia are all, with the exception of Spain, much poorer than Australia.

The only countries with higher average net wealth than Australia are the US and Canada.

Australia’s high house prices help explain its relative wealth, although the principal residence, which represents 51 per cent of the average Australian’s wealth, is in line with the average share across the OECD, as is the 18 per cent of wealth held in investment and other real estate.

The study shows that Australia is closer to the middle of the advanced­ nations in the dis­tribution of income, with the best-paid 10 per cent of the population earning 8.8 times more than the worst-paid, which is slightly below the OECD average of 9.6 times. The US again stands out for its unequal­ distribution, with the top earners getting 18.8 times as much as the poorest 10 per cent.

The OECD shows that Australia is among a small minority of countries where income distrib­ution has become more equal since 2007, a result possibly influenced by tax cuts.

Australia is one of the few countries in which the bottom 10 per cent of the population improv­ed their incomes over the period of the global financial crisis while the top-earning 10 per cent earned less.

The OECD blamed the rise of casual, temporary and part-time work for the increase in inequality in advanced nations since the financ­ial crisis.

It said that standard full-time and permanent jobs had dis­appeared in the middle of the distribution of both income and skill.

More than 40 per cent of jobs in Australia are either part-time, temporary or self-employed, which is one of the highest shares in the world. The study found that part-time workers in Australia earn more per hour than those on standard full-time positions, regardless of age or skill, while there is no difference between people on permanent and temporary work arrangements.


Gillian Triggs too busy with her own rights and playing the victim

And so it has come to pass that the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission seems to be preoccupied with her own rights.

That Gillian Triggs remains in her job is a mystery and probably says as much about the government’s timidity in tackling the Green-Left groupthink of our universities, public broadcasters and other institutions as it does about her own chutzpah.

Triggs has been exposed for delaying an inquiry into children in detention under Labor because of what she openly testified were political reasons.

Her various statements on these matters have also exposed a series of erroneous and contradictory positions.

Apart from diminishing the public standing of the AHRC, this has led to the situation where Triggs, a statutory officer, has criticised members of the government for scrutinising her actions.

This is an untenable situation.

But the government seems to be frozen into inaction; not having the stomach for a distracting fight when the economy is the main game.

Yesterday we saw a sharp contrast in the commission’s work that must confound the human rights lawyers, progressive journalists and other political activists who tend to support Triggs.

We saw the best of the AHRC and the worst – a contrast in pragmatic work versus self-indulgence.

In Broome the controversial commissioner appointed by the Abbott government, Tim Wilson, co-convened a landmark meeting aimed at promoting private property rights and the private economy to help redress indigenous disadvantage.

Broad buy-in from indigenous leaders delivered a fresh approach to the crucial issues around economic development and empowerment of indigenous communities.

Can any reader provide a better example of practical community engagement by the AHRC, looking for solutions rather then merely addressing grievances? I’d be interested to know.

The counterpoint came, tellingly enough, in Canberra, where Triggs was speaking at a forum about female leadership.

She was busy claiming victim status for herself and declaring her intention to dig in and serve out her term.

“Now, no human rights commission in the world could have turned its back on the number of children held in prolonged and indefinite and mandatory detention as asylum seekers,” said Triggs, conveniently turning on its head the main criticism of her actions.

Triggs must know she has not been criticised for investigating the issue of children in detention but for failing to investigate that very dilemma when Labor was in power and the numbers being detained were escalating towards their peak. Under questioning she has openly attributed her delay in holding an inquiry on political considerations.

“So as far as I was concerned I was simply doing my job according to the law,” she went on yesterday, “But what I didn’t realise was that I forgot about the politics.”

No, Triggs didn’t forget about politics. Her testimony to various parliamentary committees, while inconsistent, has generally held that she avoided calling the inquiry, at least in part, because she took election timing into consideration (even though she seemed to make obvious errors about that timing).

Triggs has not undermined public faith in her commission by forgetting about politics but by seeming to be influenced by political calculations. Remember, she once denied discussing these issues with Labor ministers when they were in government, thousands of children were going into detention and she was not conducting an inquiry — then later had to admit to meeting not one but two separate Labor ministers and discussing these issues.

Triggs took over as president in July 2012 when the boat-people crisis was running out of control but didn’t launch her inquiry until early 2014, after a change of government, when the boats had stopped, children had stopped going into detention and the numbers being held had already started to fall dramatically. The AHRC president is not a victim.

With the plight of asylum-seekers creating dilemmas for governments around the world, practical human rights issues about how to combat exploitative people-smuggling while assisting genuine refugees could hardly be more pressing. Yet that seems to be what the AHRC is incapable of focusing on.


Bjorn Lomborg confident of finding Australian university partner after UWA pull-out

Controversial Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg says he is confident he will find another Australian university to host his 'Consensus Centre' despite a fierce backlash in Western Australia.

A self-described 'sceptical environmentalist', Dr Lomborg's planned Australian Consensus Centre was allocated $4 million in this month's federal budget, but plans to host it at the University of Western Australia (UWA) were abandoned after protests from students and staff.

"I'm sure we'll find somewhere in Australia to do that but I'm not sure [where] just yet," Dr Lomborg said.

Dr Lomborg was speaking from Nairobi, Kenya, where he is addressing an aid conference on new United Nations development goals.

Dr Lomborg declined to say which institutions he was negotiating with but said he was confident he would get the go ahead.

"I can understand that, given what happened at the UWA, some people are going to be a bit more reluctant," he said.

Bjorn Lomborg's history of controversy

Lomborg is an author and director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, a non-profit think tank addressing global issues. In his 1998 book The Skeptical Environmentalist (English 2001), he said he accepted manmade global warming, but used statistics to argue the global environment had actually improved.

He was found to have been objectively scientifically dishonest in his book by the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty, but had the finding rescinded by the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

On his website, Lomborg says reducing carbon emissions is prohibitively expensive, and that investment non-carbon emitting technologies is the "smartest solution" to global warming.

Papers published by the Copenhagen Consensus Centre say climate change from 1900 to 2025 has mostly been a net benefit and has improved global welfare.

The Copenhagen Consensus Centre advocates a value-for-money approach to global problems and engages economists to perform a cost-benefit analysis proposed development goals.

"Do they want to engage in this? But again, I think it's a big shame in the sense of saying we work with more than 100 of the world's top economists, seven Nobel laureates, lots of interesting people."

Dr Lomborg accepts the science on climate change but has argued poverty and disease are more pressing problems.  He argues the UN should scale back its goals to ensure money is spent effectively.

"Basically they're promising everything to everyone and we need to find a way to make sure we focus on the very smartest targets," he said.

"That's what I'm here in Kenya to talk about and that's where we could also talk about... where Australia would spend its $5 billion to do a lot more good, potentially four times as much good."

Dr Lomborg is frustrated his views on climate change have hijacked the debate on his new centre in Australia.  "The decision from UWA was very clearly a very emotional one," he said.  "A lot of people got very involved and talked about, oh, this is a climate centre and Bjorn is a climate denier and all that, which is just not true."  "I think if they had given it a chance they would've seen this would actually be a real opportunity for Australia."


22 May, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG mocks the Labor party's  financial credibility

'Nope, nope, nope': Tony Abbott says Australia will not resettle refugees in migrant crisis

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said "nope, nope, nope" to Australia offering resettlement to any of the thousands of migrants caught up in south-east Asia's refugee crisis.

"I'm sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door," Mr Abbott said on Thursday.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have provoked an international outcry for pushing boats carrying Rohingya and Bangladeshi asylum seekers back out to sea.

On Wednesday, Malaysia and Indonesia backed down from their stance and said they would temporarily allow thousands of people to come ashore - on the condition that international agencies repatriate them within a year.

At a media conference on Thursday, Mr Abbott said Australia would not be offering resettlement.  "It's a refugee and humanitarian program which has been modestly expanded because we have stopped the boats and we are not going to do anything that will encourage people to get on boats." 

Mr Abbott said resettling any of the refugees would encourage the people smuggling trade.  "If we do the slightest thing to encourage people to get on the boats, this problem will get worse, not better."

He said Australia was happy to offer assistance to Australia's neighbours in south-east Asia in other ways, including through humanitarian work "inside Burma because part of the problem is the difficulties that some ethnic groups face inside Burma".

But he said there was "no future for anyone in encouraging the people-smuggling trade". "Australia will do absolutely nothing that gives any encouragement to anyone to think that they can get on a boat, that they can work with people smugglers to start a new life.  "I'm sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door."

The United States has said it will take refugees as part of international efforts to deal with the crisis.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor supported regional resettlement as a general principle.  "But where there is an unfolding humanitarian crisis in south-east Asia, Tony Abbott's 'not my problem' approach is disappointing. There's no doubt there's terrible violence happening in parts which are affecting the Rohingya people."  He called for the government to "engage" on the issue.


The wide-ranging influence of genetics

The Left long denied the influence of genetics but now simply ignore it.  The study below is therefore powerful evidence of just how wrong they are.  Hans Eysenck, a considerable student of genetics, once said to me, "It's ALL genetic".  He was of course making a conversational statement to a colleague rather than a precise scientific one but the present study does confirm one sense of what he said:  ALL traits have a substantial genetic component. And the writer below makes the correct and important point that the 50/50 split observed is only an average and that the genetic contribution varies from trait to trait.  So the findings do not overturn the usual finding that IQ is about two thirds genetic

It's a question that dogged scientists for close to a century and Queensland researchers say they have the answer.  When it comes to health, in the age-old battle of nature versus nurture… It's a draw.

University of Queensland research fellow Dr Beben Benyamin worked with scholars at the VU University of Amsterdam to review almost every twin study completed globally in the past 50 years.

After analysing studies of more than 14.5 million twin pairs across 17,804 traits from 2748 publications, they found variation for human traits and diseases was 49 per cent genetic (nature), and 51 per cent due to environmental factors (nurture).

The Queensland Brain Institute researcher said the draw was expected but he was pleased to be able to put a number on the variation and surprised by how similar an influence each aspect had.

"Most of the reviews have been for specific traits, like people are interested in studying one particular disease and review all the twin studies for one disease," he said.  "But this is I think is the first one to review everything about all disease and all twin studies that are available at the moment."

The influence of nature and nurture is actually a complex interplay rather than a simple either/or and is far from equal across all traits and diseases.

The risk for bipolar disorder was about 70 per cent due to genetics and 30 per cent due to environmental factors, Dr Benyamin found.


Echo chamber of anti-government outrage

For an insight into the regrettable yet predictable lack of intellectual curiosity at the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster, you only needed to listen to about 15 minutes of ABC Sydney’s local radio last week.

Following Joe Hockey’s second budget, ABC’s 702 radio station in hosted three journalists on its regular journos’ forum to discuss the budget. Instead of a debate, the forum became an echo chamber where like-minded journalists emoted over entitlements and displayed scorn for Australians who fund the ABC to the tune of more than a $1 billion a year.

It’s bad enough the ABC hab­itually ignores its charter obligation to present news and information in an accurate and impartial manner, a reasonable quid pro quo for receiving taxpayer funds. It’s bad enough that last week Leigh Sales on 7.30 and Emma Alberici on Lateline used their taxpayer-funded platforms to launch aggressive, bad-mannered and partisan attacks when interviewing the Treasurer and Finance Minister respectively.

And it’s just as bad that Lateline’s other host, Tony Jones, can’t imagine a difference between the recklessness of the Rudd government’s stimulus spending and a narrowly targeted tax deduction for small business.

It’s even worse when the national broadcaster invites a panel of three journalists to discuss these and other measures — and all three are in wild agreement with each other’s contempt for budget reforms.

The conversation on 702’s journos’ forum about new tax breaks for small business went like this: The Sydney Morning Herald economics columnist Ross Gittins, the ABC’s Alberici and BuzzFeed News’ Mark Di Stefano all agreed with each other that people are too dim to understand the new measure. Gittins said: “I met people who think ‘oh the government’s going to give you $20,000’ ... there’s no free gifts”. Alberici chimed in with: “Well, look, I have to say I agree with Ross entirely … it’s been beaten up in a way because people don’t understand how the tax system, how a deduction works.” And Di Stefano, who laid claim to providing news to Tony’s tradies, said: “They’re our people as well. It’s very funny because I totally agree with Ross and Emma.”

Was it beyond the wit of those at the ABC to find a journalist who might suggest that most of the men and women running the two million small businesses in Australia probably do understand a tax deduction? A more curious journalist might have suggested that if these small-business owners have purchased anything for their business in the past, they have likely claimed a deduction against income. The new budget measure is not complicated. If you are a small business with turnover of less than $2 million, you can claim an immediate deduction against earned income for items up to $20,000 used in the business. Instead, the forum exposed how contempt for voters such as Howard battlers and Tony’s tradies grows among the so-called progressive set when a Coalition government is in power.

There was more chorus-line chatter when it came to the government’s policy to halt the double-dipping of paid parental leave. Gittins agreed with Alberici and Di Stefano agreed with both of them.

Alberici was more concerned with pointing the finger at this newspaper than considering the unfairness of a two-tiered system where most people can’t access what entitlement-rich ABC employees can access.

“Look, I am one of those people that the — let’s call it for what it is — The Australian newspaper calls out for being a higher-earning public servant who takes advantage of the so-called double-dipping, or the rort, or the fraud,” she said. In fact, no one here has accused Alberici of double-dipping. As she said, the scheme wasn’t available to her when she had children.

During the forum, Alberici uttered “outrageous” no less than five times. Her outrage over the PPL changes was no substitute for a wider debate.

Was it impossible to find a journalist who might have pointed to the fundamental inequity in a system that sets up two classes of recipients: the first class can access two tranches of PPL, the generous PPL package of at least 12 weeks full paid leave if, for example, they are public servants plus $11,500 under the government’s 18-week minimum wage paid leave system? The other class, with no access to workplace PPL, can access only the government scheme.

As The Australian’sJudith Sloan pointed out last weekend, it’s estimated that of the 80,000 recipients who access both PPL schemes, 60,000 are in the public service. In the ABC’s echo chamber of outrage, there was no mention of the fact, as a nation, we are spending more than we are earning. Not one of the journalists uttered the word deficit, only this mocking reference from Gittins: “Somebody has dreamt it up, somebody in fin­ance has said, ‘We can save a couple of bob, minister.’ ” Damn those finance types and their obsession with fiscal responsibility.

A different-minded journalist also might have pointed out, in the context of a discussion about women and work, that the government is pumping an additional $3.5bn into childcare over the next five years so that low-income families will receive 85 per cent subsidies for childcare costs.

Perhaps it is indeed beyond the imagination of those at the ABC forum to ask searching questions around inequity and deficit challenges of the budget. Certainly the host of the journos’ forum, Kumi Taguchi, didn’t think to inject these issues into the talk. And that’s the core problem so often evident at the ABC. It’s as if no decent, morally upright person could possibly hold a view different to the orthodoxy of ABC journalists.

While it is certainly not the role of the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster to advance a government’s reform agenda, it most certainly is its role to deliver good, intellectually curious and honest journalism, to offer up different points of view and present news and information in an accurate and impartial fashion.

ABC groupthink is exacerbated when those who host the major news and current affairs programs are the same people venting their opinions on any number of the ABC’s opinion platforms, be it the journos’ forum, the Drum, Insiders or elsewhere. If you want to be a commentator, go ahead and commentate. If you want to host serious news programs, do that. But pick your poison. When you nail your colours to the mast, for example, by declaring that one or other government policy is outrageous, it pollutes your ability to deliver news and information in an accurate and impartial manner.

More important, it undermines the ABC’s ability to meet its charter obligations and that taints the legitimacy of the ABC as a taxpayer-funded broadcaster.


Commonwealth Bank Targeted by Greenies

The Commonwealth Bank has been targeted by climate campaigners for the second day in a row, as anger over its support for the fossil fuels industry grows and protesters start to move to more direct and disruptive actions.

A group of around nine protesters are currently ‘occupying’ a Commonwealth Bank branch on the corner of Market and George in the Sydney CBD, after performing a similar action in Melbourne yesterday that saw the bank’s headquarters interrupted for nine hours.

Police are on the scene, although customers are still doing business inside the bank. A spokesperson on form the bank declined to comment on whether the branch would shut.

The actions are part of an escalating campaign against the bank, which is lining up to assist coal company Adani fund a massive expansion into Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

This week’s protests have been led by, a global climate group dedicated to reversing emissions, and co-founded by environmentalist and activist Bill McKibben.

350’s media coordinator Krista Collard, who is watching the protest from outside, told New Matilda the bank was the only of the ‘big four’ to be publicly named dealing with Adani, and that it had failed to engage with community concerns about the Indian company’s Queensland projects.

“We have been trying to talk with Com Bank for years now and basically every time members of the public, members or concerned residents bring this up, they’ve been shielded from talking to anybody that has any decision making power,” Collard said.

Meetings with the bank have taken place but “our concerns have not been taken seriously,” she said.

Aside from concerns about damage to the Great Barrier Reef from the world's largest coal port, which Adani plans to construct at Abbott Point near Mackay, climate campaigners have warned an expansion of mining in the Galilee would be a disaster for global efforts to limit temperate increases.

Along with Artic oil and the Alberta tar sands, Queensland’s coalfields are seen as a key battleground for the fight to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

While other banks have distanced themselves from the projects, environmental campaigners are concerned that if Adani is able to secure domestic credit it will trigger further international investment.

The company has defended the impact exporting and burning Galilee coal will have on the Great Barrier Reef by arguing the world is on target for a 3.1 degree temperature increase regardless of whether the coal in the Galilee is left in the ground or extracted.

In response to questions, a spokesperson for the Commonwealth Bank said the organisation recognised its role in addressing the challenge of climate change.

“In that regard we have invested in more than 170 renewable energy projects in the wind, solar, hydro and landfill gas power sectors,” they said.


Jeep again

MOMENTUM is building for a national “lemon law” to protect owners of dodgy cars, with a key federal senator declaring support for increased examination of “vehicle manufacturer conduct”.

After last week’s story which revealed how Jeep had finally relented and replaed a faulty car after one family’s exhausting battle, we were inundated with other horror stories

The worst of them featured the Sifniotis family say their Jeep Grand Cherokee’s steering locked — while in motion — in August last year, five months after purchase.

In a September email the dealer said it had fixed what it called “a wiring concern”. But in November, while Mary Sifniotis was doing 100km/h on the M5, it happened again. She says she had to stop the car to unlock the steering wheel.

This, and 15 other less significant faults, led her and husband Con to request a refund. They had no success so contacted me after last week’s story.

A Jeep spokesman said the steering wheel locking again was only raised by Mr Sifniotis last week. Emails suggest this is not the case.

The Sifniotis have had access to a loan car at Jeep’s expense. However, they say they have also spent $12,000 on another car, because they do not want to drive the Jeep.  “My wife is too scared to even look at it, let alone sit in it or drive it,” Mr Sifniotis said. He said they believe the “vehicle is not roadworthy”.

The family intends to pursue a refund through the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

However, Jeep wants to conduct further testing on the vehicle.

Following the unprecedented response to last week’s column — and ahead of an official review of existing legislation — our probe of the case for a lemon law reveals:

* influential but rarely-heard-from crossbench senator Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party wants the review to consider “greater consumer protection … in the area of motor vehicle sales and repairs”;

* the highly regarded Consumer Action Law Centre wants a law that defines a lemon as “a vehicle that has been repaired at least three times by the manufacturer or importer and the vehicle still has a defect or if the vehicle is out of service for 20 or more days in total due to a defect;

* the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is “actively investigating … vehicle manufacturer conduct in the context of consumer guarantee obligations” and is “increasingly concerned about reports of consumers having difficulty with their new cars”; and

* there is no evidence that any new car owner has obtained a refund or replacement using the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), introduced in 2011.

Consumer Action CEO Gerard Brody said in the ACL review it would also argue for a switch in the “onus of proof” for at least the first six months of ownership.

“The trader should be required to prove that the goods are of an acceptable quality rather than this burden sitting with the consumer,” Mr Brody said. “We find that recalcitrant traders repeatedly repair cars and say they are working when they aren’t. This requires consumers to complain and complain and end up at the tribunal which can mean they give up.”

The federal minister responsible for consumer affairs Bruce Billson revealed the ACCC investigation yesterday. Of the existing law, he said: “If you buy a motor vehicle and it has a major failure, you have the right to choose between a refund or a replacement product. While not called a ‘lemon law’, consumer guarantees can provide similar redress.”

That said, the review of the ACL later this year “will be an opportunity to test how well the law is working and to see if changes are needed”.

Top consumer group Choice’s spokesman Tom Godfrey said the ACL review was timely.

“Too often we hear of consumers being driven into the aftermarket and given the run around by dealers when they seek redress,” Mr Godfrey said. “Some consumers are wondering how car companies are getting away with off-loading lemons”.

Other stories from Jeep owners

Not new

SIMON, who asked that his surname not be used due to his occupation, says he wasn’t told his new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee had been damaged and repaired. He wants a refund and, while Jeep hasn’t agreed, it is “more than happy to work with (him) to reach a suitable outcome”.

Noisy engine

LAURA Puig and Jim Chitsos say they have taken their 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee back 14 times in six months for a noisy engine. Jeep says it is a “commonplace characteristic” of that engine and claims the owners “attest to this”. The owners disagree and still want a refund.


PETER Curran says his 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8 has many problems including a ticking sound from the engine and faults with the side mirrors. Jeep says “all required repair work has been carried out under warranty”. Mr Curran says this is not the case and he still wants a refund.

Won’t start

MATTHEW Good says his 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Blackhawk fails to start. It happened in November, February, April and May. He says there have been failed attempts to fix the fault and he wants a refund. Jeep told Public Defender last night it would contact the customer.

Unable to tow

KARL Boos says his 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee cannot safely tow a three-tonne caravan and that he has a statutory declaration from an expert to this effect. He says the vehicle is not fit for a normal purpose and wants a refund. Jeep said last night it would get in touch with the customer.

Water Pump

COURTNEY Murray had her 2012 Jeep Patriot serviced regularly but not by Jeep. A week after the warranty ran out, Jeep had a special on servicing. Jeep found the water pump was leaking but wouldn’t fix it because it didn’t do all the servicing. Now it is “happy to work with this customer”.

Leaking roof

CORY McMillan found his 2013 Jeep Wrangler’s roof was leaking. He says he took it to get fixed and Jeep said keep driving it until new seals came in. During the recent storms water got in, causing extensive damage. Jeep said it wouldn’t fix it. Now it says it’ll repair it as “a standard warranty claim”.


21 May, 2015


The appeal of the Greens to the rich and godless has been underlined by an analysis of voting patterns in the recent NSW election. The Greens picked up three lower house seats — Balmain, Newtown and Ballina — and two members of the upper house. The party’s state-wide vote was unchanged at 10.3 per cent, but it achieved solid increases in the inner city — and big jumps in its support on the north coast of NSW, due to concerns about coal-seam gas.

Analysis of election results using 2011 census data compiled by the NSW parliamentary library reveals the ¬secret of the Greens’ success ¬appears to be the party’s appeal to atheists and the well-off.

In the top 10 electorates ranked by the proportion of households with income of $3000 a week or more, the Greens’ primary vote averaged 17 per cent. In the 10 electorates with the lowest proportion of such families, the Greens vote averaged 10.9 per cent. And this figure was inflated by the Greens’ outstanding results in the north coast seats of Tweed and Lismore, driven by the CSG issue. The electorates ranked one and two for people who nominate no religion, agnosticism, atheism, humanism or rationalism are Newtown and Balmain in inner Sydney. The No 3 godless electorate is Sydney, which is held by the Clover Moore-backed independent Alex Greenwich, who captures much of what would otherwise be the Greens vote.

Even with him getting 39.6 per cent of the vote, the Greens still managed a respectable 9.7 per cent primary vote. The Greens’ other seat, Ballina, which includes Byron Bay and Mullumbimby, is ranked four for the number of atheists. Conversely, in electorates where the proportion of Christians is highest, Greens did relatively poorly. In the most Christian seat in NSW — Cootamundra in the Riverina — the Greens managed just 3.5 per cent of the vote. Although the Greens proclaim an emphasis on social justice and equity, working-class people ¬appear unconvinced. In electorates with the highest proportion of labourers, the Greens averaged only 4.8 per cent.

Greens MLC John Kaye said education, rather than income, was a better predictor of a likely Greens voter. “As a progressive party, we appeal to people who have been formally trained to look at alternatives and assess them,” he said. Dr Kaye said it was a mistake to lump Balmain and Newtown together, because they were quite different electorates. Balmain was wealthier and had more families while Newtown had more students and public-sector workers. ABC election analyst Antony Green studied the demographics of the Greens vote in the 2010 federal election, concluding Labor and the Greens are not engaged in a battle over Labor heartland but that the Greens were concentrated in the inner cities and among the “knowledge elite.” He remarked that “high Green support basically disappears at the end of the tram lines” in Melbourne.

Via email from the Australian Prayer Network

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay slams inner-city hipsters as ‘anti-road zealots’

HEY you! Latte-sipping hipster of Newtown or Fitzroy. You’re worse for the environment than a fleet of trucks.  Look at you, sitting there in your wholefood cafe, munching on your kale salad (yum!) and whingeing about why your city can’t be a freewheeling bicycle utopia like Paris. You just don’t get it.

This is the entirely unflattering view NSW’s Roads Minister Duncan Gay takes of Australia’s inner-city residents, as he rails against (or, should that be “roads” against?) their extremist pro-train agenda.

Politicians continue to fend off criticism from residents (oh, and pesky planning experts) for prioritising mega roads — such as Sydney’s whopping Westconnex motorway and Melbourne’s maligned East-West Link — over public transport.

While the East-West Link is on the scrap heap, the 33km Westconnex is happening — and the six-land freeway will spit out thousands of cars right next door to Sydney’s hipster HQ of King St, Newtown.
But inner city scenesters can cry into their quinoa for all Mr Gay cares.

He used a forum on freight in Sydney yesterday to slam Australia’s “anti-road zealots”. (Stack hats on, hipsters, coz you’re about to cop it from Mr Gay.)

“I’m increasingly concerned by the vocal anti-road movement in Sydney and elsewhere which revere dogma over reality,” he said.
“They conveniently forget that thousands of commuters each day need to drive to rail and bus stations, ferry wharves, hospitals, schools, shopping centres and sporting grounds.

“They forget their groceries, whitegoods, furniture and mail are delivered by road. I’m yet to see a freight train back into a shop in Newtown or someone hitch a ride on a tram with their newly purchased 400L fridge from Harvey Norman.

“It is one thing to sit in your cafe, sipping your latte, and complain about cars and roads. “It’s another thing to wonder how the grease trap in that coffee lounge actually gets removed.” 

But, for his big finish, Mr Gay said Australia’s “chattering class” were worse polluters than trucks.  “More particulate matter goes into the air over the city of Sydney from the chattering class sitting around their log fire and a glass of chardonnay (talking about) that horrible Duncan Gay; they put more particulate matter into the air of Sydney by a factor of four of five than heavy vehicles ever did,” he said.

In a deeply unsurprising development, Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi has rushed in with box of tissues to dry the eyes of her craft-beer swilling constituency.  “Minister Gay’s callous remarks about the people in our community fighting against toxic toll road projects are condescending and ill-informed,” she said.

“The people organising against projects like WestConnex and NorthConnex are doing so because they believe these roads are not what Sydney needs in the 21st century. And they are right. “The Roads Minister’s tired cliches about latte-sippers basically trivialise what are really serious issues for people: the air they breathe, the way they get around, and the accessibility of the services and amenities they need to live good, healthy lives.”


Brandis takes away a lot of the money from the Leftist arty farties

And they're squealing

Diverting almost $105 million in funding from the Australia Council to the federal Arts Ministry would challenge "widespread perception" that the arts funding body is a "closed shop" that favoured artists in Melbourne and Sydney, Arts Minister George Brandis says.

There was a view that the Australia Council was an "iron wall that you're either inside or outside", the senator said on Tuesday.

"This is a very good budget for the arts," Mr Brandis said of measures announced in last week's federal budget. "There have been no significant cuts at all," he told ABC Radio National.

Under the policy, a National Program for Excellence in the Arts will be established with $104.7 million over four years diverted from the Australia Council (which will have $185 million to distribute to artists and arts organisations). In addition, the Australia Council has been asked to find savings of $7.2 million over four years.

The move sparked an outcry from many in the arts community, saying it reduced the amount of arts funding delivered by peer review, at arm's length from government.

While several major companies have been quiet on the move – and Opera Australia CEO Craig Hassall said he was "delighted" that major performing arts companies' funding was not cut – others have expressed concern that companies with better connections to the minister will be rewarded to the detriment of smaller organisations.

More than 4000 people, including authors Thomas Keneally, Christos Tsiolkas and JM Coetzee, playwright Joanna Murray-Smith and artists William Yang and Shaun Tan have signed a petition opposing the "massive defunding" of the Australia Council.

Individual artists have also backed up those concerns.  "It hasn't been explained yet how the minister will be administering these funds, and what he means by areas of excellence," said artist Ken Unsworth, who represented Australia at the 1978 Venice Biennale. "If that's just flagship companies getting more money then I think that's appalling."

Editor, poet and essayist David Brooks criticised the move, adding he wasn't greatly surprised by it. "We could have seen this coming, regardless of but especially after the PM's non-arm's-length role in this year's Prime Minister's Literary Awards."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan share the award with Steven Carroll, the judges' unanimous choice.

Asked to define his interpretation of excellence in the arts, Mr Brandis sidestepped the question, saying he would rather not anticipate the specifics of the guidelines.

They would, however, be transparent, independent and "they will extend access to funding to a wider [pool] of applicants", he said.

"The minister's not the assessor," he said, adding that decisions would be made by staff from within his office.

Of the perception that the budget measures would hit emerging artists hardest and favour the heritage arts, he said: "I don't think there is an antithesis between excellence and experimentation, not at all."

The senator said he had "quarantined" the arts from larger cuts in this budget and last year (the 2014 budget included more than $100 million in cuts to the sector by the Abbott government, which included a $28 million reduction in funding to the Australia Council over four years, $33.8 million taken from arts programs run by the Attorney-General's Department and $25.1 million from Screen Australia).

He denied he was "dismantling" the Australia Council by moving the Book Council and programs such as Festivals Australia, Visions of Australia and the Major Festivals initiative back under his ministry's control.

"I don't think the Australia Council is on the way out," Mr Brandis said. "About 87 per cent of grant funding will continue to be funded through the Australia Council. I think the Australia Council ought to continue to have the principal role in arts funding in Australia.

"That being said I do not favour the view that it be a monopoly funder of the arts. A funding mix ... is a healthier way to do arts funding."

The minister provided little further detail beyond the short statement released last week on how the new initiative would work.

Mr Brandis said his office would publish guidelines in coming weeks and would invite applications for funding "in the coming financial year".

He compared the model for the national program to the cultural fund created to mark the Gallipoli centenary.

"[There's an] analogy with the way the Anzac Arts and Culture Fund has been administered, with an advisory panel of experts who assess projects and make recommendations."


Labor suffers first defeat in hung Qld. Parliament as Billy Gordon backs LNP’s wait time guarantee

Long waits in public hospitals are no concern of the ALP, apparently

THEY joined with embattled Cook MP Billy Gordon to help the Opposition chalk up its first win against the Palaszczuk Government in State Parliament last night and the Katter’s Australian Party MPs warn it will not be the last time this term.

KAP State Leader Robbie Katter said the decision signalled the return of democracy to the House.

“I think it demonstrates to people that we have introduced this wonderful form of democracy back into the parliament now where things get through on their merits,” Mr Katter said.

“We saw merit in what the Opposition motion delivered for hospitals and we voted accordingly and so did the Member for Cook and that will continue to happen.”

Mr Katter said he hoped the decision signalled to Labor and the LNP that state parliament was “not about major parties beating their chests and playing party games”.

“It needs to be used for serious activity to deliver real outcomes,” he said.  “We represent electorates that are on their knees. We believe we are doing it worse than anywhere else in Australia...and we are uncompromising in pursuing the agenda that we feel delivers best for Queenslanders.  “We’ve got real democracy ... and I think it’s a good thing for Queensland.”

Fellow Katter MP Shane Knuth said they would continue to work with the government on the surgery wait time issue to achieve a result they were happy with.  “We’ve indicated right from the beginning that we want to support good policies, good legislation and good motions,” Mr Knuth said.  “We may not get it right every time. We’re not perfect.”

In the first sign of the instability of the hung Parliament, Mr Gordon sided with the Katter MPs to help the Opposition win a motion to keep the LNP’s health wait time guarantee.

Mr Gordon said he backed the Opposition as he had not seen anything to convince him to vote against it.  “I’ve always said I will offer confidence to the Government and that stands, but on this particular issue, I haven’t heard anything that persuaded me otherwise,” he said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk last night tried to downplay the loss.  “It’s just a normal vote of the Parliament, nothing unusual,” she said.

There was audible shock in the chamber as the Clerk read out the votes of the Crossbenchers, revealing the final tally of 45 votes for and 43 votes against.

Despite the vote, Labor insisted it wouldn’t reinstate the LNP’s wait time guarantee.  Instead, Health Minister Cameron Dick said the Government would continue with its own plan to tackle waiting lists.  “Any vote in a Parliament is important. But this is the reality of a hung parliament where no party has a majority,” Mr Dick said.  “It’s not a binding vote in the sense the Parliament can’t instruct the Government to do things.”

Scrapping the Opposition’s wait time guarantee – which assured surgery within clinically recommended time frames or free surgery in a private hospital – was one of the first things Mr Dick did when he became health minister.


The Tim Flannery hypothesis

Peter van Onselen

The descent into madness at the University of Western Australia associated with the possible setting up of a centre to be headed by Danish professor Bjorn Lomborg has been a debacle from start to finish.

I feel for all the parties involved — the management forced into an embarrassing backdown, colleagues who rightly or wrongly felt blindsided by the initial decision. And perhaps most of all I feel for the great majority of staff and students at UWA (let’s call them the silent majority) who probably weren’t that concerned about the decision either way, but no doubt are concerned by the reputational damage caused to the university.

Although I do not agree with the backlash that the decision to accept the commonwealth funds and establish the centre caused among staff (I wrote in defence of the centre’s establishment after it was announced), it is the often disingenuous reasons for the uprising that bother me most. These have certainly been the reasons to receive the most public attention.

I want to put out there a proposition for readers to ponder, which I’ll come back to throughout this piece: would the bottom-up revolt by staff have occurred had the Rudd or Gillard government done the same for Tim Flannery, for example, and set up a centre to advocate aggressive climate change action?

It is just my opinion, but I highly doubt it. Sure, this newspaper and certain commentators might have had a crack at it, but I doubt UWA would have faced a revolt.

For anyone who agrees with me they will also, I suspect, agree that this is a telling observation. For readers who do not, because the above is an unprovable opinion, we simply have to agree to ­disagree.

Let’s establish a few facts, as well as dispel more than a few myths surrounding this debate.

Lomborg believes in climate change, but he questions whether the cost of addressing it is economically worth the effort, in a world of finite resources.

Yes, he is not an economist by training, he is a political scientist. Critics have made a lot of this. But to suggest there isn’t overlap between these disciplines, or that he is somehow unqualified to explore a hypothesis in the wider sphere of economics is preposterous. All the more so given that his research expertise is in statistics.

I would direct readers to (the more than eminent) Professor Flannery’s formal qualifications and training, reminding them that unlike Lomborg he engages in debates about the science of climate change, for which he is not ideally qualified.

Would opponents of Lomborg’s academic policy engagements equally oppose Flannery’s, on the premise that both men were not, strictly speaking, trained within the specific discipline they now operate in?

There has been scuttlebutt about how well qualified Lomborg is to be worthy of the appointment UWA offered.

First, it was to be an honorary post, without salary. Second, he was already an academic at a well respected overseas university. His PhD is from Denmark’s top ranked tertiary institution (University of Copenhagen) and he rose to the rank of professor at its second best institution, the University of Aarhus. These are world top 50 and top 100 universities respectively. For context, UWA is a top 100 university, and proudly so.

Third, the mooted centre would have been staffed by scholars who would have gone through a formal appointment process within UWA.

Finally, the Danish centre as well as its offshoots in the US house highly reputable scholars, including a number of Nobel laureates. Links to these institutions would, I believe, have elevated UWA, not diminished it.

The point is not to brag, nor to imply UWA would be lucky to be graced with Lomborg’s partial presence. It is simply to highlight the absurdity of suggesting his centre was without merit and UWA would lose academic standing because of it, much less be so diabolic that it needed to provoke an uprising by staff and students.

It was an overreaction, which is perhaps why management should have stood firm.

Would it have been a controversial centre? Of course. Is that a reason not to engage with Lomborg’s ideas? I hope not, or I had better find another university to affiliate myself with. I don’t tend to tread lightly in my political commentary. There is a good point to be made criticising centres such as Lomborg’s as bordering on the polemical, and suiting the purpose of a think tank more than a university. I have heard this criticism used in recent weeks. That is to say, such centres seem to want to find evidence to support a hypothesis, rather than let the evidence direct the inquiry.

There are two things to say about this. First, keeping such centres out of universities is a fight that was lost a long, long time ago. The University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies is the most high-profile version of such a think tank within a university in this country, but there are many others both here and abroad. In fact, there are a number that concern themselves with campaigns for climate change action beyond what the consensus requests. Second, are those who opposed Lomborg’s centre consistent, and would they equally have opposed a similar centre albeit with a different ideological goal? This is the Flannery hypothesis (cum opinion) that I have.

I’ve seen others invoke the freedom of expression defence as to why Lomborg’s centre should have gone ahead, and in turn they have criticised UWA staff for silencing dissent. While John Stuart Mill’s writings often get raised in this context, in truth he has made counterpoints to the arguments free speech advocates like to raise. They would know this had they read his collective works, rather than cherry-picked his findings. Let’s keep long dead philosophers out of this debate, other than to note its nice to hear contrary arguments when we do quote scholars who housed themselves in our institutes of higher learning, often as contrarians at the time.

My criticism of the rejection of the Lomborg centre is more about the lack of consistency, the false narrative and misinformation associated with it, and the (in my opinion) rather obvious ideological partisanship which seemed to kick it off. It is important to note that there were colleagues who were upset with the initial decision because of the management process, or I suspect in their view the lack of it. I do not mean to lump them in with the more vocal opponents, who have tended to base their opposition on the grounds I am criticising above.

Are there reasons to dislike the decision to accept the money and set up the centre? You bet there are. Did the Abbott government have a clear agenda when seeking to allocate the funds? I have no doubt. The university would have been within its rights to say, “Thanks, but no thanks, we don’t want to be part of your partisan games.” Perhaps it should have.

Would I have rejected the opportunity were I part of university management? I simply do not know, there is too much information courtesy of the way this process has unfolded to develop an undistorted view now.

Like it or not, university managers need the support of their subordinates, such is the institutional structure. The fault perhaps lies more in the lack of consultation prior to the initial decision, than in the ultimate one to walk away from the centre.

I can see that the decision to engage with Lomborg may have been a managerial mistake given the agendas in play, it is a crying shame the way my colleagues reacted. That’s because universities should not shut down contrarian scholarship. And they certainly should not do so inconsistently and in a distorting way, given the broad ideological spectrum within society, which should be reflected in our universities.

It does appear that management could have sold the now defunct centre better to colleagues. The mere fact that there was an uprising against the decision is arguably evidence of that. But would a better sales job surrounding the opening up of the centre have avoided the embarrassment we witnessed? Perhaps, but I’m not certain. Because the reasons behind the opposition to Lomborg’s arrival (in name more than in person, given he was only ever going to be an unpaid honorary chairman of the centre, and not based in WA) seem to me to have been largely built on a mixture of ideology and misunderstanding.

In a sign of how ridiculous this whole debate has become, it is incumbent on me before signing off to spell out where I stand on climate change, how to combat it and what (if any) qualifications I have to comment on such matters.

Like Lomborg, I accept the science of climate change (not that I would have cared if he did not, his research isn’t about trying to disprove it). There appears to be a scientific consensus on climate change, although we should be mindful that there are well qualified professors of climate science who dispute the consensus, and they work in leading universities. They appear vastly outnumbered and outgunned by the evidence, but recognising such dissenting views is important.

Like Lomborg, I am primarily a political scientist by training, with a PhD in the discipline. I feel that makes me qualified to debate and examine the public policy benefits or otherwise of pursuing alternative uses of limited government (and private) monies when combating disease and scientific decay.

My political science studies have also trained me in the study of political economy and public policy specifically, as I suspect Lomborg’s have, and I’ve completed a master of policy studies and a master of commerce, if that somehow matters when dipping into this multidisciplinary debate.

Does the economics of focusing on combating climate change stack up, or are there other ways to spend limited funds more effectively? I’m not sure I’d agree with Lomborg’s findings, to be honest; I’d need to do my own research to find out. But what’s to fear in him doing such work? Surely his thesis is worthy of inquiry?

Not that this was to be the purpose of the UWA centre Lomborg would have been affiliated with anyway. It seemed from the media releases to be an extension of his work, focused more on the various ways of combating disease and dysfunction in our region. Lomborg’s earlier works on the economics of climate change action almost seemed irrelevant to the work the centre would have engaged in. You can see the value it would have had without agreeing with the premise on which it came about. It struck me that UWA could have played the government off a break, structuring the centre for its own purposes at the same time as satisfying the Abbott government’s penchant for dishing out the cash in the name of a cause.

Inevitably some colleagues who disagree with the views I have expressed may seek to pick holes in my argument, which I absolutely welcome. That’s all part of the rich joy of academic debate. It would have been nice if Lomborg’s centre could have been viewed in the same spirit, but alas.


20 May, 2015

What was behind the white Australia policy?

Although it is now a forbidden belief, a belief that race differences exist and are in some cases important was virtually universal up until fairly recently so it is easy to conclude that the legislation enshrining what was generally known as the White Australia policy was motivated by racism.  While racial beliefs did no doubt provide some background to, and justification for, that policy, however, I would think that most people with any awareness of Australian social history will be aware that the "Immigration Restriction Act", as it was called, was motivated primarily by a strong demand from the working class to exclude cheap labour, Chinese labour in particular. It was motivated by what unions call a desire to maintain their "conditions".  Suspicion of cheap labour brought in from China still surfaces among union spokesmen to this day. 

For those who know little about Australian social history, a long and erudite essay by a pseudonymous author has just appeared.  I reproduce below the section most immediately relevant to the enactment of immigration restrictions at the very beginning of the Australian federation. 

There is one small error in it.  The white Australia policy was abolished not by Gough Whitlam but by the conservative government of Harold Holt.  Whitlam just tidied up a few details

Australia was singularly fortunate that, by the beginning of the 1890s, the “common man” actually had political power via the franchise and elected his own representatives to the various colonial Parliaments. In a world ruled mostly by absolute monarchs and the hereditary aristocracy, Australia was unique in being governed by “the workers” the majority of whom were also literate and numerate. In Australia almost the entire population, from the top professionals to the lowest ditch-diggers, were directly connected with the convict “assigned servant” system or had come from the disenfranchised and oppressed classes of Britain, Europe and America. Here people, men and women, could breathe free and truly believed that “Jack was as good as his master” and there was no way they were ever going to allow British or foreign Imperialists, aristocrats, or the filthy rich share-holders to establish a plantation system in this country worked by exploited whites or anyone else. The only way to stymie foreign plans for exactly that was to pass legislation that would deny such exploiters the one resource they needed – and that was the importation of a huge coolie workforce. That’s why the various colonial laws restricting immigration were made consistent and became the “Immigration Restriction Act” that was the first legislation ever passed by the Australian Federal Parliament and became known as the “White Australia Policy” – even though it did not deny anyone entry on the basis of race.

Between 1901 and 1914 Australia was “the most democratic country on earth” and led the world with social reform that, for the first time in world history, gave the common man a real opportunity to rise above the station of his (or her) birth. A place where a man really could be judged on the content of his character, his own abilities and innate worth, rather than on whom his father was or the “Public” school that he’d attended – or his accent. At that time visitors to Australia were often appalled by the lack of “respect” and “reverence” Australians showed to their social betters and their refusal to doff their hats or tug their forelocks to anyone or to “know their place”. Australians had also developed a distinctive accent that, unlike anywhere else in the English speaking world, is the same regardless of geographical location or social status. George Bernard Shaw could never have written “Pygmalion” if he’d been born and raised in Australia; that could only have been written in, and about, a class riven society such as Britain where people are instantly judged, and assigned a social role, by their accents. Australia at that time, just over a century ago, also had a very powerful union movement that ensured that employees, regardless of the complexity of the work done, received a liveable wage and had a real and tangible opportunity to own their own home or piece of land and made sure there were schools for their children and hospitals for their sick and pensions for those of them who were old or infirm. Those ideas were “revolutionary” in the world of the first decade of the 20th Century. Australia also elected, for the first time in world history, a Labor Government made up of men who wouldn’t even have had the vote in Britain (or most countries in the world) at that time.

In that first decade of the 20th Century Australians were the richest and freest people in the world and in all human history. The wealth distribution between the rich and poor was also the narrowest and we had avoided a war of independence, a civil war, serious uprisings or any of the other great societal conflicts that plagued older and more traditional societies. But while we avoided all those things and the horrors of the Industrial Revolution with its 5 year-olds down mines and cleaning the cotton mills, the little match girls and chimney sweeps, the share-cropping system, and the factory fodder living in a company hovel and working a six day week for one day’s pay and forever in debt to the company store, there was an element, both domestic and foreign, who still hankered after a coolie-worked plantation system that would bust the unions, drive down wages, and chase the common ruck from the Halls of Power that “rightfully” belonged to them on the basis of their birth and inherited wealth. Australians were the bastards of the British Empire, a collection of lower-class upstarts descended from criminals and street sweepings that needed to “compete” in a reverse-auction for work and political power – for their own good – against a few million coolies imported from around Asia and the Pacific Islands. But they failed. The White Australia Policy lasted on the statutes until the mid-1960s when it began to be watered down and then finally abolished by the Whitlam and Fraser Governments and was replaced, without any popular support or, heaven forbid, a referendum of the people, with Al Grassby’s policy of “multiculturalism” – an idea that had been around since the days of the Roman Empire and has a 100% failure rate everywhere it had ever been tried – and is failing everywhere it’s been implemented over the last 50 years.

The Immigration Restriction Act was not about white supremacy, racism, or the belief that whites were higher up the evolutionary tree than the coloured races. Rather, it was designed to STOP the racist exploitation of non-whites (all of whom would have been illiterate peasants practicing religions and cultures anathema to progressive democracy) being conscripted into a life of semi-slavery in a coolie-worked plantation economy for the benefit of the absolute monarchs, hereditary aristocracy and the super-wealthy companies and share-holders of the northern hemisphere. It was also about stopping the creation of ethnic-racial enclaves and ghettoes, inter-religious schisms and conflict, and from destroying the “working man’s paradise” that had been created by the native-born, the “currency” lads and lasses, of Australia. We did not want the racial and ethnic conflicts that plagued every part of the Americas and the Caribbean or the rigid class structures of Europe or the oppression of ethnic minorities as was normal in the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German, American, Russian, Chinese and Japanese Empires of the time. We only wanted people who believed as we did: that a man should have dignity, a say in government via a universal and compulsory franchise, and a fair share of the wealth of the nation; that people should rise in society on their own merits and find their own station in life regardless of who their father was; that women should have the same rights to an education, inheritance, personal wealth and social advancement as anyone else; that no man, woman or child should ever be a slave or a serf or work in indentured bondage; that anyone could say what they damned well liked without fear of exclusion, impoverishment, the knout, the cell, the chain-gang, or the gallows. The only way to ensure all those revolutionary freedoms was to keep one commodity in short supply – and that was labour. The White Australia Policy was about self-preservation and the continuance of a social experiment that had been a spectacular success.


Renewable energy deal close

Both sides may settle for half a loaf

A deal on the Renewable Energy Target could come within weeks after the federal government indicated this morning it is willing to back down on a demand the scheme be subject to biannual reviews.

The development has been welcomed by industry, which has seen investment collapse by nearly 90 per cent since the Abbott government recruited self-professed climate sceptic Dick Warburton to head a review in February last year.

“It’s the reviews that have really killed the industry over the last couple of years,” said Russell Marsh, Director of Policy at the Clean Energy Council.

The council, supported by Labor and the Greens, had last week dismissed continuing reviews as a “deal breaker” after the government met with the Opposition and made an offer to break the deadlock over the target.

At the meeting, the government changed its position on the target, announcing it would agree to set the amount of electricity that must be sourced from renewables by 2020 at 33,000 gigawatt hours (GWh).

The target was established at 41,000 GWh with tri-partisan support in 2009, but industry is willing to accept the Abbott government's cut to 33,000GWh so as to maintain bipartisan support, which will help calm investors’ nerves.

“It’s really only having the legislation locked away and changed that you’ll see investor certainty returning,” Marsh said.

Reacting to this morning’s news Kane Thornton, the Chief Executive Officer of the Clean Energy Council, said he’s “now confident that a final agreement can be negotiated, which will deliver the necessary bipartisan support for the RET, restoring stability to the policy and allowing the industry to meet the revised target”.

“It has been a tough 15 months, but this development will be a huge weight off the shoulders of the 20,000 people working in the industry,” Thornton said.

Labor has not yet responded to the government’s changed stance. While it will welcome the government’s decision to drop the reviews, another “red herring” could still derail a deal.

Last time the government met with Labor to discuss the RET it also demanded that native forest wood waste, which was delisted by the Greens and Labor in 2011, be reclassified as a renewable energy source.

Labor remains opposed to including wood waste but it has generally followed the industry’s lead in negotiations, and while the Clean Energy Council also opposes the reclassification, it is urging politicians to focus on the big picture.

“They should get on with the job of getting the legislation passed and not let those other minor details (in the scheme of things) get tangled up in the process,” Marsh said.

The compromise on reviews could see new legislation introduced before parliament breaks for winter recess on June 25, and Thornton remains hopeful “the major parties will continue to work through this issue for the good of the tens of thousands of people employed by the renewable energy industry”.

Environmental groups, however, have argued that including native wood waste would undermine the effectiveness of the RET.

“The regime would be a hell of a lot more certain if native wood waste was excluded from it,” the Climate Council’s Andrew Stock said.

“In the short run - 20 or 30 years - while the trees are replanted and establish themselves, you’re probably net adding to emissions because you’re burning trees that have been there for 50 to a 100 years,” Stock said.

“And if the power station isn't right next to a sawmill or something the costs and the emissions associated with the transport of the wood waste is an additional emission.”

“It is clear there is a serious intention to proceed with forest furnaces,” said Peg Putt, Chief Executive Officer of Markets For Change.

“Large greenhouse gas emissions result from burning native forest wood,” she said.

“If it proceeded then energy from native forest biomass would be at a scale that would reduce the proportion of the RET available to wind and solar, undermining these genuinely clean energy sources.


Abbott won't let foreign militant fighters back into the country after they leave

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday ruled out an amnesty for Australian citizens seeking to quit foreign militant groups and return home in the wake of media reports that his government was negotiating with potential defectors.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Australian authorities in the Middle East were negotiating with three Australian fighters with the Islamic State radical group who wanted to leave but feared imprisonment at home.

Abbott seemed to confirm their fears on Tuesday, taking a hard line that includes prison time for those who have ignored Australian laws expressly barring them from participating in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

“If you go abroad to break Australian law, if you go abroad to kill innocent people in the name of misguided fundamentalism and extremism, if you go abroad to become an Islamist killer, well, we are hardly going to welcome you back into this country,” Abbott told reporters.

“If you go abroad to join a terrorist group and you seek to come back to Australia, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and jailed.”

Security analysts have put the number of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, travelling from scores of countries around the world, in the thousands.

Abbott has told parliament at least 70 Australians were fighting in Iraq and Syria backed by about 100 Australia-based “facilitators”.

Australia is on high alert for attacks by radicalized Muslims or by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East, having raised its threat level to high and undertaken a series of high-profile raids in major cities.

Under tough new security powers won by Abbott’s conservative government in October, Australian citizens can face up to a decade in prison for overseas travel to areas declared off limits.


High-quality 19th century marker shows that the sea-level has FALLEN since then

Tasmanian marker showing that the mean sea level of the mid 19th century was ABOVE the mean sea-level of today

The ‘Isle of the Dead’ may yet prove to be another nail in the coffin of global warming and its gruesome companion, Disastrous Sea Level Rises.

The `Isle of the Dead’ is over two acres in size and is situated within the harbor of Port Arthur opening directly to the Southern Ocean. The isle itself is actually a graveyard (thus its eerie name), containing the graves of some 2,000 British convicts and free persons from the 19th century who lived and died at the nearby convict colony of Port Arthur between 1832 and 1870.

In 1841. renowned British Antarctic explorer, Captain Sir James Clark Ross, sailed into Tassy after a 6-month voyage of discovery and exploration to the Antarctic.

Ross and Governor Franklin made a particular point of visiting Port Arthur, to meet Thomas Lempriere, a senior official of the convict colony there, but who was also a methodical observer and recorder of meteorological, tidal, and astronomical data. It is important to note what Captain Ross wrote about it.

    “My principal object in visiting Port Arthur was to afford a comparison of our standard barometer with that which had been employed for several years by Mr. Lempriere, the Deputy Assistant Commissary General, in accordance with my instructions, and also to establish a permanent mark at the zero point, or general mean level of the sea as determined by the tidal observations which Mr. Lempriere had conducted with perseverance and exactness for some time: by which means any secular variation in the relative level of the land and sea, which is known to occur on some coasts, might at any future period be detected, and its amount determined.

    The point chosen for this purpose was the perpendicular cliff of the small islet off Point Puer, which, being near to the tide register, rendered the operation more simple and exact. The Governor, whom I had accompanied on an official visit to the settlement, gave directions to afford Mr. Lempriere every assistance of labourers he required, to have the mark cut deeply in the rock in the exact spot which his tidal observations indicated as the mean level of the ocean."

That mark is still there today, as can be seen in the photo.The photo was taken at midway between high and low tides.

There is intensive research presently underway by several institutions including the now corrupt CSIRO assisted by the head of the Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science & Technology, Dr David Pugh, who is based at the University of Southampton, UK. But in spite of plenty of time we have yet to see their detailed explanation of just why this mark confounds all the predictions about sea level rise.

Dr. Pugh airily waves his hands and says in effect that poor old confused Lempriere, in spite of the detailed instructions about getting a Mean Sea Level (half way between high and low tide), he just put in the high water mark. This, of course, sounds logical to anybody steeped in the Green religion.

But not to anyone else and not to real scientists who look at evidence unflinchingly.


Don Argus slams iron ore inquiry

Former BHP Billiton chairman Don Argus has warned Australia would become a “laughing stock of the world” if the government ­intervened in the iron ore market.

As the Abbott government considers an inquiry into claims by Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest that industry giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have been forcing down prices and driving out smaller rivals, Mr Argus warned that intervention would make the nation non-competitive and send mixed signals about whether Australia was a command economy or a market economy.

“We will be a laughing stock of the world because, in a market economy, prices will determine what is produced, how it’s produced, and who will get the things we make,” Mr Argus, also a former National Australia Bank chief executive, told The Australian.

“A market economy uses prices as signals telling us how to use ­resources.”

He sounded a note of caution that the proposed inquiry could become a “political football” and expose very sensitive commercial information to offshore buyers of iron ore. Officials in Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane’s department could already be called on to seek an explanation of the “various” components that drove iron ore pricing.

Mr Forrest has been leading the call for the inquiry and found support from smaller producers such as Atlas Iron, BC Iron and US company Cliffs Natural Resources. In March, Mr Forrest called for a cap on iron ore production. Last week, Mr Forrest urged Australians to lobby the government to “consider the multinationals’ ­licence to operate in Australia if they don’t market Australian iron ore responsibly for all Australians”. On Sunday, an “Our Iron Ore” campaign was launched to gather support for an inquiry.

Mr Argus said an inquiry was not needed.

“If you don’t understand something, sit down with the miners and talk to them, they will tell you,” he said.

“It’s just ­beyond my comprehension how anybody would even be thinking about it.”

He said he was “aghast” that politicians had not used officials from Mr Macfarlane’s department “to get an explanation of how pricing is done” given that they are “a very talented group of people and understanding of the resources industry”.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon has continued to push for an inquiry. Tony Abbott flagged an inquiry last Friday, and yesterday said he wanted to get to the bottom of the “claim and counterclaim” being made within the market. “An inquiry may well be a very good way of doing that,” the Prime Minister said.

He said an inquiry could not be a “witch hunt”, vowing that “one thing you will never find from this government is any attempt to regulate a market which is working well”.

While there has been speculation the terms of reference could be released shortly, others insist the government will take a more cautious approach and is open for an inquiry to be done by a regulator or statutory body.

Mr Macfarlane and Trade Minister Andrew Robb confirmed yesterday that the government’s leadership group was seeking views but no decision had been made.

“No decision has been taken as yet but the leadership group have, quite appropriately, been canvassing views — various views — amongst various colleagues,” Mr Robb told ABC radio.

“I’ve put my views, as others have, to the leadership group and it’s up to them to weigh up the merits of all the views that have been put to them, and to make a decision for the government,” Mr Robb said.

Mr Macfarlane said: “My understanding is that this is a discussion which the cabinet will have.”

Labor has said it would participate in the inquiry if it goes ahead, but competition spokesman Andrew Leigh said there could be “potential threats to investment if the government’s rhetoric gets out of hand”. Dr Leigh told Sky News that parliament should write competition laws and leave it to the competition watchdog to administer them.

The iron ore spot price peaked at more than $US180 a tonne in early 2011, but has fallen sharply in the past 18 months to as low as $US47.08. Iron ore is currently trading about $US61 a tonne.

The sharp price fall has wiped off billions of dollars in tax and royalty revenues, and has been felt most keenly in Western Australia.

Last week’s West Australian budget showed that the state had had to adjust its revenue expect­ations for the next three years by $12 billion after slashing its iron-ore price projections.

In last week’s federal budget, the fall in the iron ore price wiped $20bn from forecast tax collections compared with the previous budget.

On the push for intervention in the market, Mr Argus echoed warnings that Australia would risk giving up market share to Brazil’s Vale and other producers, saying that Vale and Brazil would be “salivating at this”.

“If anybody was thinking about investing in Australia, they would be thinking twice, I think,” Mr Argus said.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson said Australia had to decide whether it was committed to open markets, and whether we “junk that proposition as soon as one producer finds the commodity price cycle uncomfortable”.

The comments by Mr Argus were echoed by the head of Rio Tinto’s iron ore arm, Andrew Harding. He said any inquiry into iron ore would not only find that the iron ore market was operating freely, openly and normally, but would also send a worrying signal to major trading partners.

“Australia has been a global champion of free trade and open markets,” Mr Harding said.

“These have underpinned our economic development. We should be careful not to disturb this hard-earned reputation. Our global standing as a supporter of open markets has already been undermined by calls to cap iron ore production and for government intervention in the market.”


19 May, 2015

Some more Green/Left dishonesty

The screed below by diehard socialist Marg Gleeson (her pic below) is the sort that amuses me.  It displays the crookedness and addled thinking of the Left very well.  Just a few points: 

She heads her article with the picture of  a mirror-driven solar furnace.  And what she says about it is true enough.  It's what she omits that is the killer.  The biggest such plant is the Ivanpah setup in California.  It fries birds at a great rate and is so inefficient and unprofitable that it asked last year for half a billion dollars grant from the Federal government in order to keep going. THAT is what Marg thinks is great!  More on Ivanpah here

And she says without embarrassment that "existing emissions have raised the global average surface temperature by less than 1°C." Such a rise is supposed to be bad?  I would have thought that it was trivial.  Her trick is that she does not say it took over a century to generate the rise concerned.  And there is no proof that the rise had anything to do with CO2.

Then she goes on to a bare-faced lie:  "This has already caused significant impacts: increases in frequency and intensity of weather events, such as fires, droughts, cyclones and floods."  Except that it hasn't.  If anything, extreme weather events have become LESS frequent in recent years.  No Category 3-5 hurricane has struck the United States for a record nine years, for instance.  She completely ignores all the statistics on that.  See here

Speaking of mines, she says: "This has brought much wealth to the Australian ruling class".  No mention that the biggest single destination for the money earned by the mines is the pockets of the workers who built and run the mines concerned. See here. Are they ruling class?  As a socialist, shouldn't she be celebrating the high pay earned by the mine-workers?

I could go on and fisk much more of this lying little article but, after looking at only the first four paragraphs, I think it is clear that there is nothing in it that anyone concerned with the facts should take notice of.  So I reproduce below only those paragraphs. The rest of the article can be accessed at the link for anyone who is curious but the quality does not improve in the rest of the article.  The old baggage is just another Leftist crook. She is good at regurgitating Green/Left boilerplate, nothing more.  Note that I give references for everything I say.  She gives none. I wonder why?

Government of dinosaurs will give Australia a 'fossilised economy'

The technology exists for Australia to immediately transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy, such as solar thermal

Following a recent meeting of federal and state ministers with the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figures, the federal government announced that it will publish by mid-year the emissions target it will take to the Paris Climate Summit in November.

However, even if all the world's governments agree to limit future emissions to what would cause the global average surface temperature to rise by no more than 2°C from before industrialisation, it will not be enough to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Already existing emissions have raised the global average surface temperature by less than 1°C. This has already caused significant impacts: increases in frequency and intensity of weather events, such as fires, droughts, cyclones and floods. A safe level is to limit emissions to zero.

The Australian economy is heavily dependent on resource exports, including fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. This has brought much wealth to the Australian ruling class and created a political culture where governments are beholden to the mineral and energy sectors.


Is There Any Need for a Dike to Save Melbourne from the Rising Seas?

Independent scientist, Professor Albert Parker, explains that government estimates of a sea level rise of over 1 meter by 2100 is folly and building any such unecessary dam to cater for that would be a gross waste of public funds.  An extract of the paper, A. Parker, Is there any need for a dike to save Melbourne from the rising seas?, Journal of Geography, Environment and Earth Science International, 2015, Volume 2, Issue 3. DOI:10.9734/JGEESI/2015/17463 follows below


The Australian government is still basing policy on the concept that sea level will rise by 1.1 meters along the Australian coastline by 2100. The Department of the Environment has proposed a 10 billion dollar dike to save Melbourne from the hypothetical rising sea. In reality the tide gauges of Victoria are recording average relative rates of rise of less than 1 mm/year, in perfect agreement with the National average.

At this rate sea level will rise by only 8.5 cm by 2100 but even this estimate may be too high. The worldwide average sea level rise, based on only tide gauges of sufficient quality and length, is only about 0.25 mm/year, with zero acceleration over the last few decades.

Such a rise can be dealt with by local adaption, as in the last 100 years, and there is no need for any engineering structures, let alone the proposed 10’billion dollar scheme with its accompanying environmental and social problems

On the basis of the data presented here the average rise of sea level along the Victorian coastline is very likely less than 1 mm/year. The worldwide shows no acceleration in the rate of rise, so there is probably no acceleration in Victoria. This rise in sea level gives no cause for concern. The likelihood of a 1.1 meter sea level rise by 2100 is extremely improbable, in Melbourne and along the Australian coastline in general.  The department of the environment should not seek advice from the same discredited climate agencies that advised the previous Labor government and conclude there is in impending threat of huge sea level rise. Their proposed 10 billion dollar dike is not needed to save Melbourne from the rising seas.

The paper shows that there is not an urgent need to build a very expensive dam to protect Melbourne by sea level increase of more than one meter by 2100 as forecasted by the IPCC. The paper criticizes the IPCC and the local sea level monitoring projects and shows that sea level as measured by other longer and not investigated tide gauges is much less than 1 mm/year. So the proposed 10 billion dollar dike is not needed to save Melbourne from the rising seas.  The paper shows that the sea levels oscillate with up to a quasi-60 years’ periodicity detected, for which windows shorter than 60 years are misleading. On the other hand, the average of tide gauges of sufficient quality and length in the Permanent Service on Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) data base show a slow rise of relative sea level of 0.24 mm/year without any acceleration over the last few decades. The paper shows that the lack of trend in MSL was also confirmed by the GRACE experiment that is a satellite measuring system based on gravity rather altimetry.

The Australian Department of the Environment before basing policy on the concept that sea level will rise by 1.1 meters along the Australian coastline by 2100 should take into account the views expressed in this paper. 


Neville Bonner's great-niece Joanna Lindgren appointed Queensland senator by conservative party

Ms Lindgren.  Under fiercely-defended Australian rules she is an Aborigine

Joanna Lindgren, the great-niece of the first indigenous member of Australia's Parliament Neville Bonner, has been appointed by the Liberal National Party as its new Senator for Queensland.

Following the marathon exhaustive voting process, which came down to a choice between her and former Australian Medical Association president Bill Glasson, Ms Lindgren said she was honoured to follow in her great-uncle's footsteps.

"I'm very happy to be filling his shoes," she said. "He too filled a casual vacancy, just like I am, so I have big shoes to fill."

It is understood the result came down to just a handful of votes from the 230-strong party state council.

Ms Lindgren, a social conservative, had the support of the party's conservative wing.

A high school teacher, Ms Lindgren said education and training would be her main priority in Canberra.

But first, Ms Lindgren said she would have to familiarise herself with Senate rules.

LNP state president Bruce McIver said Ms Lindgren's nomination would go to Queensland Parliament on Thursday afternoon. "We expect Joanna to be in the Senate very shortly after that," he said.

Ms Lindgren, who identified as coming from the Mununjarlli and Jaggera peoples, said she also had a keen interest in industrial and community affairs.

The LNP state council met at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on Saturday to select its nominee for the Senate from a field of nine candidates.

While Ms Lindgren did not have to face the voters to win a seat in the nation's upper house, she will be tested at the ballot box at the next federal election, due next year.

Ms Lindgren will have the third position on the LNP Senate ticket, behind Senators George Brandis and Barry O'Sullivan.

She was no stranger to election campaigns, however. Ms Lindgren ran against current Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who was then transport minister, in the seat of Inala at the 2012 state election.

The final ballot for the LNP senate position came down to Ms Lindgren and high profile former AMA Queensland president Bill Glasson, who twice ran unsuccessfully for the Federal seat of Griffith.

Ms Lindgren won the ballot despite Dr Glasson having the support of former Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

The Senate seat became vacant with the retirement of LNP Senator Brett Mason.

In March, then-Senator Mason announced to his party room in Canberra that he would leave the Senate before the expiration of his term, which was due to end on June 30, 2017.  His retirement allowed the LNP to appoint a new senator without the need for a byelection.

Lindgren's appointment will, however, require the approval of the Queensland Parliament.

It was through that process that Senator O'Sullivan replaced Barnaby Joyce in the upper house, following the latter's decision to run for the House of Representatives seat of New England.

Mr Mason has since been appointed Australia's ambassador to the Netherlands, where he will replace incumbent Neil Mules in the coming months.


Our national debt mess must be cleaned up

PARENTS and grandparents like to leave a lump of cash for the next generation when they can. How would the kids react if that lump was not money, but a big steaming pile of debt?

That’s what we as a nation are doing to our children and grandchildren, and last week’s Federal Budget shows that turning off the debt tap will be tricky.

On current official forecasts, Australia will be spending more than it earns each year until at least 2019.

When households spend more than they earn over a long period, they go bankrupt. Governments are lucky to have millions of taxpayers to help pay the ballooning interest bill, but eventually the wheels will fall off.

Just look at Greece. Deep in debt, it has been juggling its finances this month just to pay its pensioners, and many experts expect total financial collapse there soon.

While Greece is an extreme example, it is worrying for Aussies that our national government debt, close to zero in 2007, is now nearing $400 billion and will keep rising.

It’s also worrying that Treasurer Joe Hockey says the government is still borrowing $96 million a day just to pay the bills. And he’s from the conservative side of politics that traditionally keeps spending and debt under control — who knows what will happen if a free-spending Labor government gets elected again?

Finger-pointing is pointless but it will continue anyway. The Abbott Government correctly claims it inherited the debt mess from Labor and its efforts to fix it have been stymied by a difficult Senate. Labor says it saved us from recession by spending up big during the GFC. The Howard Government has been blamed for squandering the fruits of the mining boom.

The simple fact is that everyone needs to take the blame, including Australia’s fickle electorate — that’s us. We’ve developed a “what’s in it for me” attitude over several years as governments on both sides showered us with cash. Their efforts to woo us with money have failed — pollies are still unpopular — and only created a debt mountain.

Overly-generous superannuation incentives, middle-class welfare, big tax cuts and cash giveaways are just some of the contributors.
When someone today is asked to share in some financial pain, there’s an uproar. The terrible reaction to the 2014 Budget is a good example.

Economists say that compared with other countries Australia’s debt isn’t too bad, when expressed as a percentage of our economy.  However, $400 billion is a scary number — and even at the low interest rates that governments borrow money at, it’s costing us all billions of dollars a year in interest.

There are much nicer things to do with billions of dollars.
Australia’s people and politicians need to think like successful investors, taking short-term pain for long-term gain. Perhaps the sad and terrible images likely to come from Greece’s financial collapse will motivate us all to look beyond the next government handout or promise they can’t afford.

Debt hangs around like a bad smell, for both households and governments. We shouldn’t leave it to our kids to clean up.


18 May, 2015

Do-gooder converts to Islam

Everybody seems to be treating this as a great mystery.  It is not.  Do-gooders are mostly Leftists and the Left has a romance with Islam.  They love its destructiveness.  So for a Leftist to convert to Islam is only a small step

He was a well-educated boy who was working with underprivileged children in Asia and dreamed of one day becoming a lawyer or doctor.

But family and friends of 18-year-old Oliver Bridgeman are devastated by revelations he had led a double life and is suspected of joining an al-Qaeda linked terror group in Syria.

The blonde-haired teen, from Toowoomba, on Queensland's Darling Downs, had reportedly converted to Islam after becoming friends with several Muslim students at the school.

His friends believed the former high school captain and talented rugby league player had been transformed and brainwashed by the 'wrong people', The Courier-Mail reports.

'Oh my God! Oh my God!' one friend said.  'We knew he had gone a bit strange but never imagined he would do anything like this. He was just a kid who loved school, football and music.'

Another stunned friend said: 'He's a really good guy and smart too but obviously the wrong people have been in his ear and he's been led down the wrong path.'

Federal counter-terrorism police intelligence suggests he is in a conflict zone and Mr Bridgeman is suspected to have taken up arms with a terrorist group.

His last movements on his Facebook account shows a series of photos during a stint working with children in Indonesia in March to his high school graduation from last year.

At the same time, Mr Bridgeman was building a separate account, under the alias Yusef Oli, where he documented his thoughts and photographs of himself posing at mosques after he found religion.

'Extremism is as a result of lying against Allah,' one post from December 2014 reads.

'For when the extremist fails to produce evidence and interpretation, he resorts to lying against Allah to fulfill (sic) his whims.'

Islamic Society of Toowoomba president Dr Shahjahan Khan said Mr Bridgeman had attended some prayer sessions but believed the teen was radicalised online.  'Whatever he is doing is no way linked to Toowoomba,' he told ABC radio.  'I think it's something else that comes from online. It has nothing to do with the Toowoomba community or Toowoomba Islam.'


Hate preachers and terrorists could be stripped of citizenship under anti-terrorism proposal

HATE preachers and terrorists face being stripped of their Australian citizenship and sent back to their original countries under tough anti-terrorism measures being examined by the Abbott Government.

The proposal would see immigrants who became Australian citizens but then preached hate or carried out terrorist attacks given a one-way ticket back to their birth countries, or a third nation.

The move could for the first time encompass Australian citizens who were not dual nationals, meaning the terrorists and hate preachers would have to be accepted by another country.

That would mean people such as Melbourne hate preacher Harun Mehicevic, who migrated from Bosnia but became an Australian citizen in 1996, are on notice they could be stripped of their citizenship if found to be acting against the interests of Australia.

A Cabinet source said the plan would not affect Australian-born citizens who do not have or have not held another nationality.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated support for stripping dual nationals of their citizenship: “We cannot allow bad people to use our good nature against us.”

And in a sign of the growing momentum within the Government for an overhaul of the Citizenship Act, the chairman of Parliament’s powerful Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Dan Tehan, has called for an international agreement signed with the United Nations to be amended to give Australia more power to banish terrorists.

The Government has been examining the Citizenship Act since February but until now was believed to be focused on dual nationals, such as the leaders of the 2005 MCG terror plot, Abdul Nacer Benbrika and Mohamed Ali Elomar.

But Mr Tehan has gone further, writing in the Herald Sun that Australia should follow Britain in cracking down on citizens who betray the country that has bestowed citizenship upon them.

“It is time we looked at new ways to revoke the citizenship of those who wish to harm us and have abused those rights and privileges,’’ he said.

Mr Tehan, the Liberal MP for Wannon, said the new laws introduced by the United Kingdom were “a sensible example for Australia”.

Since Australia’s terror threat level was raised to high last September, 23 people have been arrested in eight counterterrorism operations.

Government sources have told the Herald Sun that the agreement Australia signed with the UN in 1973 meant Australian citizens could not be stripped of their citizenship.

More than 60 countries have signed up to the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness 1961, which is one of two treaties spelling out the legal framework to protect refugees and individuals from being rendered stateless, or without a country to call home.

It makes it almost impossible for a government to strip citizenship from a person who is not a dual national.

But unlike Australia several countries, including the UK and New Zealand, lodged notices called “reservations’’ at the time they signed the treaty, which gave them greater powers to revoke citizenship.

Mr Tehan is calling for Australia to lodge a late “reservation’’, arguing the treaty makes it more difficult for Australia to consider treason charges against some terrorists.

If Australia had previously been able to strip Australian citizenship from those who had given up their birth-country citizenship, the Government would have been able to deport Man Haron Monis, the Iranian-born hate preacher who raged against Australia for years despite being awarded citizenship.

He then went on to launch the Lindt cafe siege last year, which claimed two lives.


Queensland police misconduct doubles with allegations over drugs, assault and drink-driving

IS Queensland returning to the days of the Moonlight State?

Police in Queensland have been misbehaving in record numbers, being stood down or suspended over serious allegations of domestic violence, drugs, drink-driving and assault, according to the The Courier-Mail.

One police employee was taken off duty every fortnight for alleged misconduct in the state in 2014-15, with 10 removed in the past six weeks.

A 39-year-old male senior constable was stood down this week ahead of an investigation into accusations related to the use of excessive force, wilful damage of a service vehicle and falsifying training records.

The number removed from a position with the service has almost doubled in the past two years from 14 to 27, The Courier-Mail reported.

Police confirmed 12 officers and staff were stood down and 15 suspended this year over serious allegations including drug use, stealing and assault, but refused to confirm how many were sacked or faced disciplinary action, according to The Courier-Mail

Four members of staff were removed from the service on disciplinary grounds in the past month alone, police reports show.

On April 30, a 36-year-old male constable from Brisbane was charged with drink-driving offences while off duty. The officer had not been stood down from his position.

A day earlier, a 27-year-old female constable was stood down pending a disciplinary investigation into the submission of false and misleading information, and being untruthful to an officer investigating a disciplinary matter.

On April 27, a 40-year-old male senior constable was arrested and charged with a number of offences including possession of unlicensed weapons.

And on April 23, a police liaison officer, aged 27, was dismissed ahead of a disciplinary proceeding relating to an allegation of dangerous driving.

Two officers were stood down in the past year for allegations of domestic violence, including a first-year Brisbane constable in August. Both are subject to investigation.

Brisbane senior constable Nicholas Sheahan was fined $750 after pleading guilty to a range of charges including possession of illicit drugs. He resigned from the force shortly after the drugs were found at his home in June last year.

The officer was once labelled a “hero” after saving a life on the state capital’s Story Bridge

The actions of officers who have faced court are examined by Queensland Police Service’s Ethical Standards Command.


Parents seeking reform at ‘dictatorial’ Islamic school

More than 100 angry parents have picketed the Islamic College of South Australia, worried it is becoming too fundamental after it cut music and sport from its curriculum, described pianos as evil and stopped singing the national anthem at assemblies.

Parent representatives have called for the board and principal of the western Adelaide school to be sacked, fearing segregation is spreading from single-sex classrooms to corridors and buildings, and education standards are ­falling.

Mother of three Souraya Serhan said there were concerns about the curriculum after the school’s NAP­LAN results fell across all age groups from 2008 to 2013. “The board is dictatorial: they don’t have any focus on education, it’s about cutting costs,” Ms Serhan said.

She said that over the past three years 14 teachers had been sacked or forced to resign, and there had been four principals. Respected imam Khalid Yousuf was sacked last month.

“These are teachers who have been in the school that are trusted and very, very capable teachers, only to be replaced by less-experienced teachers,” she said.

Ms Serhan said her son had been suspended via text message, but she had negotiated his return because he did not want to go to a non-Muslim school.

Another parent, Esam Elhelw, said the board had been disciplining students inappropriately.

“My daughter was pushed into and locked in a room by (a board member) and two other people working in the school. She was physically pushed by someone who is working here as a teacher instead of Brother Khalid,” Mr ­Elhelw said.

School board chairman Farouk Khan said schools “usually” had a high turnover of staff and the board was comprised of competent and professional people.

He defended its academic performance and said Year 12 results “continue to grow”. “We are very proud Aussies,” Mr Khan said. “We sing the nation­al anthem on different occa­sions.”

He welcomed donations of pian­os to replace the ones that had been removed.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils administers the school and parents have contacted the organisation, also calling for the board to be removed.

AFIC spokesman Amjad Mehboob said he would interview parents, staff and the board next week.

“The board deals with these issu­es, and when it becomes a public issue AFIC steps in,” Mr Mehboob said. “We’re going to carry out investigations and step in next week.”

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne yesterday raised concerns about potential radicalisation at the school, and will write to his state counterpart Susan Close.

“We want our children to get a sensible and secular education, not an education that points them in the direction we don’t want them to go,” Mr Pyne said.

He said it was the second time he had written to a state government about an Islamic campus, after writing to the Victorian Education Minister James Merlino in April about the al-Taqwa College and its attitude towards Israel.

Mr Pyne said the most extreme measures included removing the school’s licence and all funding, but investigations needed to take place before extreme measures were considered.

The My School website shows the school received $7.5 million in funding in 2013, with about $5.6m from the federal government, about $800,000 from the state government and $1.2m from fees and parent contributions.

Ms Close said it was up to the Education and Early Childhood Services, Registration and Stand­ards Board to investigate, because the school was independent. She did not have the power to remove funding.

She said the standards board could only rule on whether the school was teaching the Australian curriculum appropriately or was looking after the welfare of its students. “They are an independent organisation which chooses to run a school: it has been registered because it is teaching the appropri­ate Australian curriculum, beyond that they really need to look at how they are looking after their kids,” Ms Close said.

Standards board registrar Paul Claridge said two parties had complained about the Islamic College and once their complaints were in writing, the board would consider investigating.


17 May, 2015

Shorten’s budget reply is a shocker from a failed past

Bill Shorten’s budget reply speech is the most outrageous example of political sophistry we’ve seen in a long time. His brazen performance on Thursday evening was unsurprising for its lack of detailed policy work, a no-go area for the Opposition Leader, and the attendant mystery of how he would fund gimmicky promises. Still, Mr Shorten’s lunge back into an ancient grab bag of loopy ideas and failed enterprises came as a jolt. It shows a political operator who is short-term, superficial and mulishly negative. Mr Shorten is recklessly skirting around recent economic and legislative history; he has not learned the lessons of the accident-prone governments led by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

Yet Mr Shorten has tried to distance himself and his team from the mistakes of Labor’s six years in office. Nowhere is this more ridiculous than in his attempt to portray Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey as fiscal delinquents. This newspaper is disappointed in the Coalition’s ability to master its budget narrative. We believe the Treasurer has been timid in his second fiscal blueprint, allowing bracket creep to cosmetically enhance the budget’s bottom line in the years ahead rather than through a bold assault on loose spending. But the main culprits for setting the budget on a deficit course are Mr Rudd, Ms Gillard and Wayne Swan, who vandalised the economy in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Not content with this fabrication, today’s Labor also seeks to justify its unprincipled stand on budget repair. The opposition has blocked in the Senate billions of dollars in savings measures it had actually proposed in office. Given his record, it took rhino-grade hide for Mr Shorten to couch his reply as a call for bipartisanship; he himself is the source of negativity and blockage. Sure, the Opposition Leader says Mr Abbott was a wrecker before he became Prime Minister but the comparison does not hold up. In the hung parliament, Ms Gillard was able to pass hundreds of bills without political bloodshed, including Mr Swan’s tax-and-spend budgets. Mr Abbott was indeed a brutal critic of Labor’s serial and spectacular missteps, including its own-goal new taxes. But only in government did the Coalition ditch Labor’s job-killing carbon tax and its mining tax. The notion that Rudd-Gillard Labor was destroyed in parliament downplays Labor’s policy failings, dysfunction and internal wrangles.

Mr Shorten’s fiscal manifesto is unworthy of an alternative government. By not even costing his show-stopping 5 per cent tax cut for small business, most likely $2.3 billion a year, he jettisons credibility. He announced a Labor government would scrap the HECS debts of 100,000 maths, technology, engineering and science students. Add perhaps another $3bn to cover that. Mr Shorten promises to train more teachers and to school all children in the wonders of computer coding — when the basics of literacy and numeracy elude many students. By not detailing cuts or taxes to pay for such eye-catching promises, the opposition cannot be taken seriously. Labor claims the Coalition plans to cut $30bn from schools and $50bn from hospitals yet does not outline how it would come up with those funds.

For good measure, Mr Shorten also threw in a $500 million “Smart Investment Fund”. Labor’s rhetoric on industry policy is predictable from a leader who has been forged by militant industrial struggles in the rust belt. If Mr Shorten were merely alluding to Mr Rudd’s nostalgic claims about leading a country that “makes things” or follies such as the “cash for clunkers” scheme hatched by Kim Carr, we’d be sceptical. But Mr Shorten has set his spluttering time machine to the dim 1980s, when “strategic trade policy” was all the rage and Adelaide was abuzz with a Multi-Function Polis rising out of suburban scrub. To harness innovation, history shows governments must get out of the way; reducing red tape and taxes helps budding capitalists. Silicon Valley arose as a hub for “creative destruction” and risk-takers; it was not a case of the meddling state picking winners.

Mr Hockey’s budget may have been dispiriting for the dwindling reform constituency, but Labor’s reply is simply frightening. Mr Shorten is worried by the Coalition’s populism and restraint and is trying to resurrect the overblown fairness scare of last year on paid parental leave. While Labor pays lip-service to confidence and optimism, its electoral tactics and polling are hitched to negativity and fear. Far from being a “positive speech”, as the ABC cheer squad called it, Mr Shorten’s policy tosh and low-grade messaging is best left to the Greens; it’s not worthy of an alternative head of government. In 2010 Ms Gillard made a political death pact with the Greens out of desperation. What Mr Shorten is doing puts him squarely in the Greens’ axis. It’s a dangerous place for Labor, as its forlorn counterpart in Britain can attest. Failed Labour leader Ed Miliband — everywhere and nowhere, old-school Keynesian interferer, Green-wise and welfare-friendly — was the author of his political demise. Under Mr Shorten, Labor is on the same road to ruin.


Australia considering hosting US Air Force airplanes, military analyst says

A top military analyst believes Australia and the US may be holding discussions about hosting the supersonic B1 bomber in northern Australia, where it could threaten Chinese ships menacing US allies in the South China Sea.

The Pentagon on Friday was forced to contradict one of its own top officials who said the US would be "placing additional Air Force assets in Australia … including B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft".

Australia and the United States have been talking about expanding aircraft and ship visits to Australia as part of efforts to strengthen the alliance that includes extra marines in the Northern Territory.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute defence analyst and Defence white paper consultant Dr Andrew Davies said it was "well known Australia and the US were discussing such issues".

"This may have been a case of an official getting out ahead of the negotiations ... it is not inconceivable that discussions over expanding links to include regular visits by B1 bombers have taken place," he said.

Dr Davies said he attended a defence conference where a senior Royal Australian Air Force officer said airbase runways in Northern Australia would need to be modified to accommodate larger US aircraft.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was unaware of any US plan to base B1 bombers in Australia and the Obama administration had told him the US defence official had "mis-spoken".

He said he saw the US-Australia alliance as an overwhelming "force for stability" in the region.

"Our alliance is not aimed at anyone," he said on Friday. "It's an alliance for stability, for peace, for progress, for justice and it's going to be a cornerstone of the stability of our region for many decades to come."

Assistant US defence secretary David Shear outlined the plan to a Congressional hearing in Washington on Friday, suggesting the move would act as a deterrent to "China's destabilising effect" on the region.

He told a special Congressional hearing on the South China Sea that the basing of aircraft in Australia was in addition to the doubling of US marines bound for Darwin from their current base in Japan.

"So we will have a very strong presence, very strong continued posture throughout the region to back our commitments to our allies," Mr Shear said.

Later the US embassy in Canberra said on Twitter: "Contrary to reports, and to correct the record, the US has NO plans to rotate B-1 bombers or surveillance aircraft in Australia."

The B1 Bomber is the backbone of the US Airforce long-range strategic bomber fleet. It can deliver 84 500 pound (227 kilogram) bombs against adversaries and is now deployed in the US campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee called on the hearing to respond to concerns about China's construction of artificial land masses, including runways, in the South China Sea.

The retreat comes just days after a US navy combat ship completed its first ever patrol of waters near the hotly contested Spratly islands and indicated plans to beef up surveillance of Chinese construction projects in the area.

Angry response from China

Washington's moves prompted an angry response from China, which urged the US to clarify its position.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press conference in Beijing that the country was "extremely concerned".

"We think the United States has to issue a clarification about this," Ms Hua said. "China has always upheld freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, but freedom of navigation does not mean that foreign military ships and aircraft can enter another country's territorial waters or airspace at will."

The USS Fort Worth Littoral Combat ship was closely monitored by People's Liberation Army warships, according to an article published on the American Navy's website. Reports in the Chinese media said the warships monitored Fort Worth's patrol closely and followed the ship until it left the area.

Defence analyst Rory Medcalf said the US decision to indicate greater surveillance of disputed territory in the South China Sea showed it had run out of "risk-free" options. There is increasing evidence China has ramped up its construction activities across the Spratly archipelago over the past year, creating islands and building ports, fuel storage depots, accommodation and possibly two airstrips.

The extreme scenario is that China is building a series of island fortresses across six reefs, enabling it to refuel warplanes and support a large number of troops.

More likely in the short-term is that the islands will be used as posts for intelligence gathering and supporting maritime activities and housing a limited number of military personnel.

US secretary of state John Kerry will meet Chinese political leaders, including President Xi Jinping, this weekend in Beijing.

The Defence Department spokesperson insisted that military cooperation between Australia and the United States is "not directed at any one country."

However the spokesperson did not dispute the report that the US plans to deploy B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft to Australia and declined to answer specific questions about any such deployments.

"The specifics of the future force posture cooperation are yet to be finalised," the spokesperson said. "Details are subject to continuing discussions between Australia and the United States. A range of different US aircraft already visits Australia for exercises and training. Increased cooperation will build on these activities."


Warmists are wailing about the latest Australian budget

What the Warmist below says would make sense if there really were any climate danger but conservative politicians everywhere know it is a just another Leftist crock.  It would be dangerous for them to say so but deeds speak louder than words  -- we see some such deeds described below

As the Treasurer was finalising his Budget speech on Tuesday, the World Bank released a report on Decarbonising Development: Three Steps to a Zero Carbon Future and our Bureau of Meteorology announced that El Nino is back - a big problem for Australia as global warming puts our already extreme weather on steroids.

These are hardly 'radical' organisations. Yet the Treasurer's speech made no mention of policies to modernise and decarbonise our economy. There was no mention of climate costs and the physical impacts of climate change that CSIRO has now repeatedly warned are happening now, and will only grow. The Treasurer did laud the truly awesome power of our fossil fuel exports - sufficient to power Mumbai, Tokyo and Singapore apparently.

Last night's budget highlights a number of problems with the government's approach to climate and economic policy. The budget continued the assault on the institutions and policies that form the infrastructure necessary for decarbonisation and, in a new twist, for increasing climate resilience. It entrenched concerns about the ability of Australia to achieve even its minimum 2020 pollution reduction targets. It maintained the perversity of taxpayers rather than polluters taking responsibility for emissions reduction.

On the last point, Economist Frank Jotzo from ANU contrasts the around $400 million a year of taxpayers money being spent under the government's Emissions Reduction Fund with an estimated $2 billion of revenue per year from polluters under emissions trading. That's twice the recent foreign aid cut. Worth repeating - the budget could be $2.4 billion a year better off.

Perhaps more importantly, just the default declining pollution cap under the previous carbon laws would, with a high degree of certainty, have achieved pollution reduction of 15 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

Now it is highly unlikely that the government can meet the insufficient emissions reduction target it's aiming for - 5 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020.

As UNFCCC head Christiana Figueres reminded Lateline on Friday night, this is the minimum of the 5 to 25 per cent reduction range both parties have supported in the past. Stronger reductions were supposed to follow if the world was acting, which by all accounts it more than is. And let's not forget that the independent Climate Change Authority recommended at least 15 per cent reductions as our fair contribution to global action underway.

Another problem with the budget is its funding shortfall for the government's inefficient policies.

The first auction under the ERF just weeks ago priced carbon at $13.95 per tonne of emissions. If the around $1.6 billion forecast to be spent in the ERF's first five years ($75 million was to be spent this year) is spent at the $13.96 average carbon price, then 115 million tonnes of pollution reductions is achieved. The government recently estimated that it would require an extra 236 million tonnes reduction by 2020 to achieve the minimum reduction target of 5 per cent below 2000.

In other words, the government will need to buy as much reductions in the final year before its 2020 target as it achieved in the combined five years before it.

And that depends on broader pollution remaining in check, which is questionable with the sustained assault on renewable energy and the loophole ridden pollution safeguard mechanism that is supposed to stop pollution from rising.

The programs and institutions that track our emissions and are there to facilitate the required economic transition are under continued assault. While the Climate Change Authority is given a welcome lifeline of an extra year till end-2016, it remains on the chopping block longer term, along with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

All of these agencies provide significant value for taxpayers, credible independent advice and support for economic innovations crucial for a modern, smart and clean economy.

It is welcome that the budget makes some allowances for drought and disaster funding, especially in Australia's regional areas. But at the same time the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility was added to the list of climate and clean energy agencies to be wound up in 2017 - an organisation that highlights best practice in building greater resilience to climate impacts.

The gutting of agencies like these occurs just as leading global and domestic scientists, and the CSIRO, are telling us that we're experiencing rising climate impacts here and in our Asia-Pacific region. The unconscionable slashing of the overseas aid budget, and its threat to a viable foundation for financing greater resilience and cleaner development in our region, was yet another problematic aspect of last night's budget.

The risks to our future prosperity in a world focusing on a zero carbon global economy are not going away. This week's World Bank report is part of a growing realisation not only that we must decarbonise the economies if we are to avoid the goal of avoiding two-degree warming that was highlighted in the recent Intergenerational Report. It is part of a growing realisation that the benefits of action far outweigh the costs.

The benefits of our fossil fuel past are fast turning into the liabilities of the zero-carbon future.


Curious Budget items

Politics, Weber once said, is the slow boring of hard boards.

The debate leading up to this week's budget certainly confirmed that. It was not dominated by issues calculated to set the pulse racing: alternative models of aged pension indexation, and cost-benefit analyses of two-tiered business tax systems.

It was, as the federal government hoped, a mostly "dull and routine" - some might say, frustratingly timid - budget. However, certain pockets of very interesting spending still managed to sneak through.

Take, for example, the quarter of a million dollars pledged by the federal government for Bathurst to erect a new flagpole, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first time white people decided to build a settlement in Australia without water views - a decision they must surely be regretting.

One wonders what these pioneers would think of their memorial. As local newspaper, the Western Advocate, had it: "There were more than a few raised eyebrows when it was announced that Bathurst's lasting bicentenary memorial would be a flagpole on a toilet block." After Tuesday night's Budget, there will surely be a few more raised eyebrows around the country at the fact that it could cost quite so much.

Or how about the nearly $8 million being spent on maintenance and renovations for the Governor-General's two houses in Canberra and Sydney? Determined to learn from their mistakes last year, and deliver a budget in line with Australians' expectations of fairness, the federal government has taken an interesting approach. What could possibly cost $8 million? Are the wine cellars not full enough? Do the doilies need to be taken to the dry cleaners?

Or, finally, how about the $2.4 million of additional funding that the federal government committed to the Australian honours and awards system? As the budget papers explain, the money will go towards "support[ing] the increasing number of Australians recognised each year for their outstanding achievements." $2.4 million is a bit stiff, though. How many more knights and dames do you reckon that'll get us?

Budget 2015: slow to produce, hard to read, but certainly not all boring.


Indian surgeon Jayant Patel barred from ever practising medicine again in Australia

Former Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel has been barred from ever practising medicine again in Australia.

Queensland's Civil and Administrative Tribunal handed down its judgment this morning, finding Dr Patel lied to be registered in Queensland and concealed matters which questioned his suitability.

Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren said he must never be registered as a practitioner in the medical health profession.

Judge Horneman-Wren said Dr Patel's competence to perform complex surgeries had been found to be lacking.

Dr Patel served time in prison for killing three patients at Bundaberg Hospital but won a High Court challenge against his conviction and was released from jail in 2012.

The Medical Board of Australia and the Health Practitioner Regulation Agency brought disciplinary action against him after all criminal proceedings had finished.

They argued he lied to be registered as a doctor in Bundaberg in 2003, and performed surgeries he knew he was not competent to do.

Dr Patel did not attend the hearing.

The Medical Board of Australia said it will advise international medical regulators about the findings against Dr Patel.

The board said the findings will also be on the public record and accessible to all regulators to whom Dr Patel may apply for registration.

Disciplinary action against Dr Patel began in 2005 and the board said it is now pleased the matter is closed.

In 2010, the High Court ruled there was a miscarriage of justice in the way Dr Patel was tried for three counts of manslaughter and another count of grievous bodily harm.

This meant the Queensland jury had heard evidence which prejudiced the case.  The High Court ordered Dr Patel be re-tried, saying he had carried out surgery on patients, who later died, "competently enough".

Separate trials were ordered for each of the charges and in March 2013 Dr Patel was found not guilty of manslaughter in the first of these trials involving the death of Mervyn Morris.

In October 2013, a jury failed to reach a verdict in the second trial on the charge of causing grievous bodily harm to patient Ian Vowles.

In November 2013, Dr Patel pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud in relation to dishonestly obtaining registration and employment in Queensland. He was sentenced to two years in jail for fraud, wholly suspended.

Queensland's Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to pursue any other charges.


16 May, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG sees pure Leftist arrogance in the deliberate skirting of Australia's quarantine laws by Johnny Depp.

15 May, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG doesn't like Bill Shorten's budget reply speech at all, at all

Is Australia's Great Barrier Reef  'In Danger'?

If I have the time I do sometimes read Australia's far-Left "New Matilda".  I would like to start a blog that regularly demolished their articles -- perhaps to be called "Walzing New Matilda" -- but I have weightier matters to spend my time on. Anyway, the article below is up to its usual standard of presenting only half of the story.  Balance is the Devil incarnate to Leftists. 

Some scientists do say that the GBR has shrunk by 50% but the interesting question is why there has been any shrinkage at all.  The Warmist below knows why, of course.  It's because of global warming.  Pesky that there has been no global warming for 18 years though.  Can something that does not exist cause anything?  They also seem to think that Richard Branson is a climate scientist.  Enough said on that.

The key point, however, is that the reef does get heavily impacted by natural events such as the many cyclones that have hit North Queensland in recent years.  Cyclones are very destructive of coral.  HOWEVER, when we look at that storm destruction, we also  find that corals grow back rapidly.  While that happens, the GBR is in no "danger". Any changes are temporary. See here and here, for instance. 

Warmists will say that the cyclones were caused by global warming but again I ask: Can something that does not exist cause anything?  

Billionaire Richard Branson has urged the United Nations to list the World Heritage value of the Great Barrier Reef as ‘in danger’ after being approached by advocacy group 1Million Women.

While admitting the campaign may seem “counter intuitive”, Branson argues it is an effective way to “stop further irreversible damage” to the reef “and to protect it for generations to come”.

“Saying the Great Barrier Reef is ‘in danger’ could be just what it needs,” Branson wrote in a blog post yesterday.

The United Nations World Heritage Committee is set to make a decision on whether to change the listing of the reef at a meeting in Bonn, Germany, in June this year.

Like Branson, the UN has expressed concern that port developments and coal ships set to service Australia’s largest ever coal mine, which the federal government approved last year, will further damage the reef.

The Great Barrier Reef has already lost half of its coral cover in the last three decades, and it faces further threats from the Crown of Thorns Starfish and increased agriculture run-off.

In 2013, a federal government report noted that 24 out of 41 attributes which make up the ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ of the reef under the World Heritage Convention are deteriorating.

But the greatest threat to the reef, according to government scientists, is climate change.  “The reef’s plight, like many others, is unbearably sad,” Branson said. “It is being totally overwhelmed by climate change impacts through a destructive combination of heat-driven coral bleaching, ocean acidification and tropical storms.”

Despite climate change being the greatest threat to the reef, a recent Australian Government plan designed to guide conservation efforts for the next 35 years and address UN concerns made next to no mention of the risk to the reef from rising emissions.

On Thursday, the United Nations warned that for the first time in millions of years the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earths atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million.

The Greens environment spokesperson, Larissa Waters, said on Wednesday that she doesn’t “think the government has done enough policy-wise to avert the threat of a world heritage in danger listing for the Great Barrier Reef”.

“Which is an absolute tragedy,” she said, “because we’re talking about one of the seven wonders of the world.”

“The foremost World Heritage Committee has for the past four years now said to Australia ‘slow down, you’re on this path of industrialisation, we’re worried about the future of the reef, your own scientists are worried about the future of your reef, what are you going to do about it?”

“And the government has consistently thumbed its nose at the key recommendations, and it’s made some changes around the edges.”

Waters said she hopes the reef is not listed as ‘in danger’, despite the fact it is “in serious jeopardy”.

Yesterday, The World Wildlife Fund has released a ‘to do’ list, lobbying the government to do more than is proposed in its ‘Reef 2050’ plan.

At least one federal MP is likely to be unimpressed with these recent developments.

George Christensen MP, whose electorate of Dawson takes in part of the Great Barrier Reef, is standing by the government’s “exemplary document”.

The outspoken backbencher recently voiced his outrage at “eco-traitors” who are committing the “treason” of advocating for an ‘in danger’ listing.

“These extreme greens act like Wormtongue from The Lord of the Rings, flying overseas and whispering in the ears of the decision-makers and diplomats who have anything to do with UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee, poisoning their minds on the state of the reef,” Christensen said.

“They belong to groups such as Greenpeace, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth, Get Up, and the Environmental Defenders Office.”


Pity centrists, beware nationalists and praise our friend David Cameron

The surprise re-election of David Cameron in Britain, with the Conservatives winning a majority in their own right for the first time since John Major in 1992, is the best news Tony Abbott has had for a long time. It offers him a ­template and a raft of lessons.

It also ensures the continued presence of a good friend in a key capital.

Cameron gets on well with Abbott and appreciates the effort the Abbott government makes on strategic issues and what might generally be described as global governance.

Cameron, unlike Barack Obama, also goes to some trouble to help, or at least not to hinder, his friends and allies. Cameron understands Australian policy on climate change better than Obama does and understands that Australia’s effort is perfectly respectable. More important, though constrained by tough politics at home, Cameron does have some sense of alliances and the values implicit in alliances.

So there was no way he was ever going to be as graceless, ill-mannered and destructive as Obama was at the G20 summit. But more than that, Cameron’s government shares a broad strategic outlook with Abbott’s and gives this some real political value.

Cameron’s victory helps Abbott in several other ways. In terms of morale, it is marvellous. Cameron was behind in the polls, often substantially behind, for much of his first term. His efforts to consolidate the British budget were as unpopular as Abbott’s. And while Cameron’s standing as Prime Minister grew the longer he was in the job, as with Abbott, he was, also like Abbott, never popular and was thoroughly demonised by the Left.

Cameron’s opponent, British Labour’s Ed Miliband, lacked credibility and appeal. His association with the Scottish National Party underlined the sense of threat British voters felt when confronted with the idea of a Miliband prime ministership. But this sense of threat came primarily from Miliband’s left-of-centre, pro-union, populist, big-spending economic policies. Any echoes there?

Right up to election eve, the Conservatives and Labour were neck and neck in the polls. Yet in the end the Conservatives scored 37 per cent and Labour 30 per cent, the Conservatives 331 seats and Labour 232. Even if you add the SNP’s 56 seats, which is a reasonable thing to do as on economic policy the SNP is to the left even of Labour, it still puts the combined Left tally a long way behind the Conservatives. When confronted with the stark choice of putting back into power an unreconstructed Labour Party which, far from learning the lessons of its last failure, had doubled down on the worst of its former policies, enough people switched votes to end Miliband’s career.

These figures substantially underestimate conservative support in Britain. The United Kingdom Independence Party won 13 per cent of the vote. UKIP favours controlled immigration, withdrawal from the EU and a strong defence. It is fair to put UKIP to the right of the Conservatives. So UKIP and the Conservatives together were directly supported by a majority of voters.

However, two elements of the election are very concerning. They represent trends in almost all Western democracies and they are very dangerous. The first is the annihilation of the centre. Western democracies have been systemat­ically cleansing themselves of intelligent centrist parties acting as a vote alternative to the major blocs of Left and Right. They are being replaced by lunatic Green parties on the Left and equally nutty fringe groups on the Right. The British Liberal Democrats went from 57 seats to eight and lost more than two-thirds of their vote.

This is sadly similar to the decline at the last German election of the Free Democrats. They were a bit different from the Lib Dems. The Free Democrats were economically conservative and socially liberal. The Lib Dems were a fraction to the left of that but were born of the historically free trade Liberal Party and the breakaway right- wing Labour figures who formed the Social Democratic Party in Britain in the 1980s. They were governing responsibly types.

The German Free Democrats too were a very intelligent, pro-business, sensible middle party. At the last German election they fell below the threshold for parliamentary representation and the Christian Democrats’ Angela Merkel, despite securing a historically large vote, could not form a coherent centre-right coalition. She had no natural coalition partner. All the fringe groups were mad so she was forced into an incoherent grand coalition with the Social Democrats, massively reducing her ability to govern well.

In Australia we have replaced the often frustrating but perfectly sensible Australian Democrats with the truly nutty and extreme Greens. The Australian Democrats were themselves much given to populism but they began life as a centrist party and had legislative compromise written into their DNA. The Greens, on the other hand, are a party of nihilist extremism. They are against everything except wild flights of utopian fantasy and for anything that involves extra costs to business and massive government expenditure.

They have become so extreme and destructive that they would not support even petrol tax indexation, the very core of Greens policy, because to do so would be to give Abbott a small victory. This is populism of the most profoundly irresponsible kind. It is parties like this, never seeking majority support but pursuing only that 10 to 15 per cent of protest, anti-everything voters, which are flourishing all over Western electorates.

The final dynamic in the British election that really is worrying is the triumph of identity politics. Fifty-six out of 59 Scottish electorates voted for the SNP. This included otherwise conservative parts of Edinburgh and radical parts of Glasgow.

This was a negative vote of identity. The SNP’s economic policies are ridiculous, barely a standard deviation or two more sensible than the Greens. But they turned Scottishness into a grievance all its own. Every problem is the fault of the English and the answer to every problem is a nationalistic assertion of Scottishness. In its vulgarity and foolishness, this is a million miles from the honest, decent patriotism that leads citizens to love their country but intelligently debate its policies.

Similarly the rise of UKIP is all about English nationalism, in reaction against EU supranationalism, and the special deal, special status, special money for Scotland.

The sort of destructive identity politics sweeping much of the West is one of the reasons I remain dogmatically opposed to Western nations, certainly our nation, making any constitutional or civic distinction between classes of citizens. Labour under Tony Blair thought it had solved the problem of Scottish nationalist separatism by federalist devolution. Instead it has paved the way to the likely ­destruction of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Cameron’s win was good for Britain and incidentally good for Abbott. But the increasingly unmanageable elements of contemporary Western politics are nonetheless there for all to see.


Malaysia is turning away illegal immigrant boats too

The three Southeast Asian governments at the centre of the Rohingya boats crisis have ignored international appeals to find and save thousands of irregular migrants stranded at sea as Malaysia turns away 800 more boat people.

Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have not responded to Tuesday’s appeal by the UN refugee agency for a coordinated search and rescue campaign to find the dozens of boats, large and small, believed to be stranded in the Andaman Sea and Malacca Strait.

More than 1500 people have landed in Malaysia and Indonesia since last week, many without food and water for days, and NGOs engaged with the problem think 6,000 to 8,000 Rohingyas, from Myanmar and Bangladesh, and Bangladeshis are still out there.

They are unable to make landfall because Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are operating a declared or informal turn-back policy.

There are rising fears among humanitarian agencies that it is a matter of days before people start dying in large numbers.

The International Organisation for Migration is understood to be privately pressing the governments to act, as is the US Government State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said overnight the US was supporting the efforts of UNHCR and IOM and is “committed to working with governments in the region who are dealing with the brunt of this burden”.

There has been no response from Canberra however, although Australia is co-founder of the Bali Process for regional cooperation on people trafficking and associated crimes.

Asked about the Indonesian Navy’s turnback of a boat carrying more than 400 people on Monday, a spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said only: “These are matters for the Indonesian government.”

Attorney-General George Brandis said Australia had committed $10.7 billion to urgent humanitarian assistance for people in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, including many Rohingya.

“This is a regional issue demanding a regional response,” Senator Brandis told parliament.

“The Foreign Minister has had talks with regional governments about the need to find a solution for managing the challenge of large-scale movement of people from Myanmar and the Foreign Minister raised the matter in Thailand last week.

“The Abbott government welcomes the Thai government’s plan to hold a regional officials meeting to address the situation. Australia will attend that officials’ level meeting.”

Senator Brandis said Australia had “not been approached directly for assistance” by Indonesia, Malaysia, the IOM or UNHCR.

“The Indonesian authorities and the Malaysian authorities are dealing with the search and rescue aspects of this tragedy but of course Australia is engaged with the issue, we are keeping the matter under review with an alert eye to further opportunities to be of assistance,” Senator Brandis said.

“Peace and security is essential for the country to achieve long-term stability and economic growth and Australia, through its aid program, is contributing to that.”

Human Rights Watch today issued its own appeal for the three governments to halt their pushbacks and being search and rescue coordination.

“The Thai, Malaysian, and Indonesian navies should stop playing a three-way game of human ping pong, and instead should work together to rescue all those on these ill-fated boats,” said HRW’s Asia deputy director Phil Robertson.

“The world will judge these governments by how they treat these most vulnerable men, women, and children.”

However, Mr Robertson said there had been no government response from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta and not, as far as he knew, to the other international approaches.

Although Thailand has called an emergency international meeting on the crisis for May 29, Mr Robertson said it was well known that Thai authorities along the Andaman coast had been instructed to allow no boat landings.

Ominously, a Thai Government spokesman told Reuters last night: “Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have decided not to receive boat people, as far as I am aware”.

Major General Werachon Sukhondhapatipak refused, however, to respond to the UNHCR appeal for search and rescue cooperation.

Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar said about 500 people on board a boat found off the coast of northern Penang state were given provisions and then sent on their way.

Another boat carrying about 300 migrants was turned away near Langkawi Island overnight, according to two Malaysian officials who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorised to speak to the press.

Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar said Malaysia cannot afford to have immigrants flooding its shores.

“We have been very nice to the people who broke into our border,” Wan Junaidi Jaafar told Associated Press.  “We have treated them humanely but they cannot be flooding our shores like this.”

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry has denied the government is operating a turn-back program, although the military command’s spokesman told The Australian yesterday that the Navy will push back boats found in Indonesian waters “without permission”.

The contradiction was put to Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir, who replied: “I haven’t received that information. I can only give you the information I have.”


Another Jeep lemon

And huge pressure needed to get any decency out of the company.  Last year we read about Ashton Wood, who bought a $49,000 Jeep - and hated it so much he demolished it.  Buy a Toyota!  I have two Toyotas and neither has ever held me up for a minute


“THIS is a masters dissertation on how not to handle a problem.”

That’s how former NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts sums up the treatment of John and Sandra Jordan, who, as the picture shows, bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit in July 2014 for $80,000 but almost immediately wished they hadn’t.

Now, following my intervention, Jeep will buy back the Jeep in a full refund.

MORE DRAMA: Tongue-in-cheek ‘sorry’ from man who destroyed own Jeep

Mr Roberts’ assessment came before that, but after he had tried to help the Jordans, who are friends of his family.

The day after buying the car, the Jordans reported a whirring sound. The dealership said it could be fixed at the 1000km service. But after the service it was still there.  They took it back again in August. And October. It stayed at the dealership for testing into November then went back again in December. And January, where it’s been ever since. Work on the vehicle has ranged from replacing the windscreen to installing a new cylinder head.

Mr Roberts tried to intervene quite early. He rang Jeep’s then-CEO. He wasn’t trying to apply pressure. Even though his ministerial portfolio is now Resources and Energy, Mr Roberts still considers himself a consumer advocate, and told me that in ringing Jeep’s CEO he was just bringing the Jordans’ treatment to her attention.  Put it in writing, he was told. So he did. He never heard back.

The Fair Trading department got involved in December, but was unable to resolve the matter.

I first spoke to Jeep on Monday night. By lunchtime Tuesday, executives called me back and said Jeep would buy the Jeep. That has since been confirmed with the Jordans.

“We are very grateful for all your help,” Mrs Jordan said yesterday. “Thanks to you we have an excellent result.”

A spokeswoman for Jeep’s parent company, Fiat Chrysler, said: “After a thorough internal investigation we have discovered that, due to a regrettable lack of communication between the dealership and our head office, this customer faced what we consider to be an unreasonable delay in having his vehicle query satisfied.

“Under normal circumstances this would not have been the case, as the vehicle in question required only minor mechanical work carried out under warranty. Customer satisfaction is our number one priority, and we recognise the delay was due to an internal issue. As a result we have offered to buyback this vehicle as a goodwill gesture.”

The ACCC’s product safety website lists five separate Grand Cherokee recalls on the 2014 model, including for “unintended acceleration”, “potential fire hazard” and “unintended electrical interference (which) can cause the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) to become disabled and the ESC warning lamp to illuminate (which in) certain driving conditions could cause a crash without warning”.


14 May 2015

The budget

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey handed down his second budget for the Abbott Government on Tuesday night at Parliament House in Canberra.

The deficit is predicted to shrink from $48 billion in 2014/15 to $35.1 billion next year, and is expected to be down to $7 billion in three years' time.

The big winners were small business owners and parents with hefty childcare bills, while those on the paid parental leave scheme, people on working holidays and foreign aid lost out.

Jobs and small businesses

The Federal Government will be delivering $5.5 billion in its jobs and small businesses package to aid growth in the economy as well as employment. There is an immediate tax deduction for items valued up to $20,000 and businesses with an annual turnover of less than $2 million will get a tax cut from 30 per cent to 28.5 per cent.


Parents will get more than $10 billion a year from taxpayers to help them pay their childcare fees once new subsidies start. The federal government will spend an extra $3.2 billion on childcare subsidies over the next four years. This is on top of the $7 billion a year - and rising - existing price tag for subsidising fees.

Paid parental leave

With this lifeline for childcare, Mr Hockey also put an end to 'double dipping' for parents who benefit from the paid parental leave scheme to prevent them from receiving payments from both the government and their employer. In a bid to save $968 million over the next four years, from July 2016 the government will restrict access to the scheme.


In a bid to get back more than $1 billion, the government will be cracking down on welfare cheats. The Department of Human Services will get added powers to detect fraud and recover debt. The six-month wait for the unemployed to access the dole in last year's budget has now been reduced to a month, while parents who do not vaccinate their children will not be eligible for benefits.

Combating terrorism

The growing threat from terrorism, home-grown extremism and war in the Middle East has prompted to the federal government to outlay $1.2 billion in new funding for national security. The new money comes on top of $1 billion outlined in the mid-year fiscal review, and is part of a total of $35 billion in the 2015-16 budget for defence, national security and law enforcement.

Foreign aid

Foreign aid has been slashed by $1 billion to $4 billion in this year's Budget. Indonesia has suffered a 40 per cent loss in aid from Australia, while Papua New Guinea saw a five per cent drop in its benefits and Nepal's aid was slashed from $26.8 million to $33.9 million. Cambodia's chunk of assistance has been safeguarded at $79 million, which includes part of a refugee resettlement deal.


A $1.6 billion funding boost for medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme has been delivered. The five-year increase will go towards will go towards giving 1,000 people subsidised access to expensive melanoma treatment, which cost up to $131,000.


From January 1, 2017, the asset-free area for pensioners will increase, which means 170,000 pensioners with moderate assets will receive a full or increased pension. This will come with an increase in the the asset test taper rate from $1.50 to $3. In other words, for every $1,000 of assets over the asset-free threshold, the pension rate will reduce by $3 a fortnight.


The controversial proposal of deregulating university fees was not revisited in this year's Budget. But now the government plans on collecting from those who live overseas and owe tens of thousands of dollars in HECS or HELP debts. Currently, Australians living and working overseas - who could be working as high-flying investment bankers or financial brokers - do not have to repay their fees.


A further $70 million will be provided to drought-stricken farmers on top of a $333 million package announced last weekend. This money will deliver much-needed money back into the pockets of primary producers for depreciation of water facilities, fodder storage and fencing.


Comments on the budget

Waving the white flag

In Budget 2015, the government has waved the white flag on attempts to reduce the size of the state. It has given in to the vested interests calling for your tax dollars.

The budget is littered with references to the fairness of paying more tax, and hands out government largesse to the middle class. It is little wonder that government spending is at almost record high levels. Excluding the 2009-10 budget at the height of the GFC, government spending as a percentage of GDP is at its highest level since the recession in the early nineties. Net debt will exceed $300 billion inside two years and gross debt will now peak at nearly $600 billion -- and that’s if we are lucky.

The government’s so-called credible path to surplus is built on artificial assumptions of a return of economic good times and rising tax revenue through bracket creep. Spending remains far above the level of the Howard government. It is even above the level of the Gillard / Rudd governments. It is disappointing that those in charge no longer believe in the benefits of small government.

Surrender to the forces of tax and spend

The main disappointment of this budget is not so much the persistence of large deficits (though that is a worry), but the government’s surrender to the forces of tax and spend. To the extent the gradual pathway back to a balanced budget is credible, it is only because of a heavy reliance on personal income tax bracket creep.

Astonishingly, personal income tax revenue is projected to grow on average by 7.5% a year over the five years to 2018/19 – a cumulative increase of 44% when average wages would have risen by 15 - 20%. There is no commitment in this budget to do anything to relieve bracket creep either now or in the future. Total revenue as a percentage of GDP is projected to return to pre-GFC levels, but in those days that level of revenue was generating sizable budget surpluses.

What has changed is that spending will be much higher than in pre-GFC days. The upsurge in spending under the Rudd government is not being wound back. The budget fine print admits as much, speaking of “the need to do more to bring spending down over the medium term”. Yes indeed, otherwise the path Australia will be on will not be towards a sustainable surplus, of which the government boasts, but towards permanently bigger government.

Cue back in the rack

After last year’s political difficulties with the Medicare Co-Payment, Budget 2015 has shown that the Abbott Government has put the cue in the rack when it comes to structural health reform.

This is a missed opportunity, given the release of the Fourth Intergenerational Report early this year, which again showed how formidable are the long-term financial challenges facing Medicare in an ageing Australia.

The IGR is meant to set the stage for national debate about health reform, but the government appears to have preferred to put last year’s bruising encounter with the AMA behind it and revert to the Howard Government’s strategy of trying to be “Medicare’s Best Friend”.

Instead, health ‘reform’ seems to have been outsourced, under the guise of a more consultative process, via Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce. The government says it wants to work “hand-in-hand” with the Medical profession to address waste and improve efficiency. I fear that given the political muscle the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has flexed since the 2014 Budget, this will end up meaning “hand-in-glove” with the government forced to take whatever the AMA proscribes.

Those interested in genuine reform need to take up the Business Council of Australia’s constructive call for changes to the health system to be discussed outside the context of the budget deficits and debt. We need to change the conversation and talk instead about innovations in the health system that can lower the cost and improve the quality of health care, even if these ideas challenge the Medicare Sacred Cow.

Innovations that have been flagged such as greater involvement of private health funds in primary care, risk-rating private insurance premiums for unhealthy behaviours, and better use of patient outcome data all need greater thought and discussion.’

The CIS Health and Ageing Program has proposed a national system of opt-out, superannuation-style health savings accounts to reduce the fiscal pressures on Medicare, and has repeatedly called for greater use of competition and private provision of public hospital services to improve the affordability of the health system.

Low key budget caps low key year for schools policy

This is a low key budget for schools that caps off a low key year in federal policy for schools. That is not to say nothing has been achieved, just that it has largely been smooth sailing.

There are no big surprises in the schools budget. With the exception of a new $5m ‘parental awareness’ campaign, the key additional spending measures have previously been announced — funding for the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) to implement the findings of the teacher education review, extra subsidies for remote indigenous students to attend boarding schools, and a nationally consistent approach to funding for students with disabilities.

Recurrent funding to government and non-government schools will increase in line with expectations in the next two years. Recurrent funding beyond 2018 is still putatively linked to CPI but this is likely just to be a placeholder while a new model is developed.

Various other existing programs will continue, including funding to support Independent Public Schools, the school chaplains program, and Teach for Australia, and there has been some streamlining in the departmental structure that will generate over $130m in savings. The government has cemented its position on NAPLAN and My School, with some additional funding to implement changes flagged earlier this year.

The good, the bad and the ugly

This is a timid budget from a government that is hostage to a hostile Senate, with no clear commitment to much needed productivity-enhancing reforms. Yet there are some good measures, especially for small business.

The good is the $5.5bn tax relief for small business -- a timely incentive to spur investment and hopefully job creation in an important section of our economy. By the same token, infrastructure credit lines for constructions of ports, pipelines, electricity and water infrastructure are also an excellent measure to lift Australia’s production capacity.

The bad is a differential tax preference for small and big business, which is contrary to the liberal principal of equality before the law. Companies should have an incentive to grow. Yet in Australia there are still too many regulations that penalise a successful enterprise. For instance, whereas a company with 14 employees is exempt from providing redundancy pay, a company with 16 employees is not.

The ugly is seen in several places: the overregulated childcare system; the unsustainable age pension path; the byzantine industrial relation laws; the inefficient tax system… and the list goes on. In particular, nothing was done to enhance the competition laws and institutions in light to the recent recommendations of Harper’s Review.

Australia cannot rely on pushing its lucky country status beyond reasonable limits. After more than two decades of uninterrupted growth, we need to take on clever productivity-enhancing policies to become the guides of our destinies.

Means-tested PPL: An end to `double dipping’

Budget 2015 proposes to do what the Rudd government should have done in 2011: Means test taxpayer funded Paid Parental Leave (PPL).

In a move that is estimated to save $967.7 million over four years, from July 1 2016 the full PPL payment will be paid only to those who do not have private PPL workplace entitlements, and partial payments will go to those whose employer’s PPL conditions are less generous than 18 weeks of the minimum wage ($11,500). According to the government, 34,000 parents will lose access to the payment and 45,000 will receive partial PPL payments.

Restricting PPL in this way is a blunt form of means testing, as higher income parents are those most likely to have access to more generous PPL workplace entitlements. This is in contrast to current policy where parents with incomes up to $150,000 can pocket the $11,500 from the taxpayer on top of their workplace entitlement (`double dipping’).

As payment is not conditional on extending the parental leave period beyond that offered by their employer, PPL payments do more to supplement incomes than to increase the time parents spend with their newborns.

While a step in the right direction, it is unlikely to provide the $1 billion in savings the government is hoping for. It is more likely the employers of the 45,000 parents with less generous PPL workplace entitlements will cease to offer PPL and shift the cost onto the taxpayer.

Not much good to come from new spending

This Budget heralded reforms to childcare that are huge in terms of the architecture of the payments. The two main subsidies become one Child Care Subsidy and are supplemented by a Child Care Safety Net, all set to cost $10 billion in the first year they are implemented, 2017-18.

I have to hand it to the government... even I thought that spending wouldn’t hit the $10 billion mark until the end of the forward estimates period. This is compared to 2015-16 spending estimated to be $7.2 billion.

The sad truth is there’s not much good to come out of all this new spending. Households earning up to $65,000 receive their childcare subsidised at a rate of 80%. This tapers until the combined income reaches around $170,000, where the subsidy is 50%. Incomes of more than $185,000 are subject to a cap of $10,000 per child -- an increase in the current cap of $7,500. Households below that figure will have no cap whatsoever on the fees they can have subsidised. Prices are benchmarked to ensure taxpayers aren’t subsidising a luxury service. But a benchmark of $115 a day when the policy is implemented, is too high and provides no incentive for services to keep a lid on fees.

Other than the no-brainer of combining the subsidies, the only other good part of this new childcare program is a new activity test. As I described in my report, Complex Family Payments, the previous activity test for both subsidies was wide enough to drive a truck through. Now, unless both parents meet an activity test of eight hours a fortnight, there will be no subsidies. Families with a combined income below $65,000 will be able to access the Child Care Safety Net to ensure their children have access to childcare for child development purposes. Income support recipients also benefit from the Additional Child Care Subsidy.

How is this to be funded? There are three main options. The favoured one is through cuts to Paid Parental Leave in this year’s budget, and last year’s cuts to Family Tax Benefit Part B, but the Prime Minister has also said he’s open to other commensurate savings. But there will be no net improvement to the budget bottom line The worst case scenario is that no cuts are to be found, and the government will bow to political pressure to pass the new program anyway. Then we can all look forward to a massive injection of funding into a rapidly-growing area of spending for no benefit, simply because the government doesn’t want to pick a fight with vested interests.

Preventive health offers gleam of good news

The $600 million going to improved cancer screening programs in the new health budget will be money well spent -- a refreshing change of pace from the previous government’s preventive health spending. The cervical cancer screening program that some media outlets have billed as 'new' is not new, exactly... merely an update to bring the existing program in line with new technologies and expert recommendations. Likewise, the 'new' expansions to the National Bowel Cancer Screening program have been long planned.

Still, these programs will save lives, and that’s more than could be said for anything done by the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA), the Gillard government creation which in this budget will finally be zeroed out and its responsibilities formally handed over to other agencies.

The highlight of the cancer screening package is the National Cancer Screening Register, which will allow patients to keep track of whether their screenings are up to date. A little spending now, to create this very useful database, will yield long-term benefits.


9 million homes with 2.6 occupants - this is the Australian housing market

Housing affordability is a major concern for many Australians.

Negative gearing, foreign investment and immigration are just some of the factors identified as pushing house prices beyond the reach of younger people in particular.

That's despite interest rates being at historically low levels, banks being willing to lend more than in the past, and a higher number of two-income households.  So, what are the facts about housing in Australia?


There are approximately 9,000,000 dwellings in Australia. The 2011 Census found that 67 per cent of households own their home or are purchasing it through a mortgage - most of the rest are renters. That home ownership figure was 1.1 percentage points lower than the 2006 Census. Tasmania has the highest home-ownership rate at 70 per cent, and the Northern Territory the lowest at 46 per cent.


The proportion of home ownership has been fairly stable for more than fifty years, after rising from 53 per cent in 1947 to 63 per cent in 1954 and hitting 70 per cent in 1961.


The level of home ownership increases with age: for those aged 15 to 24 only 22 per cent own or are buying a home, while 75 per cent rent. It's pretty much 50-50 between 25 and 34, and by the age of 75 close to 85 per cent of people own their home outright, less than 3 per cent have a mortgage and less than 10 per cent are renting.


One way to assess housing prices over time is to compare them to income. In 1981-82 the median after tax household income was around $15,000 while the median dwelling price was $48,000. That works out as a price-to-income ratio of close to three, or in other words in 1981-82 it took a little over three years' take-home pay to buy a house. Nationally that ratio has now passed six, or more than twice as much, and in places like Sydney it went above nine during the property boom of the early 2000s.


A measure of housing affordability is the per cent of income spent on housing. In March 2015, an average of 31.5 per cent of income was spent on home loan repayments, while renters paid an average of 24.8 per cent of their income.


While our homes are getting more expensive, they are also getting bigger. New homes in Australia are bigger on average than anywhere else in the world at 245 square metres for new freestanding homes and 215 square metres for new homes overall - up around ten per cent in a decade.


We have more spare rooms; in 1976 there were 3.1 people per household in Australia, that has since fallen to around 2.6, yet the average number of bedrooms per dwelling has risen in that time from 2.8 to 3.1.


Sydney has the hottest property market in Australia. In the year to December 2014 prices in Sydney shot up 12.2 per cent. The next largest increase was Brisbane's 5.3 per cent, followed by Melbourne's 4.5 per cent. All other capitals had growth of 2.5 per cent or less. The average price of residential dwellings across Australia was $571,500 at the end of 2014.


While in dollar terms people with mortgages spend the most per week on housing at around $408, that represents only 18 per cent of their income. Renters spend an average of $275 but that's a higher proportion of their income at 20 per cent.


Owners like free-standing homes. Of owner-occupied households, 88 per cent live in separate houses, compared with 57 per cent of renters.


Three-quarters of Australia's almost $2 trillion in household debt is borrowing for housing. In 1990 housing represented only 47 per cent of household debt.


Less than 3 per cent of Australian households have investment loan debt, compared to around one third of households with home loan debt, and 12 per cent with debt over property other than their home.


More than 100,000 Australians are regarded as homeless.  On Census night 2011, 6,813 were sleeping out in tents or improvised dwellings, 17,721 homeless people were in boarding houses and a similar number, 17,369, were staying at someone else's home temporarily.

Fifty-six per cent of homeless people are males; 44 per cent are females. Sixty per cent of homeless people are aged under 35, and one quarter are Indigenous Australians.


The treacherously abandoned people of West New Guinea

Formerly Dutch New Guinea, now Irian Jaya

There is a small group of Islands a little to the east and south of PN-G where cannibals live happily shrinking heads and practising voodoo. They love life, respect death and deal with natural catastrophes as they have done for thousands of years.

They eat well, breeding goats, pigs and fowl and grow an array of vegetables to supplement an abundance of seafood, paw paws and coconuts.

I had occasion to spend some time with them while conducting search and rescue missions in the area. Their culinary skills surpass that of any urban restaurateur.

There is no finer example of the human race than an indigenous native unaffected by modern values. Kids flash brilliantly white teeth, women’s black hair glistens in the sun, yet there is no fluoride added to their water, no shampoos or hair conditioners, just coconut soap and charcoal.

West-Papuan natives lived a similar idyllic lifestyle... that is until men from other lands, as far away as Britain, discovered copper, gold and gas below their gardens and made friends with Indonesia, supplying it with arms to kill hundreds of thousands of those who wanted to keep their land and develop a proud nation from their mineral wealth.

But mere natives could not be afforded such a luxury, so West Papua became a lawless Indonesian killing field without any international penalty or oversight.

Britain and the US could not be seen to be conducting the genocide of a potential nation of people, nor could Australia, who also had a dirty finger in the minerals pie.

Mines have poisoned rivers and moon-scaped vast areas of West Papuans’ homelands. (pictured is West Papua’s Grasberg mine, one of the world’s largest gold mines). No compensation to the natives... only billions in payola going into the Indonesian Government’s coffers. Natives’ complaints are simply silenced with a hail of bullets.

UK PM, David Cameron, when visiting Indonesia in 2012, said, “Indonesia has transformed itself in the past decade into one of the world’s most important democracies, with a free media and elections. The military no longer plays a role in politics, but fulfils its proper role defending the country from external attack.” What a load of British bullshit uttered on behalf of the massive British Petroleum company!

There is no more brutal a military than Indonesia’s when allowed to occupy a region and routinely slaughter natives who have merely demanded a right to self-determination. Yet the West fawns over so-called “progress” made by the world’s “foremost emerging democracy”.

When the Suharto dictatorship fell 17 years ago, Britain’s Labour Party discarded its arms embargo and allowed British-built aircraft to be used to slaughter the people of East Timor from the air.

Other arms companies then began trading with Indonesia for the first time in more than a decade once they realised the extent of the area’s mineral wealth.

With the Timorese invasion eventually having been settled in favour of Timor’s sovereignty, the Indonesian militia kept their guns trained on West Papua. They remain there, raping, torturing and killing hundreds of thousands of innocents with complete impunity.

Australian-supplied helicopters were used to kill 5,000 highland natives with no more than bows and arrows for protection, yet no reports surface because no journalists are permitted entry to West Papua.

According to the World Bank, West Papua’s regional GDP is 50% higher than the national average while the people living there are among the poorest in all Oceania.

The Bali two will be forgotten by week’s end with Australia returning to its craven support of this decadent Islamic nation, gifting it hundreds of millions in unneeded aid... aid that was spent on building the very madrassas that schooled and trained the Bali bombers.

Contrary to what Abbott believes, Indonesia is no threat to Australia, neither in a military nor a trade sense. Indonesia has no middle class economy, only the very corrupt rich and the very indigent poor who have no bridge to improvement.

Indonesia maintains only loose trade alliances with its neighbours via ASEAN and no ability to deploy a meaningful military force from 18,000 disparate islands. The corrupt rich of Islamic nations will never fight and the poor neither know how to nor do they want to.

It’s hard to trust the sincerity of Tony Abbott’s Aboriginal conscience when he openly supports the genocide of another indigenous people who are nearby and equally linked to their lands.

All trust in Labor died with Whitlam and the Balibo five.

Australians with a conscience should be concerned that this genocide of a beautiful people continues.  ... but they should be horrified that Australia is openly supporting it.


13 May 2015

In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is not very happy with Canberra

Sandstone bubble-wrapped moral panic a frightening force to see

The "sandstone" universities are old and the nearest Australia has to an Ivy League.  Uni. W.A. is one of them

Nick Cater

Who does Paul Johnson think he is? The University of Western Australia’s vice-chancellor or something? It must have been something of a shock for Johnson to discover that despite what it says on his business card, he doesn’t actually run the university.

The withdrawal of UWA’s offer to host Bjorn Lomborg’s ­Australian Consensus think tank offers an insight into the ungovernable, undisciplined and unenlightened world of the modern university. Real authority within does not reside with its appointed executives. It derives from a mandate from the masses, like the autonomous collective King Arthur encounters in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

One imagines Graham Chapman as Arthur ­reining in his steed on Stirling Highway and pointing at the vice-chancellery cloisters: “Please, good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?

Woman: No one lives there.

Arthur: Then who is your lord?

Woman: We do not have a lord … we are an anarcho-syndicalist commune.

The objects of the Python satire were the dreamers of the early 1970s, a ragged group dedicated to overturning the cultural hegemony that legitimised capitalism. Today’s utopians are defenders of a new culture that maintains the doctrines of sustainability and social inclusion, and ­enforces the rules of political ­correctness on Australian ­campuses.

The old Left presumed to represent the workers. The new Left claims to defend stakeholders, community leaders and expert opinion.

Johnson’s mistake, they say, was to stitch up a deal with Lomborg’s think tank without consulting “key stakeholders”. He was naive to expect the deal would stick without the approval of Ray Willis, for example, an adjunct professor in something or other who The Sydney Morning Herald says has been “a spokesman for the university on climate change ­issues for the past seven years”.

Older alumni will be surprised to learn that the university now has a spokesman on the science of climate or indeed anything else. Does UWA also have an official stance on say, dark matter, or does it allow other multidimensional theories to be aired?

Could a student major in nonsymmetric gravitational theory without being branded a heretic?

In climate science the orthodoxy prevails and Willis — not, it should be noted, a full-time member of any faculty — is one of its many enforcers. “The appointment tarnishes the reputation of the university,” he told the Herald. “It’s like appointing Brian Burke to look after your economics.”

The sad truth is that Lomborg would be a misfit on almost every contemporary Australian campus. His dispassionate, empirical approach to economics and public policy fell out of favour some time ago. Lomborg is further handicapped by incurable optimism, confidence in free markets, his ­belief in the benefits of trade and his benign view of corporations.

Unfashionably, he adopts the classical liberal view of scientific, technological and industrial pro­gress which he regards as the solution, not the cause, of humanity’s problems.

In short, Lomborg is temperamentally ill-suited to contemporary academe, a fact the hipness of his T-shirts was never going to hide. He is cursed with an open mind that makes him reluctant to bow to conventional wisdom, as a successful academic must.

Conventional wisdom has become synonymous with sound scholarship making its position impregnable. The scholar of conventional wisdom, wrote John Kenneth Galbraith, “walks near the head of the academic professions; he appears on symposia; he is a respected figure at the Council on Foreign Relations; he is hailed at testimonial banquets”.

The sceptic, on the other hand, is disqualified since “were he a sound scholar, he would remain with the conventional wisdom”.

Today’s intellectual dissenters become the object of witch-hunts pursued with medieval fury.

There has been no attempt to explain why the centre’s intention to compare the costs and benefits of development goals was a bad thing. There was no need: this was an inquisition, not an inquiry.

The protocol of academic discourse is ignored; argumentation has been replaced with accusation; disputation has given way to ­denunciation.

Among those overjoyed with the backdown is Guild of Students president Lizzy O’Shea, who was elected last year on a platform that included free premium Wi-Fi and “a long-term vision for catering”.

“It’s a really good sign as far as community action goes that if enough people have mobilised against something, and don’t support it, that people will change their minds,” she told the ABC.

O’Shea claims “students, staff and alumni alike are outraged” that the university would flirt with a man such as Lomborg. But how do we know? There has been no plebiscite or indeed anything approaching an open discussion.

We are told that the 150-seat venue for a staff protest meeting was full. “Others (were) turned away because of health and safety concerns,” the Herald reported.

OH&S notwithstanding, one assumes the other 1400 academics on UWA’s books had better things to do than join the posse against a mild-mannered, quirky Dane.

Many, one suspects, would have been cowered into silence, as dissenters frequently are. Moral panic, incubated in the bubble-wrapped, navel-gazing environment of a comfortably endowed sandstone university, is a frightening force.

Whatever the objections to the Lomborg centre, this is not the way that reasonable people behave. Nor does it assist the growth of knowledge. “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race,” John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty, a text that is no doubt thick with dust in the UWA library.

“If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

A crusade that was supposed to protect UWA’s standing has ended up by damaging the institution’s reputation more than these deluded vigilantes will ever know.

Its consequences for the reputation of Australian universities in general are dire.

If a liberal-minded institution such as UWA can be captured by the forces of unreason, what hope is there for the rest of them?


Indonesia unconcerned about foreign aid cuts

INDONESIA has hit back at reports Australia will greatly wind back its foreign aid program in next week’s budget, saying it doesn’t need our money and is not asking.

Speaking to reporters in Jakarta about the departure of ambassador Paul Grigson yesterday, Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said “it is what it is”.

“As I have said on many occasions, the Indonesia and Australia relationship is an important partnership, not only for Indonesia, but I believe for Australia,” he told AAP.

“That’s why we want to look ahead so that we can immediately go back to increasing co-operation in many fields, whether it be security, politics, economy and culture.”

Mr Nasir said Indonesia would not be concerned if Canberra cuts aid in next week’s federal budget. “Indonesia at the moment is no longer a country that needs aid for development,” he said.

“Nevertheless, any aid given by Australia is their effort to increase, to strengthen our partnership. And so, it’s their right to give, but Indonesia is not asking.”

It comes as new polling commissioned by the Lowy Institute found Australians have a strong preference for a restrained diplomatic response from the Australian government to the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Only 28 per cent of those surveyed supported suspending Australian aid projects, and a minority (42 per cent) supported Australia recalling its ambassador.

The course of action most preferred was ‘private diplomatic protests’, with 59 per cent agreeing with this approach. Trade sanctions were the least supported action, with just 24 per cent agreeing.

The poll results also suggest that the executions will have little impact on Australians’ travel plans, buying habits or business dealings with Indonesia. More than three quarters (76 per cent) said business between the two countries should continue as normal.

Nearly three quarters (71 per cent) said it would make no difference on whether they bought Indonesian products, while 63 per cent said it would not affect their decision to travel to Indonesia.

Australia’s $600 million foreign aid budget to Indonesia is widely expected to face the axe in Treasurer Joe Hockey’s second budget next Tuesday. In 2013/14, Australia sent $581 million to Indonesia. The 2014/15 budget estimate puts that figure at $605.3 million.

Last week, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop did not rule out the prospect of reducing our contribution to Indonesia, which is the largest recipient of Australia’s foreign aid budget. Australia is the second largest donor behind Japan.

In his first budget Mr Hockey sliced $7.6 billion over five years, overturning Labor’s commitment to peg aid spending at 0.5 per cent of national income.

There was a second sting in December when the midyear budget review took another $3.7 billion over four years, including an unprecedented $1 billion cut for the 2015/16 financial year.

AAP reports the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is developing aid investment plans for all country programs by July. It is understood diplomatic posts have been asked to prepare both 40 per cent and 20 per cent aid cut scenarios.


Inequality is inevitable in a free society

Last week, the Philosopher’s Zone program on ABC radio discussed the contribution of families to inequalities in the wellbeing of children and therefore in their life opportunities and outcomes. The program philosophically explored the question of whether families should be abolished in order to level the playing field. This was not a serious suggestion, but rather a thought experiment that allows assumptions to be examined, challenged and confirmed or refuted.

A review of the research literature confirms the common wisdom that variation in family and parenting practices play a role in creating unequal wellbeing and outcomes of children. Some families create the conditions that allow children to flourish physically, emotionally and intellectually, while others do not. It is less about family income than the things families and parents do. Ultimately, the discussion on the radio program confirmed the importance of families for the wellbeing of children.  

Whether the advantage of a functional loving family is ‘unfair’ and should be equalised are entirely different matters. Is it more important (and fairer) to maximise the quality of life and opportunity for all children, or to try to ensure no child is better off than any other?

When it comes to families, few would suggest the latter is appropriate. Socialists and libertarians alike would be scornful of the notion that parents should not be allowed to read bedtime stories to their children because it confers an unfair advantage over children whose parents don’t read to them. 

Yet when it comes to school education, the response is sometimes different. The philosophers on the program argued parents should not be able to make choices that might advantage their children over others, and these choices should be restricted.

The reality is that no matter what families, parents, governments, schools, and other institutions do, there will always be inequality. Natural variation in genes and environments, and the interactions between them, combined with free will and chance, create inevitable differences in opportunities and outcomes.  Efforts to help disadvantaged children should be focused on their needs, not limiting the opportunities of others.


Blame 'preventive health' pushers for public ignorance and harm

The most remarkable thing about Professor Christobel Saunders's speech at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' annual conference was not that she criticized overuse of breast cancer screening. It's that her criticism came as a surprise to anyone.

The medical community has known for years that cancer screenings, for all their benefits, are not an unalloyed good and in some cases are more likely to harm than help. In the particular case of breast cancer screenings, there is potential for harm both from overdiagnosis (i.e., where women endure painful or disfiguring treatments for low-grade cancers that never would have harmed them if left alone) and from the radiation dose in the screening itself.

That's why the current medical consensus recommends regular mammograms only for women over 50. Younger women should get screened only if they have reason to suspect they may be at higher risk of developing breast cancer due to genetic or lifestyle factors.

But if this consensus is uncontroversial among medical experts, why did Dr. Saunders's speech get written up by the Sydney Morning Herald as if it were news? Because ordinary Australians still don't know about the risks of too much breast cancer screening. University of Sydney research in 2011 found most women had no idea of the risks of mammography. You might be thinking: If only there were some sort of national body dedicated to publicising up-to-date information about preventive health, so that Australians could make more informed choices.

There was such a body, of course: the Australian National Preventive Health Agency. Unfortunately, ANPHA, like many others in the preventive health sphere, chose to focus on politically flashy topics like tobacco, alcohol, and obesity, and neglected duller but more important forms of preventive health like mammography.

This misplacement of priorities contributed to the Abbott government's decision to abolish ANPHA in 2014. It has also contributed to the public's continued ignorance of important facts about breast cancer screening. And this ignorance, as Professor Saunders has reminded us, causes real harm to hundreds of Australian women every year.


12 May 2015

Budget 2015: Reforms to shrink bureaucracy

Iconic assets will be sold and government departments will be slashed in a new effort to reduce the size of the public sector and raise more than $4 billion, in contentious reforms to be revealed in tomorrow’s federal budget.

The federal government will claim spending cuts worth $1.4bn on top of the cash raised from the new privatisations and the sale of landmark properties next door to Parliament House.

The health and education ­departments will be first in line for cuts that are aimed at eliminating waste and duplication, but a further eight departments will be named as the next targets for “functional reviews” to extract similar savings. The government will seek a sharemarket listing or trade sale for the Australian Rail Track Corporation — worth $4bn, according to industry estimates — while pursuing the sale of a valuable communications network and the corporate regulator’s information registry.

As Tony Abbott and Joe ­Hockey count on their new budget strategy to rescue the government and their own careers, they are softening some of the savage blows from last year’s budget while maintaining their claim that they can be tough enough on spending to eventually produce a surplus.

The Australian has been told that the fourth phase of the “smaller government” agenda will also abolish 32 agencies and entities as well as merging the Defence ­Materiel Organisation into the Department of Defence.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will announce the changes tomorrow in a bid to highlight the Coalition’s spending cuts, while ­accusing Labor of being profligate in government and proposing tax increases in opposition.

Senator Cormann will promise another phase of the “smaller government” program at the end of this year to claim further savings while selling off more assets in the wake of last year’s privatisation of Medibank Private, which is now listed on the sharemarket.

Another saving will come from new rules on tax deductions for car expenses to be revealed by Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to add $845 million to the budget bottom line over four years.

The government’s rhetoric on spending cuts is being questioned, however, as it promises a further $3.5bn for childcare — adding to programs already costing $7bn a year — and sacrifices some of last year’s savings from the Age Pension in order to quell a voter backlash. Families will only get the childcare boost if the Senate legislates four blocked proposals to cut family tax benefits, including a halt to Family Tax Benefit Part B when a family’s youngest child turns six — a highly contentious proposal from last year that remains in ­tomorrow’s budget.

An impasse is emerging over the budget before it has been handed down, with Labor and crossbench senators all rejecting the link between childcare funding and the cuts to family tax benefits.

The Prime Minister insisted yesterday on the need for savings, saying: “There will be no new spending in this budget that is not offset.”

Labor focused on the cuts to family benefits to maintain its ­attack on “unfair” reforms, even after including the spending boost for childcare. “We fully recognise that difficult decisions are necessary. What we completely reject is unfair decisions are necessary,” said Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen.

With no political deal in sight on fiscal reform, economists are predicting that the 2015-16 deficit will deteriorate from the $31.2bn forecast last December to $40bn in tomorrow’s budget, according to a new survey of experts by Bloomberg.

Government payments are worth 25.9 per cent of GDP this year, two percentage points higher than in the Howard government’s first budgets, while revenue remains below forecasts and the underlying cash deficit blows out.

The cuts to the bureaucracy will mean that about 17,000 staff positions have been cut across the commonwealth since the last election, offering an answer to conservative critics who charge the Coalition with not being tough enough on outlays.

A further $450m will be added to the savings tally from the “smaller government” program, bringing the total to $1.4bn over four tranches of cuts.

The sale of the Australian Rail Track Corporation — which carries iron ore, coal and other commodity exports — would make a modest impact on commonwealth debt, given that gross borrowings are about $370bn and climbing, but Canberra no longer has major businesses such as Telstra or the Commonwealth Bank to privatise.

Last year’s National Commission of Audit recommended that the rail operator be sold to the private sector, while Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, an industry group, said the business could be worth about $4bn.

A scoping study will also be conducted into the sale of the ­registry service of the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, as revealed by The Australian last year, but the government will retain ownership of the regulator’s data on thousands of companies.

The government will also step up the sale of the Intra Government Communications Network, or ICON, which was set up in the 1990s to link departments and could be sold to telecommunications companies.

The asset sales will also include four Canberra landmarks, including West Block, the closest commercial property to Parliament House and a likely home for lobbying firms, as well as East Block, and Anzac Park East and Anzac Park West on the main thoroughfare leading to the Australian War Memorial.

The government has rejected the option of selling the Treasury building and the John Gorton building, which houses the ­Department of Finance — the agency conducting the overall sale program.

Two other sales will be scrapped. Defence Housing Australia will not be sold, given concerns that this could have made it harder for Defence personnel to find homes when transferred around the country.

The Royal Australian Mint will be kept as part of Treasury.


Soft censorship wins out over public policy


The University of Western Australia’s decision to reject Bjorn Lomborg’s Australian Consensus Centre is disturbing for its validation of a culture of soft censorship.

The human right of free speech is about ensuring laws don’t restrict what people can say. One of the most important arguments in favour of free speech is that it keeps debate open so bad ideas can be challenged and exposed, to continue the march of human progress.

That requires more than just stopping censorious laws. It also requires a culture that tolerates dissent and allows for challenging ideas to be voiced, heard and debated.

Australia’s culture of open debate is increasingly sick. Outrage, confected or otherwise, is a popular tool to condemn your opponents because it avoids the need to actually debate ideas.  Instead you merely need to demonstrate they are offensive or attack the legitimacy of the person voicing them.

The centre to be led by Bjorn Lomborg was established to debate competing public policy priorities.

Lomborg heretically thinks that tackling infectious diseases that kill millions is more important than cutting greenhouse gas levels.

UWA academics claimed the centre “tarnishes the reputation of the university”.

The UWA student guild claimed “students, staff and alumni alike are outraged” because a centre would be “led by someone with a controversial track record”.

The campaign of outrage eventually led to vice-chancellor Paul Johnson cancelling the centre because it lacked support from the academic community.

Those students and staff involved at UWA have successfully adopted a cancerous tactic from Britain called “no platforming”.  “No platforming” is a policy of Britain’s National Union of Students.

The policy evolved out of an attempt to stop institutions having speakers that promoted racism and fascism.  To “no platform”, students protest against someone being given a platform to speak, or where it has been provided, campaign to have it removed.

In Britain, the tactic has been successful.  But it has now evolved beyond simply opposing racist or fascist views to target people who don’t fit accepted progressive groupthink, such as Lomborg.

Some may wrongly draw a parallel between Lomborg’s experience and that of former SBS sports commentator Scott McIntyre.

They are nothing alike. McIntyre slurred a large section of the public and broke the terms of a voluntarily agreed employment contract that led to his dismissal. Lomborg simply proposes contrarian public policy ideas. That’s it.

As with the financing of any activity with public money, it is entirely legitimate to question the Abbott government giving $4 million towards Lomborg’s consensus centre.  But for the most part that wasn’t the reason that academics and students condemned the centre.  The predominant criticism of Lomborg is that he thinks there are higher public policy priorities than climate change.

Lomborg’s views are not about science, they’re about public policy.

Public policy is a debate about competing priorities for government.  Everyone is entitled to their views on public policy.  There is no one correct answer in public policy.

Nor is policy about evidence. Evidence informs policy development. The direction of policy is primarily decided by the questions you ask. The questions asked are heavily informed by values and political priorities.

For example, if we ask the question about how we stop man’s contribution to climate change, it is underpinned by a number of values including that it is a priority, and that mitigation of emissions is better than adaptation, among many others.

Similarly, if the question is, as Lomborg asks, what’s the most efficient use of taxpayers’ money to tackle the world’s problems, it is underpinned by a different line of values and inquiry.

The question informs how evidence is then collected, weighted in any analysis and thereafter used to draw conclusions.

If the evidence Lomborg collects to answer these questions is wrong, then it should be exposed through evidence and reason. If they’re right then they will be influential.

Instead, the University of Western Australia essentially endorsed a culture of soft censorship by stopping these public policy questions even being asked.

It’s hard to think of a more anti-intellectual act to promote wilful ignorance about contemporary public policy challenges.

A friend of mine recently joked: what’s the opposite of diversity? UWA just proved the answer: university.


The Left strives to keep students in the dark

Henry Ergas

Aristotle opens the Metaphysics with one of his most striking phrases: “By their nature, all men desire to know.” Quite so. But not at the University of Western Australia.

Nor is there any mystery as to why. According to a press release issued late Friday by the university’s vice-chancellor, Paul Johnson, the proposal to establish, with $4 million in federal government funding, an Australian Consensus Centre which would undertake “detailed economic cost-benefit analysis into many of Australia’s, and the world’s, biggest challenges”, had met “strong opposition” and hence could not proceed.

Since there was no consensus to seek consensus, it was better to let ignorance flourish than for the merest shard of knowledge to creep in.

To say that is not to ignore the distress Bjorn Lomborg’s occasional presence at the proposed centre, where he was to have been an adjunct professor, would have caused the university’s tender minds.

Yes, Lomborg’s credentials might seem impeccable: not only is he Danish, gay and invariably clad in a T-shirt and jeans, but his books on environmental issues are heavily cited, including by an array of the bien-pensant that ­ranges from Barack Obama to Ban Ki-moon.

But all that, as the Romans used to say, is just the hood that masks the crime.

For by his own admission, Lomborg is a “sceptical environmentalist”, which implies that doubt may be warranted; and while — heaven forfend — he has never questioned the reality of anthropogenic climate change, he has argued that the costs and benefits of devoting scarce resources to mitigating that risk should be compared to those of addressing the planet’s other pressing woes.

Where that might lead hardly needs to be spelled out. After all, cost-benefit analysis forces one to identify the objective being sought, measure the sacrifice seeking it would impose and specify any uncertainty about the gains that would be achieved.

Moreover, it exposes those estimates, and their assumptions, to public scrutiny, making it possible for them to be tested as new information comes to light.

And since not all problems can be tackled at once, it allows an informed assessment of whether the cause of alleviating human misery might not be better served by investing in, say, defeating malaria than by building wind farms and solar panels.

Simply countenancing that possibility is doubtless more than sufficient to condemn the venture outright. But Lomborg’s crimes don’t end there. Rather, as Mungo MacCallum noted, not only has his work been praised by Tony Abbott but “Lomborg is (a) favourite of The Australian” — to which that noted scholar adds “enough said”.

Good thing then that the proposal has been scotched, defaming Lomborg in the process. As Daniel Defoe — who, having been condemned for blasphemy, knew a thing or two about tolerance — wittily wrote three centuries ago, masquerading as a High Church Tory Anglican: it might be too much to hope that “Her Majesty (could ensure) all Dissenters were hanged or banished”; but surely “as in (the) case of insurrections and rebellions, if a few of the ringleaders suffer, the multitude are dismissed”.

It would, however, be quite wrong to regard this as censorship, the National Tertiary Education Union’s WA division secretary, Gabe Gooding, assures us. On the contrary, “it’s absolutely not censorship, it’s about the academics being really concerned about standards”.

And as UWA student guild president Lizzy O’Shea emphasised, there are impressionable 17-year-olds on the campus, who don’t deserve to be exposed to someone with Lomborg’s “sort of research standing”.

So true; and so reminiscent of Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin’s commissar for culture, who claimed that far from being censorship, “protecting” Soviet youth from the “decadence”, “orgies of mysticism and superstition” and “passion for pornography” of writers such as Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak was “liberation”, which helped keep “the only conflict in Soviet culture that between good and best”.

It is therefore not surprising that Lee Rhiannon, who imbibed the Zhdanov doctrine as mother’s milk, led the charge against the centre; nor is it surprising that the green Left, with its “fiends of righteousness”, in Blake’s expressive phrase, who are not seekers but saviours, would thunder at anything which threatens their beliefs.

And it is unsurprising too that Labor, which refused to release the climate change model Treasury had developed and prides itself on rejecting cost-benefit analysis, would fall smartly into line.

But one wonders whether the vice-chancellor, a distinguished economist, was well advised. Faced with no less intense controversy, Max Weber, perhaps the pre-eminent social scientist of the 20th century, had little doubt about the course to take.

"If there are views which disqualify an applicant from appointment to the faculty", he wrote, "then there are views the university’s current researchers are not allowed to come to". From that moment, freedom of inquiry is irrevocably dead; and “the result of such a castration of the freedom and disinterestedness of university cannot be compensated by the finest institutes, the largest lecture halls, or ever so many prize-winning works”.

The great American social scientist Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who Labor’s Andrew Leigh claims is his role model, was equally forthright. If university administrators did not unflinchingly oppose “the authoritarian tendencies of the Left” and its refusal of rigorous analysis of policy alternatives, “you are going to end up with a university in which decent men simply do not try to serve their function of teaching and learning”.

When the president of Stanford found he could not resist their pressure, Moynihan concluded, it was unquestionably his duty to resign. And indeed it was. Because Aristotle teaches us this too: that we can speak the truth only when we can say how things really are. If our universities can’t, they don’t deserve to exist.


It’s black and white - this Green’s got to go

FORMER Greens leader Christine Milne’s decision to quit the senate at the next election was greeted by a chorus of blindingly hypocritical hyperbolically overly polite humbug. The political class was doing what it does best, protecting its own.

The real monument to Milne, and her predecessor Bob Brown, is the economically wrecked island state of Tasmania, the putrid petrie dish of the failed Green experiment. According to the ABS figures released yesterday, seasonal unemployment in Tassie last month was 7.3 per cent, more than a full percentage point higher than the national average. That, in large part, is due to the lunacy of the Green leadership in the state and nationally.

With the willing assistance of former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke and his political fixer, former environment minister Graham Richardson, the Tasmanian economy was effectively torpedoed when the Greens (still in their formative years) launched their first successful major anti-dam campaign, around the Franklin River.
The dam, which would have supplied the island state with cheap, non-fossil fuel-based hydro-electric power, was killed to please left-wing voters living in inner-urban Labor seats on the mainland.

The campaign cost Labor support in Tasmania but the emergent Greens knew that it was electorally more pragmatic to save a Tasmanian river than Tasmanian jobs.

There were echoes of those early Tasmanian campaigns in the recent NSW state election where the tree-hugging Greens won seats campaigning against the safe extraction of natural gas in areas where there was no CSG extraction.

In areas where gas extraction or forestry provides actual employment — that is, in areas where workers do more than turn on a power-hungry computer — the Greens don’t fare too well.

Milne’s political career was launched with another employment-destroying campaign, the blocking of the Wesley Vale pulp mill, a mill designed to meet standards more stringent than any other similar project in the world.

Tasmania’s quaint Hare-Clark electoral system delivered her a seat in its house of assembly in 1989. She went to the senate in 2004.

Throughout the dysfunctional Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government she distinguished herself with wild claims on climate change and was rewarded with billions of dollars’ worth of unproductive alternate energy projects which taxpayers will be bankrolling for generations.

Though no reputable scientific organisation in the world has linked a specific weather event to climate change, the former schoolteacher (English, history and social science) has never failed to drag extreme weather events into her unreal vision of an impending apocalyptic warmist fantasy.

“Global warming is driving extreme weather events around the world and the debate needs to be on the impacts of global warming,” she told a press conference after a typhoon devastated the Philippines in November 2013.

“Tony Abbott has created a phony debate in Australia. He never is prepared to talk about the connection between extreme weather events and global warming because he knows that tugs at people’s heartstrings,” she said.

“He knows ... that the Australian people will start joining the dots.”

If people did actually join the dots, they would have realised long ago that Milne was just plain dotty.

“Do you want death or do you want coal?” she asked late last year.

“Coal is bad for humanity and Tony Abbott is bad for Australia.”

Coal actually remains the cheapest source of energy in the world and has been responsible for markedly lowering the gap between the richest and poorest people in the world in recent decades.

Wacky Milne never knew when to stop, and harboured an overwhelming obsession with Abbott, even issuing a press release about the highly dubious claim that he had sought to unilaterally engage 3500 Australian troops in a ground offensive.

Though it was later proven to be false, Milne still found it a “frightening insight into a leader whose solution to everything is more aggression”.

The hope is that the new Green leader, Richard Di Natale, is a little more grounded.

Reading his maundering maiden speech, there is little to believe he will offer anything more than any other textbook inner-city sandalista, despite donning a three-piece suit for his first press conference.

When he faces his first test of realpolitik, will he support the increase in the fuel excise, which the Greens have so far stupidly rejected? Will he cling to the notion that people must be forced on to public transport at the expense of much-needed super highways?

Will he oppose the building of Sydney’s exciting new airport and support the closure of the existing under-utilised and curfew-burdened Kingsford Smith Airport — because it is too close to the Green heartlands of Ultimo and Newtown?

Given that Di Natale embraced his new role without any consultation with the party’s membership (how does that fit with their libertarian ideals?) and basks in the unreal and undeserved sense of moral superiority that Greens claim for themselves, little is likely to change with the switch in leaders.


Agriculture could be the next boom for Australia

Iron ore has been Australia's largest export, but as minerals prices plunge, Australia's economy is under pressure to pivot away from mining and toward the next big boom.

With the exception of Rio Tinto and BHP, the whole Australian iron ore industry is now digging dirt for a loss. The fourth largest iron ore producer, Atlas Iron, will suspend its entire production by the end of this month.

Chinese demand for Australian minerals may be slowing but demand for Australian food and agricultural products is predicted to grow.

Minerals down, food up

Chinese economic growth is slowing and so is its hitherto astonishing rate of infrastructure and building development.

The World Steel Association recently predicted little growth for steel demand globally in the next two years. The Chinese steel industry is also expected to maintain its production capacity at about 800 million tonnes annually due to its declining domestic consumption and pressure from the environmental protection. Australia's thermal coal exports have suffered a similar fate as China tightens rules on air pollution and plans to cut coal consumption by 80 million tonnes by 2017.

However, China has substantially increased its imports of Australian food produce. In 2012-13, China was the second largest export destination for Australian food, accounting for 10% of the total Australian food export by value and trebling it from 2002-03. With the rise of Chinese middle class (a group estimated to number around 250 million), the demand for high quality and value-added Australian food, such as red meats, infant formula milk, seafood, wine, dairy products is and will be strong in the future. It is estimated that China has become the largest export destination of Australian food since 2014.

Australian agriculture sector exports about two-thirds of its food by value annually. However, Australia is expected to only contribute about 3% of the value of global food exports to 2050.

While the debate rages on whether Australia is or is not the "food bowl of Asia", there's no question Australia's reputation as a clean and safe "brand" positions it well as a key supplier of premium food to China.

More to be done

Investment is needed in infrastructure such as water and irrigation facilities, road, railway, and ports as freight accounts for a large portion of the food value in Australia.

Australia has less than 1% of irrigated agricultural land, but it generates more than a quarter of the total gross value of agricultural production . ANZ Bank has estimated that $600 billion of investment is needed for the Australian agricultural industry from now to 2050 to maintain its growth and profitability.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been a key part of investment in the Australian agricultural industry. With its strong demand for Australian food and over $US3 trillion in foreign currency reserve, China is an important potential source of investment to the Australian agriculture.

Chinese investors are more prudent now after witnessing the heavy loss of their peers' investment in the Australian mining industry. Our research shows (Huang, 2015 DOI: 10.1002/tie) that Chinese investment in the Australian mining industry has incurred heavy losses so far, including CITIC Pacific Mining, Ansteel, and Yancoal.

The Australian government's Agricultural Competitiveness Green Paper, released in October last year, proposed lowering the threshold for notification and approval of foreign acquisitions to $A53 million for agricultural businesses and $A15 million for agricultural land. That only creates more uncertainty for foreign investment in the agricultural industry, and is not in the interest of farmers and agribusiness operators in dire need of investment.

At the industry level, much is still to be learnt about Chinese consumers' buying behaviours and collaboration with research institutes to developing value-added products is sorely needed.

At the national and state levels, stronger political leaders are needed to develop foreign investment policies that attract and encourage FDI in the agricultural sector, particularly in infrastructure.

Growing and investing in our agricultural industry represents an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Australia. Attracting FDI in infrastructure is key to the growth and productivity of our agriculture sector.

Managed properly, agriculture can be the next boom for our national economy.

Australia's emerging agriculture boom can last much longer than the now waning mining boom, as it is underpinned by the demand from the world's second largest and most populated economy.


11 May 2015

Temporary protection visas: Labor plans to dump measure which has twice stopped illegal immigration

LABOR will dump John Howard’s successful temporary protection visas for illegal arrivals, which have twice stopped the boats, and consider reopening detention centres as “reception centres” under the party’s draft policy.

The policy for the National Labor Party Conference has revealed a plan to “abolish” the successful TPV policy, while immigration spokesman Richard Marles said he was “open-minded” to the idea of reopening the Pontville Detention Centre in Tasmania.

The federal government last night slammed the plans as being “music to the ears of the (people) smugglers”.

Stopping the boats has enabled the Abbott government to close 13 detention centres.

Reopening a detention centre would cost $51 million over the forward estimates.

TPVs allow refugees three years access to Australia, including work rights and access to Medicare, but they will never be offered permanent protection visas. They end the possibility of people-smugglers promoting Australia as a permanent home.

Mr Marles yesterday said Labor remained “100 per cent” behind offshore processing and rejected using Pontville as a detention centre.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton slammed the ideas, saying it would make Australia attractive to illegal arrivals again. He said TPVs, which former immigration minister Scott Morrison reintroduced last year, had played a key role in stopping the boats.

“The Coalition was able to close the Pontville detention centre — one of 13 closures — because we’ve stopped the boats,” Mr Dutton said.

“The idea of dressing it up as a shiny new ‘reception centre’ sends entirely the wrong message; that is, that a weak Labor Party will again go soft on border protection.”

Labor had previously been open to negotiation on TPVs.

It remains unclear if Labor will support turning back boats before they arrive. The draft also indicates Labor will not refer to boat people as “illegals”. “Labor rejects the practice of referring to asylum seekers as ‘illegals’,” it says.

The issue may well split the party during the conference in Melbourne in July.

Fremantle backbencher Melissa Parke yesterday called on the Labor Party not to ­embrace the turnback policy.

Last year Mr Marles conceded turnbacks had worked but was hammered by his own party for making the remarks.


Not allowed to teach monogamy in NSW schools?

ANGLICAN church leaders have slammed an “unprecedented” interference by the Department of Education after it banned three books used by the church’s scripture teachers on the basis they promoted only monogamous heterosexual relationships.

Scripture teachers were told this week they were not allowed to use books called Teen Sex By The Book by Patricia Weerakoon, You: An Introduction by Michael Jensen, and A Sneaking Suspicion by John Dickson because the texts violated departmental policy.

The texts were used in Special Religious Education (SRE) classes at state schools — classes parents choose to send their children to.

Castle Hill Liberal MP Ray Williams, whose electorate covers much of Sydney’s “bible belt”, said he was requesting an urgent explanation on the book ban from Education Minister Adrian Piccoli.

“Several Anglican leaders in my community have contacted me today saying they are completely shocked at the heavy-handed, reactionary response of the department by demanding these books be removed,” he said.

“I believe the principle of a ‘one partner’ relationship is a fundamental value upheld by society, regardless of whether people are religious or not.”

Mr Piccoli said he had asked the department to review the decision to ban the books: “Department officials will meet with SRE providers to discuss the issue.’’

A Department of Education spokesman denied the decision to ban the books was because of a pro-monogamy message but because they potentially breached the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 and other legislation.

Parent lobby group Fairness in Religion in Schools has campaigned against Ms Weerakoon’s book, saying it contained dangerous anti-gay and anti-divorce messages.

“I think its disgraceful that books that teach traditional Christian teachings in scripture classes have been banned.”
But Sydney Anglican SRE director Jon Thorpe said the church community was outraged it was being banned from teaching Christian values in scripture class.

“The legislation allows SRE providers to educate students in the chosen faith of the family,” Mr Thorpe said.

“The Sydney Anglican SRE curriculum focuses on teaching students a Christian world view from the Bible. We are seeking urgent clarification.”

Powerful Christian Democrats crossbencher Fred Nile said he wanted Mr Piccoli to immediately reverse the “disgraceful” ban on the books.

“I think its disgraceful that books that teach traditional Christian teachings in scripture classes have been banned,” Reverend Nile said.

“The material [scripture teachers] are using obviously would not be atheistic.”


Australian winemakers see red over 'perverse' and 'absurd' subsidy for New Zealand growers

Australia's winemakers have given the Government legal advice on how to end what they describe as a "perverse" and "absurd" subsidy for the New Zealand's industry.

The wine equalisation tax (WET) was introduced to make up the difference when the GST replaced higher wholesale sales taxes.

In a move initially designed to support smaller winemakers and grape growers, the Government allowed them to claim a rebate of up to $500,000.

Under the terms of Australia's free-trade deal with New Zealand, trans-Tasman producers are also eligible to claim the benefit.

Subsidising their competition has local winemakers seeing red. "We are extending rebate provisions, on preferential terms, for those imports to continue," Paul Evans, chief executive of the Winemaker's Federation of Australia (WFA) said.  "It is a perverse and absurd situation.

We have a situation where New Zealand producers are preferred — not only over local producers, but other foreign producers.
Paul Evans, Winemaker's Federation of Australia
"The New Zealand producers are laughing at us; they don't believe how gullible we are."

Victoria Angove, a fifth-generation winemaker from South Australia, said the arrangement meant Australian and New Zealand wines were not competing on a level playing field.

"The situation with New Zealand gives them a very definite cost advantage," she said.  "They don't have any of the compliance costs that we, the Australian winemakers have.

"We need to lodge our income tax returns, we need to register and pay our GST, we need to apply and pay for our liquor licences for every state that we operate within.  "New Zealand producers don't have those compliance costs."

Eliminating New Zealand will save money

One retailer, who did not wish to be quoted, has told the ABC it can make an equivalent bottle of New Zealand wine up to 30 per cent cheaper.

Since becoming eligible, Kiwi claims have grown from $5 million eight years ago, to approximately $25 million today.

The WFA wants the Government to cut New Zealand producers off as part of a broader overhaul of the rebate scheme.

"We have provided the Government with compelling legal advice on how they can abolish this separate New Zealand scheme without contravening our bilateral and multilateral trading agreements," Mr Evans said.

Rather than shunt this reform off to the white paper process, they've indicated they will fast-track the reforms. I'm hopeful that the reforms will be in place by the next vintage.

Eliminating New Zealand and phasing out the rebate for bulk wine and cleanskins would save the Government $278 million, the Federation's costings show.

In return, it is seeking an additional $25 million over four years for international marketing and promotion.  "That will allow us to seize the opportunity recently created by the decline in the Australian dollar," Mr Evans said.

Government willing to consider change

The push has the backing of South Australian Liberal backbencher Tony Pasin, who said New Zealand's eligibility "wouldn't pass the pub test".

Mr Evans argued there was "unprecedented unity" within the wine industry for the proposed changes, which are also aimed at combating the big supermarkets' use of the scheme.

Assistant Treasurer John Frydenberg has promised to consider changing the scheme, announcing a discussion paper separate to the tax white paper.

That response has angered some, with industry publication Wine Business Monthly labelling it a "smackdown".

But Mr Pasin, who represents more winemakers and grape growers than any other federal MP, argued that the Government's willingness to consider the idea should be seen as a win.

"Rather than shunt this reform off to the white paper process, they've indicated they will fast-track the reforms," he said.

"I'm hopeful that the reforms will be in place by the next vintage."

Government sources have told the ABC they anticipate any move to cut the rebate to New Zealand producers would likely be met with significant opposition.

They have cited New Zealand's previous success in trade disputes with Australia, in particular a 2010 World Trade Orgnisation ruling which overturned a 90-year-old ban on imports of Kiwi apples.


School taken over by Muslim extremists

FOR years it was the pride of the Muslim community, a school that reached out to its neighbours and helped promote cultural understanding across Adelaide.

Migrant students from across the globe were taught to be proudly Australian, regularly singing the national anthem and their own school song. But they don’t sing any more.

A deep rift between parents and management threatens the future of the Islamic College of South Australia.

Relations have soured to the point where hundreds of parents kept their children at home on Friday in protest against the school’s board and they say they will organise more boycott days until the board resigns.

The warning signs began three years ago when principal Julia Abdelale was sacked, beginning a revolving door of school leaders who, parents say, are at the mercy of the board.

Many experienced teachers have been shown the door and replaced with younger ones, who earn less and are considered less likely to challenge board decisions, such as the controversial edict that all female staff wear headscarves.

Parents say educational standards are plummeting and a modest music program has been scrapped. They are also appalled at plans for a mosque and more classrooms on a school site that lacks playspace.

This year, a small band of parents began organising small public rallies but it was the sacking of beloved teacher and imam Brother Khalid Yousef last month and the expulsion of senior students for supporting him, that sent the school community into a frenzy of protest.

The prime target is chairman, Farouk Khan, who is constantly present at the school.

A long-serving teacher, who was fired without warning on the last day of school in 2013, said she feared for the education of the school’s “amazing” multilingual children.

“It’s a very radical board, very strict, almost like being their own Islam; it’s not like a (moderate) Australian Islam,” she said.

“I can remember how hard it was (dealing with board) and how frustrating they were. It was difficult for Australian women who are used to being treated a bit more equally.”

The teacher said the school used to have choirs performing in the local community but the demise of the music program was symbolic of a change to a stricter form of Islam.  “They don’t sing the national anthem anymore (and) we used to sing it every week,’’ she said.  “They have a piano hidden in the school because it’s ‘evil’.”

She said her dismissal was typical of the board’s behaviour, which has recently began marching staff off school grounds under the watch of security guards.

“I never got a chance to say goodbye to the parents and kids and the other teachers,” she said.  “Then to my dismay, I heard that the next year the staff were told I chose to leave.

“They are getting rid of a lot of teachers because they are the highest paid teachers.  “You must have a balance of experienced and new teachers so they can learn from the older teachers.”

The Independent Education Union says the college causes more industrial issues than any other.   “They are ripe for regime change because I would like to deal with some people who respect normal industrial process ... but they are a law unto themselves,” state secretary Glen Seidel said.

“It is really encouraging to see the community trying to sort out the quality of the management of the school.  “The union has had quite a lot of matters before the courts and commissions to try to keep the school on the right path but true change has to come from the community.”

The roadblock parents face is that they have no say in the makeup of the board, which is appointed by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

Souraya Serhan, the mother of Rami, 15, one of two boys expelled for protesting, vowed to continue campaigning until the board stepped down, despite its conditional offer for her son to return. She said it was pleasing that “half of the school was absent” on Friday.


Obese, smokers and elderly more likely to be turned down for surgery

Obese people, smokers and the frail elderly are increasingly being turned away from surgery because the risks outweigh the benefits for them, surgeons say.

There is also a growing feeling that people whose lives are coming to an end would be better off skipping major operations that could cause them more harm than good. It may also mean the difference between dying in hospital over a long period of time rather than dying comfortably at home.

A meeting of surgeons in Perth last week heard that while doctors are getting better at operating on the frail and critically ill, serious risks remain for the obese, smokers and elderly people whose cognitive functions are deteriorating along with their strength and mobility.

Perth bariatric surgeon Harsha Chandraratna said an increasing number of severely obese people were being told they had to lose weight before they could have surgery. In some cases, these people were lining up for weight-loss surgery, such as lap bands, to help them improve their fitness for other operations because they could not lose weight in other ways.

Dr Chandraratna said obese people suffered higher rates of infections and wound breakdowns after surgery, and that research suggested they had a five-fold increased risk of dying during major orthopedic surgery compared to people of a healthy weight.

"A one per cent risk of death becomes a five per cent risk of death," he said at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' annual scientific congress last week. 

Mark Newman, director of cardiothoracic surgery at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, said smokers also had up to 15 times the risk of an infection or wound breakdown after surgery – a fact that should be taken into account if people wanted non-life saving procedures such as hip replacements and breast augmentations.

He said wound breakdowns were particularly problematic for plastic surgical procedures because it meant there was a high risk of a bad cosmetic result. For this reason, some surgeons declined to operate on people while they were still smoking.

"It's not that we're opposed to performing surgery because you're a smoker and we think you're bad and bringing this on yourself. It's because the outcomes of the surgery are worse," he said.  

David Cooke, a general surgeon at Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth, said smokers also struggled with kidney dialysis procedures. He said fistulas for dialysis – joining a vein and an artery together to make the blood vessel larger and stronger – failed six times more often in smokers, reducing their chance of effective treatment for kidney failure. "You can only do it four or five times and then you run out of veins," he said.

David Bruce, a geriatrician and hospital administrator, said surgeons were increasingly dividing elderly people into the healthy and frail to assess their risks. The latter tend to have early signs of dementia and cognitive deficits, a slow gait, sedentary lifestyle, unexplained weight loss and poor grip strength in their hands. While their precise age was irrelevant, he said people who presented as frail carried much greater risks of not coming out of surgery well.

Dr Newman agreed, saying: "There are people in their 90s who you know will do well, or you get a pretty good idea they'll do well … but there are many people in their late 70s who you think 'I'm not going to touch you'."

Dr Cooke said while most people feared death on the operating table, it was rare. "The far worse outcome is not to die on the table, but to survive and then spend two months in intensive care having festering wounds and mainly intubated, so they might as well be dead because they can't talk. They may never recover," he said.

"The aim now is to prolong life, not prolong death."

Dr Newman said the size of the surgical procedure also mattered, causing different degrees of trauma. 

"If you can perform operations endoscopically with small incisions, patients will do a lot better even if they're frail," he said.

"If you do a major open operation with large incisions, a large incision over about six  centimetres seems to trigger a major trauma response. If you can keep a small wound, you can do all the things we do like put them on heart lung machines for two hours, but you need a small hole and people do much better."


10 May 2015

Government seeks legal advice on University's axing of controversial Lomborg research centre

Both academic freedom and freedom of speech have died at the University of Western Australia

THE federal government is seeking legal advice on the University of Western Australia’s decision not to host a controversial taxpayer-funded research centre.

The university ditched a $4 million contract for climate change sceptic Bjorn Lomborg’s Australian Consensus Centre, amid strong backlash from staff, students and the public.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne is disappointed and remains committed to opening the centre.

“It is surprising that individuals at an institution of higher learning claiming to embrace the notion of academic and intellectual freedom would display intolerance and shout down a voice in the debate they simply don’t agree with,” a spokesman told AAP on Saturday.

The government believes the investment would enable the “best economic thinkers” in the world to contribute to Australia’s policy debates.

Dr Lomborg blamed the university’s decision on “toxic politics, ad hominem attacks and premature judgment” and said the centre had been used as a “political football”.

He rejected suggestions he was a climate change heretic and said the centre would have put the university at the forefront of global research efforts to improve the use of aid spending.

“This is far too important to let fall victim to toxic politics,” he said.

Yesterday, UWA announced passionate protests had forced it to scrap the think tank, which was designed to undertake economic cost benefit analysis in poverty, social justice and food sustainability.

“I have stated many times that it is not a centre to study climate change, that the University was not providing any direct funding to the centre, and that Bjorn Lomborg would not be involved in its day-to-day operations,” vice chancellor Paul Johnson said in a statement on Friday.

But he also acknowledged the centre required co-operation among people across a wide range of fields. “(So) it is with great regret and disappointment that I have formed the view that the events of the past few weeks places the centre in an untenable position as it lacks the support needed,” he said.

The UWA Student Guild said the decision was a huge victory for the hundreds of people who got involved to save the university’s reputation.

“Students, staff and graduates are the key stakeholders at this institution, and it is so important that they are being heard. It is reassuring to know that when decisions cause this kind of public response, we will be taken seriously,” president Lizzy O’Shea said in a statement.


McIntyre dismissal not a free speech issue

The dismissal of one media figure over the weekend, and the coming dismissal of another have ‘sparked a fresh debate over freedom of speech‘ in Australia.

As my colleague Simon Breheny wrote on FreedomWatch yesterday, there was much sympathy for (former) SBS sports presenter Scott McIntyre, dismissed for his abominable Anzac Day tweets. Channel Ten journalist Hugh Riminton tweeted that SBS made the ‘wrong call’, and that ‘our diggers also died for free speech’. Actor Rhys Muldoon added that it was a ‘sad day for freedom’ that McIntyre was dismissed for unpopular opinions.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of free speech underlying much of this commentary. Freedom of speech is an immunity from government restrictions on expression, or the use of the courts to restrict free expression. For example, section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 is a direct restriction on free speech as it provides for offended parties to use the court system to silence others.

As the Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson wrote in the Canberra Times in April 2014:

Defending the universal human right of free speech is about the legal limits of speech.It is about when the law stops someone expressing their view. It is not about voluntary conditions we accept when we take employment. Conditions that are entered into through employment are not the same as the law.

All speech is legal, until it is made specifically illegal. But just because something is legal, it does not mean it is acceptable.

By agreeing to work for the SBS, McIntyre also voluntarily agreed to abide by the ‘SBS Code of Conduct’. At the moment of entering into the contract  of employment, McIntyre, as a requirement for maintaining his employment, voluntarily restricted himself in what he could say publicly. By breaching that code, he also breached his contract of employment. Accordingly, McIntyre’s employer was well within their rights to dismiss him.

As of writing, McIntyre’s tweets are still plainly visible on his twitter feed. McIntyre’s tweets have not led to any form of coercive restraint. No court has found his tweets unlawful, and nor should they.

The dismissal of McIntyre is solely a contractual issue, and to interpret it in another way is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of human rights.


Climate change science is being used by the UN to 'create a new world order': PM Tony Abbott's top advisor dismisses threat of global warming

Climate change science is being used by the United Nations to create a new world order, according to Tony Abbott's leading business adviser.

Maurice Newman, the chairman of the Prime Minister's business advisory council, said the UN is using climate change to end democracy and establish communist rule. 'The real agenda is concentrated political authority,' Newman wrote in an opinion piece published in The Australian.

'It is opposed to capitalism and freedom and has made environmental catastrophism a household topic to achieve its objective.'

Mr Newman, a noted climate skeptic, wrote another piece last year that said governments had been hijacked by 'green gesture politics' and the world was not prepared for the problem of 'global cooling'.

Mr Newman's comments coincide with Christiana Figueres, who heads the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, visiting Australia.

Figueres used an address in Melbourne to urge Australia to move away from coal, the country's second-largest export, as the world grapples with global warming.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt distanced himself and his colleagues from Mr Newman's controversial comments, and said the government will continue to work to tackle climate change.

'We want to address the problem, we're working with other countries and we're working with the international organisations,' Mr Hunt told the ABC.

'Individuals are entitled to their views, our approach is to work constructively with all international parties.'


Australian political guru behind winning British Conservative campaign

British Labour’s campaign was guided by senior White House adviser and Barack Obama election strategist David Axelrod

Australian Lynton Crosby's reputation as one of Britain's most powerful electoral strategists remains intact after the Tories' stunning demolition of Labour.

Nicknamed the Wizard of Oz, election advisor Crosby has been credited with pulling David Cameron over the line after a late switch in tactics to counter the rise of Labour in the pre-election polls.

Conservative attacks on Labour were criticised as too negative, while the decision to contrast Tory consistency against a chaotic Ed Miliband-led Labour was deemed ineffective.

It was only when Cameron offered a show of passion - which many claimed he had been sorely lacking - in a speech ten days before the election did the tide start to turn.

Following this, the Tory emphasis on the threat of a SNP-Labour coalition helped claw back voters from the Lib Dems and Ukip - placing the Conservatives on course to claiming today's majority.

Since his return to the Conservative campaign headquarters at the end of 2013, Crosby has established himself as a leading figure among the cabinet.

Blunt-talking Mr Crosby has been called 'the Wizard of Oz' because of his legendary success in political campaigns, including winning four terms for former Australian PM John Howard and helping Boris Johnson to two Mayoralty victories.

His supporters have called him one of the most brilliant political strategists of his generation.

Born in 1957 in Kadina, South Australia, the economics graduate soon discovered he had a flair for advising parties on election-winning strategies.

Infamously, he was associated with claims in the 2001 Australian general election that asylum seekers had thrown children into the sea.

Witty, foul-mouthed and a workaholic, 'the Wizard of Oz' is blunt to his political masters.

In the 2008 London Mayoral campaign he told Boris Johnson: 'If you let us down we will cut your f****** knees off'.

The Mayor of London is said to have little doubt about Mr Crosby's abilities - he was once reported to have told Tory backbenchers they should 'break the piggybank' to hire him and give him a 'free hand' to take control of campaigning.

Those close to Mr Crosby are not offended by his plain speaking – and say it is all part of his charismatic personal style.

He is also known as the ‘attack dingo’, and for a long while was synonymous with ‘dog whistle politics’ – the repeated use of coded language which plays to the worst fears of certain voters.


8 May 2015

The truth about negative gearing (?)

A bit of superficial cleverness below from the Farr-out one. I am guessing that he has no qualifications in economics.  He uses the brief previous period of suspended negative gearing to make pronouncements for all time. The ancient economic truth that raising the price of something will reduce demand for it is not for him.  He cannot see that making investment in rental accomodation dearer will reduce investment in rental accommodation.

He is supposed to be a political reporter but he naively swallows the deception you can expect from the Leftist ABC.  The fact that rentals rose only in Sydney and Melbourne last time refutes nothing.  It probably shows that the supply of rental accommodation was tighter there so the effects showed up there more rapidly.  Economic changes commonly take a while to work their way through the system and two years was not long enough to see the effect in other Australian cities

Malcolm Farr

IT’S the tax concession governments dare not touch even though there could be savings currently estimated at $12 billion a year if it were it scrapped.

And again this year, negative gearing — the claiming of costs related to investment properties as tax deductions — has escaped the Budget axe.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said it won’t be touched: “The government I lead wants taxes to be lower, simpler, fairer,” said the Prime Minister.

And his government is not about to upset some 1.2 million Australians who use the tax rebate to cover expenses of investment properties, such as mortgage payments and repairs.

There are two issues at the core of this debate:


The common view is that only the rich can buy a rental property so only the well-off benefit from negative gearing. So eliminating the concession has been depicted as a measure of fiscal equality.

“The reality is that over half of geared housing investors are in the top 10 per cent of personal taxpayers and 30 per cent earn more than $500,000,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie of the welfare sector body ACOSS.

Well, that used to be the common view. It’s now a crowded debate.

“There is an urban myth running around that negative gearing is the province of the rich and should be for the high jump,” said Social Services Minister Scott Morrison recently.

Sometimes the same set of figures have been used to make competing arguments.

Research by the Australia Institute think tank found a third of the rebates from negative gearing went to richest 10 per cent of households. More than half went to the wealthiest 20 per cent.

But another reading of the same data found more than a million people were negatively gearing, and, said a report in The Australian, “the widespread use of the tax losses in areas once considered ‘blue collar’ Labor territory in suburban Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney”.

Scott Morrison used a Property Council analysis of Tax Office data. He said it showed negative gearers included 83,000 clerical workers, 62,000 teachers and child carers, and 12,000 emergency service workers “who aren’t the rich and famous”.

Negative gearing is often blamed by first home buyers who can’t crack into the property m

Negative gearing is often blamed by first home buyers who can’t crack into the property market. Source: ThinkStock

Certainly the well-off are better placed to buy property and use the concessions, but the Australian obsession with property means second-home ownership is no longer a province of the rich.


This is the big obstacle faced by the anti-neg gearing side: The notion that eliminating the concession would halt investment in rental properties and push up rents.

“If you abolish negative gearing on investment properties, there’s a strong argument that rents would increase,” warned Treasurer Joe Hockey.

The tax concession has been dumped only once, by Labor between 1985-1987, and, Mr Hockey said, “The net result was you saw a surge in rents.”

Well, rents did rise but only in Sydney and Perth. The ABC fact checking unit has taken exception to Mr Hockey’s reading of history.

“During the period that negative gearing was abolished real rents notably increased only in Sydney and Perth — where rental vacancies were at extremely low levels,” said the fact checking verdict.

“This is inconsistent with arguments that negative gearing was a significant factor, with negative gearing likely to have a uniform impact on rents in all capital cities.

“At the same time, high interest rates and the share market boom of the mid 1980s increased consumer demand for rental properties, encouraged existing investors to pass on high mortgage costs to renting consumers, and discouraged additional investors from investing in the rental property market.

“While the rent increases in two cities did coincide with the temporary removal of negative gearing tax deductions, it is unlikely that change had a substantial impact on rents in any major capital city in Australia. “Mr Hockey’s claim doesn’t stack up.”


Smearing Tony Abbott as a homophobe is victory for hatred

Chris Kenny

Given Tony Abbott has been dubbed a misogynist, Islamophobe and racist, I suppose the -occasional allegation of homophobia shouldn't be a surprise.

But having met Abbott through a mutual, and dear, gay friend more than 20 years ago, it has -always bemused me. Each time it is attempted, the slur is revealed as increasingly absurd and desperate.

Christopher Pearson, a former columnist for this newspaper, was my openly gay editor at The Adelaide Review in the 1990s when he developed a friendship with -Abbott through an organisation that was anathema to me, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. Pearson, from the start, said Abbott was going places and -invited the backbencher to launch a magazine issue, insisting I attend.

In those days Pearson was an "out and proud" bon vivant who, famously (or infamously), had been in a long-term relationship with the chief justice, was active in the gay liberation movement and -was ensconced as a gadfly on the Adelaide arts scene.

Prodding what he saw as my suburban, family man naivety, Pearson often tried to shock me with revelations about what he called his "tragic deviant" lifestyle.

He was the same with others.

He also challenged me intellectually and introduced me to a wonderful array of music, literature, ideas and people. He often told me he loved me. And I know he was the same with others. He became very close to Abbott, as a trusted friend, political confidante and editor of books and speeches. Back in 2010, when the then opposition leader spoke of being "threatened" by homosex-uality, Abbott suffered a sustained media attack over alleged homophobia.

It seemed a high price to pay for poor expression and sometime after that Pearson told me how Abbott was supporting his sister, Christine Forster, in what was then a private family matter of a broken marriage and lesbian relationship. (This has since been -spoken about publicly by Forster and Abbott.)

Pearson was tempted to make these matters public at the time to kill off the political jibes but wisely thought better of it - respecting Abbott's understandable priority on family and friendships.

Pearson, to the surprise of most of us, abandoned the Anglican Church, converted to Catholicism and espoused his own version of radical celibacy. He didn't live to see Abbott -become prime minister, dying -almost two years ago.

Abbott was a pallbearer and, just two months shy of winning the election, he led an eclectic group of mourners at the Victory Hotel at Sellicks Hill in Adelaide, as Labor and Liberal MPs, journalists, Latin mass Catholics and writers of gay, straight and varied dispositions warmed themselves with wine, poems and jokes after a wintry burial. No one there could have doubted the bond - let's call it love - between these men. Since then we have read of Abbott's -relationships with his sister, Christine, and transgender mate Catherine McGregor.

In the midst of the election campaign, on a whistlestop Adelaide visit, Abbott found time to honour a commitment to Pearson, looking in on his elderly father.

These are mere snippets, and it seems sad to feel the need to air them, but whatever people's gripes with his politics or his policies, -attempts to smear Abbott as -homophobic can only be a triumph of hatred over humanity.


Greens leader Christine Milne leaves behind a team in turmoil

FORMER GP Richard Di Natale was elected unopposed as the new leader of the Greens on Wednesday - but don't be fooled.  The obscure senator won thanks to a secret plot that will actually leave the party even more divided.

That plot - and that division - is part of the troubled legacy of Christine Milne, who quit on Wednesday as leader after only three years.

Forget the media praise for Milne, whose resignation surprised even party founder Bob Brown.  She actually cemented the Greens' reputation as zealots incapable of compromise, blind to the terrible price of their pure politics.

Milne refused to use her party's huge power over the Gillard Labor government to change the border policies that lured 1200 boat people to their deaths.

She helped to extract from the Gillard government a $10 billion clean energy fund that won't actually change the world's temperature.

Since the Abbott Government's election, Milne also helped Labor to block spending cuts in the Senate, claiming "we won't have a bar of the nonsense around the whole Budget repair story", despite government now spending nearly $1 billion a week more than it collects.

With Milne it was all about seeming, not achieving.

She became so obsessed with the alleged wickedness of Prime Minister Tony Abbott that she even helped the Senate to block the Government's planned rise in the petrol excise levy, even though Greens' policy calls for taxes on fossil fuels. The result: Milne's Greens appealed to a permanent minority of Australians who get high on moral outrage - but they frightened off the rest.

Indeed, Milne was hammered in her one election as leader, in 2013. The Greens' Senate vote fell from 13.1 per cent to only 8.65, with just four senators added to the six elected in 2010. In the Lower House the Greens only retained Adam Bandt's seat of Melbourne.

The polls suggest some recovery since, but nothing in Milne's leadership showed the party would go anywhere fast, despite the unwavering support of the ABC and many academics.

Now it is up to Di Natale to find a way out of Milne's dead end. He has advantages. He's more reassuring and more pragmatic than Milne.  "I am not an ideologue," he insisted on Wednesday. "I follow the evidence."

He even hinted he would change Milne's irrational opposition to the petrol excise increase and broaden the Greens' appeal. He said his interests weren't just global warming and the environment, but Medicare, healthcare, multiculturalism and "social justice".

But can he bring his team with him?

Di Natale's first problem is his low profile. Half the Greens MPs are better known.

In fact, the ambitious Bandt is the party's best media performer, yet was on Wednesday humiliatingly replaced as deputy leader by Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters.

Bandt later implied he'd just wanted to prepare for the arrival of his baby, but he seems instead to have been knifed.

Milne refused to comment on claims by angry Bandt supporters that she'd given Di Natale and Ludlam advanced warning of her resignation so they had time to stitch up a leadership deal that froze out the unsuspecting Bandt.

Di Natale also wouldn't comment, yet gave the game away when a journalist asked if he'd discussed standing for leader with his family.  "I had a long chat with my partner, Lucy, and the impact it is going to have on my life," he blurted, before realising his mistake and adding: "I was talking to Lucy six months ago."

He then admitted "someone may have been disappointed by the outcome" before Milne hastily terminated their press conference.

His deal with Ludlam may have given Di Natale the leadership, but it's also created a powerful rival and brake. Ludlam in return wasn't just made co-deputy but chairman of the parliamentary party.

Nor do the divisions end there. Milne and Brown long fought to contain the rise of "watermelon greens" - Greens MPs who are actually socialists.

The ultimate watermelon is Lee Rhiannon, a former communist trained in the Soviet Union who backs a boycott of Israel and fights to protect the CFMEU, a construction union accused of corruption by the royal commission into trade unions.

Sure enough, Rhiannon on Wednesday tweeted her objection to the way Di Natale was chosen.  "Members should have a vote," she protested, knowing a ballot of members would favour radical candidates like her.

Does this seem a happy team of big huggers - one able to negotiate out of Milne's cul de sac and deliver Kumbayah at last?


Your regulators will protect you  -- NOT

Paedophile doctor in NSW 'practiced for decades'

The head of the state's health care watch dog told a royal commission its investigation into allegations about paedophile doctor John Rolleston was "indefensible".  Health Care Complaints Commission boss Kieran Pehm? said the agency was beset by lengthy delays and poor information sharing at the time sex abuse claims about Rolleston were first received in the late 1990s.

In evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Mr Pehm admitted  allegations about Rolleston were not investigated thoroughly and complainants were treated poorly.  "It's bad. It's indefensible," he said.

He told the royal commission that when he started at the HCCC in 2004 delays of two or three years were not uncommon and recalled there were 700-800 unallocated files piled up in a corner office.

The commission heard when a sex abuse survivor, known as AWC, complained about Rolleston to the HCCC in 1998 it took almost a year for an investigation to commence.

Justice Peter McClellan?, who is presiding over the public hearing into health care providers and regulators, expressed surprise that Rolleston's failure to respond to HCCC investigators was provided as one reason for terminating the inquiry.

 "If you have a complaint but you haven't had a response from the person complained about, that that is a reason to discontinue an investigation? It defies belief," he said.

"I agree," Mr Pehm replied.

The commission was told the historic nature of AWC's complaint was another reason for ending the inquiry in 2001, despite the fact Rolleston was still practicing as a doctor.

When the HCCC received a fresh complaint about child sexual abuse involving Rolleston from another man in 2003 it failed to connect the new claim to AWC's case.

Mr Pehm blamed "poor information systems" at the time.

He agreed the response to Rolleston's victims was "completely inadequate" but said the HCCC had improved the time frames for investigations and simplified the process for complainants.

Rolleston was arrested in July 2009 and convicted of more than 30 sexual offences relating to adolescent patients he abused at his practices in St Ives, Whalan and at the Royal North Shore Hospital.

In earlier evidence, a senior medical practitioner who was molested by Rolleston as a child said he was stunned to learn his abuser was still allowed to practice while being investigated over sex offences.

The man, known as AWF, told the commission it was "incomprehensible" that health care regulators allowed Rolleston to continue to work as a doctor after allegations first surfaced.

The evidence before the commission is that Rolleston, who was imprisoned in 2011, was not de-registered until 2013.

"It seems to me that Rolleston could theoretically re-apply for re-registration as a medical practitioner after four years, which is in May 2017, which I find troubling," he said.

AWC, who was molested by Rolleston at Royal North Shore Hospital in 1979, told the commission that that the HCCC was "completely ineffectual" in examining his report.

Mr Pehm is expected to continue to give evidence on Friday.


7 May 2015

New Greens leader fires up after allegations the party's deputy leader was SHAFTED (but Adam Bandt says he's 'very happy' to be out of the job)

There's been a seismic change in Australian politics with a new Greens leadership team installed. But was one of the party's most famous faces shafted?

Relative unknown Dr Richard Di Natale was elected leader of Australia's third biggest party unopposed on Wednesday afternoon, following the shock resignation of Christine Milne.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was that Melbourne MP Adam Bandt will not return as deputy, with senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam sharing the position instead.

Di Natale and Milne faced fierce questioning over 'disquiet' in the party room that the leadership spill may have been rushed and that Mr Bandt had been 'shafted'. 

'I suspect, look, someone may be disappointed with the outcome. Surprise, surprise. That's politics!' Di Natale told reporters in Canberra. 

Asked if the quickfire leadership spill was to stop Mr Bandt becoming leader, Senator Milne told reporters: 'You have people out there saying what comes to their mind. 'The fact is that I'm not going to talk about the last 3 years in terms of discussions that have been had.  'What I am talking about today is how proud I am of the entire team and how proud I am that Richard is the new leader and I think he's going to do a great job.'

Mr Bandt tweeted that he was 'very happy to hand over Deputy' in order to focus on the demands of a new baby due in a few weeks.  He also wants to focus on winning seats for the Greens in the House of Representatives. 

Both senators said the leadership selection process had not changed from previous incarnations.  

Former party leader Bob Brown, a fellow doctor, praised Di Natale's leadership on Sky News.  'Richard's a very loveable character. He's a very mature fellow. 'I think he's going to be a very visible figure for Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten to emulate when it comes to politics.'

Dr Di Natale hailed the work of his predecessor but signaled a change in leadership style. 'We're different people, Christine and I,' he said. 'I came at this through health. I came not from a political background. 'I spent a few years as a GP and a public health specialist working in places like Tennant Creek and north-east India.  

'It became pretty clear to me that if you want to improve people's health, you've got to start looking at the things that make people sick. 'You've got to have a clean environment, clean air and clean water'.

Senator Milne, who spent 25 years in politics and famously fought the Franklin River dam environmental campaign, made her unexpected announcement on social media.

But Ms Milne won't leave the political field entirely, promising to use her passion and experience to continue the fight for action on climate change.


Christine Milne's departure a win for Tony Abbott

Even in politics it turns out that good things come to those who wait. Eventually.

That's how Liberals received Wednesday's bombshell resignation of Greens leader Christine Milne and her substitution with the reputedly more centrist Victorian, Richard Di Natale. "I'm no ideologue", the new leader announced in a spot of pre-positioning unlikely to be lost on hopeful Coalition MPs.

The Greens' switch was not a development the government saw coming nor influenced in any way, but it will be a positive nonetheless.

And it is one that could hardly have been better timed for Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey - just days before a pivotal budget specifically crafted to soften their hardline image set in their first bombastic budget, by producing a more generous pro-growth, pro-households formula for 2015-16.

To be fair, Abbott and Hockey have been pretty luckless in the Senate they acquired, controlled as it is by populist newbies and a Greens Party under Milne that was so anti-Coalition that it even blocked the re-indexation of federal petrol excise. This was opposition for opposition's sake in that it was a policy to which the Greens would otherwise be philosophically committed.

Indeed, under Milne, the Greens Party has mostly opted for the warm inner-glow that comes from absolute protest against Abbott, enabling its 11 parliamentarians to remain pure, unsullied by the grubby business of compromise.

Now, that could change. The medically qualified Di Natale is a political mainstreamer or, as one Parliament House wag noted, "he eats red meat".

The prospects for that fuel excise increase, which must be legislated properly in September, have suddenly improved as the new leader revisits his party's opposition. He is likely to conclude that taxing a polluting fossil fuel offers a triple-win: for the environment if it dampens petrol consumption, for the competitiveness of more expensive alternative energy, and for the Greens' own credibility in appearing to be constructive.

This is Abbott's opportunity. Central to his proposed recovery is his success in appearing more consultative, and a critical part of that is ending the hyper-partisanship in the Senate that has characterised the Abbott government since its election.

The change in the Greens' leadership offers the Prime Minister at least some opportunity to cast a new relationship with the third force in Australian politics. Of course, it wil never be close and will rarely even be cooperative, but even a small improvement in the atmospherics in Canberra will be pay dividends. And it will be noticed by voters, too.


Leftist media smear job about Abbott's arrival in Paris

Tony Abbott says he was not aware the gay partner of Australia’s ambassador to France was asked by his staff not to take part in an official welcome.

Mr Abbott today denied there was any rift between himself and the ambassador, Stephen Brady, describing the diplomat as a personal “friend”.

The Prime Minister said he had no knowledge that Mr Brady’s spouse, Peter Stephens, had been asked not join the official party that greeted Mr Abbott at a Paris airport when he landed there on Anzac Day.

“I have a lot of time for Steven Brady. I appointed him, our ambassador to Paris, I have known him for many years. He’s a very distinguished public servant — a very distinguished public servant. I’d even say he’s a friend of mine,” Mr Abbott said in Perth.

Asked if he knew about the alleged snub of Mr Stephens, Mr Abbott said: “No. I’m the Prime Minister and I don’t normally concern myself with trivia.”

“My understanding is there was some issue at the level of junior officials and I don’t concern myself with these things.

“All I want to say is that he’s a fine servant of Australia, a really fine servant of Australia. He’s a friend of mine, always has been and — as far as I’m concerned — always will be.’’

Earlier today, Mr Abbott’s parliamentary secretary accused Fairfax Media of a “disgraceful smear” on the Prime Minister by implying he refused to be greeted by the ambassador’s gay partner upon landing in Paris last month.

“You’re referring to an article which is running in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age by Peter Hartcher,” Mr Tudge told Sky News.

“I think it is actually a disgraceful article because it has the implication that the Prime Minister wanted a gay person not to greet him on the tarmac when he had arrived in Paris. I think that’s a disgraceful allegation. I think that that should be withdrawn. No such thing occurred. There are protocols in place which were asked to be adhered to.

“The Prime Minister has a very good relationship with Ambassador Brady and his partner. He had dinner with the pair of them that night. I understand he had dinner with the pair of them before they went to France, so it was a disgraceful smear, that article, and I think that the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age should have a look at themselves and they should be doing much better than that.

“My understanding of what actually occurred was that there’s a usual protocol, from my understanding, that when the Prime Minister is travelling with his spouse, then he would be greeted on the ground by the Ambassador and his or her spouse. In this instance, the PM was travelling alone and in that instance the usual protocol in my understanding is that the Ambassador would therefore greet the Prime Minister by his or herself.

“My understanding was that the Prime Minister was in fact greeted by Ambassador Brady and his partner and the Prime Minister was warmly welcomed and had no problem with that; of course he didn’t.”

The report surprised Mr ­Abbott’s supporters because he hosted a dinner for Mr Brady and Mr Stephens upon the diplomat’s posting to Paris. The Prime Minister and his party joined the pair for drinks at the ­embassy about 24 hours after the arrival on the evening of Anzac Day. After the drinks Mr Abbott and his team went to dinner with Mr Brady and Mr Stephens in Paris. “The Prime Minister was very happy to be met by ambassador Brady and his partner when he arrived in Paris last month,” a spokesman for Mr Abbott said last night.

The Australian was told Mr Brady did not offer his resignation to Mr Abbott.


Nanny trial: the devil is in the detail

Since the Productivity Commission’s draft report into childcare was released in July last year, the issue of whether nannies – or, more accurately, in-home carers – should be subsidised as part of broadening the scope of accessible and flexible childcare has been a hot topic.

The government has, after much speculation, announced this week that it would be funding a trial of in-home care for 10,000 children of shift- and emergency services workers, rural and remote families, and children with special needs. The anticipated cost is $250 million over two years.

For starters, it’s worth mentioning that this is not without precedent. A very small In Home Care program already exists. According to chapter 2 of the Productivity Commission’s report on childcare, there are currently around 70 in-home care approved service providers, and around 8450 capped places were allocated in 2012.

Broadening access to in-home care was recommended by the Productivity Commission, with the expectation that any in-home carers would fit within the auspices of the National Quality Framework — in terms of the required minimum qualifications and compliance with the other accreditation measures long day care workers are subject to.

The government has stepped away from this particular part of the Productivity Commission’s recommendation, instead requiring only that carers be part of an approved service and have basic qualifications, such as a First Aid certificate and a Working With Children check.

When this proposal was first flagged, I outlined here at the Drum why bringing nannies into the NQF tent is a bad idea. In summary, when a carer is hired directly, parents have a much higher capacity to be informed than they do in the rest of the formal childcare sector. Since the requirements of the NQF are essentially a form of quality control in the mainstream childcare market where information is limited, it makes little sense to apply them here.

Though the planned $125 million annual spend is a rounding error in a $7 billion annual childcare budget, it’s still worth asking whether the proposal is value for money. The devil is potentially in the detail – much of which we don’t know yet, and won’t know until the government releases the entirety of its childcare policy package.

Rough calculations suggest that this sum of money for 10,000 children is a per-child spend of about $12,500 annually (assuming that each of these children is a new addition to the formal childcare sector, and not merely switching over from one form of care to another). For the sake of comparison: the Child Care Benefit can amount to $10,000 per child in subsidy annually; the Child Care Rebate is capped at a maximum of $7,500 per child. It’s important to note that nobody is likely to collect the full maximum combined amount of these two payments.

It remains to be seen whether a child will receive the same amount of subsidy, a higher amount, or a lower amount, for in-home care as they would for mainstream childcare. Nevertheless, there is still a potential for inefficient spending, if there is no reduction in the rate of subsidy for second and subsequent children. Two children in long day care will incur separate and unrelated costs, but the same cannot be said of two children in in-home care: the marginal cost of caring for the second child in the same family is much lower than the cost of the first child.

A trial of an expansion of in-home care is a good way of testing the waters and seeing what problems may arise from a more widespread integration into the formal childcare sector. But it remains to be seen whether this careful and considered example of childcare policy is par for the course in the government’s brave, new, childcare world.


6 May 2015

Sydney without an airport — welcome to the fantasy world of the Greens

By Anthony Albanese, Labor Party spokesman for infrastructure, transport, cities and tourism

One of the advantages of representing a minor political party is that because you aren’t trying to win government, you never have to deliver on your promises.

But that fact should not excuse politicians from minor parties from offering genuine, workable solutions to policy challenges facing the community.

Increasingly, minor parties in this country and overseas are crafting opportunist and negative election positions rather than proposing solutions.

So it is with the Greens and their approach to the commonwealth’s plan to build a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek. The NSW Greens oppose the development of the Badgerys Creek airport, but they also want to close the existing Kingsford Smith airport and build a new airport at an imaginary, unnamed site outside the Sydney basin, which they would connect to the city by high-speed rail. If this were put in place, Sydney would be the only global city without an airport. It’s the stuff of fantasy. It has no place in the world of serious policy debate. Yet this has been Greens policy for the whole of this century.

One on one, realistic Greens party members acknowledge this is not practical. Yet the policy remains and enables the party to campaign for zero impact of aviation activity anywhere, despite the fact modern aviation is a driver of economic activity.

The community has the right to expect that serious parties come to the table with ideas capable of implementation, not just complaints.

Regrettably, the Greens have given up serious participation in the decades-long debate about Sydney’s aviation needs.

They have not been prepared to step back from the local political ­angles, to consider the bigger picture and the broader economic and strategic national interest.

The Badgerys Creek airport will create thousands of jobs for the people of western Sydney. It will provide a huge boost not only for the economy of NSW but for the entire nation. The issues involved require ­serious consideration from ­politicians.

Before the Abbott government’s decision to proceed with construction of the Badgerys Creek airport, the former Labor government examined whether there were other options. The research identified the only possible alternative airport site at Wilton, but it was a higher cost and an inferior site to Badgerys Creek, where the Hawke Labor government had already purchased the land and put in place strict environmental controls.

The Greens opposed Wilton, too. In the light of this, their proposal to banish Sydney’s airport to an unnamed site and to link it to the city with a high-speed rail line cannot be taken seriously.

The comprehensive study into the plan to build a high-speed rail line from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra found that 67km of tunnelling in Sydney would be necessary for it to operate. It’s a serious project worthy of support. But, like any major infrastructure project, high-speed rail would affect communities along the route. Tunnels require ­exhausts. Construction creates ­inconvenience.

Delivering high-speed rail, just like building the Badgerys Creek airport, will require explanation of the benefits and broad support across the political spectrum.

Indeed, it is likely that the challenges of high-speed rail construction will create issues over a far wider area than the second airport.

In short, it will require political representatives to act on principle rather than seek to exploit local communities’ fear of change for political gain. Given the Greens’ record on opposing a second Sydney airport, opposing the Moorebank Intermodal, which will take freight off trucks and on to rail, as well as ­opposing safety upgrades to the Pacific Highway, it would be remarkable if they did not confect reasons to oppose high-speed rail in practice.

When it comes to economic infrastructure, the Greens are political opportunists.


Labor fears it is losing urban strongholds is behind the push for homosexual marriage

THE battle for the inner city is on with Labor and the Greens engaged in a combat the Liberals can only sit back and watch — and enjoy.

This is this battle powering the coming debate over marriage equality at Labor’s national conference in July. The inner city troops want a bound vote in Federal Parliament; others want to keep the conscience vote.

The push for a binding vote on gay marriage is being led by shadow foreign minister and party deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, and in many quarters is being seen as part of a leadership bid.

It is being seen as an attempt to draw a clear demarcation line between herself and leader Bill Shorten. This interpretation is rejected by Labor MPs on both sides of the bound-vote debate.

Tanya Plibersek’s ambitions are not for the party leadership but for leadership by the party in what are called progressive issues. Most prominent is gay marriage.

She and others, usually of the left, believe Labor has retreated from that leadership and handed it over to the Greens, who have capitalised on the gift in federal and state elections.

In the March NSW elections the Greens took two inner Sydney seats — Balmain and Newtown — having been expected to lose the one seat it held, Balmain.

In the November Victorian elections the Greens won their first seats in the State Assembly — Melbourne and Prahran — and had a total of five in the Upper House, thanks to a 11.5 per cent primary vote.

Prahran was taken from the Liberals but it was the ALP which was most alarmed. It had already lost the federal seat of Melbourne to the Greens.

There is no suggestion Ms Plibersek will be watching the Greens’ inroads on her own vote in the federal seat of Sydney, as will left colleague and Labor front bencher Anthony Albanese in Grayndler. Both electorates have a significant gay constituency.

Sympathy for the Plibersek position tapers off the further out you get from the CBD. In western Sydney and country areas it all but disappears.

One slightly amused observer of the inner city battle would rather the ALP took what he considered to be a realistic view of its inner city holdings.  “You can’t outflank the Greens by going to the left. Labor might just have to give up on these seats,” said the veteran observer with ALP links.

The irony is that at least two Labor front benchers who previously voted against gay marriage have changed their positions and would support it in a vote. But only in a conscience vote.

A third former opponent to marriage equality is about to announce his switch, following Chris Bowen and Ed Husic. Both could help swing a marriage equality victory in Parliament, but are against being bound on it by the party platform.


Early Learning Association Australia  congratulates the Commonwealth on making the right call to support preschools

The Federal Government has made the right call in deciding to continue its funding contribution to 15 hours of quality early learning a week for all children in the year before school.

The Commonwealth has guaranteed that it will provide $840 million over two years to help meet the cost of providing 15 hour preschool programs in 2016 and 2017.

“ELAA congratulates the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott - and Ministers Christopher Pyne and Scott Morrison - on this decision, which has long been called for by parents, educators, service providers, academics, and peak bodies across the early childhood education and care sector,” said Mr Shane Lucas, CEO of ELAA.

“The Commonwealth provides around one-third of the money for 15 hours of preschool and this announcement gives parents and service providers certainty for the next two years, so that is great news.”

Since 2013, Federal funding has enabled the delivery of 15 hours of quality preschool programs for children in the year before school.

“The research is clear: a minimum of 15 hours of quality early learning per week in the year before school is critical to the development of young children,” Mr Lucas said.

“The Productivity Commission inquiry into childcare and early childhood learning also came to this conclusion - as have parents and service providers who see the real outcomes for children.

“This funding also provides families with a subsidised, affordable, quality early education and care option, which helps parents participate more actively in the workforce prior to children starting compulsory education.

“But we don’t think children and families should be stuck in a funding battle between Canberra and the States every year - or every two years.

“At least 15 hours of quality early learning is great for children, helps parents participate in work and study, and should be supported by all governments - now and into the future.”

Press release

‘This is a blatant rip-off of the taxpayer’: Training colleges facing audit of ‘predatory’ pricing

THE federal government says it is willing to consider a wide-scale audit of training providers to weed out rorting of the $1.6 billion VET FEE-HELP loans scheme with inflated course fees.

It comes as evidence emerges of massive pricing discrepancies between fee-for-service and VET FEE-HELP courses being offered by a number of registered training organisations (RTOs), with taxpayers forking out up to 400 per cent premiums to line the pockets of training companies with government loans, many of which will never be repaid.

The deregulation of the VET FEE-HELP scheme has led to a massive increase in for-profit, private education providers and an industry-wide decline in quality.

According to the Education Department, just over one quarter (26 per cent) of students who enrolled in VET FEE-HELP courses in 2011 finished within three years. Completion rates for online diplomas were abysmal, with just seven per cent of students completing their course.

The government bill for VET FEE-HELP loans blew out by $315 million last year to $1.615 billion, representing 189,000 students at 254 training providers.

Modelling by the Grattan Institute estimates 40 per cent of those loans will never be repaid as those students’ income will never rise above the repayment threshold of $53,000, meaning taxpayers will wear that cost.

According to a University of Sydney study, some of Australia’s largest RTOs are raking in profit margins of more than 50 per cent off of these loans.

Under the deregulated system, private training colleges are free to set their own fees. In effect, they have been handed a blank cheque from the Australian taxpayer.

In a perversion of a ‘pay what you want’ honour system, it’s become ‘charge whatever we can get away with’, critics argue. All the RTOs have to do is get students to sign up and keep them hanging around until the first census date, and the bulk of money goes straight into their pockets.

Under the Higher Education Support Act 2003, the government does not regulate tuition fees, but under the law a VET provider cannot charge different amounts for the same course based on whether the student pays upfront or through the VET FEE-HELP system.

However, a investigation has uncovered examples of RTOs apparently circumventing this restriction by operating under separate business names.

Two Cairns-based RTOs are both owned by the same man and operate out of the same business address. One, which is approved for VET FEE-HELP, charges $12,750 for a Diploma of Management. The other, which sells courses direct to students, charges just $3420 for the same diploma, for which much of the course material appears to be identical. A number of other diplomas are offered at different rates.

Asked to explain the pricing discrepancy, the owner told the “journey of study and learning” was “quite different” for students of the two RTOs.

“They are two separate Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). Some qualifications are offered by both, and descriptions will be similar as like most RTOs reference is made to the Training Packages for this information,” he said. “The journey of study and learning is quite different for students from each of these RTOs.”

He added that each RTO had a different learning management system and curriculum. “Students studying under the VET FEE-HELP loan scheme receive a more comprehensive and frequent support, mentoring and training service which are not available to the other students,” he said.

“These services are available to students upon access to the course they are enrolled into. It is also supported by a strong administration team, due to VET FEE-HELP procedures.”

In Sydney, a similar discrepancy exists between courses offered by two separate training providers owned by the same company, trading under the same RTO registration number.

One provider offers a Diploma of Business for an upfront fee of $7000. The other charges $14,800 for its Diploma of Business — delivered online — under the VET FEE-HELP scheme.

The company did not respond to requests for comment.

One industry insider, who did not wish to be named, said many RTO owners were “laughing in the government’s face”. “Back in 2013, these RTOs were all just starting to apply for the VET FEE-HELP program,” he said.

“I was talking to these directors, and they were all saying to me, ‘We’re going to be doing these VET FEE-HELP courses and we’re increasing our prices.’ I was thinking it’s just bloody unethical. This is just a blatant rip-off of the taxpayer and the government.

“The taxpayers have a right to know how much money has been wasted on this program and how much money has been paid to these RTOs and their brokers.”

While the industry regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority, has been given new powers to issue fines for a number of infringements, it does not have the power to regulate the fundamental issue of pricing.........

The regulator is currently investigating 23 private colleges — including six from Queensland, seven from NSW and six from Victoria — over allegations of unscrupulous sign-up activity. Businesses found to be in breach of fair trading laws face fines of up to $1.1 million and a cancellation of their registration.

An ASQA spokesman said the investigations were “underway and ongoing”. understands an outcome is expected in coming weeks.


5 May 2015

Foreign property buyers in Australia face sweeping crackdown

This will no doubt be popular but it is a very foolish attack on foreign investment from China.  The Chinese can't pick up the property and take it away so why not accept their money?  It's only the top end of the real estate market that will be affected anyway so it is only the rich who will benefit from lower prices -- and they can look after themselves

Tony Abbott has unveiled a sweeping crackdown on foreign property buyers, including fees to acquire real estate and tough new civil and criminal penalties for investors who knowingly break the rules.

Real estate agents and others who assist in breaches of the laws, to apply from December 1, will for the first time face fines, while large-scale agricultural and business acquisitions will be hit with fees as high as $100,000.

The Prime Minister has pledged to enforce the new arrangements, with penalties of three years’ jail and fines of $127,500 for individuals and $637,500 for companies.

Foreigners will also be prevented from making a profit on the forced sale of illegally purchased properties and be hit with penalties of 10 per cent of the purchase price.

Temporary residents who break the rules will face fines of about 25 per cent. Third parties who wrongly assist foreign investors will face fines of up to $42,500 for individuals and $212,500 for companies.

The tax office will be given responsibility for enforcing the new foreign investment rules on residential real estate and will use its data-matching systems to catch out wrongdoers.

A doubling in overseas investment in residential real estate to $34 billion from 2012-13 to 2013-14 has sparked parliamentary inquiries, amid claims of heavy buying in some suburbs by Asian investors.

Mr Abbott is framing today’s announcement as part of a drive to reduce the upward pressure on housing prices.

“Part of the Australian dream is to own your own home and I want that dream to continue,” the Prime Minister said.

“I know from personal experience how tough it is to get into the housing market. I’m determined to crack down on any illegal ­activity that could be putting upward pressure on property prices. We want the rules enforced and we want Australians to be operating on a level playing field.”

From December 1, a $5000 fee will apply to foreign investment in residential properties valued at $1m or less.

According to the Foreign ­Investment Review Board annual report for 2013-14, the average price for residential properties valued at less than $1m and purchased by foreign interests was about $550,000.

The $5000 fee will increase ­prices by nearly 1 per cent and would have delivered a yield of close to $100m alone in 2013-14.

Properties worth more than $1m will incur a larger $10,000 fee and attract a further $10,000 fee for every additional million in value after that.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said foreign investment was very important and Australia remained open for business.

‘We also understand that it is very important that the public can have confidence that the foreign investment coming into Australia is not contrary to our national interest, which is why we do have to have a framework in place that applies proper scrutiny,’ he told Sky News.

The move is likely to draw strong criticism from many quarters. Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison recently warned against the imposition of “unwarranted big new fees”.

He said foreign investment helped to expand housing supply and was putting downward pressure on prices.

Mr Morrison said Treasury ­estimates on foreign investment in off-the-plan residential developments showed 65 per cent of units in major apartment complexes were usually bought by Australians while only 35 per cent went to foreigners.

Mr Abbott said the changes were not aimed at stopping overseas investment. “Foreign investment has been very, very good for Australia but it’s got to be the right foreign investment under the right circumstances, properly policed and it can’t disadvantage Australian home buyers,” he said.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals have clinched a victory with a new $55m threshold for scrutiny of agriculture investments to apply not just to primary production but to a wider range of agribusinesses such as seafood, meat, diary, fruit and vegetable processors.

However, the threshold will remain at just under $1.1bn for private investment from the US, New Zealand and Chile.

Investment in agribusinesses will be more exposed with investors being hit with a $25,000 fee if their investment meets the lower FIRB screening threshold of $55m. They too will also face a $100,000 impost if the value of the transaction is greater than $1bn as was the case with the unsuccessful bid for GrainCorp from US company Archer Daniels Midland in 2013.

Agricultural land valued at more than $1m will attract a $10,000 fee and a further $10,000 fee for every additional million in value after that.

The additional costs will be capped at $100,000. Fees of $25,000 will apply to acquisitions in “sensitive” sectors including telecommunications, transport, defence and media if they meet the FIRB screening threshold of $252m. The fee will rise to $100,000 if the transaction is greater than $1bn.

The screening threshold for non-sensitive business acquisitions applying to free trade partner countries will remain at its current level of $1.1bn, although the same fees will apply.

Labor frontbencher Stephen Jones said the government was declaring Australia open for business and in the next breath saying ‘but let’s check your passport’.

‘We will have differential arrangements for different countries. The government needs to send clear messages about foreign investment. We think it’s important,’ he told Sky.


Rogue union on the side of the Warmists

Collusion between two lots of crooks.  ETU members get to install a lot of the "sustainable" crap

Thousands of Australian jobs in the renewable energy sector are at risk due to the ongoing failure of the Federal Government to adopt a reasonable renewable energy target, Electrical Trades Union assistant national secretary David Mier has warned.

“The Abbott Government has already destroyed jobs, trashed Australia’s renewable energy sector, destabilised the industry and damaged its international reputation with its ideological crusade against renewable energy,” Mr Mier said.

“It is time for the Federal Government to pull its finger out and come to the negotiating table on this vitally important matter, before further damage is done.

 “We’ve waited for well over 12 months for Abbott and co to get it together on renewable energy, and they’re still quibbling over a matter of 1000 gigawatt-hours. In the interests of industry, workers and the country, they need to make a deal.”

Mr Mier said that the Labor Opposition had led the way on the target, maintaining their pre-election promise of a decent renewable energy target and working with industry to form a plan for the future.

“This morning on ABC radio we saw Mr Shorten indicate the ALP was willing to consider accepting 33000 gigawatt-hours if that’s what it takes to resolve the impasse, 500 less than what was offered for bi-partisan support last month,” he said.

“Labor’s offer to take a bipartisan approach to the renewable energy target, in line with the recommendations of the industry, puts the ball firmly in the Federal Government’s court.

“The Government can’t blame the Senate cross-bench for causing uncertainty, because there is now a clear offer on the table that could pass through the parliament that also  comes with industry backing.”

Mr Mier said that it was vital for Australia to adopt a progressive and ambitious renewable energy target, in order to take its place among the world’s leaders in the sector.

“Let me be clear –the original RET target was appropriate and it has only been the Government’s intransigence and incompetence that has led to this point. We need to forge ahead on this issue,” he said.

“A deal needs to be done, and it needs to be done now. But then it needs to be improved on, and quickly. “Our jobs, our businesses, and our nation’s energy future depends on it.”

Press release

Why turn drug smugglers into heroes for our kids?

THE nauseating canonisation of executed convicted heroin smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran was well under way before their corpses had been returned to their families.

At Castle Hill High, the words “merciless”, “barbaric”, “futile” and “weak” were plastered on the noticeboard on Wednesday by principal Vicki Brewer after students ­expressed horror at the executions of Chan and Sukumaran, and six others in Indonesia.

“I think it’s affecting students and staff, they’ve been chilled by it, haunted by it and there’s been certainly a good deal of reflection and discussion about the ethical and moral dilemmas this has caused,” she told the Hills Shire Times.

According to Ms Brewer, “a number of students felt like they had a relationship with the young men because they had seen them on TV and seen their parents and families”.

“Because they had developed this relationship their death was so much more poignant and a number of ­students said to me the way they died — tied to a stake and shot — was especially draconian.”

Judging by the responses on social media, a lot of locals would prefer Ms Brewer to concentrate on teaching the basics — reading, writing and arithmetic — rather than ­dabble in social engineering or encourage youngsters to think they are engaged in ­relationships with drug ­smugglers.

Keith thought that: “through this comment the school is promoting these two criminals as ‘heroes’. Gosh, wonder how many students in this school will engage in drug dealing over the next 10 years to emulate their ‘heroes’. Also, is it appropriate for the school to demean Indonesia in the public arena? Rightly or wrongly, these two criminals were caught organising drug trafficking in a country which has legitimately warned about the consequences for drug trafficking.”

Mel17 was of the same mind, saying: “The thoughts of a bleeding heart principal should not be shoved down the throats of an entire school population. Different people have different opinions on this matter and I’m sick of teachers forcing their opinions on this and a whole variety of issues onto their students. Stick to the curriculum and that’s it.”

Jo56 agreed, saying “schools should teach, not indoctrinate. The idea that the students had a relationship with the two executed is laughable. It’s the same as the kids’ ‘relationship’ with celebrities. Non-existent and only in their heads ...”

But the puerile fantasies of a suburban high school teacher were just an indication of what the education sector has become.

Vice-Chancellor Greg Craven of the Australian Catholic University announced that two full tuition scholarships (equivalent to up to four years fees) would be set up for international students from Indonesia in the criminals’ names.

Candidates would be required to submit an essay on the theme of the sanctity of human life.

Going by their public comments, the two dead smack peddlers would not have made the cut.

Chan and Sukumaran — who were attempting to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin, ­valued at around $4 million, into Australia — were professionals who themselves showed zero regard for the sanctity of human life.

It was Chan’s third run, one successful, one aborted, and, bingo, total failure.  Sukumaran was more unlucky. It was his first attempt to make a big score.

In 2010 Chan told SBS that he hadn’t given a thought about the consequences of his actions — it was all about the cold, hard cash.

“I don’t think I was really going anywhere in life. I don’t think, you know, I was achieving too much, even though I had a stable job and all. Yes, I don’t think I was really heading anywhere, to be honest, you know, I’ve used drugs myself. I was a drug user.

“You know, I know what it feels like to — to be, you know, one of them junkies walking on the street I guess ... You don’t think too much about. I didn’t anyway.

“You know, most people think yeah, you would, but I didn’t. It wasn’t — more or less for me it was just a quick payday, that’s it. Just think to yourself, quick payday, that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.”

A quick payday, that’s it.  Sukumaran was just as greedy. He told SBS that he, too, was in it for the cash.

After being approached by a university friend who took him for a lavish dinner, he was sucked in by pure greed.

“It was kind of funny to me, like, they pay for dinner and the nightclub afterwards and stuff like that, so I was like ‘Yeah’ ... it’s just the lifestyle, all the people that were living, you know, you want to be like those people, get the girls like those people, and I was hoping to buy a car, hoping to start a business.

“Those are the sort of the things like I didn’t see, like, myself working in the mail room for the next 50 years of my life. I thought, ‘no, I can’t do this’, then you see all these people like in night clubs with nice BMWs and nice Mercedes and there’s always chicks there, and they was buying drinks for everyone and you think, ‘f ..., how do you do this on a mailroom salary’?”

Had Chan and Sukumaran succeeded, they would doubtless have been smugly driving around in Ferraris or Porsches and thinking what a great life it was bringing drugs into Australia to sell to vulnerable kids. Perhaps Ms Brewer’s pupils.

Then, of course, there would have been no thought (or need) for either to look to religion or the arts to bring meaning to their lives.

It’s simply naive to venerate them like a couple of Mother Teresas for finding Christianity — as Fairfax writer Michael Bachelard wrote under the headline “Myuran Sukumaran: the good man I got to know” — for redemption. There ain’t a convict anywhere who doesn’t, once incarcerated, find God or some means of showing that he’s given up his bad old ways and become a good guy.

As detestable as the Indonesian government’s handling of the execution process has been, there are two points which are indisputable.

The first is that Indonesia is a sovereign nation with extremely well-publicised penalties, including execution, for drug offences.

The second is that this pair were guilty.

As usual, a moronic band of brainless entertainers made absolute fools of themselves with a four-and-a-half-minute expose of their ignorance on the eve of the execution in a video (no longer linked through Fairfax but still on the web) titled Save Our Boys, Mr Abbott.

A parade of faces someone might recognise read scripted lines calling for Prime Minister Tony Abbott to fly to Indonesia, to get tough (presumably with Indonesia), and to apply sanctions (again, presumably against Indonesia) — as if Australians were so exceptional that they were to be exempted from the penalties that apply to breaking laws abroad.

Immediately after the executions were carried out, the Labor Party attempted to politicise the matter with absurdly false claims about directions to the Australian Federal Police.

Victorian judge Lex Lasry called for a group of eminent persons to lobby governments in countries such as Indonesia and the US to persuade them to end their use of the death penalty.

It is estimated that China executes thousands every year, the numbers in Iran run into the hundreds, Iraq is believed to have executed more than 160 last year, Saudi Arabia 79, North Korea 70 and the US 39. Justice Lasry should take his campaign to Beijing.

If Australia’s empathetic headmistresses and pseudo-celebrities want the Indonesians to stop executing young Australians, they should start by getting young Australians to stop taking drugs.


Islamic State: Medical Board of Australia takes action over doctor Tareq Kamleh's decision to join militant group

The Medical Board of Australia (MBA) is investigating West Australian doctor Tareq Kamleh, after he appeared in a propaganda video for the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group urging other medical professionals to join him in Syria.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) took the unusual step of releasing a statement late on Friday confirming the MBA had taken regulatory action in relation to Dr Kamleh's medical registration.

In the statement, the AHPRA said it would continue to liaise with the Australian Federal Police in relation to the issue.

The medical regulator also warned other health workers considering travelling to IS-controlled areas that it is an offence to enter a declared area, and that doing so could have a direct and immediate impact on their registration in Australia.

In a video posted last week promoting an IS health service, Dr Kamleh identified himself as Abu Yusuf and called on other medical professionals to join him in Syria.

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Dr Kamleh's decision to join the terrorist group has drawn widespread condemnation from politicians and his former colleagues, who said they were appalled and horrified by his actions.

The 29-year-old graduated from Adelaide University with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 2010 and has worked at hospitals around the country including in Mackay, Adelaide and Alice Springs.

He is the first known Australian health worker to travel to the Middle East to join IS.

The AHPRA said it felt the need to confirm the investigation to uphold professional standards and maintain public confidence in the regulated health industry.

"We protect the health and safety of the public by ensuring that only health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified to practise in a competent and ethical manner are registered, it said.

"To protect the integrity of its ongoing work, and the efforts of other authorities, no further comment can be made at this time."

Under section 119.2 of the Criminal Code, a person who enters or remains in a declared area without a legitimate purpose faces a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.


4 May, 2015

The Bali Nine: a history of Crime

A lot of people seem to have forgotten that Chan and Sukumuran were career drug smugglers. The following article from the Daily Mail Australia last December outlines some of the bastardry that these grubs got up to.

I'm sure that there were other 'deals' that have been disregarded or not discovered but no one should underestimate the damage they have done to Australian society through their get rich quick schemes.

They knew exactly what they were doing and rightly paid the price  set down by the Indonesian Government. Hopefully it will deter other like-minded idiots. As for their repentance and rehabilitation - give me a break!

Bali Nine drug kingpin Andrew Chan, who is facing death by firing squad in Indonesia, masterminded another international heroin smuggling attempt out of Hong Kong - but the operation failed, resulting in three young Australians being jailed.

Daily Mail Australia can reveal for the first time that Chan enlisted Sydney teenager Rachel Diaz, 17, and Chris Vo, 15, both from western Sydney, as drug couriers to smuggle $1 million worth of heroin in condoms, which they were to swallow in Hong Kong and bring back to Australia.

The Hong Kong deal was to run at the same time as the Bali Nine operation - when Chan, Myuran Sukumuran and seven Australian mules were arrested, some with the drugs strapped to their bodies.

It can also be revealed that after his own arrest, Chan wrote a letter to Diaz in Hong Kong, ordering her to keep her mouth shut.

Chan, who Indonesian police called 'The Godfather' when they arrested him, was a key organiser of the Australian end of the smuggling and distribution network, which was detailed in the Hong Kong court during Diaz's trial and described as a 'predatory crime syndicate'.

In just two weeks in April 2005, the syndicate was responsible for the arrest, and later the incarceration, of 17 young Australians for heroin trafficking in three countries.

Diaz, Vo and their minder Hutchinson Tran, 22, were arrested in a low budget Hong Kong hotel room on April 12, 2005.

They were found with 114 condoms filled with up to 1kg of heroin - but Diaz had had second thoughts about taking part in the operation, for which they were to be paid $200 for each 5cm-long condom they ingested.

Diaz's father Ferdinand failed to get his daughter released on bail and 12 months after her arrest, she was sentenced to 10 years and eight months. Vo, by then 16, received nine years, and Tran got 13 years and four months.

All have since been released, with Diaz serving out the majority of her sentence in a NSW women's prison after being transferred in February 2009 under the International Transfer of Prisoners' Act.

Five days after her arrest, Bali police arrested Chan, Sukumaran and their mules Renae Lawrence, Martin Stephens, Scott Rush, Si Yi Chen, Matthew Norman, Michael Czugaj and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen. The seven couriers recruited by Chan and Sukumaran have all received sentences ranging from 18 years to life.

Both the Bali Nine and the Hong Kong drug smuggling deals were connected with a third, lesser-known attempted heroin importation in which Chan and Sukumaran conspired with four young Brisbane people.

Daily Mail Australia can also reveal that in the lead up to the Bali Nine and the Hong Kong operations Chan and Sukumaran visited a young Korean-Australian who was later arrested and charged over the Hong Kong conspiracy following the arrest of Diaz, Vo and Tran.

A Korean-Australian and a co-conspirator were charged with plotting to import the packages of heroin that Diaz and 15-year-old Vo were meant to swallow.

Chan visited the Korean-Australian at least three times in different NSW prisons and once with Sukumaran in late 2004, just before the two made two 'practice' runs to Indonesia with several of the future Bali Nine couriers, including Renae Lawrence, and successfully returned to Australia with heroin strapped to their bodies.

Chan, who was a manager at a Sydney catering company, duped three of his staff - Lawrence, Norman and Stephens - into becoming mules, promising them thousands of dollars in return.

Following the arrests in Hong Kong and Bali within days of each other - and a series of other arrests in Sydney and Brisbane just days later - police said the Bali Nine had no connection with the Diaz case.

However, detectives have exclusively revealed that Chan was in contact with Diaz for months and all three trafficking deals were connected to a Sydney-based Chinese drug smuggling syndicate which had links to Myanmar.

Chan, who has found God in prison, was regularly visiting another convicted drug dealer in prison as he was conspiring to commit the Bali Nine deal.

Diaz and Vo were recruited to go to Hong Kong as drug mules, police say, on the promise of $6000 or $7000 for a single trip.

Diaz, a trainee hairdresser with churchgoing Filipino migrant parents, and Vo, a McDonald's worker and son of a single mother of Vietnamese origin, came from modest income families in western Sydney.  Neither had previously known connections with drug syndicates, nor had they met before they flew out from Sydney to Hong Kong in April 2005.

Diaz's parents, Ferdinand and Maria, believed she was having a sleep-over at a friend's house and then reported her missing when she failed to return.

On the day she and Vo were due home, April 13, police believe the Korean-Australian went to Sydney Airport to collect them, armed with three packets of laxatives.

Diaz and Vo were in a room at the Imperial Hotel, in Hong Long's Tsim Sha Tsui backpacker district, with the 114 heroin-filled condoms, supplied by Hutchinson Tran, when police burst in.

Vo was prepared to swallow 30 packages but Diaz had apparently reconsidered, realising they could burst inside her stomach during the eight-hour flight back to Sydney.

Meanwhile, four Australians from Brisbane - aged 24, 22, 18, and 19, had been arrested in Brisbane and charged with conspiring with Chan and Sukumaran of conspiring to import heroin to Australia.

A fifth, Khanh Thanh Ly, 24, was arrested in Sydney. Ly subsequently pleaded guilty, but said he was only a 'run around' in the gang whose members included Sukumaran, and was never paid but did it for the 'glamour' and entrees to parties and clubs.

The Bali Nine incident was linked to one of the world's biggest drug syndicates, Crescent Moon, which has smuggled large quantities of heroin from Myanmar (Burma) to Western countries.

Chan has admitted he saw the Bali Nine deal as a 'quick pay day'. He has never spoken about his involvement in the Hong Kong deal.


Leftist government corruption exposed in NT

The southern states and the federal government could learn a lot from the manner in which the Northern Territory is starting to drain the swamp of Labor crocodiles.

Last Sunday NT Labor ­Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie resigned after police plans to establish a special unit to ­investigate her for possible breaches of criminal law relating to an underhand property deal were revealed.

The scam was a simple plan.

On its last day in power the former NT Labor government gave Unions NT a 10-year, rent-free lease to a $3 million Darwin property for $442 (GST included) despite objections from the Lands Department, which wanted the site to be put to tender.

Known locally as Stella Maris, the name of the former mission to seamen which existed there prior to 2007, the scandal has not only sunk Lawrie, it has brought into disrepute the outgoing president of the NT Bar Association, Alistair Wyvill, the former president of NT Labor, and ALP Senate candidate Matthew Gardiner (who was reportedly involved in the Syrian conflict), another former president of Labor NT Cathy Spurr, former lands minister Gerry McCarthy and a raft of Labor MPs and advisers and strategists.

The particularly smelly deal was investigated by Commissioner John Lawler, former CEO of the Australian Crime Commission, and a former federal police officer.

He was scathing in his findings, noting inter alia, that the Lands Department “believed there was an expectation to make the lease offer before the pre-election government caretaker period commenced on 6 August, 2012, and, given the ­official Cabinet direction, acted with undue haste in processing Unions NT’s flawed community land grant application.

“This led to the department breaching its own processes for dealing with community land grants,” he said in his findings.

“The grant application the department processed was ­inaccurate, three years out of date and did not document Unions NT’s true intentions for the site.”

He then went through each minister, finding McCarthy did not act with accountability, ­responsibility or with proper consideration of those likely to be affected by his decision.

Lawrie, he said, acted with bias towards Unions NT “over many years”.

Indeed, he said it was ­"unlikely the submission would have gone to that Cabinet meeting or that the letter of offer would have been made on 3 August, 2012, without minister Lawrie’s intervention”.

Nor did he miss Unions NT, which he said submitted an ­application to McCarthy and Lawrie which “did not have a proper factual basis, was misleading and exaggerated” and also misrepresented the relationship between the Seafarer’s Union and the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS), which had run the site between 1979 and 2003.

Instead of copping it, Lawrie protested to the NT Supreme Court that she had been ­denied fair process by Commissioner Lawler.

Lawrie lost that one, too, with Justice Stephen Southwood rejecting that view in the strongest terms.

In his findings he accepted that “Lawrie and her lawyers engaged in a deceptive strategy to ignore, disengage and discredit” the Lawler inquiry.

He found Lawrie approved the sending of a letter to Commissioner Lawler containing material that was “deliberately and knowingly false”.

The former president of the Law Council of Australia dismissed Lawrie’s claims. The former journalist and former media union officer was found, with her lawyers, to have ­engaged in a “conscious and deliberate strategy” to make “false” and “completely baseless allegations” against Commissioner Lawler to discredit the “ugly” report that was to be the end result of his inquiry.

But it was the land deal at the heart of the Stella Maris case that revealed the nature of NT Labor — a scheme with benefits for the trade union movement with similarities to the Centenary House “rent rort” that Labor ran in Canberra for more than decade, and the relocation by the Gillard government of the Commonwealth Parliament’s Sydney offices, again to the benefit of the union movement, which should ring bells for readers.

Centenary House, owned by John Curtin House Ltd, was the subject of two royal commissions before being sold for around $35 million in 2005.

The first commission, set up by Labor prime minister Paul Keating, found the rents to government departments, including the Audit Office, were not excessive. The second, set up by Liberal prime minister John Howard, found the original ­inquiry was inadequate.

It found the rent was excessive and should not have been entered into by a prudent ­government.

Commissioner David Hunt, QC, said the lease was $42 million above market rates and that, while there was “no undue influence, unfair pressure or unfair tactics” over the rent deal, the terms of lease to the Audit Office were “exceptionally beneficial” to the ALP, not “reasonable or prudent”, and out of line with the market.

He also criticised the Audit Office and Department of ­Finance for their failure to investigate the Centenary House lease before it was signed.

In August, 2011, Gillard cut the ribbon at the opening of 1 Bligh Street, one of the Sydney’s most expensive office towers, and moved the Commonwealth offices into the building, part-owned by the construction union’s super fund, Cbus.

Real estate experts said the move would at least double the rent paid by the taxpayers to about $6 million a year.

There was nothing wrong with the government’s former Phillip St accommodation but neither Labor nor the union movement had a cut of the rent.


ABC’s Labor-sympathizing interviewers come a cropper

In a bizarre form of tag-team interrogation, four senior ABC interviewers attempted to trap Environment Minister Greg Hunt on the government’s emission reduction fund (ERF) in a series of interviews over five days.

Whether it was coincidence or through some sort of group-think within the political secretariat of the nation’s monolithic taxpayer-funded broadcaster, the effort lent credibility to the view that the ABC is the ALP’s propaganda arm. In terms of achieving a “gotcha” moment, it failed on every count.

Melbourne ABC 774’s Rafael Epstein was the first to bat just over a week ago, on April 23.This is how he began: “Just trying to make it understandable for both myself and everyone else, am I right in saying that you’ve purchased a fifth of the emissions you need to purchase using a quarter of your money? Is that roughly right?

Hunt’s response was simple: “No, it’s completely false.”

And so it went.

The facts about the ERF, Hunt said, were simple. The Abbott government had abolished the carbon tax and electricity prices dropped.

The government then passed the ERF and the Labor Party and many of their fellow critics insisted that there would be no demand under the fund. The fund is an incentive based payment through an auction process — a market-based mechanism — to find the cheapest emissions reduction project in the country; directly cleaning things up.

The first auction was conducted by the Clean Energy Regulator which announced that 47 million tonnes of emissions reductions projects had been awarded.

That’s four times the total volume of emissions reduction which occurred under the entire period of Labor’s failed carbon tax.

The price per tonne was $13.95, or less than one-ninetieth, or about 1.1 per cent of the average price of emissions reductions of $1,300 under the carbon tax.

Hunt said Epstein had begun his interview with points from the Labor Party’s presentation, which Epstein passionately denied.

He then pointed out that Epstein’s assumptions generally were wrong.

Next to engage the minister was the 7.30 Report’s Leigh Sales that evening. She should have done more homework.

“Minister,” she began, “with this first auction today you’ve spent about 25 per cent of your budget to reach about 15 per cent of your goal. Doesn’t that demonstrate that your policy’s not going to be enough to meet Australia’s emission reduction targets?

Hunt’s whacked that claim out of the ground, saying: “No, with respect, the presumptions in your question are quite wrong.”

He then gave the figures he had smashed Epstein with earlier in the day.

Sales was on the backfoot and spluttering “but…” before she managed to make another claim: “Minister, if you can address my point, at $13.95 per tonne, the amount set today, given that you have $2.55 billion to spend, you will fall short of Australia’s targets by about 57 million tonnes.”

Hunt responded: “No, that’s false.” Not going to let go, as wrong as she was, Sales came back with: “Minister, with this - with this policy — let’s talk about the current policy. Let’s talk about the current policy. With this policy, taxpayers are paying polluters not to pollute.” She was wrong again, as Hunt replied: “Well that’s false.” Undeterred, Sales tried a different tack, asking the minister to submit the figures to an independent audit so that “we can see firstly if the promised abatement happens, and secondly, if it’s value for money?”

Unfortunately, as Hunt pointed out, such an audit has already been conducted. Deloitte signed off on the first round of audit.

Floundering, Sales protested: Is it going to keep happening? Because we need to know if people are delivering what they’re promising that they’re going to be delivering for this money. The answer, Hunt said, is of course. The independent probity audit had been present throughout the whole process at his request.

Even the Labor-aligned Climate Institute has admitted the process has produced fine examples of emissions reduction but that is not the point for the ABC’s political warriors who failed to pursue Labor when it launched its disastrous policies of pink batts, green loans, cash for clunkers and the carbon tax experiment which failed to reduce emissions, but cost Australians $15 billion.

Sales failed, she needed constant correction and her analysis was fundamentally wrong. Not that she was alone in that, as the next of the ABC’s interrogators, Radio National’s Ellen Fanning, found on April 24 and ABC’s 702 presenter Linda Mottram discovered just a few days ago on April 28.

Of the four presenters, Mottram was most persistent in parroting Labor lines, as Hunt noted in his pithy replies, over her protestations.  She began with the proposition that “the other big issue for you in the past week or so has been the first option paying firms not to pollute…”

Not a good place to start at all, according to Hunt,who said: “No that’s the ALP’s language and of course that is deeply politically loaded and…”

He was interrupted by Mottram who asked: “But it’s true isn’t it?”

And again, Hunt was able to inform yet another ABC star: “No it’s false.”

In between interruptions from Mottram, Hunt managed to state the obvious: “The ABC uses… ALP’s language… they don’t use unloaded… language.” It’s the ALP’s language that the ABC uses all the time, Hunt said, the national broadcaster never uses the language of the conservatives.

As for the substance of the interview, Hunt said Mottram “couldn’t be more wrong. Couldn’t be more wrong.”

As one would expect of an organisation which follows an ABC script.


Policy gulf widens between Bill Shorten and deputy Tanya Plibersek

Despite facing criticism from her party colleagues this week, Ms Plibersek stood by her position that all Labor MPs should be ­compelled to vote for same-sex marriage and said she would fight for this to be enshrined in the party’s platform at the national conference in July. “I respect their view (but) I have a different view,” Ms Plibersek said. “I think this is a natural next step for us. I don’t agree that discrimination against one group in our community, when it comes to their legal status and rights, is ­acceptable. And I’ll make that case at conference.”

Ms Plibersek described her ­relationship with the Opposition Leader as “very good” but made no apology for engaging in robust ­internal debate on policy and structural reform. She supports members having a vote in upper-house preselections and advocated local party members voting for national conference delegates, in contrast to Mr Shorten’s position.

She also disagreed with Mr Shorten on rewriting the party’s 1921 socialist objective, saying it should not be changed. Although Ms Plibersek supports the party’s union link, she added that it was time members had a bigger say. “Genuine involvement of union rank-and-file members is important, making sure that it is not just leaders of unions deciding en bloc about issues,” she said.

As Labor activists push for a more “pro-Palestinian” policy and criticism of Israel percolates through local branches, Ms Plibersek said she would steer a middle course on Middle East policy. “I support a secure Israel with internationally recognised borders and a secure state of Palestine that has economic viability and ­security as well,” she said. “How we achieve that is the thing that is being debated in the Labor Party right now, not whether we support a two-state solution.”

On the government’s foreign policy, Ms Plibersek offered support for its handling of the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine, ­national-security laws and the Iraq commitment. But she lashed out at cuts to the aid budget, attacked the lack of leadership on climate change and said the confusion over the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was “perplexing”. She affirmed Labor’s preference for multilateral approaches to foreign policy, especially the UN, and criticised Ms Bishop for not capitalising on Australia’s temporary membership of the ­Security Council.

“I am not sure that she made the most of it,” Ms Plibersek said.

Asked if she would like to ­become Labor leader one day, Ms Plibersek dismissed the suggestion. “My focus is on us as a group being able to return to government and that is my only focus.”


Australia does new universities well

Australia has more world-class universities opened in the past 50 years ago than any other nation, with 16 in the top 100 worldwide and seven in the top 50, according to a survey released today.

The University of Technology, Sydney, tops the list of Australian universities, sitting in 21st spot ­internationally, according to the Times Higher Education Top 100 Under 50 2015 rankings.

The ranking compares universities established in or after 1965. UTS, which jumped 26 places from 47th in the rankings last year, leapfrogged the universities of Newcastle and Wollongong and the Queensland University of Technology to claim top spot.

“The ranking shows something really positive, which is that Australia has the Group of Eight up there holding their own in the traditional rankings, but it also has strength and depth further down,” said Times Higher Educa­tion’s rankings editor Phil Baty.

“That is different to the UK and the US, which have the very best universities in the world, but they also have a very long tail of very poor ones. That’s not the case in Australia.”

UTS vice-chancellor Attila Brungs said the improvement in its ranking was “a result of work we started doing around research and international partnerships in 2009. We are bearing the fruits of efforts planted quite a few years ago.”

Australia’s performance has raised questions about the govern­ment’s higher-education reform agenda — which is currently on ice after being knocked back twice in the Senate.

Mr Baty said the apparent strength of the sector called into question elements of the government’s reforms, including tuition-fee deregulation.

“Deregulated fees would put a bigger gap ­between the very best and the rest,” he said.

Linda Kristjanson, the vice-chancellor of Swinburne University, which entered the top 100 for the first time at 65, said the rankings confirmed the strength of the Australian sector. “It should cause us to continue to critically evaluate proposed changes which would radically alter the policy and funding settings on which this success has been built,” Professor Kristjanson said.


3 May, 2015

Kuranda range railway and tunnels:  Some reminiscences from an old-timer

The railway line up the mountains from Cairns in Far North Queensland to Kuranda at the top of the range was a considerable engineering feat in the early days.  Kuranda was something of a stamping ground for my family in the early 20th century so I like to record what I can about the history of the era.  A report of a life in those times has come my way that is fairly vivid so I reproduce it below. 

The language and attitudes of the old-timer  who wrote it remain as they were in his youth -- so that by itself is of some interest. I therefore leave it unaltered and unexpurgated. I did however tidy up the spelling, paragraphing and punctuation. As I myself am in my 8th decade, I can personally remember when such language was normal in those parts.  For reference, "boong" is an Australian slang term for an Aborigine and "murri" is a local term for a paricular Aboriginal group.  I remember "boori" also being used -- for the Kuranda Aborigines.  All three terms would appear to be versions of names used by Aborigines for themselves.

Without getting too inflated about it, I think the report below has some sociological as well as historical interest.  I should perhaps note that -- contrary to what Leftists undoubtedly imagine -- relationships between Aborigines and whites in those days were peaceful. Each group went their own way, with both being amused by the other.  I think that an amused rather than hostile attitude does come through in the report below. 

There's a leisurely video of a trip on the railway line concerned here.  I have myself done that trip many times over the years

Great engineering feat this line.  They lost a lot of workers,  mainly to disease I believe. 

When I was going to high school and living at  Redlynch we used to climb up to No 9 Tunnel, I think it was, just near Stony Creek falls. I could be wrong.  We used to go up through the boong's camp near Kamerunga. 

There is an old gold mine up behind the old camp at Redlynch but I don't know if anyone got any gold out of it.  We went in to it a few times and it was full of bats and used to stink like a coon's jockstrap.   The type of quartz  rock in the mullock heaps around the mine looked like gold bearing stuff, not that I am an expert.

Heights never used to worry me but I have a morbid fear of high places nowadays which I think is a result of one of our treks up to No 9 tunnel.  We had to climb over a pretty sheer cliff, hand over hand, and for some reason I froze halfway across despite having climbed over it a number of times.   Lucky one of the high school kids I was with kept pushing me to keep moving or I might have fallen probably a good 100 feet.   Been shit scared of heights ever since.

There used to be a track up from the Southern side of Stony Creek Bridge to the top of the falls where they had made a cement type weir, probably done when the line was being built, it was a pretty good swimming spot.  

We used to walk across the bridge and some times had to run like shit to get off because we thought it was a train coming but nine times out of ten it was a rail gang  on what I if my memory serves me correctly was called a Fairmont Motor. [See here]

I remember we were trying to get a rail pump car on the line with the intention of riding it down the line to Redlynch from Stony Creek. Good thing we got caught before we could get it on the line or we could have killed ourselves or caused a derailment.  

I remember the bloke Edwards, the local ganger, was going to kick our arses if he caught us with in a bulls roar of any rail equipment.   We got the message because he would have carried it out had we been caught again.  

If there is gold up the back of Redlynch the murries will be in there claiming land rights.  It would not be the original tribe it would be half cast blow-ins.  Most of the blacks out there spent their time getting pissed, fighting among themselves and burning the caravans supplied to them by the Government of the day. 

That was a joke, they gave them new caravans to live in which they pulled to bits for wood for the fires and remained camped in their humpies.   The only thing that was left was the steel chassis because they couldn't burn them. I think the tyres went up as well.  

My mother and the women over the road used to watch a gin planting something in the cane field along Kamerunga road about a k from Redlynch and go up to the pub get on the piss and come back and pick up the package form the cane field hours later.  

Mum and old Etty Edwards from across the road decided to go up and check out what she was leaving in the cane paddock for most of the day and it turned out to be a baby.  

They called the police who came out and took the child away, how it survived I will never know.   If they took the child nowadays all hell would break loose:  The good old days before politically correct bullshit came along.

‘We should allow them to express their anti-Semitism’: University of Sydney staff

Hitler's heirs are with us at the University of Sydney.  History has no lessons for Leftists

UNIVERSITY of Sydney staff have argued for ISIS supporters, including controversial Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, to be given a platform on campus “to express their anti-Semitism” in the name of free speech.

The comments came in a heated email exchange between arts staff, who were responding to an open letter sent by academics Stuart Rees, Nick Riemer and David Brophy.

The trio were calling on the university to drop all charges against staff and students arising from a pro-Palestinian protest last month, when a group from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement disrupted a talk by former British colonel Richard Kemp.

Professor Jake Lynch, who remonstrated with security guards when they tried to remove the students, was accused of anti-Semitism for allegedly waving money in an elderly woman’s face.

He was cleared by the university of charges of anti-Semitism following an internal investigation, although he and 12 other protesters, including the five students, still face potential disciplinary action.

In an open letter titled ‘Serious threat to intellectual freedom and civil liberties on campus’, the group reiterated the BDS movement’s opposition to a ban last year on Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar, who was invited by the Muslim Students’ Association to speak at a campus Q&A on September 11.

“Perhaps, if the university was less selective in the speakers it offers platforms, there’d be less motivation for protests like the one at the Kemp lecture,” Professor Riemer wrote.

A number of staff objected to Professor Riemer drawing equivalence between Hizb ut-Tahrir and the speech by Colonel Kemp, who was speaking on the ethics of tactics in counterinsurgency operations.

Associate Professor Bronwyn Winter, taking issue with Professor Riemer’s email, wrote: “Just in case people didn’t know, Uthman Badar is a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is an explicitly political movement the goal of which is to reinstall a caliphate and to do so worldwide. I won’t get stated on the group’s attitudes to women.

“This is part of the Islamist extreme-right, it is to the Muslim world what Nazism was to Europe in the 1930s and 1940s and indeed still is. To organise a speaker from this group on the anniversary of 9/11 is at the very least in extremely poor taste and at worst highly offensive to many.”

Professor Winter said while she didn’t support Kemp’s views, “although he is right wing he is nowhere near in the same league as the people to whom Riemer et al appear to be giving at least tacit support”.

In reply, Professor Riemer wrote: “Bronwyn, your statement that Badar crosses a line much more clearly than Kemp simply reflects one possible evaluation of the difference between them.”

Dr Wendy Lambourne from Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies also disagreed with the stance. “Sorry Nick, but free speech should not include hate speech and incitement to violence,” she wrote. “That is the distinction and yes, it’s not always clear-cut, but I agree with Bronwyn that the line has to be drawn somewhere. Unfettered free speech is dangerous.”

Asked if an IS supporter should be allowed to “express their anti-Semitism” and give a lecture about why the west is wrong and they are right, lecturer and fellow BDS supporter Yarran Hominh wrote: “I would say yes, we should ‘allow’ them to express their anti-Semitism — within bounds, of course.”

But he added that the question “reveals a deeper issue, which is namely why Richard Kemp was invited in the first place”. “Inviting such a speaker, as would inviting an anti-Semitic IS supporter to speak, seems to me to invite polarisation of the sort that is to my mind not conducive to a proper discussion of the issues,” he said.

A number of other staff spoke out against the BDS supporters, including Dr Gil Merom from the School of Social & Political Sciences, Dr Lionel Babicz from the Department of Japanese Studies and Professor Wojciech Sadurski from the School of Law.

“This global movement [Hizb ut-Tahrir] and its local chapter support the ‘freedom’ of Australians to join fighting in Syria (ISIL included), underage girl-marriage (to adults), and Jihad against Jews. The local chapter also complains about the vilification of ISIL,” Dr Merom wrote.

“Who else in Arts thinks that we should ‘allow’ ‘anti-Semitic IS supporters’ (or for that matter misogyny peddlers, Islamophobes, homophobes, anti-Asian and other racists) to express their misogyny/anti-Semitism/Islamophbia/homophobia/anti-Asian racism — within bounds, of course?”

Dr Babicz questioned the behaviour of the protesters. “No one is threatening intellectual freedom and civil liberties on campus, except a small group of activists who think they detain the truth,” he wrote.

“As they are so marginal, they are trying to shut down any opposition to their views. As they are so insignificant, they claim to martyrdom when the university decides rightfully to investigate their conduct.

“No one has ever challenged their right to express their views, no matter how distorted many decent people may find them. What we do challenge is their conduct. Brutally shutting down an officially invited guest of the university, even though you are allowed to protest outside of the talk room and ask all the questions you wish in the Q&A part, is not intellectual freedom.”

Professor Sadurski weighed in, likening the behaviour of protesters to neo-Nazis. “The authors of [the initial email] state, seemingly with admiration: ‘Students around the world, for their part, routinely interrupt political talks at universities.’ As a statement of fact, it is correct,” he said.

“In my home country, over the past years young people from the extreme right (including students), some with clearly neo-Nazi predilections, successfully interrupted lectures and speeches by prominent left-wing and/or liberal speakers.

“There is no room, at the University, for administrative censorship and speech control. There is no room for heckler’s veto either.”


Protesters shut down Melbourne city centre and warn more chaos to come

Demonstrating against a governmernt on the other side of the continent?  They know how far they would get in W.A.  And they knew that the newly-elected far-Left government of Victoria would do nothing to protect the public from them. This is just protesting for the sake of protesting

PROTESTERS who shut down the central city for three hours vow it won’t be the last time they cause peak-hour commuter chaos.

For the second time in three weeks, hundreds of thousands of people trying to get home on Friday were severely inconvenienced as an angry throng of more than 12,000 people jammed the streets.

Demonstrators voiced their concerns in what they called a “proud expression of Aboriginal sovereignty’’ and a signal to governments not to scale back support services in remote ­Aboriginal communities.

But the message fell on deaf ears for many annoyed commuters as the CBD’s main thoroughfares came to halt.  Friday night football fans were among those caught up in the gridlock.

Trams were blocked travelling down Swanston, Elizabeth, Collins and Bourke streets and St Kilda Rd as thousands raised banners and chanted outside Melbourne Town Hall.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said this sort of protest must not become the norm.  “Shutting down the city for two hours and inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of people trying to get home and 80,000 trying to get to the MCG is not the way to win sympathy or support for a cause,” Cr Doyle said.  “This smacks of a protest for the protesters, by the protesters, and not about the views of the wider community.”

Protesters want Western Australia to dump a plan to strip back support for remote Aboriginal communities, and the Federal Government to do more to support indigenous Australians.

But when asked to name a specific community under threat, or the political leaders responsible for policy decisions, some protesters were stumped. “With the amount of issues I follow worldwide, you couldn’t expect anyone to ­remember the specifics like that,’’ said one.

The fight comes despite WA Premier Colin Barnett’s suggestion that a “hub and orbit’’ strategy would leave some communities larger and better resourced, and the Northern Territory Government’s announcement of a 10- year strategy to boost education in the Outback.

Mr Murray said the rally in Melbourne and others around Australia would grow bigger.  “We will continue these protests for as long as it takes, until the (WA) Government backs down.  “We are going to keep it up, right through winter if we have to and into summer. We are in for the long haul.

“(The protests) will be as big as they can get each time. We will build on it and we will change our tactics. We need to look at other angles apart from just hitting the streets.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said he supported the right to protest but it was best done peacefully when Victoria Police “have been properly consulted”.


Are you now or have you ever been a climate contrarian?

The fury over Bjorn Lomborg in Australia confirms the intolerance of Greens.  It's not enough to agree with their beliefs;  You must agree with their policies too

Once, it was Communists who were harassed on Western campuses. Now it’s contrarians. Specifically ‘climate contrarians’. The massive stink over Bjorn Lomborg being given Australian government funding to set up a climate-change centre at the University of Western Australia (UWA) shows that the spirit of McCarthyism lives on. Only now, its targets aren’t Reds, but anti-greens: anyone who dares to criticise either the science — sorry, The Science — or the politics of climate change.

Lomborg is the Danish-born author of the bestselling book The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001). He’s the rattler of greens across the globe with his claims that climate change is not the biggest problem facing humanity, and to the extent that it is a problem we should develop our way out of it rather than cutting back on fossil-fuel use and forcing everyone to live ‘sustainable lives’, which is only fancy code for eco-friendly poverty. So it was inevitable, given green hostility to any criticism of their creed, that Lomborg’s appointment at UWA would start a stir. But even by the standards of denier-denouncing environmentalists, the fury over Lomborg heading Down Under has been intense — and revealing.

Lomborg is being given $4million, apparently on the say so of Australian PM Tony Abbott himself, to set up and oversee the Australia Consensus Centre. It will be the new arm of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, the US-based think-tank Lomborg runs. No sooner had it been announced that Lomborg and his centre would be setting up shop at UWA than Aussie (and international) academics were spitting blood, and the liberal media Down Under were churning out pieces asking why the hell university space and cash were being given to someone who — horror of horrors — ‘downgrades climate change’. (Not denies it, you’ll note — just ‘downgrades’ it. It seems that even saying ‘I don’t think climate change is the most pressing issue in the world’ is now a sin that will earn you stinging demonisation.)

The Australia Guardian questions the fitness of Lomborg for university life. Green-leaning writers demand the Oz government ‘pull the plug’ on the Lomborg centre, outraged that it might argue that climate change should be ‘placed well down [the] list of global priorities’. At the UWA itself, academics and students held a meeting that one described as being ‘like a Rolling Stones concert’ (it was packed and heated), at which there was ‘riotous applause’ when staff called for UWA to ‘end [its] deal with the climate-change contrarian’. Rolling Stones gig, or mob? The UWA Student Guild joined with their professors to demand that UWA refuse to ‘engage controversial climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg’, on the basis that having him on campus would ‘harm UWA’s world-class reputation’. An online petition demands that, ‘In the name of science’, Lomborg should be rejected by UWA; it has more than 6,000 signatures.

Reading these very public denunciations of a man who has committed the sin of ‘contrarianism’ and who thus must be denied the oxygen of a university position, you get a sense of what it must have been like on some American campuses in the 1950s. Then, academics were asked ‘Are you now or have you even been a Communist?’; now gangs of raging professors, journalists and finger-jabbing students demand of them: ‘Are you now or have you ever been a climate-change contrarian?’ Much of the commentary on Lomborg’s appointment obsesses over funding his think-tank has received in the past, including from foundations ‘with links to’ various ‘vulture capitalists’. They’re painting a demented picture of Lomborg being a front, a mole, for a vast and sinister network of climate deniers, invading a prestigious university with his ‘dangerous views’ — just as surely as McCarthyites once presented very left-wing academics as the possibly Soviet-foisted corrupters of American campuses.

There’s also a palpable religious feel to the denunciations. That student-started petition calling for Lomborg to be kept off campus demands that this be done ‘In the name of science’. Once we had ‘In the name of the Lord’, now we have ‘In the name of science’. The terminology used to denounce those who question climate change, particularly ‘DENIER’, brings to mind dark, intolerant episodes from history when anyone who called into question the truth of the Bible or the authority of the Church was likewise hounded out of universities (think John Wycliffe, expelled from Oxford in 1382 for riling church elders).

The most striking thing about the Lomborg scandal in Australia is the invention of a new term of abuse: ‘climate contrarian’. This is how Lomborg is being referred to by all the metaphorical pitchfork-wielders. Why? Because he isn’t a climate-change denier. He has said repeatedly that he thinks climate change is real and needs to be tackled, just not in the way mainstream greens think it should. So here, explicitly, we can see that someone is being demonised not for being ‘anti-science’ — the usual, unconvincing justification for shutting down criticism of the politics of climate change — but simply for holding the allegedly wrong political and moral views, for daring to put forward an alternative policy vision for environmental problems. As the UWA Student Guild said, ‘While Dr Lomborg doesn’t refute climate change itself’, he does have a ‘controversial track record [as a] climate contrarian’. And we can’t have controversy on a campus, can we?

This scandal exposes the true intolerance of the eco-lobby, their real censorious urge — which is not merely to ringfence science from ridicule, which is bad enough, but to prevent the expression of contrarian ideas. For years, greens have presented themselves as merely the rational, reasoned defenders of science against gangs of charlatans, when in truth they were all about protecting an ideology: the ideology of no-growth, of anti-development, of anti-progress, of population control, of modern-day misanthropy, fortified with bits of science but really expressing an underlying, elitist, growing contempt for humanity and its achievements.

Now, in their assaults on Lomborg, their nakedly political censorship, their moral policing, their desire to deflect any criticism of their miserabilist, illiberal moral outlook, has been brilliantly exposed: they want to shut this man down, not because he denies scientific facts, but because he thinks differently to them. It is undiluted intolerance, and at a university too. Proof that the Western academy in the 21st century is giving the old heresy-hunting Church a run for its money in the bigotry-and-dogma stakes.


1 May, 2015

WWF criticizes Australia's land-clearing record

The article below overlooks much.  For instance, big traditonal logging areas such as the Atherton tableland and  S.E. Queensland have been off limits to the timber mills for some time.  So Australia imports most of its timber from S.E. Asia, where environmental management is haphazard, to put it mildly.  So on a global scale what Australian Greenies have achieved is net harm to the world environment.

Secondly, most of the land clearing has been scrub, Brigalow, Mulga etc --  stunted trees of very little economic usefulness -- sometimes called woody weeds.  But their clearing has not led to any loss of green cover, Scrub has been replaced by pasture or economically useful forests.  And, as a result of cultivation, the green cover has in fact become more intense.

Opinions will differ on whether a loss of "native reptiles" (etc.) is important but their preservation can in any case be ensured by setting aside limited areas for their habitat, and that has largely been done already.  We don't have to lock up the whole of the landscape for the purpose

When we think about global deforestation, certain hotspots spring to mind. The Amazon. The Congo. Borneo and Sumatra. And… eastern Australia?

Yes, eastern Australia is one of 11 regions highlighted in a new chapter of the WWF Living Forests report, “Saving forests at risk”, which identifies the world’s greatest deforestation fronts – where forests are most at risk – between now and 2030.

The report uses projections of recent rates of forest loss to estimate how much we are on track to lose over the next 15 years. The estimates for eastern Australia range from 3 million to 6 million hectares. In particular, it points the finger of blame at recent and foreshadowed changes to environmental legislation. These changes have already removed protections for well over a million hectares of Queensland’s native vegetation.

The WWF scenario is, of course, just a projection. This future need not come to pass. We can decide whether or not it happens. And it turns out that Australia has already formulated an alternative vision of the future. This vision contrasts starkly with the gloomy projections in WWF’s report.

Rhetoric in the right direction

Australia’s Native Vegetation Framework, endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in 2012, has five goals. Goal 1 is to “Increase the national extent and connectivity of native vegetation” – and according to the framework, we’ll do it by 2020. This turns out to be exactly what WWF is proposing: a goal of “Zero Net Deforestation and Forest Degradation” by 2020.

This seems perfectly aligned with Australia’s vision. So why is WWF putting Australia in the naughty corner?

Well, we are not yet practising what we preach. Australia’s rate of vegetation clearing still dwarfs our efforts to replant and restore bushland by much more than 100,000 hectares every year. This is mostly driven by vegetation loss in Queensland. And although these rates of loss were, until recently, slowing, recent reports suggest they have rebounded sharply.

In a recent article on The Conversation, we wrote of the alarming figures suggesting large increases in land clearing, which coincided with the changes to vegetation protections under the former Newman Government in Queensland. The state’s new Labor government is currently considering whether or not to revoke these changes. There have been suggestions that they may not reinstate the previous protections for native vegetation.

So to comply with our own national strategy, we have less than five years to turn around significant net deforestation, and actually start restoring more native vegetation than we clear – but the trend is in the wrong direction.

Land clearing the greatest threat

Australia’s Native Vegetation Framework recognises unambiguously the importance of native vegetation. It represents a clear, government-endorsed statement that halting the loss of native bushland cover is pivotal to sound environmental management.

Land clearing is the greatest current threat to Australia’s biodiversity, and is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, degradation and reduced water quality in waterways and estuaries, and dryland salinity.

For wildlife, land clearing means smaller and more fragmented populations, and such populations are more vulnerable to extinction. This is basic ecology. As habitat is lost, animals don’t simply move elsewhere or fly away. This solution was suggested in response to the impending loss of endangered black-throated finch habitat in Bimblebox Nature Refuge in Queensland as it is converted to a mine.

But where would the finches fly to? If there is other habitat left that is suitable, then chances are it’s already got its fill of finches. Simply put, less finch habitat equals fewer finches.

Even regrowth forest is critically important for many species. The iconic Brigalow woodlands of southeast Queensland can only be removed from the endangered list by protecting younger, regrowing stands.

But if allowed to mature for more than 30 years, these stands support bird species similar to those of remnant brigalow that has never been cleared. The abundance of native reptiles is also boosted by allowing brigalow regrowth to mature. In the most overcleared landscapes, regrowth vegetation contributes to the critical functions of maintaining soil integrity and even buffering against drought.

Time to choose our future

Most of the nations highlighted in the WWF report, such as Papua New Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are in a starkly different economic situation to Australia. At least some deforestation will be an inevitable part of their economic and social development.

Arguably, it is the responsibility of wealthier countries to help such nations to follow more-sustainable development pathways – though we will face many challenges in doing so. But should Australia, as a wealthy, developed economy, continue to rely on deforestation for our own development, we can hardly ask differently of others.

It is time to think about the end-game of land clearing in Australia, and what we are willing lose along the way. If we genuinely want to achieve a reversal of deforestation by 2020, then we need to see significant policy changes. And they need to happen now sooner rather than later.

So which future for us? Will we choose the path endorsed by Australia’s Native Vegetation Strategy, with the tradeoffs it requires, but also the lasting rewards it will bring?

Or will we sacrifice environmental sustainability for short-term gains, as underscored in the alarming projections of the WWF report? These are vital decisions with starkly different futures, and we can only hope that our state and federal governments make the right choices.


Idiocy and Free Speech

By JAMES ALLAN, Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland

No one disputes fired SBS soccer reporter Scott McIntyre's right to display his ignorance for all the world to see -- making a goose of yourself is, after all, a fundamental freedom. His defenders, however, are deplorable hypocrites, given that few if any saw fit to go to bat for Andrew Bolt

Let me start by being blunt.  I think the tweeting SBS soccer/football reporter Scott McIntyre is an idiot.  He describes the US move effectively to end World War II by dropping two atomic bombs on Japan as ‘the largest single day terrorist attacks in history’.  But that elides a criticism, a wrong-headed and sophomoric criticism by the way, of how a war is conducted with a description of people who do evil, vile things outside the confines of a war.

On top of that, McIntyre doesn’t know his history, or he would realise Little Boy and Fat Man may well have ended the war while causing fewer overall deaths than if the Allies had been obliged to fight their way into Japan inch-by-inch.  Those were the only two choices, unless the Allies wanted to call it a day and not defeat the Japanese. That sort of cost-benefit analysis is a wholly valid consideration in fighting a war, especially one that was triggered by the other side.  Of course you can agree with how the Americans opted to end the war, or you can disagree, but likening it to  a terrorist operation — you know, someone who goes into a school, separates the Muslims from the Christians, and then slaughters the latter — is idiotic.

So, at a risk of vulgarity, McIntyre doesn’t know his arse from the off-side rule on that one.

Then he tweeted about ‘widespread rape and theft’ committed by Anzac soldiers, and from the context he meant in both world wars.  Now the adjective ‘widespread’ here is bizarre. I know of no respected historian making that claim, nor of there being a scintilla of evidence for such a claim.  So, Scott the Tweeter, given that you’re referring to two world wars, how much raping and thieving would be needed for it to constitute ‘widespread’ in your view? Tens of thousands of incidents?  Thousands?  Again, this is a man who can’t distinguish a handball from a header.

Then there’s his cheap shot at ‘poorly read, largely white, nationalist drinkers and gamblers’.  He seems to wonder whether, on a day devoted to remembering Australia’s war dead, this category of people might also ‘pause to consider the horror that all mankind suffered’.  I suppose McIntyre’s point is that non-Australians suffered in these two wars too, indeed in all wars.  But does McIntyre honestly think white drinkers and gamblers are too dumb to realise that?  Does he think they don’t care?  Maybe it’s just that he reckons this demographic doesn’t care much for ‘the world’s game’ anyway, which is the only team sport on offer via the taxpayer-funded SBS, so no harm done in insulting them.  If he does think this group thinks soccer is boring, I have to confess I’m with all those drinkers and gamblers.

Oh, McIntyre also characterises World War I, and the attempted attack on the enemy’s southern flank at Gallipoli, as ‘an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with’.  Isn’t that just about the most moronic thing you’ve ever read?  Does this soccer buffoon know that the Ottoman Empire was in the war at the time?  That it was on Germany’s side, not ours?  That it was in no sense at all an imperialist invasion, no matter how you cut it, even using the sharpest deconstructionist knife you can find?  In war you attack the territory of the other side, especially if they initiated aggression and you are fighting back.

Basically, McIntyre’s four tweets are what you’d expect from someone steeped in hard left, hate-the-West, post-modern journalism.  Having them in the public domain, all things considered, is a good thing because it lets the rest of us know such shallow, ill-informed, despise-the-West attitudes are flourishing, and flourishing in taxpayer-funded broadcasters.

Okay, so that’s how I’d begin to reply to McIntyre.  You take issue and you argue.  And in case the above isn’t clear enough, let me make it clear that I don’t think the man has two brain cells to rub together.

But leave wholly to one side the question of whether McIntyre is right or wrong and turn to the issue of free speech.  We can notice at least three things as regards how the plight of McIntyre, ‘that poorly read, largely white’ soccer reporter, relates to free speech.

Point One: Almost all the people now defending McIntyre are hypocrites

mcintyre mug resizedbolt mug resizedLet me generalise.  Virtually none of the people I’ve been seeing coming out in defence of McIntyre rallied to defend Andrew Bolt’s freedom of speech.  Almost none of them.  For all I know it might actually be none at all.  Bolt had to face litigation under the egregious Section 18C hate-speech law that Tony Abbott won’t even try to repeal.  So where were all those defenders of free speech when Bolt was under attack?

Ah, they all said back then: ‘But Bolt got some of his facts wrong’.  So say, just for the sake of argument, that Bolt did get some facts wrong.  Didn’t McIntyre ‘get some facts wrong’?  Why defend McIntyre and not Bolt?

I have a lot of time for the miniscule number of people now defending McIntyre who also went to the wall defending Bolt.  I just don’t think many of the former were in fact anywhere to be found when the latter was under attack.  And that’s in a world where Bolt was under assault by the law, and so from the power of the state.  McIntyre was not, and is not, under any threat of being dragged before the courts for what he said; nor did a judge tell him he can’t legally publish these tweets again.  No, McIntyre was and remains legally free to say what he likes.  It’s just that he was fired from his job.

So it is hardly any sort of a stretch to say that the ranks of those now defending McIntyre are chock full of the worst sort of hypocrisy.  Give me a call when any of you poseurs decide to lobby for repeal of Section 18C.  Till then, stop embarrassing yourselves with cheap, bumper-sticker moralizing about free speech.

Point Two: Free speech is about keeping the government from banning speech you don’t like, not your employer

It goes without saying, or should do, that the notion of free speech has nothing to do with words and speech that is wholly uncontentious.  If someone is saying you’re the greatest person going, you’re not going to enact a law to silence that person.  People mouthing ‘Coke commercial’ sentiments of harmony and love to all, don’t get silenced. Even in North Korea there are plenty of things you can say, such as any improbable compliment you might concoct about the Great Leader’s golf game, leadership skills and commitment to the revolution. You might want to be careful, though, complimenting his food-production insights, his haircut, or the way he manages his immediate family. These might be considered sarcastic, a deadly sin in places without real free speech.

So the only reason a society needs a doctrine of free speech is to deal with words and speech that lots of people do not like, sentiments that offend, annoys and infuriate them.

It is here that the defenders of McIntyre have things right.  His words are precisely the sort that the John Stuart Mills of the world want protected against government. But, of course, McIntyre’s idiotic tweets are protected here in Australia against civil or criminal court actions. You see, Caucasian gamblers and drinkers, even ex-servicemen, don’t fall within the aegis of Section 18C.  So these groups can’t claim to be the victims of race hate.  Funny that.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think gambling, boozed-up ‘whiteys’ should get to invoke some hate speech law and drag McIntyre through the courts using a process that, whatever the outcome, is the punishment.  But then I don’t think anyone should get to do that to McIntyre or Bolt or Mark Steyn or anyone – not whites, not blacks, not gays, not Asians, not anyone.  Tony Abbott and George Brandis used to agree with me on that core point, back when they had convictions and backbones.

But leave that aside and notice where the defenders of McIntyre go wrong.  Being fired by SBS is not an outcome where the State has acted to silence you.  McIntyre can make those same tweets as many times as he likes and there will be no case for dragging him through the courts.

Ah, they say, but he was fired.  Yes, he was.  If you worked for McDonalds and spent each tea break in front of the store with a sign proclaiming ‘this food sucks’ you would be fired too.  Or if, like me, you think the ABC is a disgracefully biased broadcaster pointedly ignoring its statutory obligation to be impartial and yet, to the amazement of every sentient being in Australia, Mark Scott decided to give you a job fronting next year’s Q&A, and you kept tweeting that the ABC was a one-sided, lefty joke, well then you’d be fired. And rightfully so.  Taking the job involves tailoring your speech to limits your employer can stomach.  Don’t like those limits?  Then quit and say what you like.

McIntyre’s defenders just don’t seem to see this distinction, quite possibly because they don’t want to acknowledge the distinction.  Of course, it’s a wholly different question whether McIntyre did in fact damage the SBS brand in a way that justifies his employer getting rid of him.  Given SBS’s mandate, I’m not so sure.  Personally, I would shut down SBS tomorrow and save the taxpayer wads of money.  But if you’re going to have a broadcaster like that, whose mandate is to bring to the table all sorts of extremely minority tastes, well McIntyre’s tweets certainly do that.  It’s not clear how they cut against what SBS was set up to do.

We all suspect that, in reality, SBS fired him not because he undermined its core broadcasting mission but because its brass was worried that this spineless government might actually grow a backbone and take steps against them if they did nothing.  Hands up everyone who thinks that’s why SBS acted?  I certainly do.  If that’s correct, is that a valid ground on which SBS might sack someone?  Probably.

Point Three: Regardless of anything else, there’s a benefit to society in giving views such as McIntyre’s an airing

J.S. Mill was right.  There’s a benefit to all of us in hearing views we think are dumb, wrong-headed, ill-informed, even hurtful and hateful.  First, it makes us sharpen our own contrasting perspectives.  Second, it is a good thing to know views like that are out there.  How does society gain when they are driven underground?

Now Mill was aiming his ‘let people talk’ against government over-reach, not against private employers or clubs.  That distinction matters.  But Mill’s point is so powerful that I confess I have sympathy for those people – the very few who are in fact out there – who defend McIntyre and Bolt and all speakers.  I have in mind the sort of American Civil Liberties Union type thinking, a left of centre group I might add, that has no equivalent here in Australia because, alas, virtually no Aussie lefties seem to me to be full-blooded defenders of speech the way the ACLU is.

However, to any of you out there with those ACLU-like attitudes, let me say that I salute you.  I respect you.  We may differ here and there but that sort of commitment to the free speech principle is wholly admirable.

Alas, the defenders of McIntyre I’ve seen so far appear to be no better than mere hypocrites.


Welders not lawyers: Business Council warns Australia needs to prepare for future jobs

A key business leader is urging policymakers to shift their focus from specific policies to developing broad plans for the future economy.

Speaking at the National Press Club, the Business Council of Australia's (BCA) national president Catherine Livingstone warned that many of the jobs of today will not exist in the future as robots and computers take over.

"If 47 per cent of total US employment is at risk of being automated using artificial intelligence, we need to move urgently from a discussion about protecting the jobs of today, to creating the jobs of the future," she argued.

With 400,000 young Australians neither in study or work, and unemployment overall currently above 6 per cent, Ms Livingstone said the nation does not so much have a participation problem as a failure to match skills and training with current and future employment demand.

"Precision welders and robotics mechanics will be more useful in the growing advanced manufacturing sector than yet more law graduates for whom there are no jobs," she added.

In order for young people to gain practical experience and be more employable, Ms Livingstone argued that Australians must move away from the notion that work is something begun after a long period of study to a system where it is integrated with learning.

"Here, the philosophical shift is to move from a system which has a rigid discontinuity between education and work, to one which is more of a continuum, enabling simultaneous engagement in education and work for all from Year 11," she suggested.

"The discontinuity between education and work was perhaps relevant when, for most, formal education ended at age 15, only 10 per cent of students went on to university and degrees were three years in duration.

"It is not helpful now, with over 30 per cent of students at university and degrees of four and five years."

In addition, Ms Livingstone said that there needs to be greater emphasis on science, technology and maths education, given the likely jobs of the future.

She argued that computer coding, computational thinking, problem solving and design thinking must be taught alongside more traditional subjects.

"As it stands in Australia, however, the gap between the digital literacy of our young people and that of our competitor nations is increasing," Ms Livingstone warned.

"If we want increased productivity and participation, we need urgently to embark on a ten-year plan to close that gap.

"This will be essential to tackling structural youth unemployment."


Concerns over Australia’s credit rating are bogus

As it stands now, all three major ratings agencies have Australia at the top rung: AAA with a stable outlook. This is a fairly unique rating: Standard and Poor’s only rates another 11 economies up there with Australia.

There is good reason for our top rating. Just on the metrics, the country compares well, even with regard to other countries on the upper rung. For instance, Australia’s gross public debt is around 40 per cent, with a net debt position of 20 per cent. The average gross position for the G20 is around 110 per cent. Other AAA nations have figures much higher than ours: Britain at 90 per cent, Canada at 85 per cent, Germany at 70 per cent. It’s a similar story with the net figures as well, which are often double (or quadruple) Australia’s figure.

The budget deficit could be in better shape, there is no doubt about that. At around 3 per cent, it’s above many other AAA-rated nations. Switzerland and Sweden have small deficits of either 0.5 per cent or 1 per cent, and quite a bit worse than Germany, which has a modest surplus of about 0.5 per cent. Then again, it’s not a disastrous position — it’s still less than the UK and only a little above Denmark’s and Canada’s.

That’s not to suggest that the budget is in great shape. If the bureaucracy and our politicians were even remotely competent it would be much lower. It should be much lower. It wouldn’t be hard to achieve if the will was there.

Yet even if the deficit was held steady at 3 per cent for the next decade, that still shouldn’t affect the credit rating or its outlook given our very low public debt and the way other nations are rated.

Quite simply then, there are no grounds for Australia to either lose its credit rating or to be given a negative outlook. Any such action would merely expose the relevant rating agency to accusations of incompetence, or even corruption.

Recall that many of these same agencies were brought into disrepute during the GFC for failing to accurately rate the risk associated with some financial products. Worse were accusations that in compiling ratings, agencies used modelling provided by investment banks — the very ones who were then bringing these products into the market.

The bigger issue is whether it would even matter if we lost AAA status. Think about it: what good has it done the country? Even with a AAA rating, Australia has one of the highest bond yields in the developed world. So at this point, the yield on the Australian government 10-year yield is at 2.6 per cent. This is higher than Italy’s at 1.5 per cent with a BBB- and Portugal with a yield of 2.1 per cent (and a credit rating of BB).

Then there is Japan. With gross government debt at about 250 per cent of GDP, net debt at around 130 per cent and a budget deficit that is around 6-7 per cent of GDP — the 10-year government bond yields just over 0.3 per cent. The country is practically insolvent — the Bank of Japan has been printing money for nearly 20 years — and S & P still reckons it’s a high-grade investment at AA-.

It’s a crazy world, and no one should even care if a ratings agency was foolish enough to try and imply that the nation’s credit risk had deteriorated. Think of what happened when Standard and Poor’s downgraded the US sovereign back in 2011: one month on and the US 10-year Treasury yield dropped about 60 basis points to 1.98 per cent.


HOME (Index page)

Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

In most Australian States there are two conservative political parties, the city-based Liberal party and the rural-based National party. But in Queensland those two parties are amalgamated as the LNP.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

"Digger" is an honorific term for an Australian soldier

Another lesson in Australian: When an Australian calls someone a "big-noter", he is saying that the person is a chronic and rather pathetic seeker of admiration -- as in someone who often pulls out "big notes" (e.g. $100.00 bills) to pay for things, thus endeavouring to create the impression that he is rich. The term describes the mentality rather than the actual behavior with money and it aptly describes many Leftists. When they purport to show "compassion" by advocating things that cost themselves nothing (e.g. advocating more taxes on "the rich" to help "the poor"), an Australian might say that the Leftist is "big-noting himself". There is an example of the usage here. The term conveys contempt. There is a wise description of Australians generally here

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

My son Joe

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative

Bureaucracy: "One of the constant laments of doctors and nurses working with NSW Health is the incredible and increasing bureaucracy," she said. "It is completely obstructive to providing a service."

Revered Labour Party leader Gough Whitlam was a very erudite man so he cannot have been unaware of the similarities of his famous phrase “the Party, the platform, the people” with an earlier slogan: "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer". It's basically the same slogan in reverse order.

Australia's original inhabitants were a race of pygmies, some of whom survived into modern times in the mountainous regions of the Atherton tableland in far North Queensland. See also here. Below is a picture of one of them taken in 2007, when she was 105 years old and 3'7" tall

Julia Gillard, a failed feminist flop. She was given the job of Prime Minister of Australia but her feminist preaching was so unpopular that she was booted out of the job by her own Leftist party. Her signature "achievements" were the carbon tax and the mining tax, both of which were repealed by the next government.

A great little kid

In November 2007, a four-year-old boy was found playing in a croc-infested Territory creek after sneaking off pig hunting alone with four dogs and a puppy. The toddler was found five-and-a-half hours after he set off from his parents' house playing in a creek with the puppy. Amazingly, Daniel Woditj also swam two creeks known to be inhabited by crocs during his adventurous romp. Mr Knight said that after walking for several kilometres, Daniel came to a creek and swam across it. Four of his dogs "bailed up" at the creek but the youngster continued on undaunted with his puppy to a second creek. Mr Knight said Daniel swam the second croc-infested creek and walked on for several more kilometres. "Captain is a hard bushman and Daniel is following in his footsteps. They breed them tough out bush."

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To be continued ....
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