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

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


30 September, 2014

Climate alarmists are overlooking scientific facts

Some letters to the editor below that appeared in "The Australian" on 27th

ALARMISTS such as Fred Cehak and Chris Roylance (Letters, 26/9) criticise acclaimed scientists such as Dan Wood and Steven Koonin for their sceptical views, yet continue to peddle the fiction that the “science is settled” in the climate debate.

Those aboard the ship stuck in Antarctic ice early this year believed their own shoddy science that said the poles were melting. Today, the Antarctic ice sheet is at an all-time record high, and Arctic ice is now refreezing as normal.

The junk models used by the alarmists to frighten the world are in a state of disarray as more than 50 excuses are circulating trying to explain, unsuccessfully, the 17-year halt to global warming, even with rising carbon dioxide emissions.

Despite its shortcomings, even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared there is no relationship between emissions and hurricanes, Atlantic storms, drought and wildfires, and any other catastrophe served up as fact by the alarmists, whose arguments are always based on appeals to authority rather than the tenets of true science as embraced by sceptics.

G. M. Derrick, Sherwood, Qld

THE informative and balanced article by Steven Koonin (“A degree of uncertainty”, 23/9) brings me to the following conclusion. Much of the vast sums of taxpayers’ money being spent on researching and controlling man-made climate change should be directed to researching the magnitude and causes of natural climate change.

We would all then be in a better position to determine how significant is man-made climate change in comparison to natural climate change, and develop appropriate policy.

Charles Stanger, Manuka, ACT

FRED Cehak criticises those who doubt the accuracy of climate models and says the majority of scientists support the views of the IPCC. Yet doesn’t the IPCC’s fifth assessment report state that the rate of warming over the past 15 years, a 20th of a degree per decade, is smaller than the trend since 1951, an eighth of a degree per decade? This despite an unabated increase in the alleged driver, atmospheric carbon dioxide. Surely that’s justification for critical review of some of the more alarming predictions.

And we never see any criticism from Cehak or others of the failed predictions by Tim Flannery that Sydney and Brisbane’s dams would now be dry never to fill again, or of the equally ludicrous suggestion by Greens leader Christine Milne that repeal of the Renewable Energy Target would lead to only a billion people being left alive by 2100.

Peter Troy, Kingston, Tas


That ABC show is Questionable & Adversarial

A DANGEROUS parallel universe now exists alongside the reality of what the Police Commissioner calls the “clear and present threat” of homegrown Islamic terrorism.

This sham reality has been constructed by the “progressive” Left-leaning establishment of academics, politicians, journalists, media organisations and activists who have inexplicably joined forces with­ Islamic ideologues to downplay the threat, undermine our security and accuse those trying to keep us safe of Islamophobia and fearmongering.

In their eyes, the terror raids last week were suspiciously timed to ­distract from the Abbott government’s troubles and somehow to justify sending troops to the Middle East to help Iraq confront the Islamic State.

In politicising a security issue, they are wilfully deaf, dumb and blind to the assessments of those who actually are privy to the intelligence which led to last week’s terror raids.

“Let me tell you that matter that we dealt with last week was well past being a thought bubble,” NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione tells me.

“There was a clear and present threat that was very soon to be ­delivered. We know in Queensland only the week before, again, a matter of days before it was to be delivered.

“… It’s such a difficult call that the experts in the counterterrorism command area have to make.

“It’s a matter of waiting to get as much evidence as possible but ­ensuring that nothing happens. And we will always err on the side of going a little bit early because … if that ­attack that was planned last week had been successful. this ­nation’s history would have changed forever.”

That’s the reality which the tinfoil hat crowd deny, on the basis of zero evidence.

They ignore Monday’s order by Islamic State extremists to their supporters to kill Australians in whatever way they can.

For a view into the belly of this tinfoil beast, go no further than Monday night’s Q & A on ABC-TV. It distilled every delusion and pernicious idea about Muslim victimhood into one hour of dangerous insanity.

Western imperialism is to blame. Israel is to blame. “Team Australia” is to blame.

Two belligerent Muslim women controlled the conversation: sociologist and Islamophobia specialist Randa Abdel-Fattah and Anne Azza Aly, a social science research fellow at Curtin University, who was billed by the ABC as a “terrorism expert”.

Fattah claimed the terror raids were like an NCIS episode, “whipping people up into a frenzy of hysteria of war fever”.

“(They) reinforced this wider narrative of Muslims as criminals,” she said.

Then, after being the font of all wisdom for 50 minutes, Fattah said it was too complex to explain why Iraq asked for Australia’s help to stop Islamic State beheading, crucifying and raping its citizens.

“I’m not an expert because I’m too busy battling Islamophobia,” she said.

Aly, meanwhile, described terrorism as “theatre”.

Fellow panellist and Greens MP Scott Ludlam agreed the timing of the raids was an “amazing coincidence” and the terror threat was a beat-up hatched by “tabloid papers” which are “hurling fear” at people.

“Divisiveness” and fear is what terrorism is all about, he said, that “corroding and undermining of the underpinnings of society”.

Silly you if you thought terrorism was about chopping off heads and blowing up people.

Mark Dreyfus, Julia Gillard’s former attorney general, accused the government of “overstating” the ­jihadist threat,

Justice Minister Michael Keenan did a valiant job rebutting the nonsense but he was outnumbered five to one, and his most effective opponent was the host.

Tony Jones cut across Keenan, ­allowed guests to badger and interrupt him, and at one stage made the most extraordinary intervention. He interrupted Keenan to quiz a Muslim woman in the audience whom he imagined had claimed that “ASIO” had threatened to behead her, rape her corpse and slit her children’s throats.

Who would believe such a thing?

It turned out the woman’s claims were about “right-wing Nazis” on ­social media.

Even the audience laughed at Jones then.

The ABC could have brought in any number of sensible Muslims who understand the terrorist threat. It could have brought in Christian ­Assyrians or Afghan refugees or ­actual terrorism experts.

Instead the taxpayer-funded broadcaster chose deliberately to sow community disharmony, to smear Australians as racists and bigots, and to feed the sense of misplaced grievance and victimhood that justifies radicalism.

But the reality remains that we have a serious terrorist problem and the people charged with keeping us safe must not be distracted by ­spurious claims of Islamophobia and legal threats.

Were police not supposed to question three men at the football who were pointed out to them by ­spectators because the men might hire lawyer Adam Houda and threaten civil action?

Were they supposed to ignore two carloads of bearded Muslim men stopped near the Lucas Height ­nuclear reactor?

This isn’t a game. It’s not politics. It’s about saving lives.

“There are tough times ahead,” Scipione says.

“We can never become complacent. Just because something’s been thwarted … doesn’t mean the threat has gone away. In fact every day … that you don’t read about it is one day closer to the day when the ­attack will happen.

“They’re out there and they’re plotting.”

That’s the truth.


The halal racket

A South Australian company is paying one of many competing Islamic Halal Certification “services” (AFIC) an undisclosed monthly fee for its seal of approval. But Scholle Industries Pty Ltd, based in Elizabeth, is a manufacturer of plastic packaging (plastic is derived from oil) and has apparently been able to assure Muslim fraudsters that all oil wells are facing Mecca.

Farcical Halal certification is being exposed as nothing more than an extortion racket adding to the cost of almost every type of purchase and governments are failing to act to protect Australians from this Islamic curse on our retail trade for fear of an Islamic electoral backlash.

    Coercion, and threats by the Islamic “certifiers” to economically cripple Australian manufacturers and processors who refuse to pay up are being ignored by authorities.

Since the scam has been exposed, Aussie shoppers are refusing to buy product with the Halal certified label and the little Arab motifs are disappearing from shelf products everywhere like pork pies at a Passover, but the payments and the threats remain.

Halal certification headquarters are based in Saudi Arabia with Indonesia (MUI) administering the Asian arm and many various competing Australian “certifiers” operating both nationally and in most States.

Total income from the world-wide scam is a reported $1.2 trillion, with Australia contributing a mere billion or so while our Defence Force wonders where the hell the House of Saud gets the money to pay the Islamic State.

It was reported here earlier this year that one major Aussie meat processor, who refused to be identified, claimed he had been told to pay $27,000 a month for halal certification or risk being banned from exporting.

Mr Stephen Kelly, an executive of the Japanese-owned Nippon Meat Packers in Queensland, said last year that MUI had already banned his abattoirs from selling meat to Indonesia because he had procured his “certification” from one of MUI’s Australian opposition certifiers, AHFS.

Meanwhile the Heart Foundation’s “tick of approval” is proving another fraudulent impost on embattled Aussies with “ticks” being thrown to pizzas, deep-fried chips and pies, if the right amount of money is paid of course.

MacDonald’s has forked out millions over the past eight years to have the Heart Foundation's “tick” of approval on their junk food.

The Heart Foundation is a (cough, cough) non-profit organisation but their “advisers”, “consultants” and executives drive very nice cars, live in very nice houses and take extended, very expensive and all exes paid overseas trips to study other "ticksters".

If this government was able to get rid of the carbon tax, Halal, Kosher and the “tick” taxes should be a piece of piss.


A balancing act-home schooling regulation

Most parents never progress beyond day-dreaming about home schooling, but it is becoming increasingly mainstream-everyone seems to know at least one home schooling family and most admire their choice.

Statistics for NSW confirm this perception. The number of children registered for home schooling has increased by 64% in five years, from 1,945 in 2009 to 3,194 in 2013. However, these figures underestimate the true size of the home schooling population. According to estimates by the Home Education Association, there could be as many as 12,000 unregistered, home schooled children in NSW.

Whether you see this as a problem depends on where you sit on the parental rights spectrum. At one end is the idea that parents know what is best for their children and should be free to make decisions about their children's education without government interference. At the other end is the notion that since children have a right to a decent education, governments have an obligation to ensure this occurs, and this takes precedence over parental rights. 

Submissions to the parliamentary inquiry into home schooling in NSW cover the full range of views. Many home schooling families and their advocate organisations argue that the registration requirements in NSW are too onerous, and deter families from registering. They argue that home education (their preferred term) is unique and should not be regulated like a school. The NSW Teachers Federation, on the other hand, strongly favours strict regulation, taking the position that public schools provide the best education and that any exception must be justified.

The requirements of home school families are stricter in NSW than in other states: adherence to the NSW syllabus is mandatory and student progress is monitored by home school inspectors (or 'Authorised Persons'). The extent to which this is enforced is debatable; anecdotal reports from home school families claim it is heavy handed, but according to the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES), less than half of one percent of registrations are refused or revoked due to failure to meet requirements.

Currently, home schooling families are doing all the work in their relationship with the state and getting little in return, receiving no educational or financial support. Nevertheless, home schooling is increasingly being seen as a viable option. If this trend continues, government policy will have to strike the right balance and adapt to challenges of providing parents with the flexibility they want and giving children the protection they need.


29 September, 2014

Tough new terror laws clear the Senate

Australian spies will soon get stronger powers to help fight against terrorism.

The government's first tranche of tougher anti-terrorism laws, which beef up the domestic spy agency's powers, passed the Senate on Thursday with bipartisan support.

Anyone who identifies an ASIO agent could also face a decade in prison under the new laws, a tenfold increase in the existing maximum penalty.

Attorney-General George Brandis said in a "newly dangerous age" it was vital that those protecting Australia were equipped with the powers and capabilities they needed.

The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives, where passage is all but guaranteed.

The legislation addresses a number of recommendations of a bipartisan joint parliamentary inquiry into Australia's national security laws.  It allows ASIO to access third party computers and apply one warrant to multiple devices.

After concerns were raised by Labor and Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm, the government agreed to amend the legislation to specifically rule out ASIO using torture.  "ASIO cannot, does not and has never engaged in torture," Senator Brandis said.

The Palmer United Party was successful in amending the law so anyone who exposes an undercover ASIO operative could face up to 10 years behind bars instead of one.

The Australian Greens voted against the bill, slamming the new measures as extreme and a "relentless expansion of powers" of the surveillance state.

Senator Leyonhjelm and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon - who moved a number of unsuccessful amendments - also opposed the legislation.

The legal changes come amid growing concern over Islamic State (IS) extremists in the Middle East and terror threats at home. IS has ordered followers to directly target civilian Australians.

In less than a week, police in two states launched the biggest terror raids in Australia's history, and shot dead a known terror suspect after he stabbed two officers in Melbourne.

A second suite of anti-terror laws targeting foreign fighters was introduced on Wednesday and will be debated next month.  These changes have opposition support and would make it a criminal office to travel to a terrorist hot-spot without a reasonable excuse.  The government is aware of about 60 Australians fighting in Syria and Iraq.

A third bill enabling the collection of metadata will be introduced later this year.


The wolf isn’t at the door, it’s in the house

THANKS to the publicly funded ethnic lobby and its supporters at the ABC, SBS and Fairfax, Australians were denied the opportunity to examine and possibly root out the evil of Islamo-fascism when it first came to public attention during the so-called Cronulla riots of December 2005.

Then, when convoys of young Lebanese-Australian publicly demonstrated their hatred for Western culture, terrorising whole suburbs as they smashed windows, vandalised cars and shouted abuse at men and women dressed in regular street clothing, the public was advised: Move along, nothing to see here.

But there was plenty to see. Just as there had been when some Australian Muslims cheered the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and failed to condemn the Bali bombings. What was on show was undeniable evidence that within the Muslim community there were many, not just a handful, who were supporters of terrorism.

But the handful of commentators who dared point out the obvious were warned off with threats from various taxpayer-funded organisations and nanny state apparatchiks that publicising the blatant unvarnished facts about Cronulla might whip up unnecessary fear and create division in the community. Instead of highlighting the self-evident antagonism of many young men in the Muslim communities in Sydney and Melbourne, particularly, to the society in which they or in many cases, their parents, had sought and received sanctuary from attacks from other Muslim groups in their former homelands, the publicly funded media portrayed the violent bullies as victims.

They weren’t seeking to assimilate into Australian society, they wanted to be separate. They didn’t want their sisters to be free to mingle with non-Muslims socially, they didn’t approve of Western fashions, they hated the West. The bien pensants who would not admit that young Lebanese-Australians had been responsible for the Cronulla riots, the weak-kneed self-interested Labor politicians who didn’t want the police to investigate the convoy which had set out from Punchbowl Park to terrorise and vandalise, must now confront the consequences of their stupid politically correct approach to a criminal enterprise.

The weakness shown by the authorities then has undoubtedly encouraged a generation to arrogantly believe in their own supremacy now. Whenever challenged, they and their lawyers would play the victimhood card.

Whether it was the increase in fanatical suicide bombings, the 9/11 attacks, or even the gang rapes carried out by young men who self-identified as Muslims even as they were committing the most heinous crimes, the kumbaya crowd has always insisted the perpetrators were the real victims.

Just as the Islamic Council of Victoria has refused to condemn 18-year-old Abdul Numan Haider, who was shot and killed at Endeavour Hills Police Station in Melbourne on Tuesday after he arrived for an interview with two knives and savagely wounded an Australian Federal Police officer and a Victorian policeman before he was shot dead. Political leaders have been too quick to say Islam is not the problem.

But elements of Islam are clearly part of the problem, as anyone familiar with the Koran must be aware.

Constant appeasement of the vocal radicals is not the answer, be it with the censorship of free speech by S18C of the Racial Discrimination Act or through biased programming like the ABC’s Q & A show.

Having failed to address the issue of Islamo-fascism when it started to emerge within the Australian Muslim community, politicians are still reluctant to confront reality. There is a division in Australian society between those who refuse to assimilate and those who welcome the freedoms offered by our pluralistic society.

It is little wonder young men, in particular, feel angry and frustrated when told they cannot enjoy the company of girls dressed in stylish clothing, or enjoy the company of workmates without guiltily wondering whether they have broken some religious edict.

That they are easily swayed by the dramatic propaganda spewed out by Islamic State is of real concern and indicates the values being taught in their schools and within their homes are not compatible with those held by Western societies.

While the majority of Muslims may not bear ill-will toward the West, it is clear there are radicals holding influential positions within religious schools and mosques who do.

Australian citizenship is to be cherished and respected. Most citizenship ceremonies extol the values that attract migrants to our country — the obligations that go with citizenship deserve equal emphasis.


Leftist voter fraud comes to Australia

It's a huge issue in the USA but has been rare in Australia

Allegedly false voter enrolments in a key seat in last year's federal election contributed to the defeat of the Liberal Party's Sophie Mirabella, it's been reported.

Independent Cathy McGowan's 439-vote winning margin in the Victorian rural seat of Indi came after a number of her younger backers allegedly engaged in electoral fraud, News Corp Australia reports.

It says they switched voter enrolments to Indi in the weeks before the September 7 election, despite living and working in other seats, including Melbourne.

More than 20 dodgy enrolments of McGowan backers are at the centre of a probe by the Australian Electoral Commission's new integrity unit.

The Indi enrolment addresses are contradicted by home addresses in other seats, job and study locations, previous enrolment data, and profiles and output on social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, News Corp reports.

Ms McGowan won Indi with 44,741 votes to Ms Mirabella's 44,302.

Ms McGowan told News Corp that if there was any wrongdoing, it would be on a small scale.

"Numbers of young people made their own decisions about what they would do. I would be very surprised if there were 200 who did that."


The truth about fact checkers

The ABC's Fact Check website was launched in August last year on a mission to determine 'the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in the public debate.' But when it comes to the most important policy questions it is not necessarily the facts that are in question but their interpretation.

This has been demonstrated by the federal government's recent move to delay increases in the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) rate.

The SG rate freeze means the percentage of gross wages that must be put into super will remain at 9.5% rather than being increased to 12% by 2019-20. The Prime Minister has asserted that no-one would be worse off as this money would be put back into take-home pay, a claim that Fact Check determined to be 'Incorrect'. This is an oversimplification.

The most literal interpretation of what the PM said-that every single worker will receive an increase in take-home pay equal to the proposed SG rate increases-may not be universally true. However, the economics of how the SG rate freeze will impact take-home pay are extremely complex. For most workers, the claim that 'money that would otherwise be squirrelled away in superannuation funds will instead be in the pockets of the workers of Australia' is right.

On the topic of the SG rate freeze it is not the government that is misleading the public, it is the super funds.
The super funds' estimates of the cost to workers of the SG rate freeze ignore any increase in take-home pay that would result. Their claim that voluntary super contributions do not receive the same concessional tax treatment as the compulsory contributions mandated by the SG rate is also not true.

Workers are free to make voluntary super contributions, before tax, above the SG rate. These are taxed at the same concessional 15% tax rate provided that total (before tax) contributions do not exceed $30,000 a year (for those under 50). This is known as "salary sacrifice".

While Fact Check has exposed some of the most egregious examples of misinformation with an appeal to official statistics, on this occasion it has inadvertently perpetuated the super fund's tax myth.

This is not to suggest political bias on the part of the ABC. In this instance the subject matter is complex and the outcomes uncertain. What this underlines is that Fact Check best serves the public when it sticks to claims made by those who have quite clearly sought to mislead and scrutinises claims that can be verified by a direct appeal to the facts.


28 September, 2014

Muslim anger and global warming

The inability of Muslims to see any wrongdoing by their fellow Muslims seems to be common worldwide.  And we have now seen a prime example of it in Australia. A report of it below.  After a young Afghan Muslim, Numan Haider, was shot by police, the sentiment among his community seems to be that he had done no wrong.  He had simply made a "mistake" and police should not have shot him.  That the police shot him while he was stabbing them with a knife and inflicting serious injuries doesn't matter, apparently. "Infidel" police should let themselves be stabbed by Muslims seems to be the idea.  Decent people would be embarrassed that one of their number had behaved so badly but brains rotted by Islam are apparently incapable of that.

The rage is so irrational that it reminds me of a couple of other things.  In 1980 or thereabouts in Australia a Yugoslav hoodlum named Kresimir Dragosevic died in a hail of police bullets.  Mrs Dragosevic, his mother, thought it was most unfair that the police shot her dear little Kresimir.  The fact that Kresimir was shooting at the police at the time did not seem to matter.

So, clearly, for many people, reason flies out the window when their own personal interests are threatened or damaged.  Which brings me to global warming.  Warmists have the wonderful feelgood belief that they are "saving the planet" and that is far too rewarding to let facts get in the way of such a belief.  They will even let themselves be lectured by an emptyheaded High School dropout like Leonardo di Caprio on the subject if it helps to bolster their feelings of righteousness and mission.  No wonder there is so much poverty and so much suffering in the world when rationality can so easily be overwhelmed by personal emotional needs.

ANGER boiled over outside a mosque as the body of the shot teen was prepared for burial.

A man threw rocks at media waiting at the Doveton mosque after earlier being seen at Numan Haider’s family home.

The teen terror suspect’s family spoke of their devastation.

Others grieving the loss of Haider lashed out at police for shooting him.

Religious leaders told the Herald Sun Haider was expected to be buried as soon as today, after a Muslim service.

A friend who visited the family’s Endeavour Hills home said they were overwhelmed by grief. “They are very, very upset and devastated,” the family friend said.

“No one knows what happened. It’s a big shock to their family, and they can’t believe what has happened.

“This family is bright. They are well educated and have good connection to the Afghan families.”

There were angry scenes when a member of the Afghan community, on leaving the house, blamed police.

“They should not have shot him — he was 18,” the woman screamed. “If you (the police) can’t protect yourself, how are you going to protect the nation? Did you make mistakes when you were 18?  “If someone makes a mistake, you can’t shoot him.”

Conservative sheik Mohammad Jamal Omran visited the home to offer his condolences, and said he was saddened by the tragedy.

“We spoke about their sadness and we spoke about their loss.  “They cried on my shoulder, but still they need a long time to recover,” he said.

“There (is) trouble around us in the world. We don’t have to bring the trouble home.

“When I look at my right, I see the sorrow of the two police families.

“And I look at my left, and see this family losing a young man of theirs, of ours, and of Australia altogether.”


The 1915 Battle of Broken Hill – Another gift to Australia from Islam

Muslims were as murderous then as now but the response to them was more robust in 1915

Muslims like to claim that Islam is a religion of peace, a religion of science and a religion of human rights but in reality Islam’s major contribution to humanity has been terrorism. For close to 1,400 years Islam has struck fear into the hearts of the unbeliever, becoming synonymous with terrorism.

Since the Saudi funded World Trade Centre terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 there has been over 22,000 Muslim terror attacks worldwide. In 2013 alone, over 16,000 people lost their lives to Islamic terror attacks.

The most recent Muslim terror attacks occurred in the Russian city of Volgograd on the 29th and 30th of December 2013, when two cowardly Muslim Chechen terrorists blew up a bus and detonated explosives at the central train station killing 34 innocent Russians. Many children also died in the attacks.

One hundred years ago, on the 1st January 1915, a ‘picnic train’ left Broken Hill Sulphide Street station at 10am, carrying over 1,200 Broken Hill residents to Silverton for new year day celebrations.

The train carriages were normally used for carting iron ore but once a year were thoroughly washed out and fitted with temporary bench seats to transport passengers to Silverton for a new year’s picnic. Unknown to the vulnerable passengers was the bloodbath that was about to unfold.

Many of the train’s passengers noticed a Turkish flag was fluttering in the dry wind, just a few kilometres outside of town. As the train approached, unknown to the train’s passengers were two Muslim Jihadists lying in a trench. As the train drew closer, the two Muslims fired close to 30 shots at the train carriages murdering two teenagers and wounding six people.

The locals were in total shock and couldn’t understand why these two foreigners had opened fire on innocent civilians. The Police wasted no time in pursuing the two Muslim men as they attempted to escape. The Muslims came across and murdered Alfred Millard who had tried to hide in his hut.

The bloodthirsty pair continued to run but was sighted by Police who fired shots in the air in order to force them to surrender. Instead the pair returned fire at the Police and seriously wounded Constable Robert Mills.

The homicidal pair made their final stand at the top of hill where they found good protection behind boulders. The Police had the pair surrounded and ordered them to surrender but the Muslims would not. The gun battle raged on for nearly one and a half hours resulting in the death of the assailants.

The local constabulary identified the dead Muslims as Gool Mohamed, an ice cream seller and Mullah Abdullah, an Iman and halal butcher who was well known to smoke copious amounts of hash. Gool and Mullah were both Pashtun Muslim migrants from Afghanistan with a lust for Jihad against the kuffar (non-believer).

The former camel drivers attack on local civilians was pre-meditated. The Police investigation found out that the two Muslims had used Gool’s ice cream cart to transport their rifles, the flag and ammunition to the place previously selected by them for the attack. Notes were also found, left by the Muslim perpetrators stating they had become martyrs for Islam defending the Ottoman caliphate and their faith.

Today the people of Australia remember this unfortunate event, the first terrorist attack on Australia soil carried out by Muslim maniacs blinded by a savage and brutal political ideology.

It is an important time to commemorate the Australian victims; Alma Cowie, William Shaw and Alfred Millard who were murdered by crazed Jihadists carrying out the will of their mentor and soothsayer Moahmmad in the name of Allah.

The Battle of Broken Hill is a warning to the people of Australia of what Muslim immigration will bring to our nation. It is time to protect the Australian people from future terror attacks by halting all Muslim immigration and repatriating those who occupy our gaols and abuse our generous welfare.


Grim life awaits would-be illegal imigrants in Cambodia

Arrangements have now beem made to give "refuge" in Cambodia  to many illegals held on Manus Is. and Christmas Is.

A coalition of 21 organisations working to promote human rights in Cambodia on Friday described the plan as a cynical attempt to place refugees who had already suffered persecution in their home countries and harsh detention in Australia into further hardship in Cambodia.

Amnesty International called the plan a new low in Australia's inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. The plan is also opposed by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, which only has a small office in Cambodia and was excluded from negotiations that led to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison signing the agreement in Phnom Penh on Friday.

"Think about the refugees … they cannot speak Khmer. There are no jobs for them. They will have no land. They will not understand the culture," Sou Sotheavy says, adding that if they are given special treatment that will be unfair to impoverished Cambodians, and could cause trouble in communities.

Mr Morrison says the refugees who attempted to reach Australia by boat are "quite innovative and entrepreneurial and I think there would be opportunities for people with those sorts of skills and enthusiasms" in Cambodia.

He says "support will be tailored to the needs of those as part of a package of measures that will go to their resettlement, which is designed to make them self-reliant as quickly as possible".

Many countries, including Australia, have people like Srey Kuoch in dire need of help but no-one has to look far in Cambodia to see chronic disadvantage in the country still recovering from years of civil war and a genocide where an estimated 1.7 million people died from starvation, execution and disease.

Families are living in Phnom Penh slums under tarpaulins. Others scavenge on rubbish dumps. Vulnerable children beg before tourists on Phnom Penh's riverside.

In rural areas most of the people live a hand-to-mouth existence and while the country has made economic progress, it still struggles to provide adequate services in areas such as health and education.

Cambodia is ruled by a regime considered among the world's most corrupt despite receiving hundreds of millions in foreign aid, including an additional $40 million from Australia over the next four years in return for the country taking refugees.

Cambodia's government, ruled by strongman Hun Sen, has a long history of playing politics with refugees and using them as bargaining chips in bilateral relations with countries such as Vietnam and China.

The most prominent case was in December 2009 when Cambodia forcibly returned 20 UN-recognised Uighur refugees to China and then a few days later collected a huge aid package from Beijing.

Sixty refugees already in the country want to leave and would be destitute if they were not receiving support from organisations such as the Jesuit Refuge Service.

Cambodian officials have made clear that any refugees who arrive will be forbidden from engaging in politics connected to the country from which they fled, a violation of refugees' civil and political rights.

Cambodia has not taken steps to deal with what rights advocates say is the serious discrimination and deprivation of rights of ethnic Vietnamese, some of whom have lived in Cambodia for generations yet are still stateless without access to basic government services.

"The Hun Sen government severely restricts the rights and freedom of expression, assembly and association and state security forces routinely commit killings, torture and other abuses with impunity," Human Rights Watch says. "Those living on the margins – including refugees and asylum seekers lacking employment, Khmer language skills and social network – are at particular risk," the New York-based organisation says.

"For instance, Human Rights Watch has documented the arbitrary arrest, detention and mistreatment of undesirables housed in squalid detention centres run by the Social Welfare Ministry, where beatings, torture and rapes by guards go unpunished."

Defending the decision of his government, Mr Morrison says Cambodian poverty has fallen from more than 50 per cent to around 20 per cent. "I mean this is a country that is trying to get on its feet; this is a country that is making great progress," he says.

Mr Morrison noted that Cambodia's population has doubled from the dark years of the Khmer Rouge period.

He said that rather than keep the country isolated, the rest of the world should give them a chance to do positive things such as co-operating with Australia on the resettlement plan.  "We say we should give them a go," he said.


Warmist rage directed at Australia

Good to see that Australia's abolition of the carbon tax (etc.) has been widely noted

The United Nations has an awkward habit of using celebrities to give voice to its key concerns, at once amplifying its messages and somehow diminishing their significance.

At this week's General Assembly the key concern was global warming and the celebrity mouthpiece was Leonardo DiCaprio.

As though aware of the awkwardness of his position, in his address to the General Assembly, DiCaprio sought to buttress his call for drastic and immediate action to reduce carbon emissions with a voice harder to challenge than his own.

"The Chief of the US Navy's Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, recently said that climate change is our single greatest security threat," said DiCaprio. "My friends, this body – perhaps more than any other gathering in human history – now faces that difficult task. You can make history, or be vilified by it."

The speech was well given and well received, but it turned out that his prediction was not entirely correct. Australia did not have to wait for history, it was vilified for its stance on climate change on the spot.

On Sunday the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, told members of the Major Economies Forum at a side meeting that Australia intended to stick with its low target of 5 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

This, she said, was an ambitious target, and she noted that Australia was responsible for producing only 1.5 per cent of the world's greenhouse gasses.

"I'm disappointed but not surprised with Australia," Pa Ousman Jarju, Gambia's Climate Change Minister who represents the 54 least developed nations at UN climate talks, told the Responding to Climate Change analysis website later. "What the Foreign Minister said was as good as not coming. It's nothing… as good as not attending."

Indeed Tony Abbott did not attend Tuesday's meeting, though many attendees detected a reference to Australia – among a handful of other notable recalcitrants – in Barack Obama's keynote speech.

"We can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation – developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass," he said.

"The emerging economies that have experienced some of the most dynamic growth in recent years have also emitted rising levels of carbon pollution.

"It is those emerging economies that are likely to produce more and more carbon emissions in the years to come.  So nobody can stand on the sidelines on this issue.  We have to set aside the old divides.  We have to raise our collective ambition, each of us doing what we can to confront this global challenge."

Obama appeared to be addressing not only Australia and Canada, the developed nations dependent on mineral exports, as well as China and India, the developing nations whose carbon footprint is expanding rapidly and which have asserted their right to economic expansion before carbon reduction.

As with Mr Abbott, China's Xi Jinping did not attend and Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, sent Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. China now emits more greenhouse gases than the US and EU combined and India is the third-largest emitter.

But it was Australia and to an extent Canada that were subject to most of the opprobrium, in part because they have already enjoyed the economic benefits of carbon emissions, in part because China is perceived to be on the brink of significant action.

One of the successes of Tuesday's meeting was China's announcement for the first time ever that it would set an emissions target, aiming to reduce its emissions of carbon per unit of GDP by 45 per cent by 2020, compared with levels in 2005.

"As a responsible major country, a major developing country, China will make even greater effort to address climate change," Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli said.

"All countries need to follow the path of green and low carbon development that suits their national conditions, [and] set forth post-2020 actions in light of actual circumstances."

An adviser who attended a meeting of small island states that excoriated Australia's inaction on climate said the group now viewed China's commitments optimistically.

The reaction to Australia's presence could not have been more different. Tony de Brum, the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, told Fairfax that small islands states were frustrated and baffled by Australia's stance, especially as they had regarded the nation as a "big brother down south" and advocated for its seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Asked if "betrayal" was too strong a word, he paused and said, "Now it is, maybe not soon."

On Tuesday the Pulitzer Prize-winning climate change news website Inside Climate News published a story about the "Canada-Australia axis of carbon". It suggested that not only were the two nations not willing to pull their weight, but that they were seeking to derail the binding agreement on emissions reductions at next year's talks in Paris that many view as the world's last best hope to prevent catastrophic climate change.

"Neither the prime ministers of Canada nor Australia will speak at the summit, and the subordinates they have sent will not be offering the kind of "bold" new steps that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is seeking on the way to a treaty in Paris late next year," it reported.

"Instead, these two governments, with their energy-rich domains sprawling across opposite ends of the earth, will present strikingly similar defences against what much of the rest of the world is offering. And their stance is earning them opprobrium among advocates of strong and immediate action."

The online magazine Slate published a story headlined, "The Saudi Arabia of the Pacific, How Australia became the dirtiest polluter in the developed world."

It charted Australian climate politics since the last election – noting for an international audience Australia's history as a leader in solar technology, the creation and then scrapping of a carbon trading scheme, the promotion of climate change sceptics to key advisory roles, the attacks on the solar industry, the scrapping of the mining tax, the failed bid to expand logging in Tasmanian wilderness.

"Let's hope that the rapacious policies of the current government represent only a temporary bout of insanity," Slate concluded. "If the Australian people cannot recover some of their earlier regard for their environment they may find in time that their great land is no longer merely apathetic toward their residence there but openly hostile."

Whether or not the UN summit was a success is open to debate. Its organisers kept its goals vague enough so as to avoid failure, declaring its intention was to build momentum towards next year's critical talks in Paris, when it is hoped a binding international resolution will be hammered out.

China's announcement was welcomed, as was the declaration by pension funds, insurers and asset management firms controlling $2 trillion worth of funds that they wanted avenues for climate friendly investments. More than a 1000 business and investors backed a World Bank campaign for emissions taxes and trading schemes like the one Australia just abandoned. Leaders reaffirmed a goal to limit climate change to 2 degrees.

More than $US2.3 billion ($2.6 billion) of a called-for $US10 billion was pledged for a Green Climate Fund to help developing nations get access to clean technologies. Organisers of Sunday's march in support of action were thrilled at a turnout of between 300,000 and 400,000.

Whether it was enough to spur real action will not be known until December next year.


26 September, 2014

Signals of jihad in Australia have been building for years

The knifing of two police officers by 18-year-old Numan Haider at Endeavour Hills Police Station in Melbourne on Tuesday night is not a new threshold of Muslim violence in Australia. What is new is Haider's support for Islamic State and his desire to behead people and video the slaughtered bodies draped in the black flag of Islamic State.

Such is the new fashion among some radical young Muslims that Haider took a large knife and a black IS flag when he drove to the police station.

The warning signs have grown more ominous for a long time. On November 1, 1998, Lakemba police station in Sydney was peppered with gunfire in a drive-by shooting. Sixteen shots were fired from four different weapons by men in a stolen car. Those charged included several Lebanese-Australians including Michael Kanaan, Wassim El-Assaad and Saleh Mahmoud Jamal.

Kanaan, a Maronite Catholic, would later be convicted of three murders, among multiple other violent crimes. In a bizarre footnote to his bloody career, the former magistrate, Pat O'Shane, infamously discharged Kanaan from standing trial over shooting a police officer, describing the decision by two officers to pull over his car, then return gun fire, as "stupid, reckless and foolhardy". She said their conduct had "indicated police harassment of youth".

Saleh Jamal, a former drug dealer, fled Australia to Lebanon on a stolen passport in 2004. In Lebanon, he was jailed for weapons charges. Before being extradited back to Australia, he told a reporter he had wanted to undertake a terror attack in Sydney in the name of Islam.

Wassim El-Assaad, like Jamal and many Muslims who enter the criminal milieu here and overseas, gravitated to Islamic fundamentalism. He belongs to a group of Muslims serving long-term sentences who espoused jihad. Police have named El-Assaad (convicted murderer), Bassam Hamzy (convicted murderer), Rabeeh Mawas (convicted murderer) and Emad Sleiman (convicted murderer), among others, of espousing sympathy for jihad.

Muslims are over-represented in Goulburn's super max prison and were prominent in an outbreak of violence last Sunday when prisoners reacted to a clamp-down of security. The cry of "Allah Akbah", the rallying call of jihadists, was reportedly shouted by a number of inmates as they threatened guards.

Since the shootings at Lakemba police station there have been numerous terror plots, terror convictions and acts of social intimidation by Muslims in Australia, undercutting the widely preferred mantra of victimology of Muslims in Australia.

On Wednesday, Fairfax Media ran an opinion piece by a Muslim woman who wrote: "I still feel the scars of the Cronulla riots, where the flag of my beloved country was used as a symbol of pure hatred, of thuggery and racism."

This is ironic given that most of the hatred, thuggery and racism at Cronulla in December, 2005, came from Muslims. The demonstration and fracas at Cronulla beach, on December 11, was sparked by hundreds of incidents of harassment and violence by young Lebanese-Australian men, mainly directed at young women in bikinis or short skirts. I conducted dozens of interviews after the event and they can be summed up by a teacher at Cronulla High School:

"I have felt afraid for the safety of my family for the last 10 years [from] gangs of men of Middle Eastern appearance who have taunted, bullied or assaulted groups or individuals. My daughter has been taunted consistently when she goes to the beach… Women in swimming costumes… are often intimidated or taunted with 'sluts' and 'filth' and told they are 'asking for it'."

On December 12, on the night after the fracas, dozens of cars congregated at Punchbowl Park in south-west Sydney. Most of the men had armed themselves with a variety of weapons. Some left messages written on the street: "AUSSI TO DIE". "INTIFADA". "IT'S WAR". "WE FEAR NO OZY DOGS".

Two convoys of cars then headed off to the eastern beaches. For the next several hours an estimated 200 men, predominantly Lebanese Muslims, engaged in a show of force, smashing hundreds of cars and windows, stabbing or bashing several people and threatening women with rape.

Rape was a key issue. In the years leading up to the Cronulla explosion, dozens of young Muslim men had participated in a series of gang rapes in Sydney which terrorised young non-Muslim women. This fuelled the build-up of tensions, which the police at Cronulla had preferred not to confront, lest they be accused of racism.

Six weeks ago, at the height of the latest Gaza-Israel conflict, another convoy of cars drove through south-west Sydney. This time, some occupants brandished the black flag of Islamic State. I saw the images posted on YouTube (later removed) and heard this chant from demonstrators: "Jew and Christian will not stand. You can never stop Islam."



For God’s sake make sure you include this in any comment you make: “This crime has nothing to do with Islam and nothing to do with religion.” It seems this memo went out to every politician, public servant and copper in the country. But it has backfired. You can fool some of the people some of the time but none of the people this time.

Okay, so we mustn’t upset the nice Islamic community because we need their help to tell us where the mad nutters are, but unfortunately there seems to be mad nutters everywhere and, if you really believe their mums and dads will dob them in, then you’ve got your hand on it.

A normal kid born in Australia would never think of bombing the MCG or cutting someone’s head off, so where exactly does this kid learn all this violent anti-Australian stuff?

I can think of only two possible places; either in the home or in the mosque.

A normal Aussie school has a sane Head Teacher and a few insane pupils. A normal Aussie mosque has an insane Head Teacher and a few sane pupils... and some of those sane pupils will turn feral.

At home, in any good Islamic family, a kid must pray five times a day, read the cover off the Koran and recite a hadith of Sharia law hanging from a magnet on the fridge.

He will get as angry as hell when he can’t eat for a month during Ramadan and can only go out with sheilas he can’t shag (and probably wouldn’t want to if he could see them) so by the time he’s 18 and breaking out in pimples, a bevy of 72 virgins is sounding pretty bloody good.

Right now the kid has a permanent woody and is understandably besotted with these virgins and desperate to get his hands on just one of them... and that’s where the trouble starts.

Before you know it he’s borrowed his mate’s vest and bought a ticket to Syria.

But his dear old mum refuses to let him go, so he gets on his computer and learns how to make bombs out of stuff in the laundry cupboard.

    He then figures out how to set the bomb off with his phone and buys one of those toy drones with a remote control.

Now he decides to sit in Punt Road and rehearse flying the thing into the MCG at half time. But he only manages to knock over one behind post and cause a ringing sound in Tom Jones’ ears... and he is still not more than one pubic hair closer to those virgins.

“Bugger this”, he thinks, “I gotta cut some bastard copper's head off, that should do it!”

So he borrows his mate’s knife and a black flag with white Arabic words on it and drives into Endeavour Hills cop shop wielding the knife and yelling, “Allahu Akbar! I’m gunna kill you lot and f***in’ Tony Abbott too!”

Well, now the kid’s getting somewhere... there are two cops covered in blood trying to keep their heads on and the kid’s begging to be shot, so they shoot him! Ripper! He’s as dead as a dodo, with a smile on his face and listening to these Muslim elders going off their heads about police brutality.

Islamic preacher, Sheikh Ustadh Mohammed Junaid Thorne said, “Unfortunately, our young brother went alone to meet with these ‘ambiguous’ policemen, the violators of his privacy”.

He complained, “What we are sure of is that he was murdered in cold blood right in front of a police station, in front of a place that is supposed to be providing security and comfort to our youth.”

Shiekh Thorne extended his prayers and deep condolences to the family of the kid without mention of the two coppers (one was rushed to hospital with knife wounds to the throat and chest) and both were lucky to escape with their lives.

The idiot Sheik continued, “This boy was not a casualty of an armed heist, nor was his death the result of some drug deal that went wrong, rather he was killed by the same people who are supposed to be protecting this country.”

On went the idiot Sheik, “We still ask and wonder why deadly force was immediately used against a teenager who was provoked in the first place and forced into such a situation.

“I address the Australian community, the Muslims and non Muslims, when I say that the Government will try its best to frame this young kid as a ‘terrorist’.

“They will use all their efforts and resources to brand him a threat to the community, but we must not forget that he was nothing but an average teenager who once again fell victim to police brutality and murder.”

    WTF? Don’t these galahs really believe in this 72 virgins stuff after all? They should be happy for him.

Unlike the media and the Muslim elders, this dead kid reckons he’s really glad his first tilt at terrorism had something to do with Islam ‘cos right now he’s as happy as a pig in shit!


Harper Review Flags Need For Affordable Housing Reform

The need for national competition policy reforms that target housing affordability has been highlighted by the Harper Competition Policy Review’s Draft Report.

“Released yesterday, the draft report correctly identified the link between less affordable housing and inefficient planning and zoning processes,” Wilhelm Harnisch CEO of Master Builders Australia said. 

“However the Harper Review’s draft recommendations need further review to be effective in reforming local government reform planning and zoning processes. This is important given the impact of local council red and green tape on the community’s access to affordable housing,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“Inefficiency at the local level is a major obstacle to affordable home ownership because it unnecessarily drives up the cost of construction and chokes the supply of new housing,” he said.

“Reforms that increase housing stock would more effectively target housing affordability pressures than abolishing negative gearing,”

“Tackling the nation’s massive housing undersupply will ensure access to affordable homeownership, provide adequate social housing and allow the housing industry to do its job and drive increased investment in non-mining sectors of the economy,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“Master Builders response to the Harper Review’s Draft Report will reinforce the building and construction industry’s need for bold competition policy reforms that target solutions for these major issues and call on the Government to consult with business to ensure that reforms are actively pursued and implemented,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.



Three current articles below

Climate-related disasters cost the world half a trillion dollars, warns Oxfam on eve of UN Climate Summit

A wild and completely unsubstantiated claim.  There has in any case been no global warming in the period concerned.  And there have also been fewer weather extremes in the period

On the eve of the UN Climate Summit, Oxfam has released research showing that since global leaders last met in Copenhagen to discuss climate change five years ago, climate-related disasters have cost the world almost half a trillion dollars.

Oxfam Australia climate change policy advisor Simon Bradshaw said that given tens of thousands of Australians took to the streets over the weekend, Oxfam was disappointed the Prime Minister was not attending the summit in New York, and urged the Australian Government to start living up to its international responsibilities on climate change.

“While others forge ahead with ambitious plans, Australia is continuing down a path of irresponsibility and recklessness,” Dr Bradshaw said.

“Oxfam’s research shows that over the five years since the Copenhagen summit, more than 650 million people have been affected by climate-related disasters and more than 112,000 lives have been lost.

“Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s expected no-show at the landmark summit is yet another affront to our neighbours in the Pacific who, despite their limited resources, are working determinedly to confront the climate challenge.”

The 120 or so world leaders expected in New York – the largest group that has ever come together to discuss climate change - include the heads of most of Australia’s major trading partners and the leaders of almost all Pacific island countries.

“As an international development agency working in countries throughout the region, we know that even the poorest countries – those with the least responsibility for the climate crisis - are no longer waiting for rich countries like Australia to get their houses in order,” Dr Bradshaw said.

“From Timor Leste to Vanuatu, communities are working with whatever means they have. They are leapfrogging the dirty technologies of the past and drawing on their strengths to build the sustainable, resilient economies of the future.”

He said Australia must have an ambitious long-term plan to cut its own emissions, increase support to developing countries, and play a constructive role towards a strong global climate agreement.

“A decision by a rich country like Australia to roll back its climate policies and flout its international obligations is a decision to place an even greater burden onto poor communities in developing countries, who are already being hit first and hardest by climate change,” he said.

Oxfam also said that in pushing to expand its fossil fuel sector, Australia was not only increasing its contribution to dangerous climate change but risked being left behind in the global transition to renewable energy.

“For now, Australia appears willing to ignore pleas from the international community, remain wilfully ignorant to the situation of its Pacific neighbours, and work against its own long-term national interest,” Dr Bradshaw said.  “Australians have sent the strongest possible signal this weekend that they expect better.”
For interviews, please contact Laurelle Keough on +61 425 701 801


ABC science guy denies the science that even the IPCC now accepts

Even the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admitted in its latest report that global warming had paused for some 15 years.

Read for yourself the section in the report with the headline that says it all: "Climate Models and the Hiatus in Global-Mean Surface Warming of the Past 15 Years"

So it says something about the ABC that its science presenters still deny what even the IPCC admits. Who are the true deniers of science now?

Well, here is Karl S. Kruszelnicki, who has form for denying what doesn’t suit his astonishing climate alarmism:

In the USA, the Wall Street Journal wrote, “temperatures have been flat for 15 years - nobody can properly explain it.”

Another newspaper from the same stable, the UK Daily Mail wrote “global warming ‘pause’ may last 20 more years, and Arctic sea ice has already started to recover”. Both of these statements are very reassuring, but unfortunately, very very wrong.

With regard to this ‘pause’, there are two major claims made by those who deny the science of climate change.

The first one is that the climate is actually cooling - not warming. This is incorrect.

The second claim is that after some previous warming, the global climate is now constant, and neither warming nor cooling. In other words, that the climate is in a kind of holding pattern, or haitus. This is also incorrect… The climate is still heating up.

You can read Dr Karl’s long and curious justification for refusing to believe in the warming pause, or you can simply check this graphic and decide for yourself whether Dr Karl should really be presenting science for the ABC:


Nationals MP George Christensen calls Green activists 'terrorists'

Nationals MP George Christensen is fighting activists whom he calls "gutless green grubs" opposed to the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal in his electorate. In his speech to Parliament, the outspoken MP said "the greatest terrorism threat in North Queensland, I'm sad to say, comes from the extreme green movement".

Mr Christensen says groups oppose the expansion and associated jobs out of ideology and not to save the Great Barrier Reef, because they are still campaigning against the proposal, even though an onshore dumping proposal has been found.

"The eco-terrorists butchered the international tourism market for our greatest tourism attraction, not for the reef but for political ideology," he said.

Mr Christensen said the green groups had threatened to lie in front of trains in cardboard boxes and referred Fairfax Media to the radical Alpha Generation's "Over our Dead Bodies" campaign.

The Over Our Dead Bodies homepage vows to "trash the Aurizon brand, by telling the world Aurizon are actively enabling an environmental catastrophe". Aurizon is the freight company that transports coal. Ben Pennings from the group confirmed that activists had "talked about stopping trains" but said "we're not going to be putting people in harm's way".

In a statement issued after his speech, Mr Christensen referred to the "gutless green germ" activists as "terrorists" five times.

He did not retreat from his comments when contacted by Fairfax Media on Thursday and said the activists might not like coal mining, but had no right to try to shut down a legitimate business.  "It's not illegal to mine or export coal," he said.

 Mr Feeney slammed Mr Christensen's "infantile rhetoric", particularly in light of Tuesday's stabbing of two police officers during an encounter in which an 18-year-old "terror suspect" was shot dead.

"There are two police officers still in hospital and this government MP thinks it's OK to throw the word 'terrorism' around as part of a cheap political stunt," Mr Feeney told Fairfax Media. "This is an incredibly insensitive and stupid thing to say, especially given the horrific attack we saw less than 48 hours ago.


25 September, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is disgusted at the softball interview with Julia Gillard on channel 9

GreenPower at risk under RET changes

GreenPower is a voluntary Australian system whereby hard-core Greenies can buy their electicity from "renewable" sources even though it costs more.  It encourages the building of absurdities like windmills and solar farms, which is a deplorable waste of capital.  So it is good to hear the pips squeaking

The highly successful GreenPower program faces a precarious future if proposed changes to the Renewable Energy Target go ahead, according to the Property Council of Australia.

Buried in the controversial Warburton Review is a proposal to count energy purchased by GreenPower customers towards Australia’s renewables target.

Currently, GreenPower operates separately to the RET – providing purchasers with access to guaranteed, additional renewable energy.

GreenPower customers bought $80 million worth of energy last year – with over $40 million of that from the commercial sector. This additional investment would cease if purchasers find that GreenPower makes no difference to how much renewable energy Australia generates. 

Property Council Chief Executive, Ken Morrison, says industry is alarmed by the proposal – which would completely undermine the GreenPower program.

“GreenPower has been an effective market-based option for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint,” Mr Morrison said.

“Including GreenPower in the RET calculations would mean customers are paying for something already funded by the RET. It would become valueless to end users.

“The outcome would be the withdrawal of $80 million worth of private renewables funding every year. That’s a whopping blow to Australia’s renewable energy sector and would make our carbon abatement task even harder.

“Double-counting of GreenPower would have significant flow on impacts to other government and industry programs, such as the National Australian Built Environment Rating Scheme (NABERS) and GreenStar, which have endorsed the current GreenPower model,” Mr Morrison concluded.

The Property Council has supported the retention of the RET, including the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. The property industry has been a significant investor in renewable energy and has a considerable pipeline of upcoming projects which risk being derailed by any weakening of the RET.


Victoria Police Shoot Dead Alleged Terror Suspect

An alleged terrorist suspect was shot dead by police in a Melbourne suburb, in the latest incident to raise concerns sympathizers of Islamist militants abroad are targeting Australians.

The 18-year-old man was killed late Tuesday outside of a police station in southeast Melbourne after stabbing two law-enforcement officers, Michael Keenan, Australia's Justice Minister, said on Wednesday.

An Australian Federal Police officer is in serious but stable condition in a hospital, Mr. Keenan told reporters, adding that an officer from the Victoria state police suffered less serious injuries and was in stable condition.

"This incident occurred during a police investigation and it appears that the shooting by the police officer was in self-defense," Mr. Keenan said.

Mr. Keenan said the young man was a known terror suspect who had been invited to attend the police station for a routine interview and had turned up on his own volition.

Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay told reporters Wednesday that the state-police officer shot the assailant after being stabbed in the arm. The AFP officer, meanwhile, suffered stab wounds to his head, neck and stomach, he said.

"We first became aware of this male about three months ago when he came into contact with Victorian Police," Mr. Lay said. "It's true to say late last week we learned of some behaviors that were causing us concern."

Intelligence indicating the individual had earlier been seen waving an Islamic State flag was being investigated by authorities, AFP Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin told reporters. The suspect's passport had been suspended about a week ago, Mr. Colvin said.

Tough new antiterror laws are set to be introduced in Australia's Parliament on Wednesday. They would allow the government to designate certain countries or regions as "no-go zones" from which returning citizens may need to prove they hadn't been engaged in terrorist activity.

The proposed laws are also intended to make it simpler for authorities, including police and spy agencies, to detain terrorist suspects and search their homes.

The Australian proposals come after 16 people were detained, and two charged, following police raids last week across suburbs in Sydney and Brisbane, aimed at defusing an alleged plot by Islamic State sympathizers to behead members of the public.

Australia, a close U.S. ally, raised its terror alert on Sept. 12 to the second-highest level, and warned that attacks inside the country were expected in response to recent events in the Middle East.

Islamic State, a radical Sunni group, has in the past month released videos showing the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British aid worker David Haines.

Mr. Abbott has ordered Australian warplanes and 200 special-forces soldiers to Iraq to join the U.S.-led global coalition planning airstrikes against Islamic State insurgents there.

Lawmakers in Canberra are also on high alert after local intelligence agencies last week intercepted correspondence allegedly showing Islamic State supporters may be planning to attack the country's Parliament.


Negative gearing is not just for the rich

THE vast majority of property investors taking advantage of negative gearing are “mum and dads” earning less than $80,000 a year, countering the long-held view that the property investment measure was a tax lurk for the rich.

Australian Taxation Office data shows that of the 1.266 million Australians who declared that the rental on their investment properties didn’t meet the interest repayment in 2011-12, 883,325 earned less than $80,000.

More than 70 per cent of people who accessed negative-gearing benefits, where losses on property investments can be deducted from taxable personal income, only owned one investment property. A further 18 per cent owned two investment properties.

About 60,000 clerical staff earning less than $80,000 benefited from negative gearing, as did 54,000 teachers, 46,000 sales staff and 35,590 nurses and midwives. Lizzy Hubbard, a 29-year-old teacher from The Ponds, in Sydney’s northwest, said negative gearing was helping her pay for an investment property she had purchased in Muswellbrook in the NSW Hunter Valley.

“I really did want to get into the property market, and I knew it would be difficult to get into,” said Ms Hubbard, who purchased her house when she was 25.

“I hadn’t moved out of home, but I knew I could get a steady income and one day I would be able to benefit from my investment.”

Ms Hubbard admitted she didn’t know the details of negative gearing, and had gone through Aussie Home Loans instead, but knew that an increased tax refund had made it easier to save and pay back her loan.

With no sign of a slowdown in house-price growth — investment bank UBS has forecast that tomorrow’s Australian Bureau of Statistics figures will show a 10 per cent year-on-year increase — calls to address affordability and the debate around the housing bubble will continue.

With a tax review likely over the coming months, a number of economists are already calling for negative gearing to be abolished or pared back to make property investment less attractive, leading industry groups to lobby for it to remain.

“Negative gearing works effic­iently over the life cycle of Australians, with younger people relying upon the concession with a shift towards positive gearing as people get closer to retirement,” said Nick Proud, the executive ­director of the Residential Development Council, which provided the statistics to The Australian.

“Individual investors incentivised by negative gearing have ­increased over the past 30 years and their emergence will reduce the future reliance on the pension.”

Mr Proud pointed out negative gearing applied in the majority of OECD countries and said its removal in Britain had not improved housing affordability.


Sir Lunchalot is still hungry for money

The ABC is attempting to defend a defamation case brought against it by corrupt former NSW Labor minister Ian Macdonald by arguing his "bad reputation" could not have been further damaged by claims made in a TV news broadcast.

Mr Macdonald, who has been found corrupt in three separate Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiries, says a 7pm ABC news broadcast last year falsely claimed he "made millions" of dollars from a coal deal involving corrupt former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid.

He contends he made no money from the deals and is seeking damages in the NSW Supreme Court because his reputation has been "gravely injured".

In a defence filed in court, the ABC says it broadcast a correction a day after the original report that said the ICAC had made "no finding that Ian Macdonald made any money from the deals".

But the ABC also says the report conveyed a range of other meanings, including that the ICAC found last year that Mr Macdonald was involved in "grand corruption",  "abused his position as a government minister" and was a dishonest witness.

The national broadcaster argues it did not defame Mr Macdonald because those claims are true and, under a defence known as contextual truth, any other meanings that may have been conveyed by the broadcast "do not further harm the reputation of the plaintiff".

If its defences are unsuccessful, the ABC says the court should take into account Mr Macdonald's "bad reputation" in assessing damages.

It argues that, at the time of the broadcast in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT – and the publication of the story online – Mr Macdonald had acquired "a reputation as a corrupt former NSW member of Parliament and government minister".

The news report on October 30 last year included footage of Mr Macdonald with a voice-over stating the former mining minister and his political ally, Mr Obeid, "made millions over mining deals in NSW. They were found to be corrupt and now face possible criminal charges".

In a report released in July last year, the ICAC found that Mr Macdonald, Mr Obeid and Mr Obeid's middle son, Moses, corruptly agreed in 2008 to create a coal tenement over the Obeids' Bylong Valley farm.

It recommended the Director of Public Prosecutions consider criminal charges against all three men.

The Obeids made $30 million from the deal. There was evidence before the ICAC of an arrangement for Mr Macdonald to receive a $4 million cut of the proceeds of the planned sale of the company which acquired a coal exploration licence over the property.

But the ICAC heard the sale did not go ahead and Mr Macdonald did not receive the money.

Mr Macdonald says the broadcast has brought him into "hatred, ridicule and contempt". He is seeking damages, including aggravated damages, and costs.

The former minister has been investigated in three separate ICAC inquiries and was found to have acted corruptly in each of them.

In July last year, the ICAC found the then energy minister corruptly solicited the services of a prostitute called Tiffanie as a "reward" for setting up meetings with state-owned energy company executives for businessman Ron Medich.

Mr Medich was later charged with murder in an unrelated case.

In August last year, the ICAC found that, in December 2008, Mr Macdonald corruptly awarded a coal exploration licence to a company then chaired by his "mate" and former union boss John Maitland.


Multicultural arsonist, it seems

The owner of a Rozelle convenience store destroyed by a fire that killed three people has now been charged with three counts of murder and two of attempted murder.

Adeel Khan, 44, was also charged with three counts of manslaughter and 17 charges relating to the damage to property caused by the fire in Darling Street on September 4.  One of those charges is setting fire for a financial gain, with police alleging the fire was deliberately lit.

Mr Khan, who was injured in the blast, was charged by detectives while he remains in Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

He was granted a bedside hearing where he was remanded in custody and will appear in court again in October.

Bianka O'Brien, 31, her baby son Jude and their neighbour Chris Noble, 27, all died in the Darling Street fire.  Three others were injured, including Mr Khan, who was discovered by fire crews trapped underneath a commercial fridge.

The fire tore through the convenience store, which he had owned for only months, the neighbouring mobile phone shop and the residential units above in the early hours of September 4.

Mr Noble's two flatmates and another resident, Anthony Carroll, who lived above the store managed to jump free from the building while it was on fire.

A large section of the Rozelle end of Darling Street was closed for almost a fortnight as police combed through the rubble and demolished a neighbouring store amid fears it too could collapse.


24 September, 2014

From commenter "Olbe"

Here is a statistic that you will not be told about because of political-correctness and the infamous anti-discrimination clause section-18C.

The largest recipients of the DSP welfare benefits are groups of men of middle-eastern heritage located in the inner western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. A visit to the numerous Gyms in these suburbs will highlight the number of fit, muscle bound and steroid induced types pumping iron who are all on DSP (Disability Support Pensions). They use these welfare benefits as a form of a cash-flow to support and hide their other illegal activities.

They get these welfare benefits by intimidating and standing over CentreLink staff and by using compliant ethnic doctors.

Via email

Liberal MP Alex Hawke accuses ABC's Q&A of broadcasting 'conspiracy theories' on terror raids

A federal Liberal MP has slammed the ABC for broadcasting what he says are inflammatory "conspiracy theories" about last week's terror raids on last night's Q&A program.

Alex Hawke's electorate of Mitchell in Sydney's Hills district was the focus for many of the raids, in which police say they foiled a plot to carry out a random "demonstration execution" on the streets of Sydney.

He gave an impassioned speech to the Coalition party room on Tuesday morning, which sources say the Attorney-General George Brandis praised as the finest contribution of the meeting.  Mr Hawke also asked that his concerns be conveyed to ABC management via official channels.  

He criticised the views expressed by the two non-MP panellists, Randa Abdel-Fattah and Anne-Azza Aly, and said the publicly funded ABC is obliged to present more balanced views from the Muslim community.

Ms Abdel-Fattah described the terror raids as a "spectacle" and "conveniently timed" ahead of the government's "most draconian" national security legislation which is being introduced into Parliament this week.

"You cannot help but feel cynical about the timing of these raids, the fact that it is whipping people up into a frenzy of hysteria, or war fever," she said.  "It reinforced this wider narrative of Muslims as criminals ... and I'm very cynical about the government's decision to politicise these raids," she added.

Counter terrorism expert and academic Ms Aly said "all terrorism is theatre and all counter-terrorism is theatre, so yes, [the raids were] a manufactured spectacle".

When contacted by Fairfax Media for a comment, Mr Hawke said "I thought the ABC let the team down by entertaining these conspiracies".

A source said Mr Hawke's criticisms of the ABC were well-received. "There were a lot of hear, hears," the MP said.

A spokesman for the ABC defended the program and pointed to the variety of panelists, which included the government's Justice Minister Michael Keenan.

"We were confident when we brought them together that all of the panelists would be more than capable of putting their own case, participating in a vigorous debate and answering challenging questions; that's exactly what they did," said the spokesman.

The spokesman added that Q&A is a "significant component of Australia's vigorous democracy" and gives Australians the opportunity to debate national issues.

The ABC is facing more funding cuts, in breach of the government's pre-election pledge not to cut funding to the national broadcaster, and it is possible that flagship programs including Lateline could be slashed.


Anti-muslim protest: Hundreds rally at proposed Sunshine Coast mosque

Hundreds of people protesting against a mosque on Queensland's Sunshine Coast have come to verbal blows with the building's supporters, with about 20 police separating the emotionally charged groups.

More than 200 anti-Muslim demonstrators shook placards stating: "Islam is plotting our destruction" and "Australia we have a problem" at the site of the planned mosque, on Church Street in Maroochydore.

The protesters said they were concerned the site could become a hub of radicalisation, threatening the local community.

"I'm not for it anywhere in Australia," a man who called himself Aussie Ron told the ABC.

One Nation state president Jim Savage, who said he had two adopted Asian daughters, said he was not a religious bigot nor a racist.

"This is nothing to do with race," he said.  "What Muslim preaches violates the laws of my country. It is an ideological, political organisation wrapped up in a very thin skin of religion.

"I ask anybody to name any Western country in the world where there had been a large influx of Muslims where they have seen an improvement and have not seen social issues."

Pakistani-born Justin Albert warned of experiences of oppression in his native country. "Chopping their heads, it is their Jihad," he said.

More than 50 pro-mosque demonstrators tried to shout down the anti-mosque group, calling them bigots and ignorant. They riled their opponents further by singing the national anthem and other iconic national songs.  "You've never read anything," one pro-mosque protester taunted the angry mob.

Another promoter, who did not release his name, said there needed to be more education.  "The Sunshine Coast Muslim community has existed here for over 30 years guys and no one has even batted an eyelid," he said.  "I think it's just a lack of education at the end of the day guys.

"Education, if people could sit down I would have a chat with every single person here at the end of the day if they would love to and I can teach them a few things on the truth of Islam the truth of these Muslim people."

The protest comes just days after a mosque was rejected by the Gold Coast Council, which cited a lack of parking, noise issues and community concern


Taking the fight to terrorism is a job for Morrison

Tough, relentless, uncompromising - Scott Morrison is just the politician to respond to the threat of terrorism that today sent a chill through Australia, writes Barrie Cassidy

Scott Morrison's day has come. It's now time for the Immigration Minister to step up and take responsibility for the fight against terrorism.

Nobody is better qualified. Nobody would bring the same sense of reassurance, confidence and security that the country now needs.

Make no mistake, the allegation that Australian citizens turned terrorists were preparing to snatch people from the streets, drape them in the IS flag, and behead them will send a chill through the nation. No matter the level of threat, the public will be on edge.

This is no longer a vaguely held belief that those who choose to join terrorists overseas represent some sort of threat if and when they return home. The suggestion now is that those who would commit unspeakable evil are living here among us.

Granted, the Immigration Minister is the most polarising politician in the country. He is probably the most popular in the eyes of Coalition voters, and the most despised by the partisans who support Labor.

Witness Chris Uhlmann's question to Morrison on the ABC's AM program on Thursday morning.  Uhlmann:

"Finally, has there been a personal toll on you? You've been described as a brute, a barbarian - even a murderer."

Morrison:  "Well, I think there are all sorts of outrageous claims and I just get on and do my job. I mean, we were elected on the basis of stopping the boats and doing what we said we would do. Now I've done that, I've got the results to date...  I think people should feel pleased with that ... when it comes to border protection and on many other issues."

That the question could be asked in those terms, and that Morrison could respond without blinking an eye, is testimony to the passion and emotion that he can generate.

He has as well left himself open to ridicule for his over-reliance on "on water matters" to avoid taking difficult questions on the treatment of asylum seekers.

He wasn't, however, silly enough to embrace the declaration in some media outlets on Thursday morning that the mission has been accomplished:

"We can never do that because this mission is always ongoing. You must be eternally vigilant."

Morrison could have added that the mission cannot be truly accomplished until those on Manus Island - the 50 per cent of asylum seekers already deemed to be genuine refugees - are found a permanent safe haven.

Yet unquestionably Morrison is a tough, relentless, uncompromising operator who doesn't obsess about his own popularity. They are precisely the qualities that are now required. He needs to seamlessly switch his attention from people smugglers to terrorists.

Niki Savva observed in The Australian on Thursday that because Morrison's border protection brief had already provided scope for his involvement in the terrorism issue, he "has been swung into the frontline to bolster the arguments".

And sure enough, when news broke of the massive raids in Sydney and Brisbane, Morrison was first on to the national media.

Savva wrote:  "This has added weight to speculation within the bureaucracy that any reshuffle by Abbott could see Morrison put in charge of a ramped-up homeland security-type portfolio.
Let's hope she's right."

There has already been speculation that Morrison might replace the underperforming David Johnston as Defence Minister. That might have made sense a few weeks ago. But now, somehow even that senior role is not big enough.

Morrison needs an all-encompassing role that oversees the terrorism threat from both home and abroad; and the government needs his occasionally pugnacious but direct communications skills on the issue that will now feature strongly in the national debate all the way through to the next election


Ground forces should come from Arab countries: Julie Bishop

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has made a strong pitch for Arab countries providing any ground forces that might be needed to beat back the brutal Islamic State group in Iraq.

Ms Bishop told Fairfax Media that if ground forces are required – a possibility raised this week by the top US military commander if the strategy against the militants fails – the responsibility should fall to Iraq's neighbours rather than countries such as Australia.

"The Arab nations have sophisticated weaponry, they have defence forces and they are more at risk given the proximity of ISIL than Australia," Ms Bishop said, using the alternative name for the Islamic State group.

"To my mind that's where the first call should be made on anything beyond the current strategy."

Ms Bishop will on Friday attend a US-led United Nations debate on Iraq and remain in New York for the start of a broader General Assembly meeting next week. Prime Minister Tony Abbott will arrive next week for discussion on countering terrorism and foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria.

Her remarks came as the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, confirmed that Australian special forces soldiers would go "beyond the wire" of bases and move with Iraqi troops on the battlefield. But they would operate out of headquarters at the level of battalions, meaning each small team of Australians would advise and help about 100 Iraqi soldiers, which Air Chief Marshal Binskin said would keep them back from the front line.

"We will not be conducting independent combat operations as formed forces. We'll be in support of the Iraqi Security Forces," he said.

The special forces would be commandos, rather than SAS soldiers who would receive the standard military allowances for "war-like situations". But the military chief said calling the Australian operation "war" would give the Islamic State "a legitimacy they don't deserve".

Australian military planners are in Baghdad working with the Americans and Iraqis on how missions would be carried out. They will report to Air Chief Marshal Binskin and he will advise the government before ahead of any final decision.

Australia's Super Hornet planes will also be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions as well as air strikes and "close air support" of Iraqi troops on the ground, he said.

General Martin Dempsey, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, opened the door on Tuesday night to a US ground force, saying: "If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the President."

Ms Bishop reiterated that Australia had "no intention" of sending ground combat troops – a pledge the Obama administration is also sticking to.

"If the United States military experts say otherwise somewhere down the track, then … I assume the United States would go for support from other countries in the region who are there with the capacity to do that," Ms Bishop said.

"If you look at the General Dempsey scenario – and that's what it is, it's a scenario, a hypothetical – they can point to many other parts of the world that would have a much closer role and logistically be far better able to support any United States strategy in that regard."


23 September, 2014

Goulburn Jail cancels Muslim prayer meetings as prisoners go berserk

PRISON officers in riot gear have used tear gas to control maximum security inmates who tore apart Goulburn Jail in a racially fuelled riot ­described as the biggest in 10 years.

With shouts of “Allah Akbar”, prisoners armed with homemade weapons threatened guards and smashed through an internal fence at the state’s toughest jail, which was in lockdown yesterday.

The riot came as prison authorities cracked down on Muslim prayer meetings in the state’s jails, believed to be a key way Islamic extremists foment their hatred and plot their attacks. Police were called in and investigations are ongoing.

Tensions have been running high in the prison system as federal and NSW police step up their surveillance of suspected terrorists and any of their associates inside and outside prisons after the country’s terror alert was raised to high.

A source has revealed how the violence began in the maximum wing of the Goulburn facility about 3pm on Saturday when a number of ringleaders refused to line up for afternoon muster.

The source said the unrest had begun as a result of some privileges being requested — and denied — for a handful of inmates, but the situation quickly turned into a full-scale riot along religious lines.

“They’d been knocked back something ...,” the source said. “The issue wasn’t a Muslim-related issue, but it was the Muslim guys who got into it, yelling out to Allah.  “They were refusing to go into their cells. They refused to line up, then it went from there and exploded.”

The prison officers had “geared-up” as soon as they sensed trouble.

The riot did not involve convicted terrorists held in Goulburn’s Supermax, who remain under constant surveillance.

Those inmates include ­Mohamed Ali Elomar who is serving a 21-year sentence for his leadership in the 2005 ­Pendennis terror plot.

He is the uncle of former boxer Mohamed Elomar, one of the Australian jihadis currently fighting with the Islamic State in Syria. Mohamed Elomar is with Khaled Sharrouf, who had been jailed along with Ali Elomar over the 2005 plot and fled overseas last year when he was released from jail.

Following Saturday’s riots, seven ringleaders were segregated and four were seen by medical staff for minor injuries. Corrective Services NSW confirmed it had used chemicals on Saturday against inmates who caused damage but denied reports that it was religiously motivated.

“Inmate unrest began about 3pm yesterday after staff informed inmates in that yard that a good behaviour privilege was being withdrawn, due to earlier verbal abuse of correctional staff,” a spokesman said.

NSW Premier Mike Baird said: “I have every confidence in Corrective Services in keeping our community safe


Australian Megachurch With a Beat Lures a Young Flock Worldwide

LOS ANGELES — A toned and sunburned 32-year-old Australian with the letters F-A-I-T-H tattooed onto his biceps strode onto the stage of a former burlesque theater here and shouted across a sea of upstretched hands and uplifted smartphones: “Let’s win this city together!”

The crowd did not need much urging. Young, diverse and devoted to Jesus, the listeners had come to the Belasco Theater from around the city, and from across the country, eager to help an Australian Pentecostal megachurch that is spreading worldwide establish its first outpost on America’s West Coast.

The church, Hillsong, has become a phenomenon, capitalizing on, and in some cases shaping, trends not only in evangelicalism but also in Christian youth culture. Its success would be rare enough at a time when religion is struggling in a secularizing Europe and North America. But Hillsong is even more remarkable because its target is young Christians in big cities, where faith seems out of fashion but where its services are packing them in.

Powered by a thriving, and lucrative, recording label that dominates Christian contemporary music, it has a vast reach — by some estimates, 100,000 people in the pews each weekend, 10 million followers on social media, 16 million albums sold, with its songs popping up in churches from Uzbekistan to Papua New Guinea.

Founded 30 years ago, Hillsong has churches in Amsterdam; Barcelona, Spain; Berlin; Cape Town; Copenhagen; Kiev, Ukraine; London; New York; Paris; and Stockholm, as well as multiple campuses in Australia and, now, an embryonic congregation in Los Angeles.

The Hillsong empire might appear to be a musical powerhouse first and a church second. It is, after all, a multimillion-dollar enterprise, drawing large crowds to arena concert performances; one of its bands, Hillsong United, is even the subject of a documentary scheduled for release by Warner Bros. next year.

Its songs, with a folk rock sound and simple, accessible lyrics, pervade the Christian charts and have transformed the Christian songbook.

“They are without a doubt the most influential producers of worship music in Christendom,” said Fred Markert, a Colorado-based leader of Youth With a Mission, a Christian organization. And Ed Stetzer, the executive director of LifeWay Research, an organization based in Nashville that studies practices in American Christianity, declared in an analysis of Hillsong, “In sensory stimulation, Hillsong’s productions rival any other contemporary form of entertainment.”

But its critics, and there are many, deride Hillsong as hipster Christianity, suggesting that its theology is thin, its enthusiasm for celebrities (Justin Bieber is among its fans) unbecoming, its politics (opposition to abortion and a murky position on homosexuality) opaque.

“It’s a prosperity movement for the millennials, in which the polyester and middle-class associations of Oral Roberts have given way to ripped jeans and sophisticated rock music,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “What has made Hillsong distinctive is a minimization of the actual content of the Gospel, and a far more diffuse presentation of spirituality.”

 For young Christians in cities where Hillsong has churches, it has become a magnet, combining the production values of a rock concert, the energy of a nightclub and the community of a megachurch. Many of the worshipers say they are drawn by the music but have stayed because of the opportunity to be with other young Christians, and because they believe that the churches can help transform cities, both through prayer and through direct social services.

“I want to be part of something bigger than myself,” said Tricia Hidalgo, 29, who said that she first heard Hillsong music played in her childhood church in Ontario, Calif., and that as a young adult she gave up studying to be a teacher to move to Australia to attend Hillsong’s Bible college. Now, she is volunteering for the church in Los Angeles.

“We’re going to love the city, love the people, and, to me, I feel like love can break any walls,” she said.

Amanda-Paige Whittington, 32, recalled hearing Hillsong’s first huge hit, “Shout to the Lord,” as a girl in a Southern Baptist church in Mississippi.

“I told my mom, ‘One day I’m going to Hillsong,’ ” said Ms. Whittington, who also attended Hillsong’s Bible college in Sydney and now lives in Orange County. “The music drew me to the church.”

Hillsong Los Angeles, as well as Hillsong New York, which opened four years ago, is an example of a growing phenomenon in global Christianity: big church brands taking on big secular cities. This year, Saddleback Church, the Orange County megachurch led by Rick Warren, opened its own campus in Los Angeles, while several years ago, Willow Creek, the megachurch based in South Barrington, Ill., opened a campus in Chicago.

“There’s no question there’s a real current of evangelical enamorment with cities,” Mr. Stetzer said. “Evangelicals have been a rural people historically, and the cities were the places where sin was. But cities are also where the people are.”

Hillsong chooses cities not only because of population density, but also because of their impact on culture.

“These are tough, hard, dry towns for contemporary churches,” said Brian Houston, the Sydney-based senior pastor of the Hillsong empire. “We want to be strategic, and really impact cities of influence, so that the influence can reach far beyond.”

Hillsong has critics who monitor speakers at its conferences, and utterances by its leaders, for deviations from Christian orthodoxy (of concern to the right) or evidence of social conservatism (of concern to the left). Its finances have been scrutinized by the Australian news media; its preaching is tracked by a critical blog. This year, Mr. Houston issued a clarification after being criticized by other evangelicals for suggesting that Christians and Muslims serve the same God.

Hillsong, founded by Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie, has been anti-abortion and has described gay sex as sinful. But recently, church leaders have moderated their tone; the pastor of Hillsong New York, Carl Lentz, passed up two opportunities this year to express a view on same-sex marriage, in interviews with Katie

In the United States, Hillsong is nondenominational; in Australia, it is associated with the Australian Christian Churches, which is an affiliate of the Assemblies of God. For a time, Mr. Houston was the head of the denomination, and in 2000, he fired his father, Frank Houston, who was serving at another church, after the elder Mr. Houston acknowledged having abused a boy decades earlier.

One of Brian Houston’s sons, Joel, is Hillsong’s creative director, performs with Hillsong United and serves as a pastor at Hillsong New York. Another son, Ben, is the pastor of Hillsong Los Angeles. Ben has the “Faith” tattoo on one arm, as well as tattoos of the characters +=? (Jesus Is Love) and the names of his three daughters, surrounded by images of flowers and butterflies, as well as that of a lion, “to remind me I’m a man.”

Hillsong’s worship style is charismatic, meaning there is an emphasis on the Holy Spirit and on divine healing, but there is little speaking in tongues, which is seen at more conventional Pentecostal churches.

The Houstons like to say that worship should be enjoyed, not endured. Services are often held in dimly lit concert venues: In New York, the church started at Irving Plaza and then relocated to the Grand Ballroom at the Manhattan Center; in Los Angeles, a debut was held at 1 Oak, a West Hollywood club. There are lines to get in, and fewer seats than worshipers. Some worshipers share images and thoughts on social media during services.

The sound has evolved over the decades, but is now sometimes compared to U2’s. Tom Wagner, an ethnomusicologist at the University of Edinburgh, said Hillsong’s music was characterized by rich orchestration, but simple harmonies, and was often regarded by listeners as “spiritually anointed.”

“They’re very good at writing songs that are catchy,” Mr. Wagner said. “They know what works.”


Hard conversation about Aboriginal culture and child protection needed

Conservative social commentators have indulged in 'divisive grandstanding' by linking Aboriginal culture to the abuse and neglect of Aboriginal children, according to Ngiare Brown, the deputy chairman of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.

These claims suppress the hard conversation we need to have about Aboriginal culture and child protection.

We cannot afford to ignore the question of 'culture' when discussing child maltreatment in disadvantaged Aboriginal communities, because 'culture' has long been pivotal to what is and isn't done to protect Aboriginal children.

Since at least the publication in 1997 of the Bringing them home report ('Stolen Generations' report), the standard literature on Aboriginal child protection has used the defence of traditional culture to downplay the impact of customary Aboriginal parenting practices on child wellbeing.

Bringing them home blamed the over-representation of Aboriginal children in the child protection system on the 'cultural bias' of caseworkers who failed to understand and respect Aboriginal family values. Because these values differed from the Western view of the 'normal' nuclear family, Aboriginal customs - such as lack of parental supervision, encouraging children to be self-reliant, and the involvement of extended kin networks in rearing children - were incorrectly labelled by caseworkers as neglectful.

This analysis of the Aboriginal 'village' stepping in for parents and caring for children remains influential. The 2007 Wood report into child protection in NSW stressed how difficult it is for caseworkers 'raised in Anglo-Celtic society' and valuing 'the nuclear family above other conceptualizations of the "family", to have any insight into ...the safety of an Aboriginal child.' Similarly, the 2013 Cummins report into child protection in Victoria also stressed the need for 'culturally competent' assessments of the needs of Aboriginal children and families.

The problems with a 'culturally appropriate' approach to Aboriginal child protection are twofold.

The first problem is that the sort of culturally determined parenting practices described above, which may have been suitable in the social conditions of the past, are no longer functioning well in the present. This has created a genuine child protection problem; it has been well-documented by the Australian Institute of Family Studies that the most common form of maltreatment experienced by Aboriginal children is chronic parental neglect of basic needs including 'adequate food, shelter, clothing, supervision, hygiene or medical attention.'
The anthropologist Peter Sutton (who is no conservative) has argued that culturally embedded Aboriginal parenting practices, which he describes as a 'customary permissiveness in the raising of children', play an important role in accounting for neglect of children's most fundamental needs.

The second problem is under-responding to the protective needs of Aboriginal children out of fear of being judgemental or 'culturally inappropriate'. The assertion that concerns about Aboriginal families are motivated by cultural insensitivity, at best, and racism, at worst, creates a powerful justification for non-intervention by child protection authorities. It promotes double standards and reverse racism in the name of 'respecting culture' that lead to Aboriginal children being left in circumstances from which non-Aboriginal children would be removed.

It may not be politically correct to discuss how culture - the habits accumulated overtime and passed down through the generations - might be maladapted and have negative welfare effects. But nor is it 'racist' to do so.

'Culture', whether it is Aboriginal or otherwise, cannot be used as an excuse if child protection policy is to advance the best interests of Aboriginal children.


Snowden reveals tapping of major Australia-New Zealand undersea telecommunications cable

A major undersea telecommunications cable that connects Australia and New Zealand to North America has been tapped to allow the United States National Security Agency and its espionage partners to comprehensively harvest Australian and New Zealand internet data.

Documents published by The Intercept website by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden show that New Zealand's electronic spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), worked in 2012 and 2013 to implement a mass metadata surveillance system based on covert access to the Southern Cross undersea cable network.

Founded in 1997, Southern Cross owns and operates a Trans-Pacific submarine cable network connecting Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii to the internet backbone on the west coast of the United States. The network was developed to service the rapid growth of Internet traffic across the Pacific. It is owned by Telecom New Zealand with a 50 per cent share, SingTel Optus (Australia's second-largest telecommunications provider) with 40 per cent and Verizon Business with 10 per cent.

Top secret documents provided by Mr Snowden show that the GCSB, with ongoing cooperation from the US National Security Agency, implemented Phase I of a mass surveillance program code-named "Speargun" at some time in 2012 or early 2013. 

"Speargun" involved the covert installation of "cable access" equipment connected to New Zealand's main undersea cable link, the Southern Cross Cable, which carries internet traffic between Australia, New Zealand and North America.

Upon completion of the first stage, Speargun moved to Phase II, under which "metadata probes" were to be inserted into those cables. The leaked NSA documents note that the first such metadata probe was scheduled for installation in "mid-2013". Surveillance probes of this sort are used by NSA and its "5-eyes" partners including the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to tap into high capacity fibre-optic communication cables, enabling them to extract vast flows of data including the dates, times, senders, and recipients of emails, phone calls, as well as the actual content of communications as required.

The latest disclosures from top secret documents leaked by Mr Snowden come in the context of the final stages of New Zealand's election campaign where New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has been under pressure to explain the extent of GCSB's surveillance activities. On Sunday Mr Key stridently attacked US journalist Glen Greenwald, who is the author of numerous articles based on Mr Snowden's materials including Monday's report published on The Intercept website.

Mr Snowden, in a post for The Intercept, also published on Monday, accused Prime Minster Key of misleading the New Zealand public about GCSB's role in mass surveillance. "The Prime Minister's claim to the public, that 'there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance', is false," the former NSA analyst wrote. "The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargetted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks."

Mr Snowden explained that "at the NSA, I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called 'X-Keyscore'". He further observed that "the GCSB provides mass surveillance data into X-KEYSCORE. They also provide access to the communications of millions of New Zealanders to the NSA at facilities such as the GCSB facility in Waihopai, and the Prime Minister is personally aware of this fact."

Mr Key responded quickly to the latest disclosures, claiming that "there is not, and never has been, mass surveillance of New Zealanders undertaken by the GCSB".

The New Zealand Prime Minister said he would not discuss the X-Keyscore program, saying "we don't discuss the specific programmes the GCSB may, or may not use".

"But the GCSB does not collect mass metadata on New Zealanders, therefore it is clearly not contributing such data to anything or anyone," Mr Key said.

Fairfax Media has previously reported on the Australian Signals Directorate's involvement in the X-Keyscore program and the ASD's cooperation with Singapore's Ministry of Defence to tap submarine cables in South East Asia.

The Australian Signals Directorate has also acquired sophisticated technology designed to tap high-speed fibre optic data cables including those that connect Australia with Asia and North America.  The huge volume of intelligence now collected by the ASD data has required the construction of a new $163.5 million data storage facility at the HMAS Harman naval communications facility near Canberra.

The latest revelations from Mr Snowden's trove of leaked intelligence documents are likely to fuel debate in Australia about the Commonwealth Government's controversial proposals for compulsory retention of metadata by telecommunications and internet service providers for access without warrant by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and law enforcement agencies. Attorney-General George Brandis yesterday confirmed the Australian Government's determination to introduce legislation to mandate the compulsory data retention "later in the year".


22 September, 2014

Qld police keep files on protest groups
Glad that's back.  In my student days I helped the Special  Branch with information about university radicals

PROTESTERS are more likely to embarrass Queensland Premier Campbell Newman than physically harm him, right-to-information files reveal.

THE documents show the Queensland police Security Intelligence Branch keeps files on so-called "issue-motivated groups" (IMGs), including unions and environmental activists.

The branch provides threat assessments to the government before community cabinet meetings, and the documents obtained by AAP show the risks posed by IMGs to the premier's safety are generally regarded as low and any threats are unlikely to include violence.

"It is assessed that IMGs pose the greatest risk of embarrassment to the premier and his government by their continued and varied methods of protest and often intend to embarrass the premier rather than physically harm him," a file from September 2012 says.

In January 2013, Mr Newman changed a lunch plan after being told by police that 25 Queensland Nurses Union members wanted to confront him at a Townsville restaurant.

Nigel Powell, a former Queensland police officer whose exposes on police corruption led to the 1980s Fitzgerald inquiry, said police did not have a duty to protect politicians from embarrassment.

"As soon as you start saying, 'You should change the venue because you might be embarrassed' - as a police officer I shouldn't be concerned about that," he told AAP.

A separate entry from April 2013 names the Together public service union's Mackay organiser Dolph Lossberg for "attempting to gather a large crowd of union members, 500-1000" to protest about job cuts.

"I'm sure there must be files with suspected terrorists as well," Mr Lossberg told AAP. "There are more people than union officials to investigate in Australia."

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties executive member Andrew Sinclair said the naming of a union organiser was inappropriate, and likened the keeping of detailed police files, beyond security threat levels, to the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era.

"They're going down the same slippery slope to the Special Branch days where they become an arm of the government collecting information," he told AAP.

The old police Special Branch was disbanded in 1989 after four decades, following the Fitzgerald inquiry into police and political corruption.

AAP obtained 140 pages of police intelligence files and many of them were blacked out.

Queensland police said its security operations unit enhanced community safety by providing accurate intelligence on politically motivated violence to protect persons "assessed to be at risk".


Australian women desert technology courses, as tertiary IT enrolments fall

Enrolments in Australian tertiary information technology courses have been falling, as local female students recoil from the sector's masculine reputation.

Among domestic students, enrolments have dropped from a peak of 46,945 in 2002 to 27,547 last year, the latest available figures show.

While enrolments have rallied slightly in recent years, the proportion of students studying IT has reached an all-time low. IT courses made up 4 per cent of tertiary enrolments last year, compared with 9 per cent in 2001.

Figures from the Department of Education show just over one in four domestic IT enrolments were female in 2001, but by 2013 girls made up fewer than one in five tertiary IT students.

Three times more Australian female tertiary students were studying IT in 2001 than last year, despite a 50 per cent jump in total tertiary enrolments among girls over the same period.

The courses' dwindling popularity echoes a similar trend in final-year IT enrolments in Victoria, which have reached a 20-year low. But the trend does not apply to international female students who are choosing IT ahead of locals. A total of 4526 Australian female students were studying IT last year, compared with 5381 international students.

RMIT Computer Science senior lecturer Phil Vines said there was a prejudice in the way people continued to see information technology and engineering as not a "feminine discipline".

"Fifteen years ago we were scratching our heads and saying 'what can we do?' so it's not a new phenomenon," Dr Vines said.

University of Wollongong Information Systems and Technology Associate Professor Katina Michael said the lack of female role models for girls contemplating IT was a factor in lower enrolments, as views of the sector were focused on company founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Bill Gates.

She said women brought unique perspectives to the industry and were generally better communicators and big picture thinkers. "Women are generally good strategists," she said. "They can think laterally, they can multi-task and be personal at the same time."

On a more general level, she said IT courses faced additional competition from other disciplines such as business and marketing, which were incorporating elements of technology training into their courses. "The purest form of IT is being somewhat ignored but should not be," Dr Michael said.

Australian Computer Society spokesman Thomas Shanahan said he expected total IT enrolment numbers to rebound "once people realise how important digital literacy is going to be" and as the demand for graduates with technology skills increases.

"We can't continue relying on mining and manufacturing," he said. "We have to be building the world's most digitally educated future workforce."

He pointed to the British curriculum, where there are classes in coding for primary school students, as a step in the right direction.


The real threat that dare not speak its name

THE massive anti-terrorism raids conducted across Sydney and Brisbane were the latest wake-up call Australia has received to the very real threat within our border.

Our security agencies have been very professional — and very fortunate — in thwarting other planned atrocities but how many additional wake-up calls will be needed before more Islamic leaders and Australian politicians publicly acknowledge and loudly condemn the warped ideology which inspires the alleged terrorists.

In writing about these raids it has been impossible to avoid mentioning the “I” and “M” words — Islam and Muslim — because Islam is the religion the accused claim to follow and Muslim is the identity they choose.

Yet already our politicians from Prime Minister Tony Abbott to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and NSW Premier Mike Baird are doing everything they can to avoid associating those at the core of these anti-terrorist raids with ­either word.

The closest Newman came to admitting any link was his admission that some “criminals are using the Muslim religion as a badge to get others on board”. Please. The public can join the dots.

IS, Islamic bookshops, deluded idiots claiming to be imams preaching hatred in mosques, men being arrested in homes in which the women are covered from head to toe in black covers, and no one can openly recognise the link to Islam, no matter how much the ideology may have been distorted?

Get real people. The battle cry of Allahu Akbar is being screamed by combatants from every side in the conflict raging from Syria to Iraq and across the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. It is not the call to Evensong.

That so many in the Australian Muslim community are now co-operating with the authorities is a sign of maturity and, hopefully, a recognition that the deadly tribal feuds that keep the Middle East drenched in blood should never be permitted to find a home here where so many refugees from religious and ideological wars have found a haven.

While the nation appreciates their assistance, their true acceptance of residence or citizenship must include recognition that this is a pluralistic society.

We can choose (or leave) our own religion and adopt or reject ethical beliefs no matter how repugnant and (the Racial Discrimination Act’s 18C aside) offensive that may be to others.

Islam cannot be treated as a sacred cow. It must be open to the same sort of scrutiny, and indeed even mockery, as the ABC routinely dishes out to Catholics, Mormons and others.

Growing numbers of Muslims call Australia home. They must accept the house rules and reject those who insist on enforcing a set of disputed medieval religious edicts on others sheltering under the same roof.


End of the line for hundreds of NSW workers with nothing to do

Hundreds of rail workers are likely to lose their jobs in the next year after staff agreed to a new workplace agreement that removes key job security clauses.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has hailed the end of a "jobs for life" culture after staff at Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink endorsed the agreement in a vote that closed on Friday.

For the government, the agreement means it can make more than 200 workers currently without a job redundant if those workers do not find another position.

For the past few years, employees that have been unable to find a position in the railways but have not wanted to take voluntary redundancy have been set up in a unit managed by employment consultancy INS.

Since 2011, when Ms Berejiklian started to break up RailCorp and replace it with two new train entities, more than 400 workers have been managed by INS.

These staff spent an average of about eight months in the unit, and the administrative cost of running the unit last year alone was $8 million.

But the new enterprise bargaining agreement removes two clauses that had made it difficult for the government to impose redundancy on any rail worker that did not want to take it.

"For so long rail organisations in NSW had been hamstrung by this ridiculous clause that does not exist in any other comparable NSW Government agency," Ms Berejiklian said.

Unions, however, which in effect endorsed a new workplace agreement that gives staff an average annual 3.1 per cent pay increase over the next three years, said the INS pool of workers was a reflection of poor management.

"They've refused to redeploy these people," said Mark Morey, a deputy assistant secretary at Unions NSW.

"The question really is why has the government been wasting millions of dollars allowing people to sit there not using their skills."

The workers currently managed by INS are understood to come from across the railways and include engineers, station attendants, transit officers, station managers and ticket sellers.

The average annual 3.1 per cent pay rise offered to rail workers reflected the significance of the removal of the job security clauses.

Under the government's wages policy, it will not offer more than 2.5 per cent annual pay rises unless staff agree to other operational changes.


Even a wharfie can swear too much, rules Fair Work Commission

It is common knowledge most employees would be sacked for swearing like a wharfie. But can a wharfie be sacked for swearing like a wharfie?

Apparently they can.  The Fair Work Commission has upheld the dismissal of a Western Australian dockhand who used colourful language towards his supervisor and colleagues on multiple occasions, even after the final written warning was given.

The commission found when the supervisor asked the dockhand to help another labourer, the dockhand responded: "get f---d" and "get the fat lazy c--t to do it".

On a separate occasion, the leading hand raised a safety issue and the dockhand responded by saying: "you're a dickhead. You are supposed to be a leader of this group. You're a cock."

The employee also had said to another supervisor to "f--k off" and "get f---ed twice" and, on a separate occasion, had said to the security guard to "f--- off".

When the employer Mermaid Marine Vessel Operations dismissed him, the dockhand brought an unfair dismissal claim.

Commissioner Bruce Williams found it was unacceptable for the dockhand to direct the swearing at his colleagues even though swearing was common as part of "everyday descriptive language" at the dock .

"There is a generally appreciated distinction between regularly using swear words as part of everyday descriptive language and swearing aggressively and malicious at another person," Commissioner Williams said.

HWL Ebsworth employment lawyer Brad Swebeck said the generational and cultural change in workplaces meant swearing in a threatening manner was no longer acceptable.

"Australians like to use their swear words but other people might find that really offensive and the employer has to deal with that," Mr Swebeck said.

"There's a new generation of workforce out there, what might have been acceptable 10 or 15 years ago may no longer be relevant," he said.

It is understood the sacked employee is considering an appeal of the commission's decision. He will have until October 3 to make an appeal.


21 September, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is pleased with the Scottish referendum.  He declares himself a monarchist, as I and a majority of Australians are, so is opposed to constitutional change

AFL supports same-sex marriage

The claim that football players are queer was once a common joke, but it seems that nature has imitated art, as Oscar Wilde would say.  There seem to be a lot of queer American footballers too

The AFL has expressed support for same-sex couples being allowed to marry in a development advocates hope will help build momentum for marriage equality.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan revealed the league's stance on the polarising issue in response to a letter from Geelong woman Sharyn Faulkner, who has a gay son.

"If the AFL publicly declares that they are in support of marriage equality you will give that young player who is struggling with their sexuality the courage to realise just who they are," Ms Faulkner wrote.

In response, Mr McLachlan wrote that football was no place for homophobia, and gave his personal commitment to "continue to speak out in this area whenever I can."

"The AFL will keep saying no matter how many times it takes, that our game does not tolerate discrimination in any form, be that sexual identity, gender, race (or) religious views ... we also support the position of marriage equality for all people.

"This matter is a serious issue for many young gay people, in terms of how they are treated in the wider community, and football leaders such as myself will continue to say that we do not tolerate it, and will continue to push for a change in behaviour from all sections of society."

Ms Faulkner applauded the AFL boss for his response, and said she hoped AFL club presidents would follow his lead.

"The AFL's policy of having no tolerance to discrimination in any form was heartening and for them to actually say that they support 'the position of marriage equality for all people' will make it so much easier for people to say 'if the AFL and my football club can say no to discrimination and yes to equality, so can I'," Ms Faulkner said.

The national director of Australian Marriage Equality, Rodney Croome said that the AFL's support for marriage equality would be welcomed by many AFL players and fans, and would "in all likelihood draw new fans to the game."

"AFL is central to Australian identity and the AFL's support for marriage equality reaffirms that values like inclusion and fairness are central too," Mr Croome said.

Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm is preparing a private member's bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

While Labor MPs have a free vote on the issue, the Liberal Party is yet to confirm its position on same-sex marriage in the new Parliament.

While Mr Abbott's firm personal view is that marriage should be between a man and a woman, he has said the question of whether there is a free vote on the issue within the Liberal Party would be a matter for the post-election party room.


Terror raids: The rising fear in Sydney's suburbs

It was a terrorist plot marked by its brutality and simplicity, and the ease with which it could be rolled out at a moment's notice: kidnap innocent bystanders, whisk them back to a secret location and execute them by means of decapitation.

After the murderous spectacle of passenger jets ploughing into buildings on September 11, 2001, and the nightclub bombings in Bali that left hundreds dead, this week's alleged plot was decidedly low tech.

But it had all the ingredients that make for a successful terrorist act - to terrify, to prey on the deepest human instincts to create widespread fear.

As Prime Minister Tony Abbott observed on Friday, "all you need is  … a knife, an iPhone and a victim".

Allegedly coordinated to take place in Sydney and Brisbane, the executions would be spectacular, shocking, random and barbaric.

The instruction allegedly came from Mohammad Ali Baryalei, the most senior Australian with Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as IS or ISIL, on Tuesday.

He told his devotee in Sydney, Omarjan Azari, that it was time "show we can kill a kafir [non-believer]", according to a counter-terrorism source.

Arguably the most important directive was to come later during several phone calls that stretched into the evening on Tuesday. Police will allege he ordered that Azari film the terrorist act and send it to Al Hayat Media for distribution around the world via social and mainstream media.

The highly sophisticated media outlet of IS, Al Hayat is infamous for its never-ending stream of propaganda videos, filmed in high definition and expertly edited with music, action scenes from the battlefield and even scenes from video games like Call of Duty.

Al Hayat produced the videos of three American and British men who have all died at the hand of a fanatic's knife in the past month, appalling and transfixing the world and going a long way to spurring western military intervention.

Deeply disturbing for Australians is that it appears beheadings, reserved until now for the benighted battlefields of Syria and Iraq, were to be unleashed on the streets of its major cities. 

With the terrorist threat level lifted to high, Australian pilots and soldiers en route to the Middle East to await the final go-ahead to "degrade and destroy" Islamic State, how severe is the threat of terrorist attacks in Australia? What can be done to defeat it?

Bonded by their fanatical support for holy war and Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate, the group of more than a dozen men that police alleged formed a terrorist cell first came together last year year to funnel fighters and funds to jihadist groups in Syria.

Mohammad Ali Baryalei was the contact in the Middle East, shuttling between Turkey and Syria and rising through the ranks of Islamic State.

A 33-year-old  from a privileged Afghan family who came to Australia as a refugee, Baryalei worked as a Kings Cross bouncer and bit-part actor before being swayed to fundamentalist Islam and becoming a minor celebrity in radical circles for his "Street Dawah", videotaped kerbside conversions of Australians to Islam.

In Australia, police allege that Hamdi al-Qudsi was the main operator, recruiting young men, some of them teenagers, to travel to Syria.

The network supplied some 30 Australians  to Syria and Iraq, around half the number of Australians who are believed to have travelled to fight in the region.

As far back as May, the intent of a group of men in Sydney and Brisbane to commit some kind of terrorist act became an active concern.

Under close surveillance, counter-terrorism authorities heard of discussions about packing a car with explosives, plans that never seriously developed and were quickly abandoned in favour of  something much easier to organise.

As Azari - an apprentice motor mechanic from Guildford - faced court, charged with planning a terrorist attack, he was described Crown prosecutor Michael Allnut as possessing  an "unusual level of fanaticism".

The plot was hatched with rapid speed and done in the "full knowledge of police surveillance", Allnut said.  "There was almost an irrational determination to commit that plan ... to randomly select a person to rather gruesomely execute."

An attack, police judged, was "very imminent". More than 800 police were scrambled to launch pre-dawn raids across Sydney and Brisbane, searching 25 homes in two states, detaining and questioning 15 men and charging two, including Azari, for terrorism offences.

A sword was seized in Marsfield in Sydney's north-west; machetes, balaclavas, a gun and ammunition in Brisbane. .

What exactly motivated the quick-fire call for terror remains unclear, although the conversation came just days after Australia announced its commitment to send 600 military personnel and military aircraft to the Middle East to prepare to wage war on Islamic State.

Asked whether there was a connection, NSW Police commissioner Andrew Scipione said: "Let me answer your question by saying this - in our risk assessments, in putting together our response plan, we have certainly factored that in." 

Certainly, the alleged plot in Australia is only the second in a western country known to have links to Islamic State. A former IS fighter and jailer murdered four people at a Jewish Museum in Brussels in May after opening fire with an automatic weapon.

The killing of off-duty British soldier Lee Rigby in a Woolwich street by two knife-wielding Al Qaeda sympathisers approximates.

But that was a brutal knife attack, rather than a beheading. What was allegedly planned for Sydney and Brisbane was far more sinister.

Terrorism analysts say a beheading, especially when coupled with the drama of hostage taking, can be more powerful in terms of its psychological impacts than a mass casualty attack.

"Terrorism is a form of propaganda by the deed. And the more chilling the deed, the more impactful the propaganda," Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow of the Royal United Services Institute, wrote this week.

"The graphic nature of beheading, the focus on the individual and the act of bodily desecration involved all render this far more chilling than the explosion of a bomb, even where the latter's death toll is greater."

If, as Brian Jenkins, a doyen of counter terrorism studies observed, terrorists want a lot of people watching, not necessarily a lot of people dead,  a beheading is perhaps the ultimate form of sowing maximum fear with minimal resources.

Jessica Stern, a veteran terrorist analyst who lectures at Harvard University, told Fairfax Media that, while relatively few are directly affected by a beheading, the psychological impact is huge.

It serves multiple purposes - to instill fear, make a political point, attract recruits and provoke an over-reaction from an adversary.

"They are really trying to get us to over-react. It really does seem that they are trying to get us to invade [Iraq and Syria]."

On that front, Islamic State would appear to be succeeding and there are concerns that the West's armed intervention will see the terrorist group switch focus from its preoccupation with the "near enemy" to the one further afield.

The near enemy is  the "apostate" Shia Muslims and other religious minorities IS has sought to purge as it advances across Iraq. The far enemy is the West.

Counterterrorism  authorities are worried this week's plot is not the only terrorist act being conceived by Islamic State supporters in Australia. "Chatter" picked up by intelligence agencies has prompted heightened security around parliament house and other government installations.

Stern says any rise in the terrorist threat here, perhaps inevitable due military campaign against IS, should not necessarily preclude an armed response.

IS has grown at an astonishing rate, and is different from other terrorist groups in that it controls large swathes of land and two large cities - Mosul in Iraq and Raqaa in Syria, she notes.

Without taking action that involved deadly force, it would likely become more potent anyway.  "They have been more successful than al Qaeda," says Stern.

John Horgan, a psychologist from the University of Massachusetts who has studied terrorism for 20 years says IS "truly is something different". Its gains in Iraq and Syria are demonstrable signs of its success to Islamists.  "It holds very, very broad appeal," he told New York Magazine this week.

"In the eyes of potential recruits, this is fantasy made reality. It's everything a would-be jihadist could have hoped for."

Australia's counter-terrorism agencies are claiming a major success, as is the government. Court proceedings will determine the strength of their intelligence.

The number of police deployed on Thursday was the biggest on record, although the plot was hardly the most serious encountered in Australia over the past decade, which included more advanced plots to set off bombs at public events and launch a massacre at Holsworthy Army barracks.

Nonetheless, the allegation of a discarded plan to set off a car bomb highlights the difficulties obtaining raw materials after more than a decade of strong anti-terrorism measures, including closer regulation of fertilisers and other bomb making materials and improved on-the-ground intelligence.

Disrupting terrorist cells, surveillance and other intelligence gathering intelligence, as well as shutting down sources of finance, will remain integral parts of the effort to defeat IS.

Military action, too, can be effective in routing IS from its safe haven, although only if it is undertaken with a broad  and deep coalition that includes Muslim countries. Allied to that coalition has to be a political solution to the long-standing disputes and religious hostility in the region that feeds Islamic State.

To slow the flow of recruits to IS from the West, Dr Horgan suggests a narrative needs to be articulated based on disaffected former members of IS.

"People become disillusioned if they feel that the [terrorist] group has gone too far, if they don't seem to have a strategy beyond indiscriminate killing," he says.

"It's only a matter of time  before those accounts leak out [of Islamic State]… We would do very well to be on the lookout."

The prime minister on Friday was urging Australians to press on with their lives.

"The best response to all of this is to go about one's business normally, because terrorism is about scaring people out of their ordinary daily way of life.

"Second point I make is that the Government will do whatever we humanly can to keep our community safe.

"[The] third point – very important point – is that the actions yesterday were not about any particular religious group or any particular community. They were about crime, they were about potential terrorism, and they're about keeping our whole community safe."

The Qur'an, like the Bible, depicts beheadings from Biblical times. Members of Islamic State undoubtedly play on the references as they adopt the practice as a terrorist tactic and recruitment tool.

However, Islam's holy book also forbids the mistreatment of prisoners, orders followers of Allah not to initiate hostilities and always be inclined towards peace.

Islamic State perverts and traduces the faith, and there was no better illustration than the men alleged to have planned the execution of innocents in Sydney and Brisbane.

According to the police, El Baryalei spoke to Azari about wrapping the bloodied body of their victims in Islam's flag.

The shedding of any blood on the ancient black banner proclaiming the pre-eminence of Allah and the Prophet Muhammed -  co-opted by IS and other jihadists groups - is strictly forbidden and widely considered a desecration by Muslims.

So, too, is murdering civilians.


Croatian thug to be grilled at Royal Commission over his role in

A “CROATIAN mafia” who acted like “animals” pressured contractors on the Pentridge Prison redevelopment to sign up to CFMEU union conditions, the Royal Commission has heard.

Some of the contractors quit the project because of the pressure from people linked to the union to impose commercial building site rates, the commission into union corruption heard.

And a contractor that stayed increased its prices by $750,000 more than previously agreed domestic building rates.

Pentridge Village developer Leigh Chiavaroli said he was forced to sign up to a union enterprise bargaining agreement, significantly increasing his costs.

“We had no option at the time,” he said.

Appearing for the second time at the commission, he detailed conversations with a subcontractor who was being pressured to cave into union demands.

“That was clearly evident in the transcript in the DVDs where he clearly says that he was pressured and that he called it the Croatian mafia and that he was being pressured to the point where they were turning on him like animals and I quote that,” he said.

Mr Chiavaroli said that the rates the union was demanding were above commercial rates.

And he repeated the subcontractors concerns, captured on a DVD, that he must follow union instructions: “According to his quote, “they’re like animals, they’ll kill me.” I think if you watch the DVD I think you’ll see that Mr Molino saying that that’s the reason why.”

John Agius, for the CFMEU, said that Mr Chiavaroli’s company West Homes was unable to pay the higher rate and that was why subcontractors left the site.

But Mr Chiavaroli denied that claim.

CFMEU state secretary John Setka’s “compare”, or right-hand man Anton Sucic will be grilled later today about his role as a union enforcer on the troubled Pentridge Prison site that was crippled by union go slows.

Mr Sucic has been described as Setka’s “compare”, or best man and the hard headed union leader’s go to fixer.

He was hired as a safety representative on the CFMEU’s insistence after the death of worker Thomas Kelly on the site in 2009.

The Royal Commission heard in July that Mr Sucic rarely worked a full week on the site, despite being employed as a safety representative and paid regular hours.

Mr Agius, has raised concerns that the he will not be able to properly cross examine some of the witnesses today because he had not been provided with the Coroner’s report into Mr Kelly’s death and financial details about West Homes, the company building Pentridge Village.

“We are not in a position to do so because the material that’s been produced yesterday, simply, it doesn’t even scratch the surface as to the financial position of West Homes and Pentridge Village,” he said.

But Commissioner Dyson Heydon rejected his submissions.


Onshore gas find tipped as Western Australia's biggest in decades

Local oil and gas player AWE has claimed what may be Western Australia's largest onshore gas discovery since the 1960s, sending its shares up as much as 16 per cent.

Gas from the field, 50:50 owned by AWE and Origin Energy, is targeted for users in WA.

The news comes after the Senecio-3 well drilled by AWE and partner Origin Energy found gas deeper down in its Senecio gas field in the Perth Basin.

Together, the Senecio and deeper Waitsia fields could hold 360 billion cubic feet of gas, and potentially as much as 1.17 trillion cubic feet of gas, AWE said on Thursday.

AWE said that could make it the biggest onshore find in the state since the Dongara field.

The resources, which were foreshadowed by AWE when initial results from the Senecio-3 well came in early this month, lie close to existing gas processing plants and pipelines.

That meant the resources could be brought into production relatively quickly, AWE managing director Bruce Clement said.

The gas is classified as "tight", meaning it would require artificial stimulation to flow to the surface.

Even so, BBY analyst Scott Ashton noted the "big" size of the field and Mr Clement's positive comments about potential commercial prospects.

Mr Clement also said there was "substantial upside" to potential resources in the reservoir from unconventional gas in some levels of shale and coal at the site.

"We are now focusing on flow testing of Senecio-3 to establish commercial viability and the potential early, low-cost development of the Senecio and Waitsia fields," he said.


THE former head of an Aboriginal corporation will stand trial for fraud after she allegedly started falsifing receipts more than four years ago

Putting Aborigines in charge of government-provided  funds always seems to lead to corruption.  I know of no contrary instances

VERONICA Anne Cubillo faces 11 fraud counts arising from her time as chief executive of the North Australian Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Services Aboriginal Corporation (NAAFVLS).

The offences were allegedly committed from August 2010 to May 2011.

Over a two-day committal hearing, the Darwin Magistrates Court heard Ms Cubillo invited NAAFVLS finance department manager Emilyn Amante to accompany her to attend a human rights conference in the Philippines, which turned out to be a Cubillo family reunion.

Ten thousand dollars in funding allocated to Imparja TV for substance abuse programs was allegedly diverted to pay for the trip, and was authorised by then chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi, who now chairs the Northern Land Council.

Ms Cubillo also sought reimbursement from NAAFVLS for a $2500 registration fee to attend the event.

But Ms Amante said in a statement she did not believe a fee was required to be paid for that type of event, she saw no one else pay to register, and Ms Cubillo could not have paid it without Ms Amante noticing.

But defence counsel Mark Johnson said on Wednesday the transport was approved by the chairman, "making clear he intended the expenses be covered", and there was no evidence Ms Cubillo did not pay the registration fee.

The court also heard the receipts and reimbursement system at NAAFVLS was "haphazard", and unofficial receipts were often submitted.

Ms Cubillo claimed reimbursement for $1950 for expenses incurred at the Darwin Sailing Club, but that venue's financial officer said it did not issue receipts like the one Ms Cubillo produced, and the receipt did not feature the club's ABN.

Ms Cubillo is also accused of falsifying receipts for the Aviation Fellowship, the Darwin Airport Resort and the Menzies School of Health Research, gaining a financial advantage from NAAFVLS of more than $9000.

Ms Cubillo allegedly removed a clause in her contract that required her to obtain approval before being reimbursed for any work expenses.

Magistrate Elisabeth Armitage said she was satisfied there was sufficient evidence to commit Ms Cubillo to stand trial.

She will be arraigned on October 13.


Court told standover man makes offers you can’t refuse, on pain of death

GEORGE Alex allegedly wields enough power in the Sydney underworld that people have died “as a result of this man’s influence”, a court has heard.

Alex, 43, allegedly has enough sway in the construction industry that businesses wanting to expand sought his ­approval to get backing from unions.

According to one former business partner, Alex “overpowers” his enemies with “union connections” and “tortures” businesses “financially”.

The court heard he was bankrupted by the tax ­office in 2009, but has still run million-dollar tax scams and businesses via a cast of associates — ranging from bikies to his ­sister Athina Alex.

A number of his business ventures have been financed by criminals and one was bankrolled by the Rebels bikie gang for $500,000, it was alleged.

These are just a few of the key claims directed at Alex’s business empire that emerged in the Federal Court of Australia on March 14 when trustee Pitcher Partners attempted to dissect Alex’s affairs in a bankruptcy examination. The Daily Telegraph can only now reveal details of the hearings ­because witnesses were so fearful of Alex they asked for a non-­publication order on their identities and evidence.

Justice Bernard Murphy lifted the suppression order yesterday.

Douglas Westerway, a former director of Alex’s Elite Access Scaffolding company, told the court: “There are dead people in this organisation as a result of this man’s influence, and I do fear for my safety.”

Another of the witnesses was jailed former cage-fighter Jimmy Kendrovski, who this month cited his family’s safety before the royal commission into union corruption he when refused to answer any questions on whether he witnessed Alex or his late business partner Joe Antoun give cash to Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union officials to buy influence.

In the Federal Court, Mr Kendrovski said: “Does George Alex have certain involvement or certain influence over the union? Yes, he sure does.” When asked if he witnessed deals between Alex and the unions in relation to ­labour hire companies, Mr Kendrovski replied: “Yes, I did. He ... overpowers (enemies) with the union connections. (He) sends people broke or wipes them out, takes them right out of the equation …”

Businessman “Big Jim” Byrnes told the court Alex’s “whole modus oper-andi” was to “phoenix” businesses and “steal the tax office’s money for a year”.

“Phoenix” schemes allow companies to avoid tax, outstanding bills and paying employees entitlements by dissolving and reforming under a different name.

Mr Byrnes said Alex was one of Sydney’s “largest phoenixes” and ran a debt-collecting operation. He said Alex ran a standover ­operation at the Barangaroo site.

Alex boosted profits from 6 per cent to 35 per cent by stealing “GST, PAYG and superannuation” in a scheme where one labour-hire company would receive money from contractors, but a second company would pay the employees, Mr Byrnes told the court. This scheme was worth several hundred thousand dollars a week, he said.

Alex was living in hotels to avoid “criminal groups” chasing him for money owed for “unsuccessful business deals” and had been “a guest of the crime commission in (the) Meriton Apartments” in the Sydney CBD, Mr Byrnes told the court.

Scaffolding company director Michael Cohen said he approached Alex when he wanted to grow his business and get unionised. He got more work after getting an enterprise bargaining agreement with the CFMEU. Mr Cohen said Alex was paid up to $5000 a week as a dividend into his wife Nectaria’s bank account. A spokesman said George Alex was not available for comment last night.


19 September, 2014


In today's offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is lamenting the feeble response of the West to the barbarians of ISIS.  He also has a pictorial comment on the anti-terrorism raids in Australia.

An unsympathetic view of America

Last night Anne and I went to "The perfect American" by modern composer Philip Glass. It was a good opera, with lots going on, lots of drama and lots of dramatic music.  It even had a death scene.  So, except for Glass's unique music, it could have been a 19th century opera.  I went to it only for the music but it was a good show as well.  One's attention did not wander.

The whole point of the opera was to lampoon Walt Disney.  The intelligentsia will never forgive Disney for being anti-Communist but to my mind those who make excuses for Communism are the ethical cripples.

Disney was portrayed as a pathological egotist.  I am in no doubt that a hugely successful entrepreneur such as Disney had  to have a considerable ego but I am equally sure that a man who built up from scratch such a huge organization as the Disney organization had to be a very good people manager -- and no-one likes an egotist.  So whatever ego Disney had must have at least been kept in check most of the time.  So I very much doubt the accuracy of the Disney portrayal by Glass. But much in the opera was admittedly fictional so I suppose one should not take it as history

Another historical blooper was the portrayal of Abraham Lincoln as a champion of blacks and a believer in equality.  That is schoolboy history.  Lincoln was neither of those things.  In his famous letter to Horace Greeley Lincoln said that it was only the union he cared about, not blacks.  And after the war he wanted to send them all back to Africa, but was shot before he could implement that.  Let's have some words from the man himself, words spoken at the White House and addressed to a group of black community leaders on August 14th, 1862:

"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this be admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. It is better for both, therefore, to be separated."

Got that?

And Glass's history is equally shaky in portraying Disney as a racist.  His biographer Neal Gabler in his 2009 book 'Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination' concludes, "Walt Disney was no racist. He never, either publicly or privately, made disparaging remarks about blacks or asserted white superiority. Like most white Americans of his generation, however, he was racially insensitive."

And in describing Disney as the perfect American, Glass was largely disparaging America as a whole -- something Leftists such as Glass generally do.  The opera has yet to be performed in America.  I predict a very mixed reception to it when it is performed in America.

Why the opera first went to Madrid, then to London and then to Brisbane I do not know.  It was a very extravagant production in Brisbane with a far larger cast than needful and a huge (4-ton!) mechanical  contraption in the roof used to change scenes etc so maybe it was that only the Brisbane arts community felt able to afford it -- JR


Below is a picture of the front cover of the program notes for the opera. It is supposed to be a blending of Walt's face with the face of Mickey mouse. The effect, however, is to make Disney look insane, and certainly two-faced. So it is all part of the demonization of him. A most unpleasant and disturbing piece of Leftist art.

Leftists customarily envy other people's success and Disney was VERY successful, so this attempt to pull his memory down might have been expected

Anti-terrorism raids across Sydney and Brisbane

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says a senior Australian Islamic State member had urged supporters in Australia to conduct "demonstration killings" here, according to intelligence reports.


5:44pm: In an analysis, Clarke Jones argues the discovery of a plot by alleged Islamic State supporter Omarjan Azari to behead an innocent citizen in Australia "comes as no surprise".

IS has made it clear that fear, brutality and demoralisation are crucial parts of its strategy to win support both domestically and internationally.

With its sophisticated media wing, IS has shown that its preferred strategy for gaining support and eliciting a military reaction from the West is to behead Westerners.

As barbaric as IS tactics are, they are not random, and its methods appear to be rooted in a calculated plan to entice and engage allied military forces.

Whether in Australia or the Middle East, it was only a matter of time before plans would be hatched for an Australian to join this unfortunate group of executed victims.

Judging from today's uncovered plot, we really should be more concerned about softer targets, such as transport networks, shopping  centres and even individual citizens.

5:33pm: A Brisbane man charged with terrorism-related offences will remain behind bars after his legal team failed to secure bail in the Supreme Court on Thursday.

Omar Succarieh, 31, did not appear in Brisbane's Supreme Court for the bail hearing, but barrister Peter Callaghan, for Mr Succarieh, described the prosecution's case as "spare, vague and ultimately unconvincing".

Mr Succarieh was charged last Wednesday with providing funds to terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra and planning to enter Syria to "engage in hostile activity".

5:29pm: The NSW Police Force has activated Operation Hammerhead.  It's a visibility policing operation with increased presence in public places and public transport hubs.

“Operation Hammerhead will also patrol iconic locations such as the Harbour and its surrounding foreshores as well as sporting fixtures and other large scale public events,” Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said.

Police remove a sword as part of evidence found at a residential property in the suburb of Marsfield, in Sydney on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. At least 10 people have been arrested with suspected links to the terror group Islamic State following pre-dawn raids across Sydney and Brisbane.

5:05pm: We've had one of our Arabic speaking colleagues translate the characters visible on the sword that police seized from a Sydney home during anti-terror raids this morning.

The script is only partly visible but we're told the best bet is that it says:

?? ??? ??? ??? ?? ??? ??? ?? ??????

"There is no hero but Ali; there is no sword but Zulfiqar".

But this sword - Zulfiqar or Dhu al-Fiqar - is one of the major symbols of Shiite Islam.

It would be surprising if it was a Zulfiqar sword, as Islamic State is a Sunni jihadist group and vehemently anti-Shia.

There are various interpretations of the sword's name. It is thought to refer to the literal vertebrae of the spine- "the severer of the vertebrae; the spine-splitter"- or the stars of the belt of Orion.

4:55pm:  The government is benefiting from the threat of terrorism, says chief political correspondent Mark Kenny, but that doesn't mean it's orchestrating events.

4:45pm: NSW Police Minister Stuart Ayres just spoke on Sky News. He said the police were collecting as much evidence as they could today and investigations would continue.

"We are very vigilant here in NSW."  "We are endeavouring to stay one step ahead of these people who might want to attack our country."  "We are watching people of interest and if we feel like there’s a risk to the community we will take action like we did today."

4:37pm: Senior reporter Daniel Flitton has penned this measured analysis of today's raids saying the alleged plot "is a sign of weakness by those who would do Australians harm, not strength".

These arrests tell us something important. The police believe there are fanatics in Australia who hold malevolent intent, but the accused appear to lack the skills to match the desire for violence.

It takes specialised knowledge to build a homemade bomb, for example, like the one that destroyed nightclubs in Bali.

Or training and access to weapons to conduct an armed rampage in a shopping mall, as happened in Kenya.

Instead, the allegation in Australia is a plot of far more mundane violence but carried out in an intensely political fashion.

Security measures are only a stopgap to the harder and urgent task of tackling the vicious ideology and warped religiosity that spurs such violence.


NSW faces gas shortages due to onerous environmental requirements

The New South Wales government says "nothing is off the table" in its desperate bid to stave off potential shortages in gas supplies that could drive manufacturers from the state and push up household energy bills if coal seam gas projects by AGL Energy and Santos don't start up on time.

NSW deputy secretary for resources and energy Kylie Hargreaves said on Thursday that gas savings schemes were under study, as well as ways to help gas users switch to electricity, so additional gas could be made available instead to heavy users that rely on it.

But she said that the government was assuming that potential gas shortages would not arrive as early as some observers were warning, and that by the time it was assuming - 2018-19 - both AGL's Gloucester CSG project in the northern Hunter region and Santos's Pilliga CSG project should have come into production as long as they meet regulatory requirements for approval.

"We're looking at everything, nothing is off the table in all honesty because we just want to make sure we try and do whatever is reasonable to try and address the pressures in the industry," Ms Hargreaves told a conference in Sydney.

"The last thing we want is manufacturing going out the door."

NSW, which produces only 5 per cent of its own gas, has been slow to develop its plentiful CSG resources and projects such as Gloucester and Pilliga are running behind schedule.

Santos had been targeting mid-2014 to lodge an environmental impact statement for its controversial $2 billion Pilliga project but has yet to submit the document, putting its tentative schedule for production in 2017 in doubt. AGL has flagged a final investment decision for its Gloucester project in the December quarter this year. Those two projects could together supply 70 per cent of NSW's gas requirements by 2020, although production initiallly would be lower.

But industrial gas users at the conference, including petrochemicals producer Qenos, queried the NSW government's appreciation of the problems the lack of certainty on future gas supplies are having on their businesses, and signalled they were having difficulty sourcing gas from 2017 onwards.

Ms Hargreaves said the government was dealing with individual projects to try to facilitate gas supplies to customers that rely on them.

Western Power non-executive director Paul Underwood questioned whether the NSW government had considered the possibility of building an LNG import terminal to tackle the problem.

"We're open to be looking at any and all options," Ms Hargreaves said. "Our fundamental driver is security of supply, affordability of supply, and I'm happy to look at almost anything in that space."

The idea of a gas pipeline from the Northern Territory that could bring gas to NSW via South AUstralia or Queensland is also being supported by the NSW government, she added.

Ms Hargreaves said that the government also had a working group into how to help gas users to switch to electricity if necessary and possible, and making that gas available to heavy users that depend on it for their business. It is also studying the potential for a scheme that would create financial incentives for organisations to invest in projects to save gas, similar to the Energy Savings Scheme in electricity.


Australia to contribute planes for anti-ISIS campaign

 Terrorists will use Australia's deployment of troops and war planes to the Middle East as an excuse to target Australians, Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned on Monday.

Australia is preparing to contribute 600 troops and up to 10 military aircraft to the increasingly aggressive campaign against the Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq, the government announced on Sunday.

While Abbott expected extremists to react to Australia's military deployment to the United Arab Emirates, he noted that 88 Australians were among 202 people killed by bombers on the Indonesian island of Bali in 2002 before Australia went to war in Iraq.

"There is no doubt that those who wish us harm will cite things like this as an excuse, but it's not the reason," Abbott told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.

"The reason why we are targeted is not because of anything that we've done, but because of who we are and how we live," he said.

"This death cult targets everyone and anyone who does not conform to its particular ideology," he added, referring to the Islamic State movement.

Taufik Andrie, a terrorism researcher at Jakarta's Institute for International Peace Building, told ABC that Indonesian extremists were again talking about targeting Westerners in response to recent U.S. air strikes in Iraq. There have been no major attacks on Westerns in Indonesia since July 17, 2009, when the JW Marriot and Ritz-Carlton hotels were bombed, killing eight and injuring 53.

Australia's military deployment is in response to a formal request from the United States for specific contributions to the international coalition.

President Barack Obama announced the more aggressive military campaign last week. Scores of U.S. airstrikes have been launched at select targets in Iraq, and U.S. planes and drones will be gathering intelligence on targets before launching airstrikes in Syria.

Abbott drew a distinction between the current Iraq campaign and 2003 when Australia sent 2,000 troops to back the U.S. and British forces in the Iraq invasion.

"It's not President George W. Bush, it is President Obama, a very different president ... who is rightly and properly slow to reach for the gun and he has put together an extensive coalition including about 10 Middle Eastern countries," Abbott told Nine Network television.

Australia will prepare up to eight F/A18 combat aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail Early Warning and Control aircraft and a KC-30A Tanker and Transport aircraft to be deployed to the United Arab Emirates.

The 400 air force personnel and 200 others in the contingent could be deployed this week, Abbott said on Sunday.

The statement said special operations personnel who could assist Iraq's security forces were being prepared also, but combat troops were not being deployed.


Lakemba money transfer firm Bisotel Rieh has licence revoked for alleged links to funding terrorist organisation
A SYDNEY firm suspected of financing terrorism in the Middle East has had its lic-ence suspended amid claims it hid $9 million in fund transfers from authorities.

Lakemba-based Bisotel Rieh, a popular one-stop shop for money transfers, travel bookings and immigration advice, is being investigated by the nation’s financial intelligence unit, Austrac, which is seeking to cancel the firm’s registration permanently.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre has claimed the family-run firm transferred $21.3 million overseas, but only ­reported $12.3 million in international transactions to the federal government.

The firm, whose name means Magic Carpet in Arabic, is also accused of arranging for bulk cash to be smuggled over the Turkish border into Lebanon while Lebanon is the subject of Australian sanctions.

It is also accused of not providing details of who received money sent to Lebanon and Malaysia, with a suspect $38,000 payment made to a Malaysian individual.

Lakemba locals realised something was wrong when they turned up on Monday to send money overseas and were told it could no longer be done.

The company’s founder and director, Syrian-born Ahmed Alwash, 47, yesterday declined to answer questions at the company’s shopfront office in Gillies St, Lakemba, next door to a barber and the Australians for Syria Association. Two women were working inside the agency.  “I have to speak to my sister,” Mr Alwash said.

AUSTRAC acting chief executive John Schmidt said the government regulator had “serious concerns” about what the funds were being used for: “We are satisfied that the continued registration of Bisotel Rieh, an independent remittance provider, may involve a significant ­financing of terrorism risk.

“AUSTRAC take seriously the risks face by the Australian community in relation to terrorism. We look closely at companies which are wittingly or unwittingly used to finance terrorism.’’

The remittance sector has been identified globally as the most frequently used way to funnel money to terrorist ­organisations. During the past three years, Austrac has refused the registration of six entities, cancelled the registration of two others and put conditions on another 15

Bisotel Rieh has a deadline of 5pm tomorrow to provide documentation to refute the allegations. The government regulator will decide before then whether it suspends their licence for a further 40 days pending a plan to cancel their registration.

The move on the company comes just a week after the government announced a $20 million boost to its tracking of terror finance.


18 September, 2014

Corrupt union's sweet Coca-Cola deal adds cash to slush fund

A militant construction union's slush fund booked more than $300,000 in revenue over five years under a deal struck with Coca-Cola to take a cut of the sale of soft drinks and chips on building sites.

The unusual deal emerged as part of royal commission hearings into the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's Victorian construction branch. The inquiry heard on Tuesday of the cashed-up  Building Industry 2000 election fund, which was set up by senior officials from the CFMEU.

Documents tendered to the inquiry showed a number of lucrative revenue streams and events – including an annual grand final breakfast – held by the Building Industry 2000, and counsel assisting, Michael Elliott, said there had not been an audit of its accounts for a number of years.

Under the deal with Coca-Cola, dozens of vending machines were placed on building sites across the state, with Building Industry 2000 taking a cut of as much as 20 per cent on every sale. Coca-Cola also agreed to give 20 cases of water to the union.

Mr Elliott questioned at length Bill Oliver, former secretary of the CFMEU and a director of Building Industry 2000, about the blurring of lines between the union and the slush fund. It is unlawful to use union resources in union elections.

Mr Oliver said along with builders and sub-contractors, other attendees at its grand final breakfast included workers, unions and companies not in the building sector.

Documents provided to the royal commission list major builders, including Baulderstone Hornibrook; Brookfield Multiplex; Westfield Design and Construction; and Probuild, spending thousands for tables and tickets in recent years. Also listed buying a table was underworld figure Mick Gatto's Elite Cranes.

Mr Oliver denied builders attended to maintain a good relationship with the union. He said it was to "enjoy" the football.

"The grand final breakfast promotes itself every year," he said.

Mr Oliver described an ad hoc process of meetings of Building Industry 2000 including having casual discussions about its affairs with directors at the pub, on the street or in the lift. He said he made "mental notes" and said he had  "trust in people" involved.

Mr Oliver said it was set up in 2000 as an election fund to ward off challenges from rivals to the union's leadership, as the union had a history of internal battles after the deregistration of the Builders Labourers Federation in the 1980s.

Among its directors are current union secretary John Setka, Ralph Edwards, former official Tommy Watson, and Mr Oliver.

In its latest accounts for 2013 it had more than $1 million in cash, or cash equivalents, and annual revenue of more than $300,000.

Mr Oliver said money from the fund was spent on helping workers in need, and donations.

"The one thing I didn't agree with was giving it to the ALP," he said. "We would help people in the need, we would help workers in need."

Later, the union detailed more than $200,000 in spending from the fund on a range of community causes such as $21,000 on funeral costs for some victims of the 2013 Swanston Street wall collapse, as well as medical costs for a person well known to members of the union, and $46,000 on a memorial fund.

"The fund has never donated to the ALP, or provided funding towards elections in other trade unions," the CFMEU said in a statement.

Mr Elliott said union staff were used to organise events and business deals for the slush fund including a Race Day and the grand final breakfast, which was badged as a Building Industry 2000 and CFMEU event.

Mr Oliver repeatedly sought to deny the CFMEU's role and said one CFMEU administrative staffer did work for it after she retired from the union.

Of the grand final breakfast, he said. "No hiding from the fact CFMEU people were there. But it was the Building Industry 2000 plus who was putting the event on."

Other events that raised money for the fund were the sale of CFMEU merchandise and a golf day, where people were invited to attend on union letterhead. "I drive around with a beer cart giving them beer and a soft drink," Mr Oliver said. "Maybe they get a bit of a kick out of the CFMEU secretary driving around giving them a soft drink and can of beer."

Meanwhile the commission on Tuesday afternoon heard more claims that Kimberley Kitching, an unsuccessful ALP candidate, had completed online right-of-entry tests on behalf of other Health Services Union staff.

Ms Kitching is the general manager at the union's number one branch in Victoria and took the role after the election of Diana Asmar in 2012.

The commission heard evidence from a number of witnesses that Ms Kitching had done the tests - something she has denied - and her lawyer,  Remy Van der Wiel, said it was part of a "political conspiracy" by opponents of the current leadership of the union.

The Federal Court recently delayed elections in the HSU after allegations about the eligibility of two candidates opposing Ms Asmar's ticket.


Muslim Branding on Our Food: Dick Smith

We have received a number of letters from people asking if we will be putting the Muslim Halal logo on our food.

To acquire Halal certification, payment is required to the endorsing body and involves a number of site inspections of both our growers and processors in order to ensure that our practices comply with the conditions of Halal certification.  It is important to note that this does not reflect the quality of the food being processed or sold – it only means that the products are approved as being prepared in accordance with the traditions of the Muslim faith.

We are aware of an increasing number of large companies both in Australia and overseas, such as Kraft and Cadbury, who have obtained accreditation to use the Halal logo.  We don’t believe they have done this because of any religious commitment but rather for purely commercial reasons.  Perhaps these large organisations can afford to do this.  While we have a choice however, we would prefer to avoid unnecessarily increasing the cost of our products in order to pay for Halal accreditation when this money would be better spent continuing to support important charitable causes where assistance is greatly needed.

We point out that we have never been asked to put a Christian symbol (or any other religious symbol) on our food requiring that we send money to a Christian organisation for the right to do so.


Parasites evicted from Millers Point

They had stocked the kitchen with food, hauled in crate-loads of belongings and even brought their tortoiseshell cat.

But the two-month long rent-free bliss enjoyed by a group of squatters at Millers Point ended abruptly on Tuesday, as the state government pushed ahead with its plan to empty the harbourside suburb of vulnerable residents.

The small group of 20-somethings left the Argyle Place property about midday after being ordered out by police.

Banners draped from the balcony read "Millers Point Not 4 Sale" and "Communities Not Commodities".

Tayce, a 27-year-old squatter who declined to give her last name, said the eviction was a "farce".  "I'm homeless - there are so many people on the waiting list for [public] housing and this house was empty for two years," she said.  "There is nothing wrong with the house, it's beautiful. I don't think houses should be sitting empty."  The house was connected to electricity and, despite a bit of mould, was otherwise "amazing", Tayce said.

About four squatters had occupied the terrace house after finding the back door unlocked and the property empty. Squatters are also known to be occupying other homes in the area.

Scores of properties at Millers Point are lying idle as the government embarks on a two-year program to evict public housing tenants and sell hundreds of homes.  The first four sales well exceeded price guides and netted the government $11.1 million.

The government says the homes are too expensive to maintain, and sale proceeds will be reinvested into the social housing system. However, welfare advocates question why all properties must be sold, rather than letting some elderly and long-time residents stay on in the area.

Housing groups have also called on the government to ensure the proceeds are used to build new social housing in inner Sydney areas.

Millers Point community spokesman Barney Gardner said the squatters evicted on Tuesday had not caused a nuisance, and should have been allowed to stay until the property was ready for sale.

"The property has been vacant for some time and will remain vacant for some time. These people ... are not damaging the property, they are just living there," he said.  "They haven't had anywhere to live and now they are being turfed out on the street again."

It is understood no charges will be laid, because the squatters left voluntarily.

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said the vacant properties at Millers Point "should have been used to house people in need".

He said public housing residents had previously raised concerns about other squatters, however the government was only taking action now the sell-off had begun.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Family and Community Services said the Argyle Place home had been vacant since late 2011 "and is being prepared for sale".

"The government has continued to carefully monitor the safety and security of vacant Millers Point properties and any illegal occupancy or squatting will continue to be subject to action by NSW Police," she said.


Federal push to make Victorian schools independent labelled 'privatisation'

Principals and teachers fear they are headed down a path of privatisation by stealth, after Victoria signed a contentious deal to enhance Tony Abbott's push to create 1500 "independent public schools" by 2017.

Schools will get access to extra funds if they become more autonomous; parent-based councils could get new powers to select principals and acquire property; and administrative work in small schools will be increasingly outsourced as part of the $16 million agreement.

The changes form part of the federal government's plan to entice at least one-quarter of Australian public schools to become more "independent" over the next three years.

Unlike Western Australia, where the idea was pioneered, Victorian schools opting into the program will not be rebadged as "independent public schools", but will still get access to the money if they adhere to targeted activities designed to make them self-govern and be more accountable for their results.

"We know that great schools have leaders and teachers who have the independence to make the decisions and develop the programs that best meet the needs of their students," said Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

Modelled on the US charter school system, the concept of independent public education generally allows government schools to operate like private schools, with boards appointing principals and leaders having greater control over budget and staff decisions.

But while the concept differs between jurisdictions - and Victoria already has high levels of autonomy - it is nonetheless contentious because critics fear it could exacerbate the gaps in education and lead schools down the path of "privatisation by stealth".

"We already have the highest level of independent schools in the developed world and on the basis of OECD results we aren't near the top at the moment. It could be argued that we should in fact be moving in the opposite direction. Worse still if this is an attempt to further privatise our school systems," said Berwick Lodge Primary School principal Henry Grossek.

The state-federal agreement, obtained by The Sunday Age, shows that funding will be used to:

 *   Train principals, assistant principals and business managers to "assume greater decision making powers" over their school and staff.

*   Give school councils extra powers, which "may include, with appropriate safeguards, an enhanced role in relation to principal selection, acquiring property and assets, and investment".

*   Expand the government's so-called Local Administrative Bureau program, which outsources time-consuming paperwork for small schools to education department experts.

Schools will be encouraged to "opt in" to the program, with about 250 schools expected to benefit within the first 12 months. State Education Minister Martin Dixon said the federal money – almost $16 million over four years – would "build the capacity of principals, school leaders and school communities to take full advantage of the level of autonomy already available to them".

The funding deal would also support schools embracing the Napthine government's new governance reforms, which includes moves to merge school councils, overhaul membership, and give parents more say in the performance reviews of their principals.

Ringwood Secondary College principal Michael Phillips said he was open to the changes, pointing out that some schools could have an opportunity to be more innovative and creative with curriculum programs, for example, "without being constrained by bureaucratic decisions".

However, others are already worried about the ongoing push towards self-governing, and the new agreement is likely to exacerbate their concerns. Australian Education Union state president Meredith Peace accused the government of using its autonomy agenda to shift more responsibilities on to schools without extra support.

Tarneit Senior College principal Michael Fawcett agreed, saying he was unconvinced that the latest state-federal deal would improve student outcomes.

"Where's the Gonski money?" he asked. "I'm still waiting for resource funding, let alone some other mythical funding to make us an independent public school system."

But Mr Pyne said the independent public schools funding initiative would "allow Victorian schools to better meet the needs of their student communities".


17 September, 2014

A new set of university rankings has just come out

I am a bit dubious about "diversity" being included as one factor in the rankings and think more emphasis could have been given to publications but the methodology is defensible as a whole.

I also don't fully agree with the Shanghai Jiao Tong methodology.  I think they give far to much eweight to Nobel Prizes -- which disadvantages younger institutuions.

But in the end the results are pretty similar and probably as most people would expect.  The major difference is that British and Australian universities did particularly well.  Four Australian universities (ANU, Melbourne, Sydney, UNSW) made it into the top 50 and eight British (Cantab, ICL, Oxon, UCL, KCL, Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester).  American universities were the biggest winners, as usual.

Another way of looking at the data is to note that London had 3 universities in the top 50 while Sydney had two. As Sydney is much less populous than London, that is pretty good.

Currumbin mosque: Gold Coast City Council rejects building application

A controversial proposal for a mosque in Currumbin has been rejected by Gold Coast City Council.

The proposal for an Islamic place of worship, which received 3,500 objections, has sparked protests, threats and insults against some councillors.

Ten councillors, including area representative Chris Robbins, voted against the proposal.  Five voted for the development application to be approved.

The council cited issues involving community concerns, car parking and opening hours.

Councillor Robbins said the planning committee had not properly considered the social impacts of the mosque.  "Those residents who live near the site have had some very stringent concerns," she said.  "This was decided by the councillors on town planning grounds."

Earlier today, the council went into a closed session to discuss possible legal issues associated with the plans.

Debate on the development application in an industrial estate had just begun when Councillor Lex Bell raised legal questions.  Councillor Bell argued if council rejected the application it would likely go to court and be approved with fewer conditions than would be imposed by council. Last week the council's planning committee recommended the application be approved - but with more than 50 conditions.

A group of about 30 opponents of the mosque cheered as the vote was counted.

James Darby from the 'Stop the Mosque' group welcomed the decision.  "The mosque should be well away from any person that its amenities are going to disturb," he said.

But local Islamic Society president Hassan Goss said all the guidelines were met.  "Everything that the council required was done — everything we had to do to obtain the approval of that centre was done," he said.  "I believe that because of public sentiment and the climate we're in at the moment, it hasn't gone through."

The developers now have the right to appeal against the council's decision in court.

Two councillors received death threats for their support for the proposed mosque.


Gillard forgetting who her friends used to be

TICKLISH questions remain swirling around Julia Gillard following her appearance at the royal commission into trade union corruption. Not the least of which is the haste with which she sought to distance herself from the two witnesses who preceded her into the witness box on Wednesday and their remarks about her role in suggesting the establishment of a slush fund similar to the one she assisted former boyfriend Bruce Wilson set up in Western Australia — the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association.

Robert Elliott, a former national secretary of the HSU, the union which gave the nation two disgraced former officials, Craig Thomson and Michael Williamson, was quizzed first, followed by his wife, the Victorian MLC Kaye Darveniza. Elliott has known Gillard since they were involved first in university and then union and Labor politics.

“I had been a member of a group formed around Ms Gillard and supportive of her political career,” he said in a document he prepared for a possible legal action against the HSU two years ago

The document, he told counsel assisting the commission Jeremy Stoljar, had been prepared carefully. Elliott agreed he wasn’t proposing to be deceitful and was satisfied it was true and correct when he supplied it to his solicitors in October, 2012.

Yet in September, 2014, his recollection has changed.

Two years ago he believed “Gillard was supportive of a ‘reform group’ of which I was involved in the HSU in the late ‘80s, including assistance with fundraising and legal advice. Ms Gillard and Slater & Gordon became legal advisers to the HSU Vic No. 2 branch and Ms Gillard continued to give not just strictly legal advice but also offered more general political counsel. It was generally understood that success for Ms Gillard’s allies in union elections was of benefit to Ms Gillard’s political career, and, in turn, Ms Gillard’s advancement would benefit those unions.

“Such was the closeness of the political relationship that Ms Gillard felt able, on one occasion, to offer, at a meeting of me, her and another senior HSU official to undertake the legal work to establish a fundraising entity, outside of the union, to raise funds for the re-election in the HSU of the officers of that entity but established for the ostensible purpose of promoting health and safety in the health industry.

“This offer was not taken up by me or others on the basis that it seemed an exotic and suspect arrangement particularly since the promotion of workplace health and safety was the proper preserve of the union itself.”

The other senior union official present was Elliott’s current wife Kaye, then known as Kaye Williams but who has now reverted to her maiden name, Darveniza.

Elliott said his recollection of the meeting with Gillard and his wife has changed.

It began to change two weeks ago when he was contacted about giving evidence to the royal commission and he began having discussions with his wife.

In fact, Elliot told the royal commission it was a regret to him that what he now believes is a “false memory” has been the subject of inquiry.

But it shouldn’t be because Elliott, just two years ago, was so proud of his memory he even referred to it in the statement he was preparing for his proposed legal action.

He said then that when he was asked to review the matters relating to Craig Thomson (his successor at the HSU) and his misuse of a union credit card, Michael Williamson (former ALP national president and former HSU general secretary, who pleaded guilty to two fraud charges last year and is currently serving 7½ years), Williamson “told me on several occasions that he particularly wanted me to participate because of what he considered to be my good judgment, my corporate memory, my experience of the national office and my relative sophistication on legal matters”.

That corporate memory and relative sophistication on legal matters apparently evaporated after the recent discussion with his wife.

While Darveniza recalls Gillard offering advice “informally as a friend and political ally with legal expertise” on setting up a fund or account into which branch officials would pay to provide funding for contesting branch elections (a slush fund), she has her own memory problems.

Gillard, however, is in no doubt. She didn’t have any meeting of the type described by Elliott and she never discussed setting up an incorporated association with them. They have vague memories, partially recanted, of discussions of the establishment of a fundraising entity like the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association. She is adamant they are wrong.

What is indisputable is that Gillard’s partners at Slater & Gordon were so concerned about her involvement in setting up a slush fund, possibly corruptly, possibly involving corrupt money, that Gillard abruptly left the firm.


Referendum on indigenous Australians should be conservative: PM

Tony Abbott has signalled his conviction that a referendum recognising indigenous Australians is more likely to succeed if it is "spiritually ambitious" but legally conservative.

Declaring that the timing and process for the referendum will crystallise within weeks, the Prime Minister said he was acutely aware of, and determined to avoid, the consequences of failure.

"There'd be nothing worse than having a go at this and finding that it fails because we've been too ambitious or, in the process of trying to do something wonderful, we've ended up dividing the country," Mr Abbott said in his most expansive comments on the referendum that is supported by both sides of politics.

He said the challenge would be to emulate the success of the 1967 referendum, which was carried with overwhelming support, but was "legally unambitious" while spiritually "very ambitious indeed".

"Sometimes the more legal ambition you've got, the less spiritual and ethical and cultural achievement you'll grasp and I think it's important to carefully weigh and consider these things in the weeks and months ahead," he said after his first discussions on the subject with indigenous leaders in north-east Arnhem Land.

Mr Abbott will discuss the referendum with indigenous leaders including Garrawuy Yunupingu, Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine on Wednesday, amid speculation that 2017 is the likely date for the question to  be put to the people.

Delaying the vote until then would, advocates say, maximise the prospects for building momentum, avoid the vote being politicised and draw of the euphoria of the vote 50 years earlier.

Asked by Fairfax Media if there was a danger that the question would fail to meet the expectations of those who say the question must be substantive, Mr Abbott replied: "We are really still at the beginning of this journey. We're not approaching the end.

"There is a lot of goodwill, there is a firm intention on the part of this government, on the part of the opposition, I think on the part of the Parliament generally, to embark on this journey, but it's got to be a successful one."

While there has been heated debate over whether the question should include a prohibition on racial discrimination, Mr Abbott said he was not going to rule specific proposals in or out.

"Generally speaking, the only proposals that I would rule out at this stage are proposals that would divide our country, and sometimes you only know whether a proposal would divide the country after it's been out there for a while and you've had a chance to gauge the reaction.

"My job here is not to be a private pontificator; my job is to be, as far as I humanly can, a national leader and national leaders do not rush into final decision making, given that the urgent task now is to bring forward a timetable and finesse a process.

"Once that's done, I think we're in a good position to start serious discussions over what the proposal might be."

 Mr Abbott suggested an announcement on timing and process was unlikely after Wednesday's talks, but added: "I do think we can crystallise this to the point of finalisation within a few weeks. I think it's important that everyone knows where our country is hoping to go.

"We shouldn't try to pre-empt the outcomes of this process, but there does need to be a clear process in place with an end point for our consideration."

 An announcement on timing in the next few weeks would coincide with a parliamentary committee that includes Aboriginal MPs Ken Wyatt and Senator Nova Peris releasing its recommendation on the wording of the referendum question


16 September, 2014

Abbott moves to Aboriginal community for one week

Tony Abbott, Australia's prime minister, has moved into a tent in a far-flung stretch of outback bushland to govern the nation for a week from a tiny Aboriginal community.

In an unprecedented move by an Australian leader, whose usual residence is a stately 1920s house in Canberra, Mr Abbott has shifted the seat of government to the outskirts of Yirkalla, a remote Aboriginal township in northern Australia with a population of 843.

He will govern from a canvas tent – complete with secure phone and video lines for cabinet meetings and calls to international leaders – and has brought with him some of the nation's top civil servants, who are also staying in tents.

After landing by plane on a dusty red dirt tarmac on Sunday afternoon, Mr Abbott, looking somewhat bewildered and bemused, was given an official "welcome to country" ceremony by a group of red-skirted Aborigines smeared from head to toe in white clay; they beat sticks, chanted, leapt and danced, all while moving gradually backwards to make way for their guest.

"It is good to be back in this part of the world," Mr Abbott said.

The unusual visit is not out of character for Mr Abbott, 56, a London-born, fitness-obsessed former boxer and trainee Catholic priest, who has been known to subject himself to punishing physical ordeals.

His various feats as an MP and prime minister include several 600-mile bicycle rides, working as a rural firefighter and beach lifeguard, completing a 14-hour iron man contest, and an infamous 36-hour bout of non-stop election campaigning in 2010, his first contest as opposition leader.

But the visit is also part of Mr Abbott's attempt to address the plight of the nation's Aborigines, who have far higher rates of infant mortality, disease, imprisonment and poverty than the non-Aboriginal population.

As an MP, Mr Abbott frequently stayed in Aboriginal communities and he promised last year that if elected he would spend a week each year ruling from a remote indigenous township. He has vowed to be "the prime minister for indigenous affairs".

"For an entire week, Aboriginal people will have my full focus and attention as prime minister," he said. "This trip will mark the first anniversary of my swearing in as prime minister. It will be a significant personal milestone and it will be a great honour to spend it among Aboriginal Australians."

Mr Abbott will also hold discussions this week on his plan for a nationwide referendum to change the constitution to recognise Aborigines as the nation's first peoples. He said this could help to heal the historical rift that has plagued relations between Aborigines and non-Aborigines since British settlement and would mark "a unifying and liberating moment for the nation".

But he has indicated that any such symbolic gestures of reconciliation should be accompanied by moves to improve the economic well-being of Australia's 700,000-odd Aborigines and ensure they attend school and find jobs.

He forcefully made this point yesterday during a one-on-one meeting with Galarrwuy Yunupingu, a local Aboriginal elder who would be regarded by his clansmen as equally or perhaps more powerful than the prime minister.

On a balcony overlooking the vast and untouched bushland, Mr Abbott told his local counterpart: "The important thing is to make sure that the land is not just a spiritual asset but an economic asset, that people are able to make good use of their land. That is what I would like to see."

The local Yolngu people are believed to have lived in Arnhem Land for 40,000 years and claim to be the inheritors of the world's oldest living culture. The region's 16,000 people speak fifteen distinct dialects and are renowned for their intricate bark paintings.

Bawuli Marika, 44, a schoolteacher who took part in the welcome celebrations, said the ceremonial chant recounted the arrival of two ancient female creatures who came ashore in a canoe and gave names to the animals and trees and allocated objects to various tribes.

"We do this ceremony for important people," Ms Marika told the Telegraph.

"It is good that he came here to learn our culture. It is a big thing. It is a happy thing. We can teach him about ourselves and what we want."


Australia's charmimg "Middle Eastern" (predominanty Lebanese Muslim) migrants at work

Four men armed with machetes assaulted a security guard at the elite Scots College in Bellevue Hill in an attempt to reach weaponry stored on the school grounds.

The men confronted the guard on the school perimeter about 1am on Friday but failed to gain access to any building. It is understood the men demanded entry to an area where guns were stored but were refused by the guard. The men fled the scene in a car that was possibly driven by a woman, police said. The guard was not injured.

Scots College maintains target-shooting rifles on the property as part of its sport program, which are incapable of firing except when used for practice or competition, principal Ian Lambert said. The school also keeps a number of ceremonial drill rifles used by its cadet unit which are permanently disabled.

"The police conducted a review of the storage and security arrangements of this equipment and were satisfied that all requirements were met or exceeded," Mr Lambert said.

 He did not believe there had been any previous incidents of a security guard being assaulted while patrolling the college. Staff and students on the senior campus, which has more than 1000 pupils, were informed of the incident on Friday morning.

The men armed with machetes were described to police as being of Middle Eastern appearance and wearing jumpers and pants. Police would not confirm if the Middle Eastern Organised Crime squad was involved in the investigation but a spokesperson said the investigation was "in full swing". No wider alert had been issued for sporting clubs or other schools in the area, the spokesperson said.

Scots College has subsequently beefed up its physical security as a precaution, Mr Lambert said. The Presbyterian school is one of the oldest boys' colleges in Australia.


Death threats to mosque opponents

POLICE are investigating death threats made against Gold Coast councillors who voted to support the controversial Currumbin mosque.

Threatening phone messages were left at offices of northern Gold Coast councillors William Owen-Jones and Cameron Caldwell just after noon yesterday.

Police told the Bulletin the threats were of a “non-specific” nature but related to both councillors supporting the approval of the mosque at Wednesday’s planning committee meeting.

They were among five councillors who voted to support the project, including Lex Bell, Greg Betts and Donna Gates.

The Bulletin understands both councillors were interviewed by police late yesterday and Cr Owen-Jones has declined to make a complaint.

It is understood the person suspected of making the threats is known to councillors but both Cr Owen-Jones and Cr Caldwell declined to comment.

Queensland Police confirmed threats had been made and said the investigation was ongoing.  Threatening a public official is a crime in Queensland.

Currumbin councillor Chris Robbins, who voted against approving the mosque, has also been threatened.

Cr Bell, a former lawyer, called for calm and said threats of violence against councillors was inappropriate and uncalled for.  “I understand people are upset but they should control themselves,” he said.

Wednesday’s council meeting was marred by a radical anti-­Islamic protest at Evandale which city and community leaders dismissed as a “redneck” movement.

Yesterday’s threats came after weeks of abuse hurled at Cr Robbins while the controversial development was under public discussion. Cr Robbins said she had received threats of gang-rape and murder from anonymous opponents.


The Wind Industry’s Worst Nightmare – Angus Taylor – says: time to kill the LRET

No, Taylor is not a dream – he’s the wind industry’s worst nightmare.

Member for Hume, Angus “the Enforcer” Taylor has taken the lead on behalf of the Coalition in Tony Abbott’s quest to bring the wind industry to its knees. While there’s been a lot of huff and puff emanating from Ian “Macca” Macfarlane and his faithful ward, young Gregory Hunt about saving the mandatory RET with magical “third ways”, STT says keep your eyes focused on Taylor and the PM.

To give you some idea of where Taylor is coming from – and where the wind industry is headed – here’s a transcript of an interview he gave last week (9 September 2014) on Sky News:

"Graham Richardson: Angus Taylor is the member for Hume, and he’s in our Canberra studio. G’day Angus how are you?

Angus Taylor: G’day Graham.

Graham Richardson: Now I’ve got to say that if I was a minister, I’d be looking behind me and saying there’s a Rhodes scholar on the backbench, we can’t have him there for long. I mean, you’d have to get, you’d have be promoted – I don’t see how they can keep a Rhodes scholar on the backbench.

Alan Jones:  He is a patient man, he’s a farmer’s son. He’s a patient man. Angus, just explain to us would you, in layman’s language, what is the Renewable Energy Target.

Angus Taylor:  Alan, it’s a scheme designed to increase the level of renewable electricity in Australia. And the way it works practice is it gives big subsidies to renewable projects and it builds those subsidies into our electricity prices ….

Alan Jones:  Sorry to interrupt you – go even simpler – the Renewable, Angus, a renewable project – just explain what a renewable project is.

Angus Taylor:  Well, so there are two schemes, the large scale scheme, which is essentially wind – there is a bit of hydro in there but no new hydro. So that’s the large-scale scheme and that is the majority of it. That’s about 90% of the total. And then there is the small scale scheme which is largely rooftop solar. So they’re the two schemes, and we pay for those big subsidies in our electricity prices, in our bills – they’re not transparent.

Alan Jones:  And that energy is infinitely dearer to produce than coal-fired power so isn’t it fair to say that without massive subsidies, these outfits couldn’t survive. Now if the government is not going to give money to the motor vehicle industry, and it’s not going to give money to SPC Ardmona, why is it giving billions of dollars to Qatari owned wind turbines?

Angus Taylor:  Well that’s a good question. I mean we’ve just had a review of this, led by Dick Warburton, and what the review concluded was that these are expensive schemes, very expensive schemes, but as importantly they’re very expensive ways to reduce carbon emissions. They did come to different conclusions on solar and the large-scale, the wind subsidies, and what we know is rooftop solar in remote areas can be economic, but large-scale wind it’s very clear that it’s not economic on any grounds.

Graham Richardson: If it is not economic, tell me how uneconomic is it? How much dearer? You know, is it 50%, is it 80% dearer than coal-fired power? How much?

Angus Taylor:  Well, put it in perspective. A wind project to get investment will probably need a price somewhere in their long-term contract of somewhere close to $100. And we’re buying electricity now, wholesale electricity at about $30 a megawatt hour. So say three times is a good rule of thumb … What we also know is the cost of reducing carbon emissions this way – it’s something like $60-70 and of course the carbon tax was far less that and we think still way too high.

Alan Jones:   Let’s just go  … just go to where our viewers are involved in all of this. Let me just ask you a simple question, right, I’m a big Qatari investor, because I know that Australians are suckers, we know the Australian government is just shelling out money, now I come from Qatar and I want to build wind turbines and I’ve found this armer, Angus Taylor in Goulburn and he’s got this a big hill out there – and I think this would be a good place to build wind turbines, so go to Angus Taylor and I say to him I want to put 70 wind turbines on your property. Just basically rule of thumb, how much would you expect to get from me, the big Qatari Guru, how much would you expect to get from me per wind turbine? And I want 70 of them on your farm.

Angus Taylor:  You’d get about 10 to 12 thousand dollars so if you going to have

Alan Jones:  So I kick in $700,000 to you, that’s right. So I build the 70 wind turbines. Enter the taxpayer. So I’m from Qatar, I’m a big wind power man, what’s the taxpayer going to fork out to me in order that I so-called ‘produce’ this wind power?

Angus Taylor:  Look on average you’d expect it to be about $400,000 per year, per turbine.

Alan Jones:  For 30 years.

Angus Taylor: In fact in the next few years – yes for 30 years (GR Wow). 400,000 per turbine.

Alan Jones: Start again

Angus Taylor: So if you had 70 turbines, that’s $28 million a year.

Alan Jones:   28 million on his farm – on his farm – 28 million – so the people watching you – say it again – I’m a Qatari I’m not even an Australian – $28 million a year for one farm. How the hell can this be sustainable?

Angus Taylor: For 70 turbines – and of course we are all paying for that in our electricity bills that’s how it’s coming through.

Graham Richardson:  Can I ask you Angus – at the moment what is the energy target and how close have we got to it?

Angus Taylor:  Right so the energy target is supposed to be 20% of total demand. It’s turning out that it is way above that. The unit is 41 terrawatt hours – but what’s important is we’re overshooting the 20% target by a long way. Now the problem with that, the problem with that is from here on in, we would have to build a Snowy Mountains Scheme every year for the next 5 years to reach the target. That’s a Snowy Mountain every year, for the next 5 years to reach the target. And the target will take us well over the 20% mark. The reason it’s going to take us way over the 20% mark, which was the original target, we were originally set ourselves a target of 20%, the reason we’re going way over is that electricity demand has actually been going backwards in Australia and the expectation was it would keep growing. So we’ve got this very high target, huge amount of renewable capacity to be built to reach it, and it’s going to take us way over what we originally expected to do.

Alan Jones:   And Angus isn’t t fair to say that written into the budget there is an expenditure figure of $17 billion – 17 thousand million dollars, to build between 700 and 10,000 of these. Now can I just ask this? If the Abbott Government is not going to give money to SPC Ardmona, and if it’s not going to give money to the car industry – and out there is tax payer land they say, nor should they, why the hell are we subsidising Chinese and Qatari wind farmers jacking up the price of energy, pushing manufacturing out of business? Why are we doing it?

Angus Taylor:  Well, look this is the good question. We are paying these massive subsidies out in our electricity bills we are going way over the target we originally set ourselves and really what this is becoming now is just industry assistance, it’s becoming industry assistance and primarily for the wind industry.

Alan Jones:   It’s industry welfare on steroids.

Graham Richardson: How much investment goes into it? How much private investment goes into it?

Angus Taylor:  Well look, you know, it depends on what’s being built Graham but it is a big number, 17 billion is probably not a bad number to go with, which is the number that Alan mentioned earlier. So there’s a lot of investment- but remember what’s happening here – it’s not creating jobs, we’re actually taking jobs away from other places. In fact, Deloitte tells us that we’re actually going to lose in total 5000 jobs as a result of this – now we gain some in one place and lose them in the other, but the net, we are going to lose 5000 jobs and the reason for that is that it is inefficient investment – we are actually replacing electricity generation we don’t need to replace because demand is going backwards, not forwards. So this is costing us a lot.

Alan Jones:   Yes, it is costing us. Isn’t it valid to say – and it may be an oversimplification, you can either have a manufacturing industry, or a Renewable Energy Target – you can’t have both.

Angus Taylor:  Well, the other part of this, of course, is if it’s pushing electricity prices up, and in the next 5 years it’s likely to push them up quite a lot, if it’s pushing electricity prices up, not only is that hurting households, it’s hurting businesses in exactly the same way that the Carbon tax was hurting businesses. There’s no difference. It’s pushing up electricity prices and that’s hurting all of us.

Alan Jones:  But you said …

Angus Taylor: We’ve gone from being a low cost energy country to a high cost energy country and this is continuing to be one of the contributors. So if all of this was for a good purpose, if it was a cheap way to reduce carbon emissions, depending on your view on whether that’s a good thing to do, then you might be able to justify it. But it’s not and the Review Panel told us that very clearly.

Alan Jones:   Terry McCrann, the very experienced economist said many many years ago, if you want to de-carbonise the Australian economy, your writing yourself a national suicide note. Now here we are forcing manufacturing overseas, forcing jobs, Deloitte said that, up to 6000 jobs. Now at what point do we say to Macfarlane, you said it in the party room, Macfarlane is the Energy Minister, he said this week, there’d be no changes, there’ll be no changes, we’ll make no changes that damage or end the Renewable Energy Target. This is the Energy Minister. You’ve got a Rhode scholar here saying – hang on – this is an inefficient use of resources, this is welfare on steroids and you’ve got the Minister – don’t ask me what I think of that bloke – but you’ve got this Minister saying the exact opposite. What is the party room saying about this?

Angus Taylor: Look, there’s clearly some concerns about solar in the party room, but the overwhelming view of the party room has always been that we have got to contain electricity prices. There’s no question about that. I think, to be fair to the Minister, in the last 48 hours he’s made it very clear that he’s concerned about the rise in electricity prices we’re likely to see in the next few years. He’s made that very clear. You know, look if there’s one cause that we took to the last election, aside from stopping the boats, it was that we needed to contain electricity price increases. That was a view that the party room held…

Graham Richardson:  But the argument was … Angus , the trouble is you ran the argument about the Carbon tax being the cause and it was only a small part of the cause, so you actually didn’t really tell the truth about the Carbon tax, because I think it was about 9% and everybody tried to make it sound like it was a great deal more.

Angus Taylor:  Well, 10% on someone’s electricity bill Graham is a big number for the average Australian and remember the people who are hit hardest here are those are least well off, and energy-intensive businesses which have been the core of Australia’s strength over the years. So 10% impact on electricity bills, and we are seeing that come off now, now that the Carbon tax is gone, that’s a big deal, it’s a big deal for your average Australian and it’s a big deal for Australian businesses.

Graham Richardson:  If we dropped these massive subsidies, which by the way are far greater than I’d ever believed, what would be the effect on electricity prices then?

Angus Taylor:  Well look, it depends but it will be 3-5% over the next few years, but the real problem is this, over the next 5 years, we are not likely to reach the target that was set. We’re not likely to reach it. Now when that happens, the price of these subsidies, they’re caught up in these certificates, the price of those certificates, which goes into your electricity bills, will go sky rocketing.

Alan Jones:  Correct.

Angus Taylor:  And this is the worry – and to be fair to the Minister – he has voiced this concern in the last 48 hours – the real worry is that the sky rocketing price of these subsidies because we can’t get enough of this large scale renewable capacity coming on, the wind turbines, we can’t get them on fast enough, the cost of this scheme is going to go right up in the next few years. And that’s the real concern and it’s a concern that I think the Labor party should share too, I mean they know. You only have to go door knocking in the less well off parts of my electorate or in any other electorate, to know that electricity prices and cost of living are right at the top of the list – so anything that’s pushing that up they’re concerned about.

Alan Jones:   But manufacturing is moving offshore. Jobs are being lost all over the place. Deloitte said that. But you talked at the beginning of this program Graham ‘what’s this bloke doing on the back bench?’ What kind of an Energy Minister would he make? You’re being very charitable to Macfarlane – I will tell you what Macfarlane said about the Renewable Energy Target. These are his exact words. ‘Anything the government does, will not effect any existing investment in renewable energy’. ‘Any existing investment’. I mean, is this bloke off his head? Manufacturing is closing down, jobs are being lost people out there can’t turn on their electric blanket because of the escalating cost of electricity and there should be a comprehensive movement by the Abbott government to reverse all of that.

Angus Taylor:  Look the concern the Minister voiced there is that people have invested to this point in good faith and we should respect investments they’ve made in good faith. I think what he has also said in the last 48 hours is the real issue is here is do we want more of this investment, accelerating over the next 5 years and costing us all a great deal and I think that is the real concern – I mean, do we want to just keep going – and do we want to miss this target.

Alan Jones:  But the real concern, just finally, Angus, isn’t the real concern if there is no money for Holden in the car industry, and no money for SPC Ardmona, why are there billions and billions of dollars for this industry?

Angus Taylor:  I think that’s a good question. I think unfortunately a lot of these schemes set out with the best of intentions and end up being industry assistance, industry pork-barrelling on steroids, as you say, and that’s the concern here. And it’s why there is a legitimate debate – a very legitimate debate in my view, about scaling it back. The Review Panel has said to us that that’s its preferred option. It gave us 2 options on the large scale, on the wind subsidies, and you know, I have made no secret of the fact that I think that we should scale it back. I think, as I say, to be fair to the Minister, he knows that if we don’t scale it back, we have a very serious risk of big increases in electricity prices and escalating subsidies.

Graham Richardson:  I really got to say we have to leave it here. Now I am not concerned about being fair to the minister If the Minister is fair dinkum, then he’ll do something out it, and he will do it quickly. Because this is a debacle. And it is just something that you can’t wait. You can’t sit and look at it. It’s got to be addressed immediately. And I don’t understand why he doesn’t. I can’t get it. But we have got to leave it there. Well go on have one last word, very quickly…

Angus Taylor: I was just going say we need the Labor party to help us, we’ve got to get this through the Senate. Either the Labor party or the cross-benchers have got to help us as it needs legislative change so it is incredibly important.

Graham Richardson: Well we will see what we can do.

Alan Jones: good on you Angus

Graham Richardson: I don’t actually hold out a great deal of hope on that front – but I will see what I can do because I think you are right.

Alan Jones:  Hope of the side – this bloke.

Graham Richardson: Certainly is – as I said if I was a Minister looking behind, I’d be on my toes. Angus Taylor, a pleasure to have you on the show. I hope to talk to you again soon.

Alan Jones:  Thanks Angus.

Angus Taylor: Thanks Graham.


15 September, 2014

Australia’s Goldilocks economy

WHAT an incredible run we’ve had.  Despite significant uncertainty in the global economy, the end of the mining construction boom, a slowdown in China and stubbornly high dollar, Australia has now completed its 24th year of uninterrupted economic growth.

And we’re not limping along either, with the Aussie economy likely to see an annual growth rate over 3 per cent for 2014. That’s about our long term average. Not too hot and not too cold — a “Goldilocks” economy.

The problem is that because we seem to be bombarded with new economic figures every day it’s hard to step back and get a realistic big picture of what is actually happening.

Here’s our take on the economic state of play and how it could affect your financial decision making.


It’s a mixed bag for the world’s major economies at the moment.

China is taking a breather from the breakneck, double-digit growth they’ve averaged in the last few years, but remains on track to meet a more reasonable growth target of around 7.5 per cent.

However, there’s rising concern that their domestic housing market is in trouble, which would stifle their economy and demand for Australia’s commodity exports such as iron ore.

Meanwhile, the US continues its stimulus-driven recovery, although weaker-than-expected jobs data for August and the end of its economic stimulus program next month may serve to dampen market confidence.

Europe is heading in the other direction entirely, with the European Central Bank dramatically ramping up their stimulus efforts, dropping interest rates and moving deposit rates into negative territory.


Locally, the Reserve Bank has held official interest rates steady for 13 months at a historical low level of 2.5 per cent to encourage growth in the economy.

But they’ve found themselves between a rock and a hard place lately, namely the hot property market and a stubbornly high Aussie dollar.

Low interest rates have driven up property prices, with worrying double digit rises in Sydney and Melbourne property over the last 12 months.

A persistently strong currency, on the other hand, constrains exports and hinders our ability to move away from mining driven growth.

However, the RBA appears unlikely to take any direct action against the dollar, and instead seems happy to ‘jawbone’ or talk down the currency in an effort to push it lower.

The majority of economists still expect the next interest rate move to be an increase in early 2015.


There was a bit of a scare in July when the unemployment rate unexpectedly jumped from 6.0 per cent to 6.4 per cent.

However, as with GDP, the unemployment rate is backwards looking.

A more forward-looking indicator of employment is job advertisements, which reflects what employers are doing right now.

Fortunately, job ads paint a healthier picture, up 1.5 per cent in August and 7.7 per cent higher than a year ago, suggesting that businesses are confident and looking to grow.


Profit-reporting season has wrapped up and corporate Australia appears to be in reasonable shape.

Total revenue for reporting companies was up 4.1 per cent to $585 billion, while net profits rose by 31.4 per cent to $52 billion.

Investors can look forward to getting a piece of those profits very soon, too, with $20 billion in dividends due to be paid out over the next two months.

And despite an unpopular budget and uncertainty in the global outlook, business and consumer confidence are relatively positive, which bodes well for further growth.

If companies make bigger profits, bosses are happier and more likely to hire more staff and invest. That’s great for the economy.


Overall, Australia appears to be on track for another year of positive economic growth.

There’s still a lot of uncertainty, particularly in the global economy, but our domestic economy remains strong and the RBA appears comfortable managing the risks posed by the hot property market and strong dollar.

So as we ease off our reliance on resources, there’s no reason we can’t adapt and continue to grow into the future.


Terror alert: Australian troops could be the targets of terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists on our soil

FEARS Muslim extremists could target serving Australian Defence Force members in a terrorist ­attack has sparked an official warning to the troops after a ­uniformed officer was abused in Sydney’s CBD.

Just 48 hours before Australia increased the public terrorism alert to High, the Defence Security Authority underlined the risks of a Lee Rigby-style attack in an email obtained by The Sunday Telegraph.

British soldier Lee Rigby was run down by a car, murdered and almost decapitated by Muslim ­extremists on a London street in broad daylight last year.

Marked Security Intelligence Report, the memo details verbal threats made against a uniformed officer. It says the ADF member was approached by a group of young men and told to “go to the Middle East so we can blow your f ... in head off you c. t”.

The incident was reportedly witnessed by a large group of ­people but the ADF member walked away from the scene.

Australian intelligence agencies have privately cited the Rigby case as one of their biggest fears because the brutal attack underlined that once intent was established the tools of a terrorist attack, in this case a car and knife, could be readily obtained.

The document does not detail when the verbal attack occurred but was sent to army officers across Australia just 48 hours ­before the Prime Minister ­increased the nation’s official ­terrorism alert level to High.

“The Defence Security Authority assesses that this incident of anti-Defence sentiment is related to Defence’s current and possible future operations in the Middle East,” the memo states.

“A further escalation of anti-Defence sentiment in Australia cannot be discounted.

“During the initial deployment of Australian troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, the DSA received an increase in reported threats of verbal abuse. This verbal abuse was from individuals who rejected Australian troops’ deployment to the Middle East.

The DSA, which advises the Chief of the Defence Force on how to manage security risks in Australia, warns in the memo of the need to be vigilant and report any verbal threats in an official ­incident report.

Australia’s intelligence agencies have also cited the Rigby case to illustrate the risks of opportunistic, lone wolf attacks by homegrown terrorists.

The warning underlines the three major risks intelligence chiefs have outlined: an opportunistic lone-wolf attack such as the Rigby case, the storming of a major shopping centre or building or a mass casualty event.



Hate for sale as Muslim flag adopted by jihadists goes to auction at Sydney mosque

PREMIER Mike Baird said the Islamic State flag could be banned across NSW.  His stance follows footage of one of the flags, which is linked to the barbaric terrorist organisation, being auctioned in front of families and young children in Sydney.

“That is something we will consider and work with community groups about but we can’t have the position where you are seeing any activity that is promoting terrorism, supporting terrorism,” Mr Baird said today.  “There is no way in this state that we are going to support that.

“It is a flag that is used by ISIS, and ultimately that is something we have to respond to and we have to have a zero-tolerance approach,” he said.

The flag, used by the terrorists responsible for thousands of murders across Iraq and Syria, including the execution of two Western journalists, was auctioned at a Liverpool mosque.

Disturbing footage of the sale is being shared among Australian teenagers, some of whom appear to have been radicalised by the extreme violence associated with the outlawed Islamic State, and its black and white flag featuring the Shahada.

One 15-year-old Muslim boy who posted footage of the auction to his Instagram account has since posted pictures with the black flag of jihad.

In a chilling reflection of the IS campaign in Syria, another image of himself in a headscarf has a caption directed at Syria’s president: “going to kill Bashar al Assad now”.

While a Muslim community leader claimed the Shahada symbol had largely been hijacked by IS militants, political leaders slammed the flag auction at Liverpool’s Markaz Imam Ahmad mosque and youth centre, led by Sheikh Abu Adnan Mohamad. A painting depicting the flag was also sold.

Mr Baird said earlier: “We expect everyone in NSW to obey the law or face the consequences. All parents and all communities need to protect young people from the insidious and corrosive effects of the radical ideologies that are causing so much suffering around the world.”

NSW MLC Fred Nile called the auction “disgraceful” and said the flag used by the Islamic State should be banned in Australia. “They fly the flag as something to be proud of — they should be ashamed of beheading people and selling women into slavery,” he said.

NSW Police investigated and said the auction would only constitute an offence if the proceeds were funnelled to terror groups.  The stated objective of the auction was to raise money for the mosque.

Attorney-General George Brandis has signalled the government’s intention to introduce new laws making it illegal to incite and promote terrorism. IS is designated as a terrorist organisation under Commonwealth law.

While repeated attempts to contact the mosque for comment by phone and email went unanswered, Muslim community leader Keysar Trad last night defended the sale, saying the Islamic State had “hijacked” the black and white standard, which bears the Shahada — an ancient Islamic creed that reads: “There is no God except God and Mohammed is the messenger of God.”


Terror alert will fuel "islamophobia": Islamic leaders

They should be complaining to their Muslim brethren in the Middle East  -- whose behaviour is the reason for terror fears

Islamic leaders fear Australia's heightened terror threat rating will victimise Muslims and deepen "Islamaphobia".

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils says the country's Muslim population – about 500,000 nationally – will be unfairly targeted and face increased prejudice due to the high terror alert announced on Friday.

Federation spokesman Keysar Trad said raising Australia's threat level to the point that a terrorist attack on Australian soil is considered likely will be a "dog whistle to hate writers in the media who will write more negative rhetoric directed at the Muslim community".

"This only increases pressure on the Muslim community and makes it even more difficult to feel like an Australian," he said.

Mr Trad said Muslims already faced unfair targeting by law enforcement and security authorities, but "what happens is that increases in times like this".

Australian Islamic Mission secretary Seyed Sheriffdeen said Friday's decision was an overreaction, and raised suspicion that it was a tactic designed to "implant fear in the minds of Australians".

"We are going back to the Howard era here, terrorising the minds of people unnecessarily," he said.

"People going to Syria and Iraq make up a very marginal number of Muslims ... ISIS are actually anti-Muslims and what they are doing is lunacy."

Dr Sheriffdeen urged the Australian government to instead address youth unemployment and work on engaging with young people to prevent them accessing extremist views.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has denied that raising the national security threat had anything to do with religion.

"This is about ensuring that this marvellous country of ours ... continues to be just that."


14 September, 2014

Libertarian Federal MP wants pot in supermarkets, hard drugs available for addicts to break crime rings

CANNABIS should be sold in supermarkets and hard drugs be available from the Government for heroin, cocaine and ice addicts under a federal MP’s radical drug reform plan.

Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm wants to kill the power of organised crime in Australia by decriminalising drugs, opening up the market and bringing down prices.

Senator Leyonhjelm said while it might not be smart to use marijuana, it was a harmless, non-addictive drug and should be openly available. His party’s philosophy is that if a person is not hurting anyone else, the Government should stay out of their business.

Like in the fruit-and-vegetable industry, farmers should grow cannabis for sale in supermarkets and other shops, he said. And anyone should be able to grow it in their garden.

Senator Leyonhjelm believes the same open slather availability could be possible for party drugs, such as ecstasy, as long as it can be proven the only real risk is to the person taking it.

“I’m not saying they’re safe, I don’t recommend them, advise them, endorse them, no,” he said. “All I’m really saying is it’s an individual, adult choice.”

For hardcore, addictive drugs, the NSW politician suggests the Government stop wasting millions on chasing crime gangs peddling drugs and peddle them itself.

Under a “harm minimisation” model, registered addicts would get replacement drugs, such as methadone or “other options”, erasing the need to pay up big to criminals.

In the days of legal opium smoking, people lived their whole lives addicted to heroin, he said. “Because supply was never restricted, they lived a normal life and they functioned quite well.”

He said while being an addict was “not ideal”, it wasn’t destructive until you added in the desperate behaviour of scoring a fix.


Alan Jones compares Muslims to bikies and says Aussie kids know more about Koran than their own country

SHOCK jock Alan Jones left no stone unturned into attacking the Muslim community when he spoke at a senior citizens luncheon in Sydney, stating those in “religious gangs’’ should be treated like bikies.

The 2GB host went on to suggest children in schools know more about the Koran than Australian history and urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to criminally investigate anyone who travels to countries where terrorists operate.

Mr Jones was speaking at the Rotary Club of Beecroft’s annual Seniors and Retirees Luncheon which is a fundraising event for their charity work.

It began with Mr Jones singing Que Sera Sera on stage with Epping State Liberal MP Greg Smith and the Rotary Club’s Dianna Hammond.

He covered a variety of topics from climate change to rugby but kept coming back to Islam.

“You won’t get a better person than Tony Abbott,’’ Mr Jones said. “He says Islamic State are a death cult. Why don’t we say that? I’m not saying all Muslims are terrorists but I tell you, most terrorists are Muslim.

“We have bikie legislation where they are outlawed. Well this mob in Western Sydney are a religious gang. Why don’t we get in and go after them?’’

He said in the “current climate’’ Mr Abbott should nominate a list of overseas states and if an Australian travelled there, they should become the subject of a criminal investigation.

“This is where Abbott has been magnificent,’’ Mr Jones said. “I think it’s part of his Jesuits training. He’s led the world and said that Islamic State practice evil.’’

Mr Jones then moved on to the education system and its flaws.

“I’ve got little kids saying to me they want to talk about climate change,’’ he said. “They can tell you about multiculturalism, about Muslims and the Koran but they can’t tell you where Mackay is or who Bourke and Wills are. They don’t know anything about their own country.’’

The theme of Mr Jones’ speech was how the world is split into builders and wreckers. He described Mr Smith, who will step down from parliament at the next election, as a builder who was knocked down because he stuck his head up.

He also spoke about working for former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who has been highly critical of the Federal Government’s asylum seeker policy. Mr Jones described him as an “Easter Island figure” with the “personality of a dial tone’’.

Mr Jones received the widest support when he spoke about this generation needing an “attitudinal change’’.

“Don’t be preoccupied with what I can take, but what I can give,’’ he said. “The most selfish thing you can do is give because you feel so good.’’


The proposed referendum on indigenous constitutional recognition is in serious trouble

Why we need a new referendum escapes me.  The 1967 constitutional referendum has already recognized Aborigines and empowered the Federal government to legislate on their behalf

THE proposed referendum on indigenous constitutional recognition is in serious trouble, with fundamental differences over the core principle now threatening the prospect of bipartisanship.

Tony Abbott’s statement to The Weekend Australian rejecting the push to turn the referendum into a constitutional guarantee of racial non-discrimination is belated but vital. Any such notion would doom the referendum.

The risk is that Abbott’s referendum idea is being hijacked. Abbott, busy with the budget and external crises, must urgently shape this debate before it is ruine­d by false dreams.

Bill Shorten, in his speech at the Garma Festival last month, seemed to endorse “banning racis­m in our Constitution”, with an implied endorsement of a new section 116A in the Constitution as recommended by the 2012 expert panel. This provision is the kiss of death. There is no prospect this idea will be passed by the Abbott cabinet. It would be a dead duck in the Coalition partyroom. It has no traction with the conservative voting constituency. It would be rejected by large sections of the public. It would turn a referendum supposed to be about indigenous constitutional recognition into a referendum on another subject: a constitutional guarantee of racial non-discrimination, a subject that runs far beyond indigenous issues.

Given the Opposition Leader’s misjudgment, he faces two options: either retreat from his section 116A flirtation or see Coalition-Labor bipartisanship ruined, with no prospect of a successful referendum. Abbott would only put a proposal that has a real prospect of success.

With the Prime Minister saying any referendum with a constitutional anti-discrimination rights charter “will fail”, Abbott has laid down a non-negotiable marker. It is not before time.

Indigenous leaders have invested great hopes for this referendum but it only works if the proposal unifies the nation and meets Abbott’s test of “completing the Constitution”, not transforming the Constitution.

The latter is not the answer.

It would tie the referendum into the divisive issue of a constitutional charter of rights, rejected by the Rudd government several years ago. It would provoke another round in the long-running row over whether rights should be given constitutional expression, an issue long opposed by the Coalition and prominent Labor figures.

The 2012 expert committee proposed an extremely wide-ranging new section 116A, saying that neither the commonwealth, nor a state or territory, could discriminate on “grounds of race, colour or ethnic national origin”.

This runs far beyond indigenous issues. It would give judges immense new authority to make policy. It would invite litigation in a range of areas from a range of groups. It would divide the nation.

It would create an absurdity — a constitutional guarantee of rights on a racial and ethnic basis but not on grounds of sex, age or disability.


Time-limits the alternative to waiting times for the dole

Among the most controversial of the measures announced in the May budget was the move to deny 15 to 29-year-olds access to unemployment benefits for up to six months.

This waiting period would be subject to a discount of one month for every full time equivalent year worked to a maximum of five months. There would also be a six month cycle-on cycle-off period over a year.

The Abbott government has thus far not had much luck convincing the crucial crossbench senators of the merits of this scheme, which has been characterised as 'punishing' the jobless for being out of work.

The policy is about reform rather than budget cuts, as it is only estimated to save $1.2 billion over four years. It is mainly about hassling the under-30s to find work. There is some evidence to suggest that periods of joblessness early in life can have a scarring effect on people's future work prospects.

About 60% of recipients of Youth Allowance Other (the payment for 15 to 21-year-olds) have been unemployed for twelve months or more, even though people in this age bracket are aided in job search by youth wage rates. (In general, though, minimum wage rates are a barrier to employment.)

But, there are other policies the government could consider to address youth joblessness.

A CIS report last year detailed how more and more people on unemployment benefits are not required to look for work. Current policy settings mean young people without a Year 12 or equivalent qualification are not required to look for work as a condition of receiving payment. Making job search mandatory as part of the activity test for Youth Allowance Other is a good idea and one that could receive crossbench support.

The Abbott government has also proposed new 'earn or learn' measures to push young people into education and training schemes in order to retain the dole. However, this merely kicks the can down the road and means taxpayers subsidise expensive training courses that fail to produce the desired outcome. Work by CIS Senior Fellow Peter Saunders has shown that education and training are not very effective at increasing job prospects, except for a select few.

Instead of 'more training', the government should consider implementing time limits on Youth Allowance and Newstart for under-30s as an alternative to a waiting period. This would still keep assistance available to those who simply need time to find work. But it would also be clear that this assistance is strictly short-term and intended to assist with a transition to work.

Long-term welfare reliance among youth is a serious problem. Given the cross-bench hostility to waiting times for the dole, alternatives are needed. Time-limits on the dole may be more politically palatable as well, because rather than penalising those out of work, they simply encourage the unemployed to hurry up and get a job.


12 September, 2014

Immigration minister proposes releasing asylum seekers onto Australian mainland under TPV plan

Asylum seekers who arrived by boat last year could be offered temporary protection visas and allowed to live in the Australian mainland community, in a major policy backflip by the Abbott government.

Until now, asylum seekers who arrived after July 19, 2013, were subject to offshore processing after a policy change by the Rudd Labor government, which meant they would be processed in centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

The policy was adopted by the Coalition and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has consistently maintained asylum seekers who arrive by boat after July 19 would be subject to offshore processing. 

In November, Mr Morrison said: "I want to stress all those on Christmas Island who are there now - those who arrived after July 19 will be going to Nauru or Manus Island. There will be no exceptions, whether you're Syrian, Iranian, single, married, adult, child, they will all be going to Nauru or Manus Island and will not return to live in Australia."

But the minister told an audience at the National Press Club that the government was now looking at TPVs as an "alternative" option for the 2700 people, including 450 children, who arrived by boat and many of whom are being held on Christmas Island. He is currently negotiating with crossbenchers in the new Senate to reintroduce TPVs after Labor and the Greens twice blocked the controversial measure that prevents refugees from gaining permanent residence in Australia.

"Now while it will continue to be the policy of the government that anyone who arrives illegally by boat will be transferred to offshore processing . the government is open to alternatives for the earlier July 19 to December 31 caseload, but not those who may arrive now or who have already been transferred," Mr Morrison said in the speech.

"Combined with other measures, TPVs will also give the government an alternative option for those who arrived after July 19 and before the end of last year, including over 450 children. Seventy five per cent of this group, including children, turned up under the previous government and had not been transferred to offshore processing centres."

Until now, only asylum seekers who arrived before July 19 have been considered eligible for TPVs, if such a measure is reintroduced.

Mr Morrison told Fairfax Media on Wednesday it was no secret he was in negotiations with the crossbenchers, including Clive Palmer, to allow the use of TPVs.

The policy change would not affect any boats that arrived this year. The only asylum seekers travelling by boat who reached Australian shores this year arrived in July. All 157 asylum seekers have since been transferred to Nauru.

The shift could signal a disintegration in the offshore processing policy that the government has so vehemently defended.

Mr Morrison acknowledged that the processing on Papua New Guinea was "challenging".

Until now, not one asylum seeker has been resettled in the country. There are 1084 asylum seekers being detained on Manus Island.

He also said negotiations with Cambodia, which the government hopes will resettle refugees, were ongoing.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said on Wednesday the government's offshore policy was "falling apart".

"Dumping the government's commitment to offshore processing like this is a major policy backflip from the Coalition on the back of a serious policy failure," she said.

"The Abbott government has conceded that it has to process these people's claims in Australia and is simply using TPVs as a distraction."


Fishing interests loom large in Abbott government review of marine parks

The Abbott government's overdue review of Australian marine parks has been launched with representatives of the fishing industry dominating advisory panels.

The previous Labor government established a vast network of new marine reserves throughout five stretches of Australian ocean and set out rules for how much fishing could occur in each one, if any at all.

Heading into the last election the Coalition promised to tear up the management plans for the new parks and to carry out a review, claiming anglers had been locked out of the process.

As part of the review, which was formally launched on Thursday, an overarching expert scientific panel will be set up to take carriage of the process.

The expert panel will be chaired by Bob Beeton, an associate professor at the University of Queensland's School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management and the former head of the Australian Threatened Species Scientific Committee.

The government has also created five advisory panels for each region of Australian ocean where the new parks were set up - the north, north-west, the east, the south-west and the Coral Sea - which are dominated by members of the commercial or recreational fishing industries.

Details of the review had initially been promised by the government by early this year.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the review would examine the management arrangements for the new marine reserves, which had been "rushed through" by the previous government.

"Unlike the previous government, we are committed to getting the management plans and the balance of zoning right, so we have asked the expert panels to consider what management arrangements will best protect our marine environment and accommodate the many activities that Australians love to enjoy in our oceans," Mr Hunt said.

He added that the government was "determined to ensure a science-based review of Commonwealth marine reserves and zoning boundaries, while maintaining our strong commitment to the marine reserves and their estates."

But Michelle Grady, Oceans director for Pew Australia, said the review was unnecessary, created more red tape and was a threat to Australia's marine protection.

"Regardless of who they put on these panels, this puts Australia's marine protection at risk and also the Liberal Party legacy of putting in place large and important marine parks," Ms Grady said.

"It's the Liberal Party who started this [protection] in the Fraser and Howard years."


TAFE response to Industry Minister Hon Ian Macfarlane’s removal of some vocational education regulation

TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) today applauded announcements by the federal government to remove red tape under the regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), and provide greater delegations to low risk vocational educational and training providers.

TDA has strongly argued that the cost and burden to the nation’s TAFE Institutes of regulation and the ‘VET bureaucracy’ has got out of hand.

Martin Riordan, Chief Executive of TDA, said the ‘one size fits all’ approach to regulation adopted by ASQA had failed to adequately recognise that low-risk Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) such as TAFEs need less regulation.  By changing the alignment, as the Minister has announced today, ASQA will be directed to focus its resource on weeding out those high-risk providers that are having a negative impact on quality across the VET system.

Martin Riordan said: “TDA welcomes the changes announced by the Minister today in both regulation and the way Training Packages will be managed.

“These are steps in the right direction - however we urge the Minister not to stop there.

“The nation’s TAFE Institutes are high performance, low-risk providers. TAFEs should receive delegation to manage their own scope of course registration and have the ability to accredit courses.”

TDA is currently reviewing the operations of ASQA, and delegations, and will report to Minister Macfarlane and the Department of Industry’s VET Reform Taskforce as early as next week, on how delegations may better operate – for public and private low risk registered RTOs.

Martin Riordan added: “Another big overhead cost for TAFE Institutes and VET providers generally has been the multiple and frequent changes or ‘churn’ to Training Packages, documented by ASQA under the Industry Skill Councils (ISCs).

“TDA supports the Minister’s announcement today that a more competitive environment may operate for Training Packages. We also acknowledge that industry’s frustration with the current VET system needs to be urgently addressed.”

Martin Riordan said TDA had released a Policy Position Paper arguing that Australian VET public funding be allocated to skill sets and not restricted to the time-based qualification based solely on Training Packages set by ISCs.


New in-school program allows students to start their own business

A NEW pilot program giving students from across Victoria an exciting opportunity to unleash their creativity and boost their innovation, enterprise and financial literacy skills was officially launched today at Carrum Downs Secondary College.

The $20 Boss program has been developed by The Foundation for Young Australians in partnership with National Australia Bank (NAB) and the Victorian Government and will soon begin in schools across Victoria.

Through the pilot, students are given the opportunity to plan, budget and market their business idea, and then one month to run their business.

Minister for Youth Affairs Ryan Smith said the Victorian Government was thrilled to support the program, which would help students get ready to take on the world of work.

"$20 Boss is a fantastic way to engage young people - not only does it allow them to build enterprise skills and boost their confidence, it also makes them more likely to be job creators in future," Mr Smith said.

NAB General Manager, Small Business David Bannatyne said NAB was proud to support an innovative program like $20 Boss.

"We're the bank behind small business in Australia, which is why we want to encourage and inspire a new generation of young Australians to start their own business and create their own opportunities for the future" he said.

"Introducing young people to the idea of a purpose-driven business and showing them how businesses can create both commercial and social value will have great flow-on effects not only for the students involved but also for the wider community."

Foundation for Young Australians CEO Jan Owen said the students with the best and brightest ideas and businesses would be celebrated with awards at an event to showcase the innovation and success of students throughout Victoria.

"Unleashing the creativity of young people is crucial in preparing them for their future roles as innovators and creators of social change so we're very excited about the potential of the $20 Boss program," she said.

"Rethinking business education in this way is critical in tapping into the incredible potential of this generation of students for entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.

"There has never been a generation so willing or so able to embrace and create change."

The $20 Boss program is made possible through a $1.3 million commitment from principal partner NAB and a $200,000 investment from the Victorian Government to support the development of the educational tools and resources to build enterprise and financial literacy.


11 September, 2014

Who was to blame for this death in custody?

Clementine Ford below doesn't really know.  She even admits that the woman may have died from something she had before she was taken into custody.  She nonetheless suggests that the woman died because she was an Aborigine. There is no doubt that the woman received poor healthcare from a government hospital but is it only Aborigines who receive poor healthcare from government hospitals? 

It is not.  Almost every day in the Daily Mail one can read cases where ordinary (white) Brits failed to receve appropriate heathcare from British government hospitals despite many hospital visits.  And they do sometimes die as a result. 

So I will tell you what Clemmie (who is a radical feminist) would never tell.  The woman died because of the insanity of having uncaring government employees running hospitals.  Most Australians know that from contact with their own government hospitals  -- which is why around 40% of Australians have private hospital insurance

Clemmie also displays typical Leftist dishonesty below.  She says, as if it proved something, that "Aboriginal people make up only 2.3% of the Australian population, yet they accounted for around 18% of deaths in custody".  She totally ignored the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which found that the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody has been roughly commensurate with the fraction of prison inmates who are Aboriginal.

Clemmie is an embittered crook and all the lipstick in the world won't hide it

In terms of infrastructure, Australia is a developed nation. We have a (mostly) affordable healthcare system, access to effective medical intervention and a welfare system that, while imperfect, is still more comprehensive than many other countries. So why do we still hear stories of people who have been so grossly failed by the system that they have become casualties to it?

Last week, the compassionate among us were rocked by revelations that an asylum seeker imprisoned on Manus Island had lapsed into a coma which rendered him brain dead after a cut on his foot was left untreated and became septic. A cut. In response, vigils were held where citizens called once again on the government to apply some basic humanity to the treatment of asylum seekers.

And yet, this despicable disregard for human lives deemed less worthy as a result of Australia's institutionalised racism is not limited to those unfortunate souls who have the temerity to seek safety on our shores. Just over a month ago, a 22 year old woman in Port Hedland died while in police custody. Her crime? Ostensibly, the failure to pay a $1000 fine.

But maybe it was also just that she was Aboriginal.

In early August, the young Yamatji woman (whose name we will refer to only as `Miss Dhu' and whose photograph we will not publish in accordance with her family's wishes) was incarcerated for four days alongside her partner for failing to pay a fine. In WA, recipients of fines can elect to pay them off in custody at a rate of $250 a day, a policy which the shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt believes helps to maintain the persistently high rate of incarceration of Indigenous people while failing to address the underlying issues which might lead to this.

And so it was that Miss Dhu ended up police custody. Despite complaining early on of experiencing severe pain, vomiting and even partial paralysis (which may have been as a result of a septic infection relating to a blood blister on her foot acquired prior to her arrest), Miss Dhu was twice released from the local Hedland Health Campus after being deemed fit to return to the watchhouse. Incredibly, it has been reported that these decisions were made despite Miss Dhu not being seen by a doctor in either visit. Her partner Dion Ruffin has alleged that as she grew increasingly sicker, police laughed and accused her of acting. Around midday on August 4, Miss Dhu made her final visit to the Hedland Health Campus while in a `near catatonic state'.

Shortly after, she was pronounced dead.

This is an horrific outcome, by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, shamefully, it took me almost a full month to even hear about Miss Dhu, let alone the circumstances surrounding her death. And while I don't wish to further disempower Aboriginal communities by assuming to speak for them, I do want to express my horror at the fact that something like this can happen and not cause even the vaguest ripple across mainstream Australian media. Even now, the most comprehensive reporting I can find is on the independent websites The Stringer and the Deaths In Custody Watch Committee WA, while SBS and The Australian have published a handful of pieces. When I spoke to my editor about writing this piece, she confessed she had also not heard about it.

How does such deafening silence happen without the complicity - conscious or not - of a nation all too comfortable with ignoring the systemic racism and oppression inflicted on some of our most routinely degraded citizens?

Aboriginal people make up only 2.3% of the Australian population, yet they accounted for around 18% of deaths in custody between 1980 and 2007. To put a human face on that, 379 Aboriginal people died while in police custody during this period. Between 2008 and 2012, a further 54 Aboriginal people have died while incarcerated. Despite a 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, most of its 339 recommendations (made in its final report in 1991) have never been implemented - recommendations which some people say might have saved Miss Dhu's life.

Why are we so slow to respond to crises involving the treatment of Aboriginal people? Only one person on Twitter raised the issue with me, which was the first I'd heard of it. This silence may be wilful or it may be accidental - either way, it's a shameful indictment on Australia's attitudes towards Aboriginal self determination, autonomy and dignity.

Miss Dhu was a person with as meaningful and complex an identity as anybody else. And while the relative anonymity I have chosen to write about her with may seem isolating to readers used to being provided with names and faces as a point of connection, in the end this may be the most damning point of all. That for an Aboriginal woman living in the Pilbara, death in custody was a fate more likely to befall her than it is me, a middle class white woman living in inner city Melbourne.

Wider society can think of her as faceless and unimportant, just another nameless person whose death can pass us by. Or we can think of her as a symbol for all Aboriginal people disenfranchised by the system, whose oppression is aided by those of us who form part of and benefit from White Australia. She may be a single person of importance whose face can carry the weight of all those unacknowledged deaths, all that ignored pain and suffering.

A person who doesn't matter, or a matter for all persons. Which do you choose?


Climate change deniers raise the heat on the Bureau of Meteorology

By Michael Brown (Michael Brown is an astronomer at Monash University's School of Physics)

A lot of airy generalizations from Mr Brown below but no actual figures.  The work he criticizes DID give the figures.  He sniffs at the qualifications of the skeptics but are his qualifications any more relevant?  What has an expert on the stars got to do with terrestrial climate?

Australia is without a science minister for the first time in decades and some scientists now refer to the missing minister as "our invisible friend". The absent minister symbolises the current ambivalence of the Australian political right to science.

That ambivalence turns to open hostility when it comes to climate science. Five years ago Tony Abbott dismissed the science of climate change as "absolute crap" and that statement still resonates. Now, we are seeing more worrying developments.

Scientists hiding and manipulating data? Mysterious time travelling forces? Easily debunked myths being repeated as facts? Plucky amateurs and bloggers saving us from professional scientists?

Such notions are traits of pseudoscience and would be mocked if being promoted by crystal healers. Unfortunately we are hearing such nonsense being repeated by right wing media, government advisors and MPs.

Over the past few weeks there has been a concerted attack on the Bureau of Meteorology's temperature data. That data, taken with dozens of weather stations, shows temperatures increasing across Australia over the past century.

The warming trend is clear from both raw data and processed "homogenised" data. The homogenised data accounts for changes in data quality, including artificial jumps in temperature produced by relocating weather stations. For example, in rural towns many weather stations were moved from post offices to airports.

The Australian newspaper is publishing attacks on the Bureau's temperature record and the homogenisation process. These attacks are not based on published scientific studies, but instead rely heavily on the claims of former Institute of Public Affairs fellow, biologist and blogger Jennifer Marohasy.

The attacks use the pseudoscience tactic of selecting just a few towns where the homogenisation removes artificial cooling, while ignoring more towns where both the raw and homogenised data show warming. A few potential errors in the data have been highlighted, while ignoring the fact that warming across Australia is seen in both raw and homogenised data utilising millions of individual measurements.

These attacks on the Bureau of Meteorology have combined sloppiness with denigrating professional scientists. Is the Bureau really unwilling to provide 20th century data for town of Bourke? No, that data is freely available from the Bureau's website. Was the vital Stevenson Screen dumped from the Bourke weather station in 1996? No, the Bureau's catalogue has a photo of the Stevenson Screen at Bourke's current weather station. Is the Bureau hiding its methods? No, Blair Trewin details the Bureau's methods in a scientific paper.

Despite the attacks on Bureau of Meteorology having little basis in fact, they are gaining traction amongst right wing MPs and commentators. Backbench MP George Christensen tweeted "It's time for an official investigation of Bureau's handling of temperature records". Columnist Miranda Devine has claimed the Bureau's actions are "fraudulent".

Before commentators and politicians get too excited, they should remember similar claims have been made before. In New Zealand climate change deniers launched a court case making similar claims about that country's temperature record. They lost the case and have been avoiding paying the taxpayers' costs since.

The connection between pseudoscience and politics becomes even clearer when we look at the contributions of Maurice Newman, the chairman of the prime minister's Business Advisory Council.

In two recent opinion pieces, Newman warns of imminent global cooling caused by variability of the sun, rather than global warming. In some instances Newman misrepresents expert opinion when constructing his case. For example, while Newman cites Professor Mike Lockwood's research, Lockwood himself has stated that solar variability may decrease warming by "between 0.06 and 0.1 degrees Celsius, a very small fraction of the warming we're due to experience as a result of human activity".

Newman also relies on climate skeptic David Archibald for expert opinion on climate. Archibald, who isn't a scientist, has been warning of global cooling for some years now, and has previously made cooling predictions that have not eventuated.

Archibald's most recent claims invoke a new force of nature. This force hasn't been observed by anyone, but is the invention of (anthropogenic) climate change deniers desperately trying to downplay the impact of carbon dioxide. Compounding the hubris of inventing new forces without evidence, this force travels through time, with reaction following action after an 11-year delay. This could be an amusing Dr Who plot device, but has zero connection with real world physics.

The current attacks on climate science are embracing pseudoscience. They are a desperate attempt to deny a century of science that proves global warming has occurred and will continue to do so. This is a denial of a century of science, from the physics of radiative transfer to increasing ocean heat content. Unfortunately this denial is being fully embraced by sections of the Australian media and parliament.


Logan Islamic book store raided

The 31-year-old brother of Australia's first suicide bomber is among two men arrested following an Australian Federal Police raid on an Islamic book store south of Brisbane.

Omar Succarieh of Kuraby, and an as-yet unnamed 21-year-old man from Boronia Heights were taken into custody after police raided iQraa Islamic Centre at Underwood on Wednesday morning, along with eight other addresses.

Mr Succarieh's brother Ahmed was investigated over an incident in Syria in September 2013 when a truck laden with explosives was driven into a military checkpoint.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan, the national manager for counter terrorism, said 180 AFP and Queensland police officer executed nine search warrants in Logan and southern Brisbane on Wednesday following a 12-month investigation.

Mr Succarieh was charged with providing funds to Syrian terrorist organisation Jabhat al-Nusra. He was also charged over plans to enter Syria to "engage in hostile activity".

The 21-year-old was charged over "preparations for incursions into Syria, with the intentions of engaging in hostile activities".  He was also charged with recruiting people to commit the same acts.

Among the items seized during the raids was electronic data and one firearm, which Mr Gaughan said prompted Wednesday's raids due to the "public safety concerns".  "We really had no option but to proceed today," he said.

Mr Gaughan said neither man had recently been in Syria.  Both will appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday morning. Mr Gaughan said police would oppose bail for both men.

There was no evidence to suggest the two men were involved in domestic terrorism attack planning, Mr Gaughan said.

Mr Gaughan said it was unclear whether holes in the wall at the iQraa Islamic Centre were caused by bullets.

"The forensic process needs to take its course and it's too early to speculate they are bullet holes," he said.

Queensland Assistant Commissioner Gayle Hogan said there was no risk posed to the upcoming G20 summit, which will be held in Brisbane in November.

Calls to the iQraa Islamic Centre went unanswered. Outside the store, iQraa Islamic Centre customer Abu Amaan came to the centre's defence.  "It's just a simple bookstore selling perfumes to Qu'arans," he said.  "There's nothing radical whatsoever. I just don't understand all the hysteria."  "Every Tom, Dick and Harry goes in there. They're very welcoming."

Mr Amaan said he believed the raid was unfounded.  "I think it's just instilling fear in the Muslim community," he said.

Carpet Court owner Eliseo Censori, whose business was next door to the iQraa Islamic Centre, said police needed a locksmith to get access to the premises.   "When we came in this morning at about 7am, there were about five police," he said.  "The place looked locked.  "Withing three quarters of an hour, there were about 30 of them."

Mr Censori described staff at the centre as "really quite friendly and pleasent".

Another business neighbour, 99 Bikes salesman Steve Wilson, said they never any issues with the centre.  "It's a bit of a shock and everyone's talking about it," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman revealed he held an urgent meeting with Police Commissioner Ian Stewart to discuss G20 security in Brisbane after reports Australia's terrorism threat level could be increased.

Outgoing ASIO chief David Irvine told the ABC he was actively considered raising Australia's terror threat level from medium to high.

Mr Newman said he had been kept appraised of the situation as Brisbane prepared to host the G20 in November this year.  "What has been conveyed to me is that there are heightened threats to Australians but again I stress that we just won't let that roll on," he said.

"We are working very hard with the Commonwealth authorities to make sure we do protect Queenslanders and you can be assured of that.  "There has always been a very strong security response around the G20.

"We have international leaders we have been preparing for a proper security operation in this city and we have done everything we can to make sure we run a very positive and safe G20."

Mr Newman said increased security and special legislation would help protect world leaders and Queenslanders from a terrorist attack during the G20.  "We have been preparing for a proper security operation in this city," he said.  "We have done everything we can to ensure we run a very positive and safe G20 that highlights everything Queensland and Brisbane has to offer the world."


Private schools give more homework but produce no academic advantage says OECD

It appears that the nub of this report is the clause highlighted in red below.  Why should private schools worry that their existence does not lift up other schools?  They are paid to help their own students and it appears that they do that

Australian private school students spend two hours a week more on homework than their public school counterparts but do not perform better academically when socio-economic advantage is taken into account, according to a major report into educational performance around the world.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Education at a Glance 2014 report also finds Australian students spend more time in the classroom than anywhere else in the developed world even though they are increasingly being outperformed by students in other countries.

The report finds Australian private school students spend 7.4 hours a week on homework, an extra-curricular workload that is among the highest in the developed world. Australian public school students spend 5.1 hours on homework a week, just above the OECD average of 4.9 hours a week. Students in Shanghai, China, top the world by spending 13.8 hours on homework a week.

The report found a greater disparity in academic performance between Australian public and private school students than the OECD average, based on the mathematics results of 15-year old students in the 2012 PISA tests.

Australian private school students achieved an average score 37 points higher than public school students, above the OECD average of 28 points. But - in a trend seen across the world - there was no statistically significant difference between the results of private and public school students when the economic, social and cultural status of students and schools was accounted for.

Public schools outperformed private schools in 12 countries when socio-economic status was accounted for while private schools outperformed public schools in eight countries.

"Thus, private schools - and public schools with students from socio-economically advantaged backgrounds - benefit the individual students who attend them; but there is no evidence to suggest that private schools help to raise the level of performance of the school system as a whole," the report says.

There was no significant difference in average class sizes between Australian public and private schools: public schools have a mean class size of 22.4 compared to 22.8 in private schools.

Australian students spend more than 10,000 hours in compulsory primary and early secondary schooling, well above the OECD average of 7475 hours. The 2012 PISA results showed Australia had slipped to 17th out of 65 countries in mathematics.

The report finds the number of Australian children in early education still lags behind the rest of the world but is increasing. Eighteen per cent of Australian three-year-olds were enrolled in pre-primary education in 2012, up from 13 per cent the previous year but well below the OECD average of 70 per cent. Seventy-six per cent of four-year-olds were enrolled in early childhood or primary education, up from 67 per cent the year before.

Australia spends only 0.1 per cent of GDP on pre-primary education - compared to 0.8 per cent in Chile or Denmark - and only 45 per cent of spending on early childhood learning is publicly funded. This compares to an OECD average of 81 per cent public funding.

The report finds Australian men with a university degree will be $152,700 better off over a lifetime than those with only high school qualifications. This is above the OECD average but less than in the United States, where men with a university degree are $228,700 better off. Australian women with a degree are $91,300 better off than those with secondary qualifications.

Forty-one per cent of Australians aged 25 to 64 have tertiary qualifications, above the OECD average of 32 per cent. Young Australian women are now more likely to have a university degree than men: 53 per cent of women aged 25-34 have a degree compared to 42 per cent of men.

International students account for 18 per cent of tertiary enrolments in Australia, second only behind Luxembourg in the OECD.


10 September, 2014

Two shades of limelight for Julia Gillard with Royal Commission and memoir launch

History will record that the largest criminal organisation in Australia was protected by the first woman prime minister of Australia. This is going to be a big month for Julia Gillard's reputation. Starting as early as Tuesday, she is likely to be called as a witness by the Royal Commission into Union Corruption. Then, on September 24, her political memoir will be launched.

Was Gillard a success or failure as prime minister? Many, perhaps most, Australians have already have made up their minds. Many would think that by becoming the first woman to reach the leadership, and forming a government that survived three years, she made history and is by definition is a success. But there is a big difference between history and success. The accumulation of facts – as distinct from mere opinions or gender solidarity – is not going Gillard's way.

The factual tide is flowing against her. Gillard's name will always be associated with the word "fraud". Frauds committed not by her but by others she supported. There is also a direct correlation between Gillard's actions as PM and the brazen contempt for law that has broken out across the construction industry, with national economic ramifications. Disruptions such as those on the Barangaroo building site in Sydney last week, which included a young woman being described by a CFMEU official, using a loud hailer, as "a f***ing slut* because, as a staff member of the Fair Work Building Commission, she had dared to come onto the building site. Or the "accidental" fire that shut down the Barangaroo site. Or the organised crime group that infiltrated the project.

The Gillard flow-on is evidenced by the 150 active investigations of fraud, intimidation and criminality currently under way, with the majority directed at the CFMEU.  It is evidenced by the use of "safety" by CFMEU official to go onto building sites to extract funds from workers. (One CFMEU official even took an EFTPOS machine while on a "safety" inspection.) It is evidenced by the flying squads of CFMEU goons who go into cities, mock the police – who are deserving of mockery – and shut down dozens of building sites in a display of power. It is evidenced by the collusion of big companies with the CFMEU to pad the cost of major infrastructure and building projects.

All of this has led the Productivity Commission, among many others, to urge the re-introduction of the Commonwealth Building Code, the re-instatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and the introduction of higher penalties for unlawful activities in the construction industry. All because Gillard, as prime minister, shut down the ABCC and the building code after furious lobbying by the CFMEU, which hated the police powers of the ABCC and the legal restraints imposed by the building code. And Bill Shorten, as leader of the Labor Party, is fighting a rear-guard action to stop the ABCC and building code from being revived.

Gillard's actions while prime minister have had huge ramifications because the construction industry is huge, on a par with the mining industry, which is regarded as the engine of the economy. While mining represents 8.6 per cent of gross domestic product, construction represents 8.3 per cent, and employs many more people than mining, more than 1  million jobs.

On Gillard's watch, and as a direct result of some of her actions, the construction industry saw an outbreak of cost blow-outs and on-site intimidation that contributed to ending the mining boom and continues to inflate the cost of infrastructure, inhibit investment and destroy jobs.

None of this will even get a mention when Gillard is questioned at the Royal Commission this week. She has been called to give evidence about events which took place years ago, before she was in parliament. The outcome may or may not seriously damage her reputation. It will all revolve around whether she is found to have been a witting or unwitting participant in serious fraud because of her actions as a labour lawyer.

Whatever the outcome, Gillard has already been struck by fraud lightning far more than most politicians. The Labor figure on whose vote her government depended for survival, and whose reputation she defended, Craig Thomson, turned out to be a fraud and liar who misled the parliament on multiple occasions. The person she elevated to be speaker of the house, Peter Slipper, has since been convicted of fraud. Her former boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, is immersed in multiple serious fraud allegations.

The most defining speech of her career, the "misogyny" speech delivered in parliament on October 12, 2012, was based on not on evidence that Tony Abbott had a hatred of women but served as a cynical diversion from the scandals embroiling her leadership. It set a poor precedent that the first woman PM would resort to a vindictive personal attack, playing the gender card, to deflect from multiple self-inflicted controversies.

The defining promise of her one election campaign as leader – no carbon tax – turned out to be a falsity. Even her greatest legislative legacy, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, was drafted and passed with bipartisan support, but not adequately funded.

The Australian people have delivered an adverse verdict on Gillard's leadership. She took a comfortable majority into the 2010 federal election and lost it all. She never had the chance to go to a second election because her standing in the opinion polls had sunk so low her party removed her rather than face the electorate with her as leader.

Gillard was a more sane and sympathetic leader than her predecessor and successor, Kevin Rudd, but that is not saying much. The best she can hope for from the Royal Commission is that she does not get struck by fraud lightning yet again.


The old Leftist poison of antisemitism is re-emerging in Australia

TONY Burke has reignited the clash in Labor over the Middle East by saying Jewish settlements in the West Bank are a ploy to block a two-state solution, and are “trashing” the drinking water of Palestinians.

So trenchant was Mr Burke in his criticism of Israel that he won the praise of Sydney academic Jake Lynch and the acknowledgment of Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, known for their vocal support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

In a blistering attack on Israel during a keynote address to a pro-Palestinian fundraiser, the senior Labor frontbencher said he, Senator Rhiannon, diplomats from Arab nations and others at the event were “here representing the view of the majority of the world”.

Mr Burke said anyone who supported Israel’s bombing UN compounds in Gaza was “on the wrong side of that argument”.

Mr Burke’s speech in Sydney late last month to the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, unreported until now, went far beyond his previous comments in support of the Palestinian cause.

Labor’s finance spokesman and manager of opposition business is one of the more outspoken in a group of ALP frontbenchers, including foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek, who lean towards the Palestinian side of the debate, in contrast to Bill Shorten who is robustly pro-Israel.

In his speech, Mr Burke said “Israel’s actions have changed”.

“It is one thing for them to have ... said for years, ‘well, it’s a negotiated outcome and we just haven’t got there yet’,” Mr Burke said.

“But when settlements are being built between Bethlehem and Ramallah, all the way south of Jericho, that’s about preventing a two-state solution. It cannot be about anything else. It’s about ­dividing territory to prevent there from being a workable state.”

Mr Burke said he had met the Friends of Palestine group who had evidence Palestinians had “had their drinking water trashed by a settlement upstream”.

Mr Burke’s remarks drew a sharp response from Victorian Labor MP Michael Danby, a supporter of Israel, when The Australian advised him of the speech.

Mr Danby said Mr Burke and former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr, who championed a more pro-Palestinian Australian policy in the UN, “seek to impose ­Munich-style settlements on Israel like the great powers handed down on the Czechs in 1938”.

Mr Danby said Mr Burke and other pro-Palestinian Labor MPs needed to “get a more balanced perspective, especially on the missile attacks (from Gaza’s Hamas organisation) that forced five million Israelis to the air-raid shelters”.

A spokesman for the Opposition Leader reiterated ALP policy on the Middle East but said he declined to endorse Mr Burke’s speech.

Mr Burke’s spokesman said his speech was “consistent with Labor’s position on this issue”.


Peta Credlin: A mystery that went nowhere

Mark Dreyfus dubbed it "cash for questions" and spoke of "remarkable allegations that go to the highest levels of the Abbott government". Problem was, he couldn't quite articulate what the allegations are against Tony Abbott's larger-than-life chief of staff, Peta Credlin.

Greens senator Lee Rhiannon was similarly bold, declaring the ICAC scandals have now reached "into the heart" of the federal Liberal Party, "with the Prime Minister's office implicated".

But she failed to back up her assertion that previously suppressed emails, to and from Credlin, reveal "another layer of political sleaze".

Yes, the fact that Liberal Party lawyers sought to have the emails suppressed by the Independent Commission Against Corruption suggests they were, at the very least, sensitive about their contents.

And, yes, the fact that Credlin, arguably the country's most powerful woman, emerged as one of the "mystery" figures in the email exchange, is news of sorts.

But that is the extent of it. A little bit of smoke but no gun. All the emails reveal is Credlin doing her job, which in opposition focused heavily on finding people prepared to say the carbon tax was killing them.

The fact that one such person, Brickworks chief executive Lindsay Partridge, was described to her by a NSW Liberal fund-raiser as "a very good supporter of the party", was irrelevant to whether he helped her cause or not.

Barely a day went by in opposition that  Abbott was not visiting some business that claimed it was being hurt by the tax and it is safe to assume that many were natural constituents of the Liberals.

The separate issue, and the one worthy of debate and investigation, is whether existing disclosure laws on political donations are adequate and whether there should be a federal equivalent of the NSW ICAC.

But here there is no consensus on this, even within the Labor Party.

Back in June, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said that, while "we've all been shocked at the revelations" to come out of ICAC, he did not believe these problems were "prevalent in the national political debate in Australia".

While Dreyfus appears to be moving towards support for such a federal body, Labor's former national secretary, Gary Gray, now the frontbencher responsible for electoral matters, disagrees.

The weakness of Labor's case against Credlin was underscored by the Dreyfus statement. Despite the powerful opening, it went nowhere.


Bottle of Grange among gifts to Campbell Newman

Premier lists painting of himself, M?ori spear and three ties worth $755 among presents worth more than $19,000

The Queensland premier received a painting of himself and a bottle of wine similar to the one that claimed the career of a New South Wales premier, according to a list of $20,000 in gifts he received last financial year.

Barry O’Farrell resigned as NSW premier this year after denying before the Independent Commission Against Corruption that he had received a $3,000 bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange from the Australian Water Holdings boss Nick Di Girolamo.

But Campbell Newman didn’t make the same mistake, listing a similar, but more common $700 bottle of 2002 Penfolds Grange in his ministerial gifts register for the 2013-14 financial year.

The bottle, from the developer Nick Gardner, was one of 37 gifts worth a combined $19,041.65 given to the Queensland leader during the period. The gifts also included a M?ori spear.

Newman handed the wine to the ministerial services branch, which will auction it for charity. He did, however, keep three designer ties worth $755 from the recruitment entrepreneur Sarina Russo.

The assistant planning reform minister, Rob Molhoek, received the most expensive gift – a Ballon Bleu de Cartier watch valued at $23,400 – worth more than all the premier’s gifts combined.

He too offered the gift, from a Ruipeng Li, to the ministerial services branch for auction.

The deputy premier, Jeff Seeney, received a $880 silver peacock figurine and a $740 silver bowl from the Indian mining giants GVK and Adani respectively, which he has put on display.


9 September, 2014

Abbott Government to spend $20 billion on Japanese submarines

Some sense at last.  Home built subs have been a disaster

THE next generation of Australian submarines is all but certain to be built in Japan, in a major blow to SA’s defence industry, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirms the decision will not be based on “regional policy”.

In one of the biggest and most contentious defence equipment decisions in decades, the Abbott Government will select the Japanese-built Soryu Class submarine to replace locally-built Collins Class boats as the navy’s key strike weapon for operational use beyond 2030.

While both German and French submarines officially remain in the running, senior sources told The Advertiser that the Japanese option would be chosen.

A formal decision to spend more than $20 billion on up to 10 of the Japanese vessels will be announced before the end of the year.

Mr Abbott told a press conference this morning that Australian work on the submarines would be centred in Adelaide.

But he said the government’s decision would be based on defence requirements and value-for-money.

“The most important thing is to get the best and most capable submarines at a reasonable price to the Australian taxpayer — as I’ve stressed all along,’’ Mr Abbott said.

“We should make decisions based on defence requirements, not on the basis of industry policy, on the basis of regional policy.’’

Mr Abbott said the government had yet to make final decisions on the replacement for the ageing Collins class submarines.

“I can confirm what we’ve said all along: the Australian work on the submarines will be centred on the South Australian shipyards in Adelaide,’’ he said.

“Now the precise nature of how we are going to do our next generation of submarines is still subject to a whole range of further decisions.’’

There have been strong indications in recent weeks that the Abbott Government would break its pre-election commitment to build 12 next generation submarines in Adelaide, which would have cost about $36 billion and guaranteed thousands of jobs in the defence sector.

This followed a visit by a Japanese delegation, which was believed to include representatives from the industry giant Kawasaki Shipbuilding as well as the Japanese Government, visiting Osborne and shipbuilder ASC’s base in Western Australia.

“Defence acquisitions have to be made on the basis of defence logic, not industry policy, not regional policy but on the basis of sound defence policy,” Mr Abbott said in a speech at the SA Liberal Party annual general meeting.

“I have to stress we have not yet made a final decision on the design and build on the next generation of Australian submarines but there will be more of them.

“The bulk of the Australian work will be done in Adelaide and that means more jobs for SA.”  He said the next generation of submarines would create a “massive amount of work” in Adelaide.

The move to buy the subs offshore is likely to cost the state thousands of jobs, with the defence industry hoping the submarine build would provide work beyond the construction phase of the Air Warfare Destroyers, which is set to finish in 2017 when the third ship is scheduled to be delivered.

The decision to buy the subs from Japan is being fast-tracked due to growing concerns about the massive cost of maintaining the Collins class submarines beyond their use-by-date of 2026. Some estimates put that cost at more than $2 billion.

“The Government cannot afford a submarine capability gap and every day past 2026-27 when Collins class is due to begin decommissioning, adds days of risk,’’ a senior defence source said.

The Collins class subs, which were built at Osborne, have been plagued with problems.

One insider told The Advertiser: “It is ludicrous to think we can design a submarine — nobody believes that.”

The 4200-tonne Soryu class boat carries a crew of 65 and is powered by an air-independent propulsion system that allows it to remain submerged for much longer periods that other conventionally powered submarines.

Range has been a major factor against the design — the Soryu has a range of about 11,000km at 12km/h compared with 22,000km at 19km/h for the Collins class — but it is understood that one option under consideration is to provide submarine basing facilities in Darwin to cut the transit distances to the boats’ patrol areas by thousands of kilometres.

It is expected that ASC will continue to perform submarine maintenance locally and will play a key role in the future frigate project with work estimated at $1 billion a year flowing to South Australia by 2023.

However, the shipyard’s woeful performance on the Air Warfare Destroyer project has left the Government with little option but to look elsewhere for a new submarine.

“With a record like that, is anyone seriously thinking we should proceed and build a fleet of future submarines in the same shipyard?” a government source said.

The Advertiser can also reveal that when the Commonwealth signed up to the AWD contract, it was informed by Treasury that the project would cost $1 billion more than expected.

According to government auditors, the extra cost to build the submarines locally would be about 30 per cent or $15 billion.

That is the entire cost of the Joint Strike Fighter project.


More corruption in the NSW ALP

"There's one thing I want at the end of this. I want him gone," Jodi McKay said, referring to her demand that former NSW treasurer Eric Roozendaal be expelled from the Labor Party.

"I don't want to belong to a party that has Roozendaal in it," she said.

The ALP has been rocked by revelations at the Independent Commission Against Corruption that two senior Labor powerbrokers, Mr Roozendaal and Joe Tripodi, did the bidding of then mining tycoon Nathan Tinkler to blacken Ms McKay's reputation and undermine her as she fought to hold on to the seat of Newcastle in the March 2011 state election.

For 10 months after her election defeat, Ms McKay, 45, was unemployed. During that time the former TV anchor applied for 200 jobs but "no one would employ me because I had been part of a government that people thought badly of".

At present she lives in the inner west suburb of Ashfield and works as communications director for Family Planning NSW.

Mr Tripodi, who has previously found to be corrupt by ICAC, has already been expelled from the Labor Party.

Ms McKay wept in the witness box when it was revealed to her that Mr Tripodi was behind a "dirty tricks" campaign which was being bankrolled by Mr Tinkler, whose bribery attempts Ms McKay had rebuffed.

In other evidence, it was revealed that Mr Roozendaal repeatedly ignored the advice of his staff and Treasury officials as he pushed ahead to support Mr Tinkler's development plans for a coal loader.

Both he and Mr Tripodi stand accused of leaking a highly confidential Treasury document to the Newcastle Herald, which was aimed at undermining Ms McKay and breathing life into Mr Tinkler's push for the coal loader.

"I felt like I had been run out of town," said Ms McKay, recalling that wretched period in her life. "I left Newcastle because I couldn't live there any more, my reputation was so badly frayed ... I just felt so humiliated and ashamed."

Ms McKay  was surprised when ICAC investigators contacted her earlier this year, saying: "You know those files you gave us three years ago – do you still have them?"

She had alerted them to a series of strange events, including an allegation that the mining tycoon had offered her a bribe, leading up to the election. But the commission didn't pursue the matter and returned the documents to Ms McKay, who destroyed them, telling herself she needed to move on.

At the time the now financially-embarrassed Mr Tinkler was Newcastle's favourite son. He had bought the Newcastle Jets and was finalising his "rescue" of the Newcastle Knights.

But blocking his path to further riches was Ms McKay, who repeatedly rebuffed his attempts to get a coal loader in an area in Mayfield zoned light industrial. Mr Tinkler offered to support her re-election campaign, but she reminded him he was a developer and therefore a banned donor since the laws had been changed in 2009. "His immediate reply was 'I have hundreds of employees and I can get around the rules,' " she told the commission in May.

Text messages between Mr Tinkler and his business associate Darren Williams used the code word "carpet" for the plan they hatched to get rid of  her.

"You OK mate if we get some more carpet?" Mr  Williams texted to Mr Tinker. "You want her gone don't you? 50 [thousand]."

"Generosity starting to get tested but yeah whatever it takes," Mr Tinkler fired back.

 Ms McKay said she had suspected Mr Tripodi's involvement but she was still gutted by "the treachery, the absolute betrayal".

As it turned out, the Liberal Party had no ethical concerns about accepting Mr Tinkler's money. The shadowy Canberra-based Free Enterprise Foundation was used to launder the coal mogul's illegal donation of $35,000 and reroute it back for the campaign of Tim Owen in Newcastle.

His campaign awash with illegal donations, Mr Owen narrowly won the seat. He has since resigned from Parliament after revelations aired at ICAC that he had no qualms in accepting banned donations, including $10,000 in cash from a property developer

After her day of high drama in the witness box, Ms McKay said that "I always believed that I would one day find out what happened. And I can now move on! [laughs] And never go back to politics".

Having had time to reflect, she no longer rules out a possible return to politics. "I would love to be back in there because that is the way you make things happen," she said.


Public service graduate jobs slashed, but young march in continues

The march of younger, and cheaper, bureaucrats into the public service will continue in 2015 as middle managers file out.

New data shows many government agencies' graduate programs have weathered the razor gang's storm.

But some departments have halved or stopped altogether their public service graduate intakes as Public Service Minister Eric Abetz enforces a strict cap on the 2015 intake.

Main departments, such as Finance, Industry, Human Services and the Treasury, have been allowed to usher in as many or even more grads than they did this year.

Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson may have thrown his whole department through a vicious "spill-and-fill" in July, but a spokesperson confirmed the Treausury would take on 30 graduates next year - up from 29 this year.

In a scheme excluding the 35 recently shown the door, the spokesperson said taking on grads was "an important element of Treasury's strategic workforce plan to ensure the department does not develop significant capability and capacity gaps into the future".

The Finance Department will also make 30 offers for 2015, up from the 25 who started this year.

Industry will employ the same number it did last year - a healthy 39 graduates - and Human Services will offer jobs to 100 grads after taking on 101 this year.

The Employment Department's intake is also up and will make 29 offers after employing 23 this year.

Senator Abetz said the move was about the sustainability of the service and "ensuring renewal".

He said "the government's interim APS recruitment guidelines did include exceptions so that APS agencies could recruit graduates".

However, other highly sought-after graduate programs, which receive thousands of applications, have not escaped the chopping block.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will take just 15 employees compared with last year's 32.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will take on 42, down from 43 last year.

In bad news for ballot boffins, the Australian Electoral Commission has cut its grad program entirely for 2015 after taking on five grads in 2014.

As senior staff at the Australian Taxation Office warn that the younger profile of workers is making it harder for the agency to crack down on transnational tax avoidance, the ATO is cutting its grad program by 14 per cent in 2015.

Two-hundred will be offered jobs at the agency, down from last year's 230 graduates.

In line with the wider cuts, the Australian Bureau of Statistics is cutting back its program, taking on just 40 graduates this year compared with last year's 53.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's numbers are down by three to just 10 offers for 2015 after employing 13 this year, and ASIC is down to 16 offers after giving 20 grad jobs in 2014.

The number of grad jobs at the Attorney-General's Department remains a mystery after a spokesperson refused to reveal its numbers for 2015, saying the department was offering jobs in line with the new cap agreed to by the government.

The Agriculture Department was similar, simply saying it would be offering jobs in line with the cap.

Some, like the Fair Work Ombudsman, have revealed they have not yet even decided on how many grads they would be taking on.

The Education Department also says it is yet to finalise graduate staffing levels, despite releasing some offers.

Since the agency will be soon be folded into the Immigration Department, a spokesperson from the Customs and Border Protection Service said it was still "finalising" its recruitment process.

Hits on grads are nothing new. In February, 38 university graduates were dumped before they even started in the public service when the AusAID graduate program was scrapped.


Furious foreign pace but PM nails it

TONY Abbott could not be more different — in temperament, style and political philosophy — from Kevin Rudd. But there is one striking similarity, a tremendous drive for work, as the Prime Minister’s just concluded trip to India and Malaysia amply demonstrates.

Abbott and his staff were away for four nights. One of them was spent in a hotel, three in the ageing, breakdown-prone VIP jet.

Abbott and his staff left Canberra last Wednesday night, flew all night and worked all day Thursday in Mumbai. One night’s luxury of a sleep in a hotel bed was followed by a day of work in Delhi. After dinner with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, the PM’s party flew overnight to Malaysia.

There they worked all day Saturday in Kuala Lumpur and flew overnight back to a day of busy engagements in Sydney yesterday. It is a schedule that drives human work performance to the very edge of the reasonable.

Abbott, unlike Rudd, is supremely physically fit, but it’s too much, as was evident from his cold and in his froggy voice yesterday. An important difference with Rudd is that, when tired, he doesn’t get angry or abusive with his staff. But all human beings are much more likely to make a mistake when stretched too tight. A single mistake on a trip like this can turn ­triumph to disaster in the twinkling of an eye. There were no mistakes on this trip, which was extremely productive, and it capped off a prodigious year in Australian foreign policy.

The Abbott government has had a tumultuous first year, with some solid achievements and some serious setbacks. But it has been remarkably productive and successful in foreign policy, where Labor, and many Australian commentators, scoffed at ­Abbott’s alleged lack of expertise.

In fact Abbott came to the prime ministership better prepared in foreign policy than any postwar prime minister except Rudd and Bob Hawke. He first got interested in politics at the height of the Cold War, he had 10 years as a minister under Howard, and four years as opposition leader working on foreign contacts and foreign policy priorities.

The first year in foreign policy has seen a mix of pre-election commitments fulfilled, and responses to crises and opportunities which have allowed Abbott to push forward his own agenda.

Before the election, he said he would conclude free-trade agreements with Japan, South Korea and China. The first two are done and the third is likely to be signed in November.

He also said he would stop the boats. This was a foreign policy as well as a domestic issue. Although stopping the boats caused temporary disagreement with Jakarta, structurally it removed what would otherwise have been a permanent, crippling feature of the relationship with Indonesia.

He also said he would pursue a much closer relationship with India. This he has done. He is the first foreign head of government to be hosted to an official visit by India’s powerful new Prime Minister. Indeed, Abbott is the prime minister with the most serious, pre-office interest in India since Alfred Deakin more than 100 years ago. Abbott spent three months in India as a young man.

In delivering his foreign policy outcomes, Abbott has seized ­opportunities. The return of the stolen Shiva statues to India earns immense goodwill and immediately removes what would otherwise have been an ­irritant in the relationship.

But it is in his response to crises that Abbott has performed most strongly. The first was the revelation by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that in 2009 Australian intelligence agencies had eavesdropped on the Indonesian President and his inner retinue. Every jackass and blatherskite in the country immediately demanded that Abbott apologise, reprimand the intelligence services and provide foolish guarantees about future activities. Abbott did none of this, but stayed resolutely calm, ­entirely sympathetic to the Indonesians, protective of Australian core interests and active in maintaining a solid dialogue with Jakarta. As a result, we now have a historic intelligence co-operation agreement with Indonesia.

The disappearance of flight MH370 and the subsequent Australian role in leading the search efforts showed Abbott to the world as being in charge of a competent, focused, trustworthy government. It also led to a productive friendship between Abbott and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine, with the loss of three dozen Australian lives, showed Abbott forceful, resolute, but disciplined in an effective response marrying justified plain-speaking and consequential diplomacy.

The rise of Islamic State, involving Australian citizens joining the terror group, has seen perhaps Abbott’s most decisive response. He has spoken plainly about the issue and, within sensible and bipartisan limits, been extremely forward leaning about offering Australian military help to the US. Barack Obama has been grateful for this response and US officials have briefed the American press that Australia’s special forces, along with those of Britain, offer a highly valued, specialist capability.

Part of Abbott’s purpose here is to encourage the continuation of US global leadership, which is of central importance to Australia’s security in the region.

All these efforts are well integrated into Abbott’s conception of Australia’s interests and Australia’s values. Foreign affairs can’t always work at this pace. Much of it, as ever, has been dictated by external events. But in an area where the government makes and implements its own decisions, this has been a highly effective year.


8 September, 2014

Tony:  You got rid of the carbon & mining taxes .. so now get rid of the Halal Tax


Toasted cheese with a dollop of Vegemite was my favourite late night snack, but I leave off the Vegemite now that it’s owned by the American company Mondelez International and sports a little “Halal Certified” notice. No worries, my Aussie owned and made Bega cheese still bubbled under the griller while the jug boiled for a strong cup of tea.

That was until I noticed this funny little Arabic hieroglyph on the back of my Bega cheese packet too. Bloody hell, first my Vegemite and now my Bega cheese! No worries, I'm happy with plain toast.

I wasn't game to go through the whole fridge or I'd have starved.

Trying to find Aussie tucker on the shelves is hard enough but trying to find tucker that is not Islamically sanctioned is near impossible, and it’s meant to be.

An insidious and illegal protection racket called “Halal Certification” has worked its way through our food chains without us knowing a thing about it.

Australian manufacturers and importers of food and drink are actually paying Islamic halal certifiers up to $30,000 per month for the honour of displaying this little Arabic sign.

So, who are these Islamic bastards who are adding to my grocery bill? Well, the "Indonesian Council of Ulama", MUI, (which also orders Fatwa rulings) is the Mafia style Islamic body organising the multi-million dollar racket that forces Australian companies to pay outrageous amounts to have their food certified as halal.

One major Aussie meat processor, who refused to be identified, claimed he had been told to pay $27,000 a month for halal certification, which of course was expected to be passed on to the consumer.

Mr Stephen Kelly, an executive of the Japanese-owned Nippon Meat Packers in Queensland, said last year that MUI had banned his abattoirs from selling meat into Indonesia because he had dealt with MUI’s opposition for certification.

MUI’s opposition is the Australian certifier, "Halal Food Services" (AHFS), who had undercut MUI’s price for certification and the Indonesian company apparently calls the tune when it comes to blackmailing Australian food companies.

From what I can discover there are halal certifiers in all countries with South East Asia being regulated from Indonesia and the governing body’s world headquarters are encamped in Saudi Arabia. There are State branch halal authorities operating in Australia

    Islamic websites claim all money (estimated in the billions) goes to building Islamic schools but where it actually goes after leaving Australia I shudder to guess.

The funny thing is a couple of years ago Aussie shoppers woke up to the scam and began avoiding halal certified food, so all these little Arabic motifs started disappearing.

Thinking this might lead to some sort of Fatwa I called a few food manufacturers. None was prepared to speak to me, except Arnott’s, who said they were attempting to resist some "standover tactics".

One distributor, who asked not to be named, was prepared to offer an opinion: “They really don’t care if the halal sign is there or not, they only insist it’s on the exported product and as long as the supplier pays the monthly fee everything’s sweet. If they refuse to pay, then their exports are at risk.”

Local clerics arrange for Muslims to flood Aussie food processors with intimidating letters and phone calls threatening that unless they pay fees to become halal certified, some, “pretty bad stuff will happen”.

When contacted last year over the scam, the Federal Department of Agriculture said it had, “no power over religious certifiers”. But another spokesman said, and get this one:

"The Australian Government values our close relationship with MUI and will continue to work together with them to overcome issues that affect the mutually beneficial trade in red meat to Indonesia."

I have asked the Dept of Agriculture if they have an update on their response to halal certification, but am yet to receive a reply. I have also left phone messages with Barnaby Joyce but it seems halal certification is an uncomfortable subject.

An Islamic Council response?

"Hope this will clear the misconception of Halal issue for all intent and purpose.
"The Halal Food Authority promotes animal welfare, adherence to food safety, food hygiene and quality in compliance with the teachings of the Islamic jurisprudence and faith." Blah blah blah, as soon as got to the animal welfare bit I knew it was a load of Islamic camel droppings.

So it’s up to you Tony, no new legislation needed, no Senate shit, just an appreciation of what is already thoroughly illegal and what is hurting Australian shoppers. Of course it may also hurt relations with our lovely Islamic friends.

Or is that the real problem?


Students chronically disadvantaged by declining funding for vocational education

Australia’s public and private technical and vocational training peak bodies today called for a comprehensive assessment of funding of the vocational education and training (VET) sector, following a new study showing a ten-year erosion in student support.

The study by Professor Peter Noonan, Professorial Fellow at the Mitchell Institute of Health and Education Policy at Victoria University, found Australia’s VET system had been subject to an unprecedented level of funding disadvantage when compared to schools and universities, and is now facing a crisis.

TAFE Directors Australia (TDA), which represents the public TAFE network, and the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET), representing private training providers, today called on the federal government to address the research findings and initiate an independent assessment of funding trends and needs.

“This research reveals an alarming pattern of inadequate investment in the VET sector, which threatens to undermine Australia’s capacity to build the workforce of the future and poses a grave risk for individuals who need skills to share in the country’s economic prosperity,” TDA and ACPET said.

“States and territories are implementing contestable funding arrangements, and yet significant funding shortfalls place severe restrictions on the operation of competitive markets.”

Professor Noonan told the TDA conference that as a result of the funding decline, the VET sector was at a crossroads.

“The states and territories are implementing a national agreement to introduce a student entitlement model in VET, but the funding outlook in most states and territories is resulting in so many constraints and distortions of the entitlement that for many students that it will have little or no meaning,” he said.

“With the funding trend I have outlined, we are in danger of perpetuating a hoax on many students about their likely access to a reasonably funded entitlement - or indeed an entitlement at all.”

Professor Noonan’s research showed that while investment in schools and universities has risen significantly over recent years, there has been a much lower rate of growth in VET, with an even bleaker funding outlook in years to come

Also, spending per student has fallen significantly in VET in recent years while it has grown substantially in government schools and to a lesser extent in higher education

The research also reveals a growing gap in investment levels in VET between the states, with Queensland and NSW showing no growth or declines in funding and very little growth in South Australia

“Almost all of the public commentary in relation to education funding in Australia over the past year has been in relation to funding to schools and higher education.  However, the real funding crisis is in the VET sector,” Professor Noonan said.

He concluded that the funding gap would be magnified in the next few years with massive increases in funding for schools and ongoing growth in investment in higher education.

TDA and ACPET have urged the Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane, to list the proposal for an independent assessment of funding at the next COAG Industry Skills Council meeting, due later this month.

TDA and ACPET said VET students and providers deserve greater clarity on the sustainability of the entitlement to training, and action to address business concerns regarding the inconsistent approaches to training entitlement that have emerged across jurisdictions,” TDA and ACPET said.


Islamic bookshop run by brother of suicide bomber ‘promotes extremism’

A LOGAN man believed to be the brother of Australia’s first suicide bomber in Syria is running a bookshop south of Brisbane which is accused of promoting extremist views.

The Courier-Mail has been told that the iQraa Islamic Centre at Underwood had developed ties to firebrand Perth preacher Mohammed Junaid Thorne.

The centre this year “promoted’’ and helped raise funds for two “sermons’’ by the self-styled preacher, who is a vocal supporter of jihad and has had ties to the Australian branch of the Millatu Ibrahim group, which is banned in Germany.

It can also be revealed the centre hosted a lecture this year on what followers should do if they were contacted by national security organisation ASIO.

The lecture included being aware of the “tell-tale’’ signs of spies and examples of when a group had been infiltrated.

But a spokesman for the Logan centre said it merely engaged people to speak on a range of opinions.

A key figure in the bookshop is Omar Succarieh, who in an online promotional video is described as “one of the main brothers’’ at the centre.

Succarieh’s brother Ahmed has been investigated by Australian agencies in relation to a suicide bombing in Syria, where a truck laden with 12 tonnes of explosives was driven into an army checkpoint last September, killing 35.

The Courier-Mail tried unsuccessfully to obtain comment from Omar Succarieh but members of Brisbane’s Muslim community who know Ahmed said they had been told he was “living in Turkey’’.

A source told The Courier-Mail: “My concern is that this Islamic centre is supporting extreme views.

“I feel this bookshop needs exposing more widely so the community around it, both Muslim and non-Muslim (which is largely oblivious to the activities), can be aware of what is being promoted.

“I suspect many local Muslims may be unaware of the tone of some of its activities and believe many Brisbane people would be alarmed.’’

Omar Succarieh could not be contacted about the claims the bookshop was “linked to extremists’’.

However, a spokesman for the bookshop said: “As far as my knowledge of the centre is concerned they have invited many speakers and, according to them, they allow speakers of different views to speak without discriminating against them.’’

Muslim community leader Ali Kadri said he believed only a “handful’’ of supporters had attended the talks conducted by Mohammed Junaid Thorne.

“I can assure the wider community that the overwhelming majority of the Muslims in Australia, and across the world, do not condone any form of extremism and violence,’’ Mr Kadri said.

While the iQraa Islamic Centre does offer books promoting peaceful coexistence and respect for women, it also carries on its shelves books that call for men to restrict the movements and employment opportunities of their wives and some that even assert that “beating” can be used “as a last resort”.

One such book, Forty Solutions to your Marriage Problems, describes the “Jewish plan to emancipate women and thus corrupt them and society” and says women “should remain in (their) homes, but go out only if it is necessary”.

It discourages women working, unless “necessary”, because it may lead to mixing with the opposite sex and possibly “illegal sexual intercourse”.

Author Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid also lists as recommendation 25 “hanging a whip in a visible place”.

“Hinting at punishment in different ways is one of the elegant methods of punishment,” he writes.

He does note that it has been previously said that the whip is not explicitly “meant for beating”.

Another book, The Ingredients for a Happy Marriage, notes that “it is medically proven that when a woman who has never given birth uses contraceptive pills, she may become barren for the rest of her life”.


The battle of the Prime Ministers: The differences between Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd

Miranda Devine

ONE year ago yesterday, Kevin Rudd was prime minister, talking insanely to a stuffed toy in his last video message.

That final act of eccentric narcissism summed up the farcical Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. It was never about the country. It was all about them.

From the home insulation scheme that killed four young men to the jettisoned border protection that delivered 50,000 illegal boat arrivals, no institution was unscathed.

And yet Rudd was hailed a great success in his first year, as he set in train the calamities which would saddle the nation with a $250 billion deficit.

He was the most popular prime minister in our history, so successful his party gave him two turns in the Lodge, despite his personality defects.

By contrast, Abbott in his first year is slandered daily and trounced in opinion polls by Bill Shorten.

Friend and foe denounce the Budget and declare their dissatisfaction with the government’s progress, as if he can magically fix in 12 months what Labor took six years to wreck.

The elite consensus is that our system of government is broken. But the Prime Minister disagrees.

“It’s not the system which is the problem; it is the people who, from time to time, inhabit it,” Mr Abbott said last week.

Of course it’s the people. Governments and the market are not just machines that operate themselves. They need people of good character and competence to run them.

So before we dig into the bucket of complaints about the first year of the Abbott government, consider the quality of the people on its benches.

For starters, there are three Rhodes Scholars: Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, and Angus Taylor. Two more ministers have degrees from Oxford University: George Brandis QC, and Josh Frydenberg, who has the added distinction of a masters degree from Harvard. Two other MPs also have masters degrees from Harvard, among the seven MBAs, two MPAs and four PhDs on the government benches. Two more have masters of philosophy from Cambridge. Fulbright scholar Greg Hunt has an MA from Yale. Former WA treasurer Christian Porter has an impressive four degrees. And he’s a backbencher.

Three government MPs are medical doctors, including Dr David Gillespie, a gastroenterologist who won independent Rob Oakeshott’s old seat of Lyne. He is also a farmer, one of 16 in government.

There are also teachers, bankers, journalists, engineers, research scientists, economists, small business owners, a shearer, a carpenter, a wool classer, an air traffic controller and even a crocodile catcher. That real world diversity is a stark contrast to Labor benches, dominated by union officials, party administrators and political consultants.

Also on the government side are at least 30 lawyers, and five former police officers, including Jason Wood, once a detective senior sergeant in Victoria’s organised crime squad and counter-terrorism unit.

Governments and the market are not just machines that operate themselves. They need people of good character and competence to run them. So before we dig into the bucket of complaints about the first year of the Abbott government, consider the quality of the people on its benches.

Luke Simpkins was also an officer with the Australian Federal Police and an army officer for 14 years. Senator David Fawcett had 22 years as an army officer and experimental test pilot, along with a science degree and an MBA.

Another backbencher is Brigadier Andrew Nikolic, possessor of three master’s degrees, with wartime roles in Afghanistan and Iraq as chief of staff and deputy commander. Among numerous awards is the Conspicuous Service Cross.

These are just some of the high achievers representing us on the government benches. They could be earning a lot more money with a lot less scrutiny and scorn than they get in parliament.

Like all politicians, they do it for reasons both altruistic and self aggrandising, but most express the desire to serve.

Take Angus Taylor, 47, one of 2013’s record influx of MPs. The father of four is a farmer’s son from Nimmitabel, a Rhodes Scholar who travelled the world as a management consultant and started a business of his own. His role model is his grandfather, William Hudson, commissioner and chief engineer of the Snowy Mountains Scheme who, “abhorred snobbery and judged people on character and conduct, not rank. He worked prodigiously and was extra­ordinarily humble. The Snowy was never about him.”

In his maiden speech last December, Taylor said: “Some people say politics is about power. I do not agree. It should be about leadership, service and making an enduring difference to the lives of others. I hope the work I do ... makes a real difference and will one day make my children proud.”

This is the quiet truth, away from the headlines about Clive Palmer’s toilet habits or Jacqui Lambie’s predilection for well-hung young men.

Galvanised by the political farce of Labor years, the Abbott government is full of people driven to revive the nation. They are serious people who will make the machinery of government work again.

So before we bag a one-year-old administration full of new MPs, let’s give them a chance, as the Prime Minister says, to be their “best selves”

Judging by their CVs, their best is as good as it gets.


7 September, 2014

Not so super: Labor's dumb idea

Lifting compulsory super contributions to 12 per cent was perhaps the dumbest idea Labor had.

The Henry tax review saw this clearly and had its findings ignored. Keen to jump on its support of a resource super profits tax Labor turned its back on the review'sequally serious finding that compulsory super "remain at 9 per cent". It chose the day it released the review – May 2, 2010 – to announce that it would do the opposite: lift compulsory super contributions swiftly to 12 per cent over the next nine years.

The superannuation cheer squad loved it. Many of them work in an industry that would manage nothing like as much as the present $1.85 trillion were it not for compulsion. Where else can you perform badly (most funds fail to match the sharemarket after deducting fees) and still be rewarded with an extra 9 per cent (now 9.5 per cent) of wage earners' income flowing your way each year.

An increase to 12 per cent would have been even better.

Curiously, Labor's mates in the union movement occupy almost half the seats on industry fund boards. Bill Shorten himself sat on one. Where else can you get the finance industry and the union movement to agree that taking money out of your wages is good for you?

I mentioned wages. Strictly speaking, compulsory super contributions are paid by employers in addition to wages rather than being taken from wages. But it's easy to see where employers get the funds. When they are forced to pay more into super they don't increase the amount they are prepared to secure the services of each employee. Instead they change the way it is broken up. They pay a higher proportion in super (because they are forced to) and a lower proportion in wages.

When compulsory super contributions climb, the next wage increase is lower than it would have been. Employers fork out what they would have anyway. Their workers get less cash in their hands, more saved up for them in super.

Among people who know super it isn't in dispute. Bill Shorten put it this way: "The increases to superannuation will be absorbed as part of people's pay rises."

I have been besieged in recent days by emails and tweets from people who don't believe it.

One woman said in her case the extra super contributions couldn't come from her pay rises because she received the minimum wage set by Fair Work Australia. I pointed her to the latest Fair Work minimum wage decision, which explicitly said her wage increase was "lower than it otherwise would have been in the absence of the superannuation guarantee increase". 

Another man said his employer wasn't intending to give him a pay rise any time soon so he wouldn't be harmed. I told him he would have to wait even longer for the next pay rise because of the lift in compulsory super to 9.5 per cent.

Workers who have exceptional bargaining power may be able to get both – a full pay rise plus the increase in super contributions, but they would have been able to get over the odds pay rises in any event.

For most of us super comes out of our wages. And Labor never modelled what would happen when 9 per cent out of wages became 12 per cent.

But the Henry Review did. Here's what it found:

High-income earners make the biggest compulsory super contributions (they are a proportion of wages). Henry's calculations show they don't need more than 9 per cent of their large wages to retire on because 9 per cent of a large number is a large number. If they felt they did they were more than capable of saving extra themselves, voluntarily, inside or out of the superannuation system.  There's ample evidence that they do. High-income earners do not need greater compulsory contributions.

Low-income earners on the other hand may well find that 9 per cent isn't enough, because 9 per cent of a small number is a small number. But they have to face the reality that if more of their employers funds are put into super there will be less in their wages, and many are financially stressed.

"The effect of this reduction in a person's standard of living before retirement is likely to fall most heavily on low- to middle-income earners, who are unlikely to be in a position to offset the increase in the superannuation guarantee by reducing their other savings," it found.

Faced with a choice between further impoverishing stressed people now in order to give them a better retirement or assisting them now at the cost of a worse retirement, the review felt the choice wasn't its to make. It was up wage earners themselves to decide what was important to them. Low earners who wanted to save more could be encouraged but not forced to.

And it recommended a complete overhaul of the super taxation arrangements that would have boosted their savings independently without boosting their contributions.

The Coalition has killed Labor's dumb idea. Compulsory super now won't climb further until 2021 if at all. The people Labor normally claims to be concerned about should be thankful.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott rules out abolishing penalty rates

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has ruled out lowering or abolishing weekend penalty rates in an interview marking his first year in office.

Mr Abbott has also played down the prospect of tax cuts being offered at the next election.

Mr Abbott told AFR Weekend it was up to businesses, not government, to seek to change weekend penalty rates.

His comments come amid pressure from businesses and some of his own backbenchers to take action.

"It's not for us to have a go at penalty rates," he told the AFR.   "There's nothing to stop a business organisation taking an application... to the Fair Work Commission and the FWC will adjudicate on that."

Mr Abbott was also non-committal about tax cuts at the next election, despite he and Treasurer Joe Hockey keeping the prospect open after the coalition took office last year.

"What we go to the next election with will depend very much on the circumstances of the time," Mr Abbott said.  "We're going to be economically responsible.  "We've been uber responsible up to now."

The prime minister also urged people to focus on the benefits of falling wages growth, particularly on unemployment figures.

"If there's less upward pressure on wages, over time, that should mean more employment, which is a good thing," he said.


Energy monopoly backtracks on family's $3000 gas bill -- under media spotlight

ActewAGL has been pulled into another billing drama after it turned a family's gas off and billed them $3000 over a mistake the power company made.

The company has now backflipped, but not until after an injured woman was forced to couch surf for a week because there was no heating in her family's apartment.

Deanna Emms, 20, was supposed to be resting her injured leg at home last week, while her parents were overseas.

Instead, ActewAGL disconnected the gas, which ran all the heating in the Mawson apartment, because of an almost year-long dispute over $3000.

It started in October 2013, when the family said it received three letters on the same day from ActewAGL: one said they had a gas supply without an account, the second welcomed them as a new customer and the final letter was a $3308 bill.

It turned out there had beena "crossed meter", meaning the family had been receiving cheaper power bills since as early as 2009, because the company was matching a meter to the wrong home.

The family refused to pay and complained of bill shock, but last week ActewAGL disconnected the gas, which forced Miss Emms to stay with friends.

ActewAGL reversed its decision after being contacted by The Canberra Times.

"After reviewing this matter, ActewAGL has agreed to remove the disputed amount and all associated fees," ActewAGL general manager retail Ayesha Razzaq said on Tuesday.

"We have been in contact with the customer and have apologised for the inconvenience this issue has caused and the time it has taken to resolve this matter.

"ActewAGL prides itself on delivering quality customer service. "On this occasion, an error was made.

"This issue was as a result of associating meters to the wrong residence due to incorrect information being provided when the meter was installed."

After hearing the news on Tuesday, Miss Emms said she was looking forward to returning home.

"I'm extremely happy," she said. "It's not good we had to go to the media to make something happen.  "It's quite terrible for a monopoly company in Canberra."

It is not the first time ActewAGL has drawn the ire of customers and prompted questions about accurate billing.

A Canberra man disputing a $17,000 bill for six months' electricity at his O'Malley home says not even a heart attack can stop him lobbying for more competition in the ACT energy market.

And he has brought together friends and family members critical of ActewAGL in an attempt to strengthen his argument.

Territory GP Yarub Jamiel made headlines last year when he revealed he had received the $17,000 power bill covering six months and had accumulated $25,000 worth of electricity costs in a year.

Hearing his case, the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal raised concerns there was no independent body testing the accuracy of meters in the ACT, but it ordered Dr Jamiel to pay some of the money.

A sum of $17,000 is still in dispute.


An Australian senator with his head in the clouds

But he's a Greenie so what do you expect?

GREENS senator Peter Whish-Wilson has been condemned for suggesting Islamic State fighters should not be described as “terrorists” because Australian forces could also be viewed by some as terrorists.

The Tasmanian senator, in a speech to parliament, claimed that describing the militants as terrorists “demonises people” and “implies a very one-sided view of the world”.

“I think we need to find better words than ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’ because, to me, this implies a very one-sided view of the world,” Senator Whish-Wilson told the upper house on Monday night.

“Often our forces could be seen by Iraqi civilians as being terrorists.

“Anything that creates terror is, by definition, terrorism. We use that word because it is a very simple word to use and it demonises people.”

The Greens have opposed military intervention against Islamic State fighters in northern Iraq, calling on the government to seek parliamentary consent for any deployment.

Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic, a former commander of Australian forces in southern Iraq, accused Senator Whish-Wilson of “playing ideological, peripheral word games” while civilians face danger.

“While Peter Whish-Wilson is playing word games, thousands of people are dying in Syria at the hands of what should properly be described as a barbaric and evil organisation,” Mr Nikolic told The Australian.


5 September, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is having a shot at the pro-terrorist Greens senator, Peter Wishy-washy Wilson.  Wilson has had such a charmed and privileged life that he has obviously developed no feeling for the fact that nasty things sometimes happen to people.  He became a Green only when there was a threat of a pulp mill being built next door to his family farm

Abetz says fears of revised workplace legislation 'neutralised' by Coalition

Workplace Relations Minister Eric Abetz says voters no longer believe the Coalition will bring back WorkChoices because the government has "neutralised" Labor and the unions' political attack over workplace laws.

And in comments designed to reassure business groups and his own backbench, Senator Abetz said workplace laws remained a "top priority" for the Coalition as he promised further changes to IR laws in a second-term Abbott government, guided by a wide ranging Productivity Commission review.

In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media days before the Coalition marks its first year in office Senator Abetz, a 20-year senate veteran and upper house leader, has declared that he isn't going anywhere and that "the prospect of retirement does not excite me in any way".

Senator Abetz said workplace laws had been a "political hot potato and a huge negative for us" when he took charge of the portfolio but after four years the policy area "has been cooled down substantially, temperature wise, which is if I might be so bold which is exactly what the Coalition wanted".

"We have been able to basically neutralise [Labor] and look ... if you want your changes to last you've got to do it in evolutionary steps, not revolutionary steps and clearly as it now transpires Labor did overreach with the Fair Work Act," he said.

The Tasmanian senator said Labor and the Australian Council of Trade Unions would try to mount a scare campaign against the government on workplace law changes but "you can't just chant WorkChoices and expect people to run away. People aren't believing that anymore".

"If I might say, that was part and parcel of, if I might say a performance indicator I set for myself, that if people were to chant WorkChoices the public would say 'Nope, we don't believe you. This is sensible, reasonable policy'. Labor tried it at the last election and it clearly did not work."

Senator Abetz also confirmed he and Treasurer Joe Hockey had "basically settled the terms of reference" for the commission's review of work laws. That review is expected to get under way this year and report back in the months before the election due in 2016.

Fairfax Media obtained a leaked copy of the draft terms of reference in March that included pay and conditions, union militancy, workplace flexibility, penalty rates, and the Fair Work Act's impact on unemployment and under-employment. It's understood the final terms of reference will remain largely unchanged.

At the same time, the government has faced growing calls from sections of its backbench and supporters in the business community to move more rapidly on workplace reform, with some MPs and some sectors calling for penalty rates to be cut.

But in comments that will be greeted coolly by some in his own party room, Senator Abetz stressed changes to penalty rates would continue to be determined by the independent umpire, the Fair Work Commission.

"I do not want to be in the business of setting wages, that is why you need a good Fair Work Commission," he said.

The Productivity Commission inquiry would be a chance for voters, business and other organisations to have their say on Fair Work laws and after the inquiry is complete "we as a government will then determine that which we believe will be good for a second term agenda," he said.

"Because we promised no changes other than in our 38-page policy document [released before the election] there is no great rush with this," Senator Abetz said, adding that there were still two years to go until to the next election.

The imposition of an appeals body for the Fair Work Commission  - which could potentially overrule commission rulings on wage rises - was still being considered, as was a report on the efficacy of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. Senator Abetz said he hoped the Australian Building and Construction Commission would be restored and the Registered Organisations Commission to improve union transparency would be established by the end of the year.


Eric Abetz launches attack against public service union

Senator Eric Abetz has launched a scathing attack on the main union representing public servants by saying it has been deliberately misrepresenting the government's position on bargaining negotiations.

In the Senate on Tuesday, Senator Abetz said the Community and Public Sector Union should stop scaremongering and "instead help its members negotiate what small productivity backed increases are possible given the mess left by the former Labor government".

"It should abandon its 4 per cent per annum pay claim that will cost 10,000 jobs which will be most severe in cash-strapped agencies like the Australian Crime Commission, which is having difficulty offering any increases without cutting jobs," he said.

His verbal assault came on the back of a Dorothy Dixer from Liberal Senator Dean Smith and is believed to have been sparked by an opinion piece by the union's national secretary Nadine Flood in The Canberra Times.

"The CPSU has been falsely claiming the government is stripping public service rights and conditions - this is incorrect," Senator Abetz said.

"The government bargaining policy aims for less complex enterprise agreements that do not repeat rights, conditions and responsibilities already provided for in legislation elsewhere.

"The CPSU claims the government wants to cut public servant superannuation when the contribution rate is actually set by the trust deed, a legislative instrument subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

"Duplicative content recently inserted into enterprise agreements pretending to fix a certain super contribution rate can't legally constrain the rate contained in public service superannuation law.

"Yet the CPSU continues to deliberately misrepresent the reality and ignore the government's stated position that the rate will not change."

He revealed 65 agencies covering 76 per cent of the workforce had started the bargaining process -  117 agreements affecting 160,000 federal public servants would eventually need to be agreed on -  and told the Senate that median public servant pay rises had outstripped inflation by 14 per cent in the past decade.

Mr Abetz, Prime Minister Tony Abbott's point man on public service issues, added he was now less inclined to meet with the union that had sought a fresh meeting with him.

"Last November I addressed the CPSU national governing council where I indicated I was always willing to engage in constructive dialogue with union representatives and that I'd look forward to the use of telephones, emails and meetings rather than megaphones," he said.  "Sadly this has not occurred. 

"While my door will always be open to stakeholders with genuine concerns, I'm reluctant to acquiesce to a stunt meeting designed to further spurious claims about the government's bargaining policy."

Ms Flood stuck by her statement enterprise agreements guaranteed a 15.4 per cent super rate and said Mr Abetz's refusal to meet with the CPSU was extraordinary given he was the minister responsible for public sector bargaining.  "Minister Abetz is wrong in law and in fact," she said.

"Protections contained in many APS agreements don't constrain changes to the PSSap (Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation) Trust Deed, they provide a 15.4 per cent employer contribution regardless of the employee's choice of fund."

Management at the Department of Human Services sent an email to 34,000 staff hitting back at Ms Flood's column.

The senior public servant representing Human Services at the negotiating table, Jo Talbot, told the DHS workforce Ms Flood's opinion piece contained misleading information.

"Ms Flood claims that part-time working mothers face working up to 52 hours extra a month without overtime," Ms Talbot wrote. "This is misleading and in fact scaremongering.

"The department's working draft agreement outlines that part-time staff will be paid their ordinary rate of pay for each additional hour worked within the bandwidth up to 152 hours in a settlement period.

"Part time staff will be entitled to overtime rates if they work more than 152 hours in a settlement period or if they are required to work outside the bandwidth."

Ms Talbot said at the moment part-time staff could access overtime once they had completed their part-time hours.

This meant in some instances part-time staff could receive more pay than a full-time staff member for completing a standard five-day week.

"The department does not consider this to be appropriate and is trying to address this as part of the new agreement," Ms Talbot said.

Ms Flood said: "I note DHS's response in face backs up exactly what we were saying. That is under their proposal, part-time staff can be forced to work full time hours without overtime."


Power price predictions

Do you think you're paying too much for electricity? Would you like to see an end to hefty annual price rises, maybe even a fall in prices that goes beyond the abolition of the carbon tax? Well, be patient. The econocrats are working on it.

It may surprise you that they've been in the process of reforming electricity prices for the best part of 20 years, and they're far from finished. They got part of the power system working well, had a bad slip with another bit, and the jury's still out on a third. But they're working away and are confident of success - eventually.

The national electricity market - covering all of Australia bar Western Australia and the Northern Territory - is actually a creation of our econocrats, their grand experiment in market competition.

Before this, we had separate, state-owned monopolies that charged us pretty much what they wanted to charge, particularly because our demand for power kept growing every year. The reformers' bright idea was to link up all the eastern and southern states and turn them into a market by making all the individual power stations compete against each other to feed electricity into the national grid at the lowest prices possible.

Buying the power at the other end of the grid would be various electricity retailers, which would deal directly with households and business users. These, too, would be required to compete with each other to win our business, since we'd be free to buy our power from whichever retailer we chose.

Linking the power stations in the wholesale market with the retailers supplying power to you and me would be the high-voltage transmission and lower-voltage distribution network (the "poles and wires", as the pollies keep calling it).

Since it would never be economic to build rival networks, this would have to stay as a monopoly. And being a monopoly, whether it was sold off or remained government-owned, the prices it charged the retailers - and they passed on to us - would need to be closely regulated to prevent rip-offs.

The reform of the first part of the system has worked really well. Competition between the electricity generators has been cut-throat, prices haven't changed much over the years and no power stations are making excessive profits.

But the cost of generating the electricity accounts for only about 30 per cent of the retail prices we pay. The big problem has been that faulty rules have prompted the regulators of the network operators' charges to grant them excessive increases, to the point where "network charges" now explain about half of retail power prices.

It's five years of these big increases, much more than the carbon tax or the renewable energy target, that have caused retail prices to grow so fast.  A big part of the problem is that, about four years ago, the demand for electricity, which had been growing every year for a century, stopped growing and started falling.

It fell mainly because of new laws requiring appliances to be more efficient in their use of power and because all the fuss Tony Abbott was making about the price of electricity prompted us to be more price-conscious and look for ways to reduce our usage.

The network operators began investing heavily to improve the capacity of the network to meet the ever-higher peak demand for power on a few hot summer afternoons when a growing number of us had airconditioners going full blast.

One small problem: the fall in annual demand for electricity meant the brief seasonal peak had stopped rising. For several years the industry refused to believe the downturn in demand from the network was more than a blip.

So we've expanded the capacity of the network beyond what we're likely to need for some time. But you and I are paying extra for this expansion and will continue paying until it's paid off.

The good news is the econocrats have finally woken up to the problem. Actually, they were woken up in 2012 by the fuss Julia Gillard made when she realised Abbott was framing her for price rises she didn't cause.

In 2012 the rules were changed to give the regulators greater power to limit increases in the network charges passed on to retailers. Such changes take far longer than you'd imagine to flow through, but from now on it seems likely the network component of retail electricity bills will stay fairly steady in dollar terms.

The econocrats have proposed a further reform which, when it takes effect, will require the networks to bill retailers according to the time of day and time of year when you and I use electricity. With the spread of "smart meters" - which show the precise times when each household uses its electricity - we'll be charged according to our time of use, with those of us who show restraint during peak periods paying less, and those who don't paying more. This should produce a lasting solution to the (expensive) problem of ever-rising peak demand on hot afternoons.

That leaves the question of the effectiveness of competition between the growing number of electricity retailers, big and small. Here the jury is still out. Much depends on how smart we are in finding the retailer offering the best deal - on which quest I offer some tips in my little online video spiel.


Qantas will use new private enterprise airport

Qantas has become the first major airline to sign on to fly out of Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, nearing completion near Toowoomba, with the airport's owner throwing down the gauntlet to Brisbane.

Wagners chairman John Wagner, whose family company was building the airport, said Wednesday's announcement was "just the start".

Mr Wagner said he wanted to take existing business away from Brisbane Airport.  "Absolutely we do (but) they won't notice it," he said.

"You've got to keep in mind if we got to a million passengers a year, which I think we will in pretty short order over the next couple of years, that will be similar to a Mackay or a Newcastle.

"Brisbane has 22 million passengers and at the moment they're congested … so we're here to help them out actually."

Mr Newman welcomed the development, which had not cost taxpayers a cent, along with the competition for Queensland's main airport.

"It is great to have competition," he said.

"Competition means better service and lower prices and this airport will be in competition with Brisbane Airport and I say that is a healthy thing that's good for consumers and people will have a choice."

QantasLink, Qantas's regional arm, will use Bombardier Q400s that can accommodate 74 passengers and fly up 2519 kilometres on its initial routes to and from Sydney.

There will be two daily weekday flights out of Wellcamp – at 5.20am and 9.35am – with return flights departing Sydney at 8.50am and 6pm.

One flight will leave Toowoomba at 7.30am Saturdays, with the return weekend flight at 6pm Saturday.

Brisbane West Wellcamp is the first privately built public airport in Australian history, with no financial assistance from any level of government.

Mr Wagner said his family had invested heavily in the project – "it's closer to $200 million than $100 million, unfortunately," he said – and he hoped to have more airline announcements soon. "Just watch this space," he said.

"It's going to be important that we sell the product and change people's behaviour so instead of driving two and a half hours to Brisbane Airport that it currently is, they will come here and support the airlines that are operating here."

It is understood Brisbane West Wellcamp is also speaking with Virgin Australia.

Mr Gissing said it was fitting the services would start on November 17, the day after Qantas's 94th anniversary.

He said the Q400 turboprop's flight time from Toowoomba to Sydney would be less than two hours.

"It's just the right aircraft for this market, we believe, for the start-up," Mr Gissing said.

Mr Newman said, as well as the tourism benefits, local industries would be well served through air freight.

Mr Newman said it was "surreal" to see the airport nearly completed after just 18 months.

The airport's 2.87-kilometre runway would be capable of landing a Boeing 747, which Wagners managing director Denis Wagner said was a possibility in the shape of a cargo plane.


4 September, 2014

BOM gives specious reason for revising temperature data

Supposition trumps the facts!

THE removal of a longstanding temperature record at Bourke of 125 degrees Fahrenheit (51.7C) set in 1909 was the result of a critical 1997 paper that revised a string of records and brought Australia’s hottest recorded temperature into the second half of the 20th century.

Until the paper by Blair Trewin, who is now a leading climate scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia’s hottest recorded temperature was 53.1C at Cloncurry on January 16, 1889.

But after revision, the record has been accepted as the 50.7C recorded at Oodnadatta, South Australia, on January 2, 1960.

The Cloncurry record was erased because the temperature was taken with old technology and “the thermometers were probably overexposed to direct sunlight or radiant energy”.

At Bourke, however, the temperature record was taken with a near-new Stevenson screen and clearly documented in the official record and monthly audit.

Nonetheless the Bourke temperature was discarded from the record as an “observational error” because it was logged on a Sunday, a day that temperature records were generally not taken.

The deletion of the Bourke record has helped to fan a vigorous debate about the quality of the bureau’s historical temperature data.

Discussing the adjustment in the 1997 paper, Mr Trewin said a Stevenson screen was installed at Bourke in August 1908. “The original manuscript record for Bourke shows temperatures of 125F (51.7C) observed on both 2 and 3 January.

“The observation on January 2 has been corrected on the manuscript to 112F (44.4C), which is consistent with the temperatures over the region,” the Trewin paper said.

“However, 3 January was a Sunday, and no other observations were made on this day.

“It is therefore likely that the observation is actually the maximum temperature for the 48 hours to 0900, 4 January, and therefore it would be affected by the same error which was corrected in the case of the 2 January observation.”

He said “no other station in NSW or southern Queensland is known to have exceeded 47.2C on this day”.

However, Jennifer Marohasy, who has questioned the ­bureau about changes to the historic temperature record, said the nearest station, Brewarrina, had recorded 123F (50.6C) on the same day (January 3, 1909).

Dr Marohasy has a doctorate in biology and is openly sceptical of the consensus position on anthropogenic climate change.

The Brewarrina temperature record is widely reported in historic newspaper articles but the bureau’s online temperature record for Brewarrina does not start until January 1, 1911.

“In fact 125 is clearly written into the Bourke ledger for Sunday 3rd January in the pen that was being used at that time,’’ she said. “The entry is also underlined.”

“At the time all records were audited and a summary written at the end of the month.

“This summary clearly states that the maximum temperature on 3 January 1909 was 125F.”


Bureau of Meteorology defended over temperature adjustments by fellow Warmists

They defend the principle of data adjustment but that is not the issue.  How the principle was in fact appied is the issue.  Was it corruptly applied?  They have no answer to evidence that it was

THE Bureau of Meteorology’s rewriting of historic temperature records has been defended by leading climate scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science at the University of NSW.

In an online article, centre director Andy Pitman and chief investigator Lisa Alexander said homogenisation of raw temperature data was an “essential process in improving weather data by spotting where temperature records need to be corrected, in ­either direction”.

They said data homogenisation was used to varying degrees by many weather agencies and climate researchers worldwide.

“Although the World Meteorological Organisation has guidelines for data homogenisation, the methods used vary from country to country, and in some cases no data homogenisation is applied,’’ Dr Pitman and Dr Alexander said.

They said Australian Research Council Centre data on extreme temperature trends showed the warming trend across Australia looked bigger without homogenisation. Adjusted data showed a cooling trend over parts of northwest Australia, which wasn’t seen in the raw data.

“Far from being a fudge to make warming look more severe than it is, most of the bureau’s data manipulation has in fact had the effect of reducing the apparent extreme temperature trends across Australia,” the two said.

BOM’s homogenisation process has been queried following examples of long-term cooling or neutral trends being turned into a strong warming trend.

Analysis of the 100-year record at Rutherglen in Victoria showed that a cooling trend of 0.35C in the raw data had become a 1.73C warming after homogenisation.

BOM said the discrepancy was consistent with the thermometer site moving from a farm building on a small hill outside the town to low-lying flat ground.

However, the official catalogue says “there have been no site moves during the site’s history”. Former Rutherglen workers said the site had not been moved.

Asked further about Rutherglen, BOM said “statistical analysis of minimum temperatures at Rutherglen indicated jumps in the data in 1966 and 1974”.

“These changes were determined through comparison with 17 nearby sites,” it said. “The biases detected in the temperature data for Rutherglen were deemed large enough to require adjustment, based on the statistical tests alone.

“The site records indicate that at least one site move took place between 1958 and 1975. It is likely but not confirmed that this move took place in 1966. The site records also indicate that the weather station was substantially upgraded around the time of the 1974 break in the temperature record.”

The bureau did not provide a copy of the Rutherglen site record.

BOM has yet to provide a full list of peer-reviewed publications regarding its homogenisation process, but in an article in the International Journal of Climatology, BOM climate researcher Blair Trewin said the bureau’s homogenised data set included 112 sites across Australia and extended from 1910 to the present, with 60 sites having data for the full period.

The data set was developed using a technique, the percentile-matching algorithm, that applies differing adjustments to daily data depending on their position in the frequency distribution.

“This method is intended to produce data sets that are homogeneous for higher-order statistical properties, such as variance and the frequency of extremes, as well as for mean values,” the paper said.

“The PM algorithm is evaluated and found to have clear advantages over adjustments based on monthly means, particularly in the homogenisation of temperature extremes.’’


Superannuation delay is price of crossbench deal to repeal mining tax

The Coalition has delivered on its election promise to axe the mining tax but its deal will cost workers thousands of dollars in superannuation.

Labor accused the Coalition of breaking a promise on super but Tony Abbott said delays to the increase in the superannuation guarantee levy would “keep more money in workers’ pockets”.

The mining tax was scrapped today after the government secured a deal with Senate crossbenchers, including the Palmer United Party.  Voting 36 to 33 to repeal the tax, the Senate ended a highly controversial reform that began in 2010 but never delivered the revenue promised for it.  “We promised to get rid of it and we’ve delivered,” Treasurer Joe Hockey said of the deal, which will cost the budget $6.5 billion over the next four years.

Under the deal with PUP, the government has agreed to extend the low-income super contribution until June 30, 2017 and the income-support bonus until December 31, 2016.

The schoolkids bonus will also stay in place until December 31, 2016, but will be means tested so that only families earning up to $100,000 will qualify.

But the Coalition came under attack because under the deal, increases to the amount employers are required to contribute to the superannuation accounts of their employees will be delayed for several years.

The mining tax was supposed to fund the cost to government of increasing the superannuation rate to 12 per cent by 2019/20 through annual increases of 0.25 per cent.

The government’s changes will halt the increase and not restart it until 2021, so that the target of 12 per cent is not reached until July 2025, with annual increases of 0.5 per cent.

Labor claims that a 25-year-old Australian earning $55,000 a year will be more than $9000 worse off by 2025.

But Industry Super Australia said it could cost a 25-year-old average income earner around $100,000 over their working life, taking into account compound interest.

Industry Super Australia chief David Whiteley criticised the decision, saying it was about a short-term budget fix that would be felt later with increased age pension payments.

The Financial Services Council calculates working Australians will have $128 billion less in their superannuation savings by 2025.

Bill Shorten, moving a motion of condemnation in parliament, said Mr Abbott had violated the trust of the Australian people and raided the hard-earned incomes of workers.

He said Mr Abbott had promised 14 times not to make any adverse changes to superannuation.  “We have seen today ... the disgraceful, destructive and dishonest attack to freeze superannuation,” Mr Shorten said.

Mr Abbott had set a “new land speed record for a duplicitous government” and put the interests of 10 mining companies ahead of nine million Australians, Mr Shorten said.

Mr Abbott insisted workers would not be short-changed and accused Mr Shorten of “confected indignation”.  “There are no adverse changes as a result of this,” Mr Abbott said.  “By delaying the increase in the superannuation guarantee levy we are keeping more money in workers’ pockets.”

Mr Hockey admitted the move was “not our preferred option”, but blamed Labor for forcing the government’s hand.  “If people think this is going to have a long term effect on superannuation, blame Labor.”

Initially the government proposed a two-year delay to Labor’s plan for a 12 per cent contribution rate by 2019/20.  But that was opposed by Labor, the Greens and PUP in the Senate, forcing the government to change its repeal legislation.  “They dealt themselves out of the game,” Mr Hockey said of Labor’s position.

Senator Cormann said earlier: “This is not an adverse unexpected change as it will leave Australian workers with more money pre-retirement, which they can spend on paying down their mortgage, spending on other matters or saving for their retirement though superannuation as they see fit.  “It will also reduce the cost of doing business, helping business employ more Australians.”

Senator Cormann said changes agreed today would add $10 billion to the budget bottom line over the next four years by repealing the tax and scaling back some of the spending measures linked to it.

Mr Palmer defended his decision to back the freeze, arguing it was more important for Australian families to have access to money now, not in 50 years.

He claimed as a statistical fact that up to 50 per cent of Australians would die before they could access their superannuation.

The government’s ideal mining tax repeal plan, reintroduced to parliament on Monday, would have added $16.5bn to the budget bottom line, indicating that the government has given up $6.5bn in savings in order to get the mining tax package through the upper house.

The mining tax was officially repealed in the Senate shortly after 2pm, when the government forced the upper house to vote on the deal just hours after it was agreed with Clive Palmer and other key players.

Senator Cormann thanked the Palmer United Party, Ricky Muir from the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, David Leyonjhjelm from the Liberal Democratic Party and Bob Day from Family First as he outlined the new deal to the Senate.

Mr Palmer said the economy would be boosted by the mining tax’s abolition.  “(The MRRT has) done a lot of damage to Australia and hasn’t raised any money,” Mr Palmer said.

Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong said the government had rammed the legislation through parliament with another “dirty deal”.

“They want the bloke, the treasurer of this country, the bloke who thinks poor people don’t drive cars to have the discretion as to whether Australians should get superannuation,” she said.

Senator Wong lashed out at the crossbenchers involved in the deal, saying they were part of a scheme to rush through the bill and truncate debate.

PUP Senate leader Glenn Lazarus said the minor party had always supported scrapping the mining tax because it was an “unfair” impost that diminished Australia’s competitiveness.

But they wouldn’t allow the repeal unless key initiatives to assist families were left untouched.

“Palmer United are grateful that the government has agreed to our insistence that the mining tax be removed while still retaining these important measures,” he told the chamber.

“This is a win for hardworking Australians across the country.”

Greens leader Christine Milne said the government and Palmer United Party were treating the Senate with contempt.

“Within one hour they want to come in here, circulate amendments, just bang them on the desk and say it doesn’t matter what you think about it, we’ve done the deal, we’ve got the numbers, we can ram it through,” Senator Milne said.

The government were simply giving billionaire miner Clive Palmer what he wanted, she said.  “And that is get rid of the mining tax for big miners.”


Senate pressure to drop renewables targets

KEY crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm is determined to scrap the renewable energy target.

THE federal government is considering its response to a report by business leader Dick Warburton into the cost and benefits of the scheme, which mandates that 20 per cent of all electricity comes from renewables by 2020.

The Warburton review recommended either closing the RET to new investment in wind or solar farms or increasing targets in line with electricity demand.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said last week he supported renewable energy but did not want it to lift the price of power for business and families.

Labor has warned the small-scale renewables sector - particularly solar rooftop companies - would be decimated along with the bigger projects in wind and hydroelectricity if the changes went ahead.
Any changes by the government would need the support of six crossbench senators.

Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm said he was actively lobbying both the government and the three Palmer United Party senators to scrap the RET to try to ease power prices.

"PUP says they support it, but we think it is bad for the battlers," Senator Leyonhjelm told Sky News on Wednesday.  "I'm trying to put some pressure on the government to do something about the RET and the Palmer people to see some sense on it."


3 September, 2014

Pig-headed Qld. Premier Newman facilitates pedophilia

Pickering Post reported last year that Graeme Paul Hancock, 31, had been released from prison where he had served five years for the sexual assault, including rape, of three children aged five, seven and nine.

Hancock had a lengthy criminal history for similar offences dating back to November, 2004, when he was convicted on 26 child sex charges including rape. Police had also discovered a USB device which contained 100 child pornography images and four child exploitation videos during a search of his Wacol home.

A laptop was also found which contained seven child exploitation videos which were deemed to be in the second worst category of child sexual offences. Hancock’s release was subject to a continuous restrictive supervision order under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act.

Shortly after his release he was again arrested at South Bank, Brisbane, while filming a naked four-year-old girl. This time he was sentenced to 18 months.

Hancock then appealed the “severity” of that 18 month sentence, and after hearing Hancock’s appeal the judge inexplicably said the South Bank offence was... "at the lower end of the scale because the child was unaware the video had been taken”. Hmmm, what an amazing ruling!

He then ordered Hancock be immediately released despite two psychiatrists having classified his risk of reoffending as “high” and that he had already been in breach of strict supervision orders on three previous occasions.

Well, I guess an innocent four year old may not have a sophisticated grasp of what a sexual offence is but maybe the Premier of Queensland should have had the sense to step in and order a review of the judge's ruling.

    But no, Hancock walked, free to continue his sexual addiction to small children.

It was no surprise the judge showed an unfathomable leniency toward the despicable Hancock because the judge himself had also shown an addiction to small children (mostly young boys) along with his partner in crime, ex-Premier Rob “Bubbles” Borbidge. Bubbles and the judge go back a long way.

So, who exactly is this bastard judge? Well, he was Chief Justice of Queensland, Paul “Daphnis” De Jersey (pictured) and, if you’re a Queenslander, he is now your new Governor, courtesy of an appointment by Campbell Newman.

To the legal fraternity’s dismay Newman had over-promoted the embarrassingly hapless Tim Carmody to fill De Jersey’s former position as Chief Justice. You see, Carmody had undertaken to uphold Newman’s VLAD laws despite the judiciary’s hostile objection to them.

Prior to his appointment as Governor, Newman was shown extensive information regarding De Jersey and was warned about his history, particularly within the Anglican Church, but Newman responded with the comment, “I don’t take any notice of internet blogs.”

If Newman is unaware of the suppressed findings of the CMC and the alarming Anglican record regarding this grub, then he’s had his head in the sand for the past three decades.


CFMEU took weekly kickbacks from George Alex companies, Royal commission hears

Explosive revelations of union kickbacks from businesses linked to crime figures, terrorists and standover men emerged from the royal commission into union corruption on Monday.

Witnesses gave evidence that the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union allegedly received a weekly kickback of $2500 from labour-hire companies linked to Sydney crime figure George Alex.

They also expressed fears for their safety.

During extraordinary evidence supporting findings unearthed by Fairfax Media investigations, the royal commission was told:

* Prison inmate Jim Kendrovski, who was assaulted in Parklea jail on Friday after being summonsed to give evidence at the commission, refused to answer questions because he feared for the safety of his wife and children.

* Union official Jose [Mario] Barrios received a threatening phone call from Mr Alex late last month after Mr Barrios raised questions with CFMEU NSW secretary Brian Parker about why the union was negotiating a workplace agreement what he suspected was one of Mr Alex's businesses.

* Convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf helped his mother-in-law Karen Nettleton get a job as a bookeeper for Mr Alex, an associate of Mr Sharrouf.

* Criminal identities including Sharrouf and ex-Comanchero bikie, Bill Fatrouni, were seen as guests at Mr Alex's house in Burwood where business was conducted informally.

* CFMEU NSW officials Mr Parker and Darren Greenfield were seen at meetings in Mr Alex's home.

* A director of one of Mr Alex's businesses said he started feeling uncomfortable when people from the company were being murdered - a reference to the murder of Mr Alex's standover man Joe Antoun in December last year.

The commission heard the CFMEU allegedly received a weekly kickback of $2500 from labour-hire companies linked to Mr Alex.

Under cross-examination, Michael Cohen, director of Elite Access Scaffolding, said he gave the weekly "union payment" to Mr Alex's standover man, Joe Antoun before he was murdered in December.

When counsel assisting, Jeremy Stoljar, asked whether the weekly payment was to be given to the CFMEU, he said: "To my understanding."

Pressed, he said: "That's correct", adding that was based on what Antoun had told him.

Douglas Westerway, a former director of Elite Access Scaffolding NSW, said he withdrew weekly payments of $2500, which were designated as union payments in accounting records he kept.

However, he could not confirm whether the payments were made to the CFMEU after he gave the money to Mr Cohen to be passed on toAntoun.

Mr Westerway said he saw criminal identities including convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf and ex-Comanchero bikie, Bill Fatrouni, at Mr Alex's house in Burwood where business was conducted in an informal way. He said he also saw union officials including CFMEU NSW secretary Brian Parker and another CFMEU official, Darren Greenfield, at meetings with Mr Alex.

Mr Westerway started feeling uncomfortable working in the business after the murder of Antoun, who had seriously assaulted him.

"People around you being murdered, it's not a comfortable place to work," he said.

While Mr Alex does not appear in company searches as a shareholder or director of the Elite holdings or Active Labour companies, Mr Westerway said he and Antoun effectively controlled the companies and how money was spent. Evidence was given that Mr Alex and Antoun received regular dividend payments of $2500.

In October last year, Mr Westerway said Antoun had discussed the need for some money for a property development in Marrickville.

But Mr Westerway indicated the company needed the funds to pay its own bills.

Antoun had seemed to have accepted this but, 10 minutes later, located Mr Westerway and assaulted him.

"Joe Antoun and somebody else came across the street and he yelled at me about being disrespectful to his wife who I hadn't even spoken to that day and told me this was my last warning and started throwing punches at me and hitting me," Mr Westerway said.

"He kept on screaming at me and telling me it was my last warning."

As a result of the assault, Mr Westerway said he went to hospital with two perforated ear drums.

Around Christmas time last year, Mr Westerway said he was buying a sandwich in Burwood when a male walked up behind him and said: "You're a smart arse aren't you?".

"He said, 'Don't f--- around with that business - it's not your business to f--- around with. This is your last warning'."

"I've had phone calls. I've had text messages."

In further evidence, Karen Nettleton said her daughter's husband, Khaled Sharrouf, was an associate of Mr Alex and had helped her get a job as an accounts clerk for Access Scaffolding, linked to Mr Alex.

Asked if she had received an explanation of $2500 described as "union payment" was – she said "no".

Fairfax Media understands Mr Alex will be called as a witness on Tuesday when hearings continue.


'A litany of failures': Tony Abbott tables royal commission's report into the Rudd government's home insulation scheme

A royal commission report into the former Rudd government's $2.8 billion home insulation program found a "litany of failures arising from a dysfunctional culture in the former administration", Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said.

The findings by Commissioner Ian Hanger, QC, were "grave and its [the report's] recommendations are detailed", Mr Abbott told the House of Representatives.

The report identified seven significant failings in the design and implementation of the program, including: "inevitable and predictable conflict or tension between the two aims of the HIP. One aim was to insulate 2.2 million homes and the other was to stimulate the economy. Both were doubtless admirable aims but there was an inherent conflict between them".

In addition it highlighted:

The Department of Environment was ill-equipped to deal with a program of its size and complexity. This problem was made worse by a switch in the delivery model from a regional brokerage model to a direct delivery model

A failure by the federal government to identify and manage the risk to the installers of injury and death.

The reflective foil insulation was "manifestly unsuitable and dangerous"

The decision to relax training and competency requirement
Allowing the program to move to "phase 2" without a robust audit program

The federal government's reliance on states, territories and employers to enforce health and safety requirements

Decisions made under the insulation program were found to have "unnecessarily exposed workers, particularly inexperienced ones, to an unacceptably high risk of injury or death".

"There was no compelling reason to commence the main phase of the Home Insulation Program on 1 July 2009, other than the generally perceived need to commence it as soon as reasonably possible, and because the prime minister had publicly announced that as the starting date."

"The reality is that the Australian government conceived of, devised, designed and implemented a program that enabled very large numbers of inexperienced workers – often engaged by unscrupulous and avaricious employers or head contractors ... to undertake potentially dangerous work. It should have done more to protect them."

The deaths of four young Australians – Queenslanders Matthew Fuller, Rueben Barnes and Mitchell Sweeney and Marcus Wilson from NSW – who lost their lives while working on the economic stimulus program "would, and should, not have occurred had the Home Insulation Program been properly designed and implemented".

The use of reflective foil sheeting had directly contributed to the deaths of Mr Fuller and Mr Sweeney and "should never have been permitted".

Rushed introduction

The report notes that no one, including former prime minister Kevin Rudd and former ministers Mark Arbib and Peter Garrett, had given evidence of the economic imperative for a July 1, 2009 start date.

Mr Arbib, the former minister for government service delivery, had not technically had the authority to make decisions, yet "at all times pushed the commencement date of 1 July, 2009 despite any concerns expressed by others as to whether it was properly attainable". The commissioner also found that Mr Arbib had received a risk assessment "shortly after his request for it" and rejected his denial of having received it.

And at the level of the political executive, "Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett and Mr Arbib all had direct and close involvement in various aspects of the program. Mr Garrett, as the Minister for the Environment had formal control over the HIP. Mr Rudd, as, in effect, the 'Secretary of Cabinet' had control in an overall governmental sense".

Additionally, the scheme "wreaked havoc" with pre-existing installation businesses, which initially scaled up their operations to meet program demand and then were hard hit by the snap suspension of the program in February 2010.

Many of the businesses that existed before the scheme was put in place had been devastated and compensation should be made available to them.

Much of the report is critical of the public service's handling of the scheme, with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet slated for its insistence on undue speed in its implementation.

Deficiencies in the technical expertise of public service employees are identified, while the Department of the Environment had "no experience with a delivery model such as this".

The Commonwealth had deliberately chosen not to use states and territories to help with the program, despite their experience, and "that the Home Insulation Program was a particularly bad example of shortcomings caused by a very inexperienced Department having been asked to deliver it".

Overall, the report found, the scheme was "poorly planned and poorly implemented" and in the case of the HIP "the failings of senior management [in the public service] assured the failure of the project. There can be no substitute for the leadership, advice and decision making that senior managers are required to provide".

Mr Abbott told the Parliament that "four young men lost their lives as a consequence of this bungled programme. As well, homes were damaged or destroyed and businesses badly affected. I hope this report brings some comfort to everyone affected."

The federal government will deliver an initial response into the report by the end of the month and a final response will be handed down by the end of the year.

Series of inquiries

There have already been numerous inquiries into the failed program, including by state coroners and the Australian National Audit Office.

During the 12 months it operated, there were 1.1 million insulation installations. A total of 224 fire incidents were linked to the program, with 144 involving flames, though that rate was no higher than it had been before the program started.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he had not yet seen the report but "in terms of the tragedy of four people losing their lives that's what matters to me".

He said his colleagues would be standing up later on Monday to discuss the findings of the report and he wanted to see better workplace safety.

"My interest is first and foremost the safety of people going to work," Mr Shorten said, adding he was not up for a "political blame game".

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said the deaths of the three Queensland insulation workers was a "terrible tragedy" and his first thoughts were with their families.

He said the lack of government planning was clear.

"It just shows that governments need to plan properly when they implement programs or infrastructure," Mr Newman said.  "That comes out loud and clear."

Compensation under consideration

Mr Newman said compensation for the families could now be considered. He stressed that he was yet to look at the insulation report findings in any detail.

"I think these sorts of things now need to be looked at," he said.

Gold Coast lawyer Bill Potts said Murray Barnes, whose son Rueben was electrocuted laying batts in the ceiling cavity of a house at Stanwell, did not want compensation.

"For him, it has never been about money. No amount of money can bring a much-loved son back. No amount of money will compensate for a life," Mr Potts said.

"Murray Barnes has only ever wanted answers and for him at least he has the start of the answers. But he has to live with the questions. And the question at the end of the day is, 'Why did his son have to die in this way?'

"A 16-year-old son is worth effectively not a very large amount of money. I know that sounds brutally cruel, but that's the simple truth. At the end of the day, the government will no doubt make up its own mind about what it wants to do.

"For Murray, it has been about answers, not about money."

Speaking on behalf of the Sweeney family, Peter Koutsoukis of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers called upon the federal government to compensate grieving relatives.

"I call on the government to compensate the families affected by this program," he said.

"The Sweeney family has been profoundly affected by this. Members of the family have had an inability to work, substantial grief and ... if as the report finds, the Australian government is clearly to blame to this, well why shouldn't they get compensation."

Mr Koutsoukis said the firm would also consider suing the Australian government as part of a civil claim lodged against Mr Sweeney's employer, Titan Insulations.


My Muslim religion has problems that need fixing

Glenn Mohammed

 Under attack: The Muslim community is quick to stand up and use its democratic right to protest against being singled out.
Under attack: The Muslim community is quick to stand up and use its democratic right to protest against being singled out.
I am an Australian, I am a Muslim. I am an Australian Muslim. The recent actions  of the group known as Islamic State have put my faith in the spotlight as a threat to my nation and fellow Australians with whom I share the privilege of living in this great nation. It is here that I practice my faith freely.

A number of Muslim community organisations and Councils have come out in recent weeks against the Anti-Terrorism legislation proposed by the Australian Government in response to individuals who go to Iraq and Syria to fight.

As a lawyer I am very sceptical of any legislation which reverses the onus of proof. However, I do not understand the resentment against this legislation from the Muslim segment of the population which feels it is being unfairly targeted.

The Muslim community is quick to stand up and use its democratic right to protest against being singled out. It  feels under attack by the government. Maybe it is, maybe it is not, but the government is able to explain and justify the proposed legislation.

When will the Muslim community see the other side of this argument and realise that yes, we are under attack. Our faith is under attack. Our faith is being eaten up from within by fundamentalist elements around the world who twist it to suit their political agendas and interpret it to make their case. To them it's nothing but a tool to control people. They justify their actions through our faith. 

When will Muslims stand up and accept that yes we have problems within our faith. Maybe a few more problems than other faiths, but sure, we have problems. They don't just affect us as Muslims, they affect our friends, their families and our neighbours. They affect a society that welcomes us here, treats us as equals and gives us the opportunity to live a decent and dignified life. Democratic Australia gives us a voice and tries its best not to judge us.

The issues that we face within our religion range widely from individuals brutally beheading people in the name of establishing an Islamic Caliphate to, at a local level, female genital mutilation.

Muslims need to be able to discuss these issues openly and denounce barbaric behaviour. Instead, we choose to remain silent and then criticise a government that tries to make Australia safer. We use democratic values such as the right to equality, to claim the existence of discrimination, racism and Islamophobia.

The Islamic Council is against the government taking steps to secure its citizens from Australian fundamentalists who fight wars in other countries. It's their prerogative to fight wherever they want. But these fundamentalist want to bring this war back to Australia. They do not value what Australians have. They do not agree with our way of life. They do not want to respect the law and the democracy in which we thrive.

What is the Islamic Council doing to eliminate the threat of radicalised individuals? What is it doing to protect Muslims and those of other faiths in Australia?  Who is responsible for protecting us from fundamentalists, who, on their return to cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, might try to inflict pain on us? Why is the Islamic Council critical of the government's efforts to secure its citizens from this threat? Where do our priorities lie as Muslims?

As Muslims we need to change our mindset and our attitude towards the society in which we live. We need to understand the value of what we have in this country and we should be the first to protect Australian society from elements within our faith that want to harm it. We shouldn't fight a government that is trying to protect Muslims and others alike. When we are able to separate our faith from our politics, we will see how damaged our faith has become.

When IS beheaded a civilian journalist we didn't go out on the streets and protest. We don't self-reflect and accept that there are problems within our faith and it is up to us to fix them so they do not affect people around us. We are too busy being calculative, examining the details of the government's actions  and the impact they might have on us. So what if I need to answer questions upon my return from a war zone? If it saves one person from being killed or injured in Australia we should be lining up to support it.

When IS beheads an innocent person, it is doing so in my name. I am here to make a declaration that it is not in my name. These people are a threat to me, my faith and my country and I will do all I can to protect Australia from any harm that these people within my faith may inflict on it.


Labor party coverup in the ACT?

The ACT government is asking $2000 for the release of information on profits made by the ACT Labor Party from changing the status on the lease of the Weston Creek Labor Club.

The Canberra Liberals, who submitted the freedom of information request, say they compromised to only request documents relating to the Weston Creek club after they were told access to documents relating to all three Labor clubs would cost over $6000.

A letter from the ACT Environment and Planning Directorate said the request will take 65 hours – with nearly 29 hours allocated to deciding what it would release, at a cost of $614.56.

The letter also said looking for the documents would take 36 hours and cost $376.62 and photocopying would cost $1096. The directorate said the total would come to $2087.

ACT Planning Minister Simon Corbell recently came under fire from the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which accused him of not properly consulting the public interest and of responding in a formulaic fashion to 13 lease variation approvals since late 2010.

The 13 leases that have been approved as no longer concessional are mostly clubs, and include the Weston Creek venue.

Concessional leases, long a controversial issue, are low-cost leases granted to groups for activities that benefit the community.

If they apply to have the lease no longer concessional, allowing for the site to be sold or developed, the minister has to weigh up whether the change would disadvantage the community.

The change does not grant development rights, however, and clubs or groups are required to pay out the lease.

The Combined Community Councils has criticised the process, saying clubs were profiting from conversions, particularly when they sold the land for development, and community facilities were suffering.

The lease for the Weston Creek Labor Club at Stirling was made no longer concessional in 2012.

The ACT government has refused to reveal the amount paid in lease variation charges, saying it could not disclose taxpayer information.

Opposition Deputy Leader Alistair Coe said he wanted to ensure due diligence was carried out in the club's case.

Mr Coe has sought a waiver of the $2000 freedom of information charge citing the public interest, and expected to hear back from the directorate within a week.

"It would look quite dodgy for this one not to go through in the interests of probity," he said.

Canberra Labor Clubs, whose board is made up of Labor members, runs clubs in Civic, Charnwood and Weston Creek.

Mr Corbell told the assembly this month he "acted on a number of occasions to seek to reject proposals to redevelop concessional leases for private development" and acted transparently in the public interest.


2 September, 2014

Setting the record crooked

I've worked out why it is that these bloody Laborites, having left us behind in the flotsam and in Kevin's case, jetsam, of the shit fight they created, feel they have to madly get pen to paper quick smart. The tomes are literally queuing up at University Press and others in the wake of the worst 'Gummint' we have ever endured. Barbara Cartland has nothing on these pricks!

The reason is not only did they not get to finish the job (for which we can be eternally grateful) they didn't get time to explain themselves or justify what was six years of unmitigated garbage as a party before being elbowed off the rostrum by a happy, but extremely bewildered, Liberal Party.

The mess, when coupled with the residual joke that is today's Senate, is going to be the toughest that any government has ever had to deal with.

So our bungling Kruddsters have been belting their keyboards well into the night turning out volume after volume of fanciful crap, essentially a rewriting of history, except for the bits where they bag the man they all stood behind at some time or other. On that they are rock solid. Kev was a cretin. Kev was an arsehole. Kev was a control freak. And Kev was a bully.  A bad tempered one according to Wayno.

Which is undoubtedly why Kev hasn't written his book yet... although I will lay London to a brick that he will have the last word. It's his nature.

Former Governor General, Quentin Bryce will formally launch 'My Story', the memoir of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard next month. This will probably live in the fiction section of most libraries because if she actually tells the truth about anything she will be locked up.

The nine books by Labor figures, from 2012 to the present are:

 *  My Story, by Julia Gillard; a work I am sure of complete fiction. Probably about the fight against misogyny or something equally ludicrous.
 *  The Good Fight, by Wayne Swan; another work of fiction except for the bits about Kevin.
 *  Power with Purpose, by Lindsay Tanner (2012); A work about power withOUT purpose.
 *  Hearts and Minds, by Chris Bowen; A nice lead up to Bill Shorten's book, which may be called Tits and Bums.
 *  Diary of a Foreign Minister, by Bob Carr; a work of complete delusion by someone up the sharp end of a jet with too much time on his hands when he wasn't listening to opera or his wife snoring.
 *  The Fights of My Life, by Greg Combet; another 'fight' themed book. It's all about fighting in the Labor Party, but we knew that already.
 *  A Letter to Generation Next, by Kim Carr; er, generation next doesn't exist yet, basically more bullshit about Labor realignment strategies that will never work.
 *  Tales from the Political Trenches, b Maxine McKew (updated 2013); political trenches? Get outa here! The silly cow knew as much about politics as she did about responsible broadcasting! The only time she went near a trench was when she fell in the gutter carrying three bottles of bubbly from the Crow's Nest Deli.
 *  Glory Daze, by Jim Chalmers (former Swan adviser now an MP); Jim got that right at least. It was a daze! A complete daze. And we are still dazed. One thing it wasn't. Happy Daze!  Happy reading, NOT.


The crazy world of Renewable Energy Targets

Nothing makes sense about Renewable Energy Targets, except at a “Bumper-Sticker” level. Today the AFR front page suggests* the federal government is shifting to remove the scheme (by closing it to new entrants) rather than just scaling it back. It can’t come a day too soon. Right now, the Greens who care about CO2 emissions should be cheering too. The scheme was designed to promote an  industry, not to cut CO2.

UPDATE: Mathias Cormann later says “that the government’s position was to “keep the renewable energy target in place” SMH.  Mixed messages indeed.

We’ve been sold the idea that if we subsidize “renewable” energy (which produces less CO2) we’d get a world with lower CO2 emissions. But it ain’t so. The fake “free” market in renewables does not remotely achieve what it was advertised to do — the perverse incentives make the RET good for increasing “renewables” but bad for reducing CO2, and, worse, the more wind power you have, the less CO2 you save. Coal fired electricity is so cheap that doing anything other than making it more efficient is a wildly expensive and inefficient way to reduce CO2. But the Greens hate coal more than they want to reduce carbon dioxide. The dilemma!

The RET scheme in Australian pays a subsidy to wind farms and solar installations. Below, Tom Quirk shows that this is effectively a carbon tax (but a lousy one), and it shifts supply — perversely taxing brown coal at $27/ton, black coal at $40/ton and gas at up to $100/ton. Because it’s applied to renewables rather than CO2 directly, it’s effectively a higher tax rate for the non-renewable but lower CO2 emitters.

Calculating the true cost of electricity is fiendishly difficult. “Levelized costs” is the simple idea that we can add up the entire lifecycle cost of each energy type, but it’s almost impossible to calculate meaningful numbers. Because wind power is fickle, yet electricity demand is most definitely not, the real cost of wind power is not just the construction, maintenance and final disposal, but also the cost of having a gas back-up or expensive battery (give-us-your-gold) storage. It’s just inefficient every which way. Coal and nuclear stations are cheaper when run constantly rather than in a stop-start fashion (just like your car is). So the cost of renewables also includes the cost of shifting these “base load” suppliers from efficient to inefficient use — and in the case of coal it means producing more CO2 for the same megawatts. South Australia is the most renewable-dependent state in mainland Australia, and it’s a basketcase (look at the cost stack below). Real costs only come with modeling, and we all know how difficult that is.

If the aim is really the research and development of renewables (and not “low CO2?) then I’ve long said that we should pay for the research and development directly, not pay companies to put up inefficient and fairly useless versions in the hope that companies might earn enough to pay for the research out of the profits. Tom Quirk points out that it’s all frightfully perverse again, because most innovations come from industry, not government funded research, but in Australia we hardly have any industry making parts used in power generation — we don’t have the teams of electrical engineers working on the problem anymore. I suppose the theory is that Chinese companies will profit from solar panels and do the R&D for us (keeping “our” patents too)? It would be cheaper just to gift them the money direct wouldn’t it — rather than pay an industry to produce and install a product that no one would buy, which doesn’t work, and hope that the “profits” translate into discoveries that will produce royalties and jobs for people overseas. I’m sure Chinese workers and entrepreneurs will be grateful. Yay.

Meanwhile, Green fans have suddenly discovered the idea of sovereign risk (where were they while the Rudd-Gillard team blitzed Australia’s reputation for stable, predictable policy?). According to the AFR, the government is scornful (and rightly so):

"The government source said the market was oversupplied with energy and there was no longer any cause for a mandated use of any specific type of power. The source said while there would be investment losses if the RET was abolished, or even scaled back, investors “would have to have been blind to know this wasn’t coming’’.

On Catalaxy files, Judith Sloan mocks the Fin for pushing a press release from a rent-seeking firm, and guesses the Abbott government will be too “gutless” to ditch this economic and environmental dog of a policy.

More HERE  (See the original for links)

Sacked SES whistleblower Tara McCarthy in limbo as government claims it is powerless to reinstate her

The corruption watchdog found she was improperly sacked from the State Emergency Service as a "reprisal" for exposing potential misconduct in the ranks.

But Tara McCarthy is still waiting to be reinstated in the "job of her dreams" – and the government says it is powerless to do so.

Ms McCarthy, the first female deputy commissioner of the SES in its 60-year history, was vindicated in May when the Independent Commission Against Corruption found her boss Murray Kear had acted corruptly by sacking her a year ago for making allegations against his "mate" Steve Pearce.

"I can't believe that they can't just reappoint her, given that the ICAC found the original sacking was a corrupt sacking," Public Service Association general secretary Anne Gardiner said.

Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres says he is unable to give Ms McCarthy her job back because it is a matter for the head of the Justice Department, Andrew Cappie-Wood, and Public Service Commissioner Graeme Head.

Ms McCarthy said she had been negotiating with the men "for three months and it feels as if I am on a merry-go-round, going nowhere ... with no decisions made and no offer of reinstatement".

A former paramedic and a mother of two teenage boys, Ms McCarthy said her "unlawful and corrupt sacking was devastating enough, but now the failure of the government to provide me with the protections they promise to whistleblowers is soul-destroying".

"All I ask is to be reinstated to the job I loved, a job I should rightfully have," she said.

She said she would also consider a permanent position of equivalent rank and responsibility. But the only offer on the table has been for a  temporary and more junior role at another organisation.

In a letter to Mr Head on July 15, Mr Cappie-Wood said it was his "firm view" that Ms McCarthy's "well-being and safety" would be at risk if she returned to the SES.  But he said in a statement that he and Mr Head remained in "active discussions" with Ms McCarthy about her future.

A spokeswoman for the Public Service Commission said that existing whistleblower laws – introduced 20 years ago – did not have a mechanism for reinstating senior executives "where removal has occurred contrary to the legislation".

"Hence there is no legal capacity to reinstate Ms McCarthy in the role she held in the NSW State Emergency Service or an equivalent role," the spokeswoman said.

The commissioner was finalising advice for the government's consideration "on mechanisms that would enable reinstatement", including where a person was sacked as a reprisal for whistleblowing.

 Ms Gardiner believes "a good option" would be for the Minister to intervene and exercise his power to appoint Ms McCarthy as commissioner or acting commissioner of the SES. Mr Kear resigned as commissioner earlier this year following the ICAC's findings. Mr Pearce remains on leave with full pay.


NSW school principal calls students with mental health issues 'morons' and 'village idiots'

It was clearly a joke but jokes are unwise these days

Chris Cundy, head of Calare Public School in Orange, wrote to teachers announcing a mental health and social skills workshop to be held at the school.  In the letter, he appears to have considered it humorous to speculate about students with "two heads" and "webbed feet" requiring special assistance.

Mr Cundy dubbed the program "Operation Nutcase" and asked teachers to "start identifying students at our school with the following characteristics:

suffering from undue anxiety

lacking any resilience

poor socialising skills

2 heads

webbed feet

village idiots

"I would like to start Operation Nutcase in week 5 but this might be a bit ambitious," Mr Cundy wrote.  "All victims, er candidates must have a signed form from their parents before we commence. We will have groups of roughly 10. (but in the two headed group there will only be 5)."

The DEC spokesperson said Mr Cundy had not been suspended, but had been formally counselled by the department.

"The department stresses that the material is contrary to the values of public education and the school's track record of support for students with disabilities and other learning needs," the spokesperson said.


More relationship education needed in schools

The Deputy NSW Coroner will recommend that the Department of Education introduce the topic of domestic violence and abusive relationships into the NSW school curriculum, after finding that Sydney woman Kate Malonyay was murdered by her ex-boyfriend.

Coroner Hugh Dillon revealed that he would personally write to Education Minister Adrian Piccoli to make the request, following a coronial inquest in which it was revealed that Ms Malonyay's ex-boyfriend, navy analyst Elliot Coulson, had not only abused her, but also another woman from a previous relationship.

"It will be no panacea but may help over time [to] engender respect between boys and girls and increase the self-confidence of young women in seeking the protection of the police and the law courts against domestic abuse," he said.

Mr Dillon found that Coulson murdered the 32-year-old sometime between April 17 and 19 last year by means of strangulation and the infliction of a head injury caused by blunt force.

Coulson killed himself days later as police closed in by jumping from a high-rise hotel room on the Gold Coast.

The coroner's findings reveal that, while Coulson had only once been physically violent towards Ms Malonyay, she had complained to friends that he was sometimes aggressive, controlling, jealous and verbally abusive, particularly in text messages.

They also show that Coulson had previously subjected another ex-girlfriend, Anne Thoroughgood, to more overt physical violence.

This included one occasion when the heavily built naval employee threatened to kill her, shoved her against a door frame and then later began to strangle her.

The coroner noted that each woman contemplated seeking an Apprehended Violence Order but did not do so.

"It appears that Ms Thoroughgood was deterred from taking action because she thought she would have to disclose her home address to get an AVO and was nervous about confronting Elliot Coulson face to face in court," Mr Dillon said.

"It is not entirely clear why Kate did not proceed with her AVO application. Like many other women, Kate may have found the process too daunting and stressful or lacked confidence in the AVO system ..."

A police officer told the inquest that, based on his experience, had Ms Thoroughgood proceeded with the AVO it may have made a significant difference for both women.

"A woman in genuine fear of domestic violence should never be dissuaded from approaching the police and the courts for an AVO," Mr Dillon said.

He determined to recommend the addition of domestic violence education to the school curriculum after Ms Malonyay's mother, Wendy, made a powerful verbal statement to the court.


1 September, 2014

Australian weatherman’s records reveal warming fraud

AS a child, Ian Cole would watch his father Neville take meticulous readings from the Bureau of Meteorology thermometer at the old post office in the western NSW town of Bourke and send the results through by teleprinter.

The temperature was recorded every three hours, including at night when the mercury sometimes plunged to freezing, and the data was logged in handwritten journals that included special notes to help explain the results.

That all changed in 1996 when the Stevenson Screen, the official measuring equipment, was replaced with an automatic station and moved to an airport site.

The Stevenson Screen went to the dump and, but for fate, the handwritten notes could have gone there too. But without instruction, the records were kept and are now under lock and key, held as physical evidence of what the weather was really doing in the mid-20th century.

These Bourke records have ­assumed a new significance in light of concerns about how historic data is being treated at many sites around the country. The records are also important in an ongoing row that frustrates Mr Cole.

The Bourke cotton farmer may be managing director of the local radio station 2WEB but Mr Cole can only broadcast temperature records that date back to 2000 because the Bureau of Meteorology won’t supply historic records to service provider Weatherzone.

As a result “hottest day on record” doesn’t really mean what it seems. “We keep on being told about records that are not actually records and averages that are not quite right,” Mr Cole said.

Worse still there are concerns about what has happened to the precision of those handwritten records in the earlier years. Bourke now forms part of a network of weather stations used to make up the national record known as ACORN-SAT. The raw temperature records are “homogenised”, a method BOM says has been peer-reviewed as world’s best practice and is used by equivalent meteorological organisations across the world.

Independent research, the ­results of which have not been disputed by BOM, has shown that, after homogenisation, a 0.53C warming in the minimum temperature trend has been increased to a 1.64C warming trend. A 1.7C cooling trend in the maximum temperature series in the raw data for Bourke has been changed to a slight warming.

BOM has rejected any suggestion that it has tampered inappropriately with the numbers. It says the major adjustment to Bourke temperatures relate to “site moves in 1994, 1999 and 1938 as well as 1950s in homogeneities that were detected by neighbour comparison which, based on station photos before and after, may relate to changes in vegetation around the site”.

Queensland researcher Jennifer Marohasy, who has analysed the Bourke records, says BOM’s analysis is all very well but the largest adjustments, both to maximum temperature series, ­occurred in the period 1911 and 1915 with a stepdown of about 0.7C, followed by a step-up between 1951 and 1953 of about 0.45C. Of greater concern to Dr Marohasy is that historic high temperatures, such as the record 51.7C recorded on January 3, 1909, were removed from the record on the assumption it was a clerical error. In fact, all the data for Bourke for 40 years before 1910 has been discarded from the official record. If it were there, says Dr Marohasy, the record would show that temperatures were particularly hot during that period.

For Mr Cole it is a simple matter of trusting the care and attention of his father. “Why should you change manually created records?” Mr Cole said. “At the moment they (BOM) are saying we have a warming climate but if the old figures are used we have a cooling climate.”


The fuse has been lit in Sydney

LAST week a brief but bloody battle took place in the Middle East which went largely unreported in the Australian media.

It marked a significant and alarming development in the rise of the terrorist forces, now ­including a number of Australians jihadists, which are laying waste to Syria and Iraq.

While Sydney’s sadistic poster boy for terrorism, Khaled Sharouf, may have captured the headlines of late with his well publicised acts of depravity and brutality, the sheer scale of what is occurring and the inevitable repercussions it will have here at home, is something few Australians have grasped.

It is not just Syria and Iraq that are now involved. There is another country to the west of these two troubled States that has now become a target for the terrorist army formerly known as ISIL or ISIS that has declared its caliphate under the name of the Islamic State.

It is a country that represents the homeland for the largest Middle-Eastern ethnic population in Sydney. It is of course, Lebanon. On August 2 the Lebanese army engaged with Islamic State forces within their own borders near the town of Arsal — in a battle which lasted five days.

According to the Lebanese army’s General Jean Kahwagi the terrorist forces were well armed and captured and killed dozens of Lebanese soldiers.

Their aim was to take parts of southern Lebanon and declare the country under its new caliphate — in other words to annex part of Lebanon into its new illegal terrorist state which now covers northern parts of Syria and Iraq.

According to local newspaper As-Safir, General Kahwagi said the Lebanese army had “saved Lebanon from ­jihadists before they could declare their own state”.

“The army saved Lebanon from killer ‘sectarian strife-seekers’ by the Arsal battle,” General Kahwagi said.

“Had the army lost, they (jihadists) would have entered Akkar and from there they would have reached the sea and declared their own state,” General Kahwagi warned.

It is believed the Shia-based Hezbollah also joined the fighting, on the side of the Lebanese army, and captured Islamic State fighters, who are predominantly Sunni militants.

The Islamic State, according to Australian defence sources is an army that commands the equivalent of three brigades — around 12,000 troops.

When they captured Tikrit and Mosul in Iraq, they also captured the fleeing Iraqi army’s weaponry, which was all supplied by the US.

It has also seized hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Islamic State is a terrorist organisation of the likes the modern world has never seen. These are not jihadists hiding out in the hills.

It is an army operating under a rigid command structure armed with heavy weaponry and armoured vehicles.

It is also rallying people around the world to its cause through social media — Western Sydney is emerging as a fertile recruitment source.

The engagement of Lebanon in the conflict has obvious implications for the region but also for Australia, which has large Lebanese Muslim and Christian populations.

News of the battle in Lebanon — and the sectarian tone of Shia fighting Sunni on Lebanese soil — is currently rippling through Sydney’s Lebanese community.

“The confrontation has thrown kerosene on the already combustible community relations in Western Sydney,” one informed observer of the situation remarked.

Supporters of the Islamic State in Sydney, which is an ­illegal organisation under Australian counter terrorism laws, are known to be already trying to apply pressure to some Sydney Muslim businesses to have them declare their allegiance to the caliphate — with the clear aim of then extracting money from them.

Many are now living in fear.

The risk for Australia is that the harmony that has been the fabric of the Lebanese community, which consists of Shia and Sunni Muslim as well as Christians, could easily be shattered by what is occurring in the Middle East.

The patriotic Lebanese are outraged at the Islamic State laying claim to their homeland and authorities in Sydney are concerned at the speed with which historical relationships are being shattered.

To put it bluntly, they are worried about the sectarian conflict spilling over into the Sydney ethnic communities.

What the world is witnessing, and has appeared impotent in dealing with until the US belatedly approved air strikes this week, is a fundamental redrawing of the strategic and political situation in the Middle East.

While it may appear sectarian from afar, the motivating force is a rampant and shockingly violent anti-Western sentiment.

In a briefing last week, based on a global threat assessment provided to the National Security Committee, key Australian intelligence officials warned that the world — and Australia — will be dealing with the dangerous consequences of this for years and possibly decades to come.

Those dire consequences appear to have already started playing out here at home in Western Sydney.


Robin Hood is alive and well in Australia

Fairness is a matter of opinion, but one that should be informed by facts and analysis.

Opponents of the budget have done a great job of branding it as "unfair" through repetition of assertions rather than by appeal to facts and analysis. Here are a few relevant facts.

Australia's system of tax and social benefits is one of the strongest in the world in ameliorating the unequal distribution of market incomes through highly targeted social benefits and a strongly progressive personal income tax that concentrates the burden on a small slice of those at the top.

Even if all the 2014-15 budget measures are implemented, the Australian system of tax and social benefits will remain highly redistributive. The changes are so small relative to the inherited structure that they would hardly make a dent in the redistributive system.

Critics of budget measures appear to believe that social benefits both individually and in aggregate should only ever go one way (up) and that the desirability of more redistribution is a given.

The reality is that there are limits to redistribution and progressivity, and it is legitimate to question the design and affordability of social benefits.

Higher income groups are in fact contributing to the budget repair task. Quite apart from the temporary budget repair levy imposed by the present government, the Gillard and Rudd governments introduced many belt-tightening measures in budgets and mini-budgets, the bulk of which are affecting higher income earners - for example, the one-third increase in the Medicare levy that took effect just last month, means-testing of the private health insurance rebate, tightening of various other means tests, doubling of the superannuation contributions tax for high income earners, and so on.

None of these changes were 2014-15 budget measures, but they are all part of the mix of policy adjustments designed to take money away from people to reduce the budget deficit, and they are now costing many better-off households thousands of dollars a year. They are being overlooked in the furore over the current budget.

Robin Hood is alive and well in Australia and we don't need more of him


Racist employment practices at the ABC

ONCE upon a time, in a land far, far away, employees were hired on merit.

Now, in Australia, the national broadcaster is about to introduce something called a “cultural diversity tool” to ensure that employees in the ABC’s news and current affairs operations reflect the nation’s ethnic and cultural diversity.

Nothing in there about skill levels or competence.

The ABC has even hired a person named Phillipa McDermott, as head of indigenous employment and diversity.

No, this is not part of a script for Rob Sitch’s tragicomedy Utopia, this is politically correct employment practices 101, as embraced by the People’s Republic of Ultimo.

According to an interview with The Australian, McDermott thinks senior management needs to become more ethnically diverse and the ABC’s reporting should more fully reflect Australia’s ethnic and cultural diversity.

There was a time in that far, far away land when news stood on its own merits.

It was not filtered through a lens of diversity or culture.

Little wonder so many ABC viewers seem confused about the national identity when the ABC demonstrates that it has to mandate standards for diversity.

Let me predict that in a very short time, individuals applying for jobs at the Ultimo collective will be discovering long-forgotten kinship with remote Aboriginal tribes and associations with members of exotic ethnic groups in remote corners of the globe.

When a similarly politically correct framework of diversity employment was installed in Washington, DC, employers were required to present prospective employees with a list of ethnic groups and nationalities and ask applicants to indicate to which group they belonged.

Certain groups carried greater weight than others.

Thus, if an employer gave a Pacific Islander, for example, a job, it would enable that business to employ a few more Anglo-caucasians.

The human relations executive who demonstrated how this scheme operated nominated herself as a prime example of the sheer stupidity of the program.

“As a black woman,” she said, “I’m worth two points. So the company can employ two white males for every black woman they have on their books.” That’s why, she added, with a disdainful sneer, black women were known among those in HR as “twofers.”


Hunting to hounds lives on in Tasmania

In a small way

EVERY winter members of the Northern Hunt Club brave the cold to saddle up and continue a decades-long tradition.

While many Tasmanians are enjoying a Sunday morning sleep-in, hunt club members are heading off to properties across the north for a weekly ride through some of the state’s most picturesque countryside.

Northern Hunt Club master Ian Klye addressing the riders on Sunday at the traditional por

Northern Hunt Club master Ian Klye addressing the riders on Sunday at the traditional port stop. Source: News Corp Australia

Slippery and soggy conditions did little to dampen enthusiasm at the club’s final hunt of the season last weekend, with about 15 riders gathering at Sally Keen’s property Little Run, near Bracknell.

The club organises about 22 drag-hunting events each season, running from late March until the end of August.

Hounds on the hunt follow an aniseed trail laid down by riders who travel a few minutes in front of the main hunt field, along a predetermined course.

Each hunt is divided into several runs of about 1km in length and include a variety of optional obstacles such as jumps and water crossings.

Hunt Club master Ian Klye has been involved with hunting since he was a child and has been the club master for six years.

During the year, Mr Klye is responsible for looking after and training the club’s hounds.

There were 10 hounds used during last Sunday’s hunt.

Mr Klye said harnessing the hounds’ natural pack instincts was vital to ensure they worked well to track the aniseed trail.

“They naturally want to work together, so all we do is use that to our advantage so they stay together when we’re out in the field,” Mr Klye said.

The club has about 60 members, who range in age from juniors through to the club’s most senior participant, Sandra Atkins, who has been hunting with club for about 53 years.

A traditional port stop is held half way through each hunt, when a toast is made to thank the property owners.

Horses and riders cover between 10 and 13km on each hunt.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

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/is 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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Coral Reef Compendium
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Paralipomena 3
To be continued ....
Queensland Police -- A barrel with lots of bad apples
Australian Police News
Of Interest


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"Paralipomena" 2
"Leftists as Elitists"
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QANTAS -- A dying octopus
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