Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Buck has to stop on saving icons
On February 6 last year, I wrote a column which began: "No Aussie brands are more ingrained in the national consciousness than Qantas or Holden but the flying kangaroo is facing extinction as a long-haul, full-service carrier within 10 years and GM Holden may not even last that long."
What an optimist I turned out to be. Twenty months on, what Qantas and Holden now have in common, apart from being cultural icons, is that neither of them is worth saving.
Why should taxpayers foot the bill when these companies' own staff don't commit to their company's long-term viability?
Qantas has just predicted a half-yearly loss of $300 million, foreshadowed major job cuts, had its debt rating reduced, and warned that its long-haul international operation is at risk.
General Motors has decided to shut down its Holden operation in Adelaide as part of a global consolidation. The operation has been living on the bubble for years after management and unions agreed to unsustainable enterprise bargaining agreements. The announcement of the closure is pending.
At Qantas, two years ago, several unions led staff through months of rolling industrial action, guerilla tactics and disruptions of service, accompanied by vituperative class warfare by union officials. It was designed to bring management to its knees unless unions got the pay rises and job security they were demanding.
The most conspicuous of the class warriors was Tony Sheldon, the national secretary of the Transport Workers Union.
Throughout this guerilla campaign there was zero restraint placed on the unions by the Labor government. It was not until management shut down the airline that Prime Minister Julia Gillard emerged from her union-addled inertia and the government moved to force a resolution of the dispute in the public interest. Not long after this campaign, which had a disastrous impact on Qantas, Sheldon was made national vice-president of the ALP.
Qantas bought short-term peace but the price was long-term decline. It has an unsustainable cost base. Now shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has declared that Qantas is too important to fail and urged the government to consider making a direct equity injection. This is classic Labor: subsidise the unions, rather than restructure the company, and pass on the cost to taxpayers.
Lest I lay the blame on only one side, Qantas' troubles have been unwittingly bipartisan: management has done its share via a grandiose expansion into Asia. It has deployed precious capital on a profitless push into Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Japan that has drained the group.
On Sunday, federal independent senator Nick Xenophon weighed in with a thrashing of management: "Under CEO Alan Joyce and chairman Leigh Clifford, Qantas has lurched from one failed strategy to the next … Joyce seems increasingly like a desperate gambler chasing his Jetstar Asian losses."
Holden management also warrants a bucketing. As noted in February last year: "Over the past seven years [the GM Holden collective bargaining agreement] has delivered a cumulative wage increase of 29 per cent, an average of more than 4 per cent per year - a real increase over inflation.
"The agreement also obliges GM Holden to pay generous redundancy benefits … It raises the question: why are Australian taxpayers being asked to make sacrifices, via subsidising higher costs, that the local auto-makers and their staff have not themselves been willing to make?"
Australian consumers are not interested in overpaying for transport. Government subsidies, without end, to companies with unsustainable collective wage agreements has been death by a thousand cuts, given Australia's car manufacturing base is too small to survive the enormous economies of scale and structural overcapacity of the global car industry.
Grace Collier, who has spent years in the industrial relations trenches working on both sides, first as a union official then as a consultant to management, has been warning for years that the management and unions at Holden have been signing suicidal enterprise bargaining agreements.
In The Weekend Australian she offered this broader advice to the Abbott government, which I pass on and endorse:
"Australia is at a crossroads. For 20 years, regardless of the legislation, about half of our companies have been incrementally enterprise bargaining themselves into bankruptcy, while the other half have not. Increasingly, many of those that have bargained are on the verge of ruin. A growing number will be seeking government subsidies during the next few years.
"Government policy on industry assistance should be this: if a company is paying its workforce more than the award wage, then it must not receive taxpayer assistance under any circumstances.
"Companies that are financially distressed because of unaffordable enterprise bargaining agreements should be instructed to lodge a form with the Fair Work Commission to have their agreement dissolved, at their own cost. All of their workers and unions should sign the form and be returned to the award wage before any of them even consider putting their hand out for money."
It was of more than passing interest to read on Saturday that China Southern Airlines had been considering a strategic investment in Qantas, as I am a member of the Chinese airline's frequent flyer program because I can fly business class for less than half what Qantas wants to charge, and for not much more than its economy fare.
China Southern has put aside that possible investment, but I have made the shift. Whether Qantas keeps flying internationally has ceased to be of concern to me, because I cannot afford to care.
Healthy food labels blamed for rise in obesity as Queenslanders fall into high sugar and fat trap
"HEALTHIER" foods could be to blame for rising obesity. New research from Nutrition Australia Queensland found 96 per cent of Queenslanders were unable to tell the difference between unhealthy and healthy food.
Sneaky labelling which touts high-sugar products as low-fat, and vice versa, makes it difficult for consumers to identify healthy choices.
High-sugar breakfast cereals, Caesar salads and frozen yoghurt often marketed as healthy alternatives are the most common culprits. The Nutrition Australia Queensland study found 78 per cent of people over indulged in the high sugar, high fat snacks once or twice a day.
NAQ senior nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan said confusion over what constituted healthy and unhealthy food was driving Queensland's obesity crisis.
"People are choosing foods that are often marketed as healthy but actually contain high amounts of sugar, fat and salt," Ms Hourigan said.
Did you know there are about 10 teaspoons of sugar in a can of regular soft drink?
"A lot of diet fads and marketing messages have added to the confusion. Many people are passing up healthy foods in favour of poor choices."
The survey found almost 80 per cent of people were eating 'extras' foods up to twice a day.
"By not knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods, Queenslanders are placing themselves at a higher risk of developing potentially deadly chronic diseases like heart disease and type two diabetes."
She said the findings were a grim reminder that more education was required to cut through confusing marketing messages.
"There was a widespread unawareness about how often we should be eating 'extras' foods like chocolate bars and potato chips," she said.
This exceeds the Australian Dietary Guidelines which suggest most Australians should eat little or none of these foods as part of a healthy diet.
"With this amount of confusion it is probably not surprising that recent research found Queensland has the highest rate of obesity in Australia."
Stephanie Nievelstein, 22, said she made an effort to choose healthy food options but understood why some people were struggling to tell the difference.
"It can be hard to tell what's healthy when packages market themselves as good for you or 99 per cent fat free," she said. "You need to look at the label on the back to see what's in it but even then it's tempting just to reach for the bikkies and chocolates and tell yourself it's not that bad."
Ms Hourigan recommended cutting back on high-sugar foods and keeping a food diary to track eating habits.
"Research shows recording how much you consume is one way to help reduce consumption," she said. "There are plenty of free apps that can help people record what they eat or alternatively the old-fashioned way of using a pen and paper can be just as effective.
"A single chocolate bar a day might not sound like much but over a year it could lead to weight gain of around 12kg a year. Simply saying no could help people shed up to 12kg a year."
Qld.: Sea levels no longer included in State Government planning
THE State Government has controversially removed sea level rises from planning policy so as not to inhibit development and to allow councils greater independence in deciding development issues.
The move has been dubbed a major legal and insurance nightmare, with the potential to send councils broke because a forecast 0.8m rise by 2100 has the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage.
Although 35,000 Queensland homes are at risk of inundation, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the Government would not apply an arbitrary, blanket ruling on sea levels.
"We believe local governments are the best placed to make planning decisions according to their local circumstances and their communities and we are empowering them to do so," Mr Seeney said.
"Under the State Planning Policy, the State will still require councils to consider coastal storm surges and other natural hazards in preparing their local planning schemes.
"Queensland is not alone in adopting this approach. The NSW Government determined the same policy framework for their planning schemes a year ago."
Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive Greg Hallam said the issue was a legal minefield.
He said it could send councils broke and impact on residents because it might not be possible to insure properties in low-lying areas in future.
If the Government chose not to accept sea level rises, then councils should receive indemnity.
"We've been very clear on this. The Government can't have it both ways," he said. "If they don't think sea level rises will occur, fine, indemnify us."
Opposition environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad said the Government had abandoned any pretence of believing in or planning for the effects of any climate change.
"Because the Newman Government is refusing to act on climate change, future generations will have to pay the cost of coastal rehabilitation and repairing or relocating infrastructure and property damaged as a result of sea level rises," she said.
The Climate Commission has warned that scientific consensus on warming leading to sea level rises, heatwaves, bushfires and drought has strengthened.
Mr Hallam said the LGAQ accepted that sea level rises occurred but no one knew to what level they might go.
Ms Trad said developers would not have to deal with the consequences of bad planning laws, it would be average Queenslanders who would pay higher taxes and struggle to find home insurance.
Mr Hallam said the LGAQ as an organisation also was exposed because it owned Local Government Mutual Liability, the council insurer.
Mr Seeney declined to say whether he believed in sea level rises, if councils would be indemnified or who would pay for development which might be impacted. "...People should have the right to make up their own minds as to whether or not they'd like to live and work close to the ocean," he said.
A leaked Property and Infrastructure Cabinet Committee paper says: "Any local government that elects to include some allowance for sea level rise in their planning schemes will need to justify that the state interests relating to economic development are not materially affected by this."
The worst hit areas are deemed to be Cairns, Mackay, Hervey Bay and the Gold Coast.
Mr Seeney said the SPP was landmark reform that would revolutionise the way councils, the development and construction industry and the State worked together.
Minimum wage exemptions for long-term unemployed
The welfare lobby is up in arms over the Abbott government's decision to pause and review Wage Connect, Labor's subsidy scheme designed to help the long-term unemployed get back into work.
Under the scheme, if an employer hires a job seeker who has been unemployed and on income support payments for at least two years, they will receive $5,900 for this employee over six months. This averages to roughly $230 per week, almost as much as Newstart Allowance.
Groups like the National Welfare Rights Network point to Senate Estimates showing 47% of Wage Connect clients (employees) were in paid employment at the end of the six month program. Although this fact is used to try and justify expanding the program, employers could simply be keeping Wage Connect employees on the books for the required six months before moving them on. It is much more telling to know what the status is after 12 or 18 months, when the program has past completion.
The problem with the scheme, despite its reported success, is that it is far too costly, and, according to the new government, not targeted well enough. This is the second time the scheme has been paused because the funding allocated has simply not been enough to meet demand. The previous government committed $86 million over the next four years, yet if all 35,000 subsidies are utilised, the government will be looking at a $206.5 million bill.
A better, and cheaper, alternative is for employers hiring long-term job seekers to be exempt from the minimum wage requirements for six months.
This alternative would improve job prospects for the long-term unemployed and provide employers with an incentive to hire and train new workers. Importantly, it would not blow another hole through the Commonwealth budget.
Take the example of a minimum wage earner. A long-term job seeker hired on the minimum wage ($622.20 per week) under Wage Connect would cost the government $230 per week in wage subsidies.
By contrast, consider the example of a minimum wage exemption where the employee is earning half the minimum wage ($311.10 per week). Unlike the Wage Connect employee, this employee would still receive some of their Newstart Allowance, but the cost to the government would be just $92 per week.
The cost to the government per worker under a minimum wage exemption program would be 60% less over the life of the program - a significant saving for a government looking for cuts.
But an equally important advantage is that there are no limits on the program. Theoretically, all long-term unemployed workers could be hired under the program, moving off welfare, acquiring new skills and achieving a measure of financial independence.
While a review of Wage Connect is a step in the right direction, the government should also consider less orthodox programs, such as minimum wage exemptions.
Monday, December 09, 2013
You can't win: Tony was said not to get on with women. Now he is said to have a woman helper who is too powerful
There is no doubt that Peta Credlin is a fiercely effective offsider to Tony Abbott
Senior coalition minister Mathias Cormann has urged unnamed colleagues to “back off” from their destructive media attacks on the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Peta Credlin.
“The people that are briefing are disgruntled people,” Senator Cormann told Fairfax Media on Sunday. “They are certainly not interested in maximising our chances of success in the future”.
Senator Cormann, the Finance Minister and one of the most powerful figures in the Abbott government, came to the defence of Ms Credlin, who has been criticised by coalition MPs as a “control freak” in anonymous briefings to journalists.
The West Australian senator said coalition MPs should be thanking Ms Credlin for the central role she played in getting them into power, rather than resorting to cowardly anonymous attacks through the media.
“People that are out there briefing against her in the shadows should just back off,” Senator Cormann said.
Fairfax Media has been told that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who has been running tightly controlled weekly briefings about the Coalition's "stop the boats" policy, Operation Sovereign Borders, was chided by Ms Credlin as they left a cabinet meeting last month.
In the exchange Ms Credlin spoke about Mr Morrison's poor performance during a recent news conference.
According to cabinet sources, Mr Morrison did not take the criticism well and expressed frustration that he was not allowed to say much at his press appearances. According to one source who witnessed the exchange, Ms Credlin shot right back at Mr Morrison with: "We will tell you what you can say and what you can't say."
Mr Morrison's spokesman said the account was "complete rubbish". The office of the Prime Minister described the account of the meeting with Mr Morrison as "untrue".
In a rare public outburst last week, coalition Senator Ian Macdonald used a speech in the senate to complain of a culture of "obsessive centralised control" exercised by Mr Abbott's office.
Coalition MPs have privately expressed similar concerns after Senator Macdonald's accusations that "unelected advisers in the Prime Minister's office" were meddling too much in the minutiae of day-to-day proceedings.
Senator Cormann said the bitter MPs were criticising Ms Credlin for simply doing her job, which was to ensure the government worked as efficiently as possible and the best possible candidates were selected as staff for MPs.
“Peta Credlin has done an outstanding job for us in opposition,” Senator Cormann said. “She’s been central to get us back into government… She obviously has a very important job at the heart of the government and she will be central to our success”.
Ms Credlin has been Tony Abbott’s most trusted confidant since he took over as opposition leader in the lead up to the 2010 election.
Ms Credlin has been widely credited for coordinating a highly effective office and media strategy. She is seen by many as the most capable political operator in the Abbott government and on election night Mr Abbott described her as “the smartest and fiercest political warrior” he has known.
Australia's classrooms among world's noisiest
Australia has some of the noisiest classrooms in the world and is wasting teaching time but experts agree a quiet class is not always a good thing.
An international study has found 43 per cent of Australian students reported "noise and disorder" as factors in their classrooms.
One-third said they had to "wait a long time for the students to quiet down" and 38 per cent said students "don't listen to what their teacher has to say".
Sue Thomson, director of educational monitoring and research at the Australian Council for Educational Research, said the results - higher than in almost all comparison countries - were a cause for concern.
"Not only does it make it harder for students to learn when they're in a noisy classroom … they also have the problem of the teacher spending 10 minutes extra with classroom discipline issues and quietening the class down," she said. "If you accumulate that over a year, it actually makes quite a difference."
But Michael Anderson, associate professor in education and social work at the University of Sydney said it was important for teachers to distinguish between productive noise and distracting noise. "Noise can be productive when it comes out of collaborative learning opportunities that the kids are involved in," he said.
Leonie Burfield, principal of St Bernard's Catholic Primary School in Botany, likes to hear noise coming from her classrooms. "A good teacher can tell whether or not it's an on-task noise," she said.
The school has designed its classrooms with a range of different desk options so that collaboration is encouraged and students can choose their own learning style.
"You might see some children on the floor with lap desks, you might see some at individual tables," Ms Burfield said. "You'd see some children on lounges, other children might even be standing."
President of the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, Kim Beswick, said that she would like to hear more students discussing maths in class.
"I don't think noise has to be a negative thing," she said. "It only becomes negative when it's undermining the teaching."
She said many discipline problems stemmed from a lack of respect for teachers.
"In Australian culture, there is a lack of valuing of education relative to other countries," she said.
"The Australian community views making the AFL draft as a higher achievement than going to university and doing a PhD. So that's the sort of environment teachers have to operate in."
Tax office deciding if anti-wind farm group Waubra is a charity
The tax office is deciding whether an anti-wind farm group linked to former Liberal MPs should retain its favourable tax treatment.
The Waubra Foundation has been classified a "health promotion charity" by the tax office, meaning its "principal activity is promoting the prevention and control of disease in humans".
It has also been granted deductible gift recipient status by the Australian Taxation Office, and donations of more than $2 to it are tax-deductible.
In the ATO's words, obtaining the status is a "relatively difficult process, for obvious reasons."
Donations to Waubra have helped fund legal challenges against wind farm developments.
Former health minister Michael Wooldridge is a director of Waubra, and former MP Alby Schultz is its patron.
The foundation says its main aim is to "educate others about the known science relating to the adverse health impacts of infrasound and low-frequency noise."
The health effects of wind farms has become an increasingly vexed question in the countryside, where there are dozens of farms operated by companies including AGL and Origin Energy.
Sydney academic Simon Chapman says the number of health problems linked to wind farms has reached 216. He has argued that bad publicity about the farms makes it more likely people will report feeling sick around them.
"Wind turbine syndrome" - health problems ranging from headaches, dizziness and insomnia, purportedly the result of the turbines' low-frequency sounds - is not recognised as a medical condition.
But, said Sarah Laurie, Waubra chief executive: "Whatever label is given to that range of symptoms, whether it is 'wind turbine syndrome' or 'annoyance' or 'infrasound and low-frequency noise syndrome' or something else, the facts remain that there are serious health problems occurring in some people which have been known to the wind industry for nearly 30 years."
A spokesman for Greens senator Richard Di Natale expected the review into Waubra's status by the tax office and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission to be finished this month.
The tax office has refused to comment, but described Waubra's situation as "curious".
In a recent Senate Estimates, Senator Di Natale asked how the tax office determined that an illness a group purported to prevent was actually an illness.
Tony Poulakis, the ATO's assistant commissioner, small and medium enterprise, replied: "I have to admit to not knowing the procedure in which we made those determinations well enough to answer your question."
Chris Jordan, ATO commissioner, responded that "It does sound a curious situation, but we will certainly take that on notice."
Figures put Labor Party under pressure to axe the carbon tax
LABOR'S $6 billion carbon tax reduced Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by less than 0.1 per cent.
As PM Tony Abbott ratchets up the pressure on Labor's Bill Shorten to axe the carbon tax by Christmas, the new figures will be released this week by Australia's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
They reveal that the introduction of the carbon tax coincided with a reduction of greenhouse gases of around 300,000 tonnes in the first full financial year of operation.
While the carbon tax is now $24 a tonne, the effective cost of the emissions reduction on the basis of revenue raised is $21,000 per tonne.
The official register of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions will reveal that in the financial year before the carbon tax was introduced Australia produced 546.2 million tonnes of emissions. After the carbon tax was introduced, the emissions dropped to just 545.9 million tonnes. These figures do not include fuels and refrigerants.
Climate Change Minister Greg Hunt said the best Christmas present Labor could give voters was axing the carbon tax.
"Bill Shorten simply refuses to accept the outcome of the election. He doesn't care about rising power bills or the will of the Australian people,'' Mr Hunt said.
"As we enter the final parliamentary sitting week of the year, Bill Shorten needs to get out of the way and allow the government to scrap the carbon tax.''
Opposition climate change spokesman Mark Butler said Labor supported axing the carbon tax but not replacing it with a slush fund for polluters.
"We went to the election with a policy to get rid of the carbon tax. The debate is over what you replace it with. That's why we are arguing the case for an emissions trading scheme,'' he said.
"The biggest contributor to carbon pollution is the electricity sector and so that's where you want to see change. And we did see change in that sector during the first year. The Coalition's policy is a dressed-up slush fund to pay polluters that is supported by no one."
The new figures reveal NSW produces more greenhouse gas emissions than any other state. But Queensland has the most companies paying the tax upfront. The cost of the carbon tax on electricity generators and other polluters is then passed on to consumers through higher electricity prices. Victoria is closely behind Queensland in total emissions.
In NSW and the ACT, there were 72 companies paying the carbon tax and overall the state produced 78.6 million tonnes of emissions. WA produced 42.2 million tonnes with 63 companies forced to pay the carbon tax. In SA just 11 companies paid the carbon tax, producing a modest 4.4 million tonnes of liable emissions. Tasmania produced just 1.7 million tonnes.
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Does PISA mean we should give a Gonski?
The two big education stories this week have been about school funding and student performance.
On Monday, federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced he would honour his pre-election commitment to deliver the first four years of a six-year funding deal offered by the previous Labor government. This package of funding and reforms was based on the recommendations of the Gonski review of school resourcing and governance.
Pyne's version is different to Labor's - he has pledged to give all states and territories the extra funding they are entitled to under the new funding model, whether they have signed an agreement with the Commonwealth or not, and he will remove many of the accountability requirements and regulations.
On Tuesday, the results of the latest Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) were released. PISA has been conducted every three years since 2000, and assesses the reading, maths and science literacy skills of thousands of 15 year old students around the world.
The PISA 2012 report showed that Australia's international ranking had dropped, as it has in every testing cycle since 2000. This was widely interpreted as a sign of a dire decline in Australia's performance, yet there are other factors to consider.
The number of countries participating in PISA has doubled from 32 in 2000 to 65 in 2012, creating substantial changes in the rankings. Many of the countries that have displaced previously high-ranked countries are not countries at all. The 'partner economies' that dominate the top ranks are East Asian cities or city-states, and Liechtenstein, a country with just 36,000 people. No useful policy conclusions can be drawn by making simple comparisons between these disparate countries and cities.
It is more appropriate to look at Australia's progress over time, which does show a statistically significant decrease in reading and maths mean scores over the PISA testing period, and a non-significant decrease in science. The drop in the mean scores is due to an either stable or growing proportion of students in the lowest performance bands and a shrinking proportion of students in the upper performance bands. We should be concerned about these numbers, but the performance of students in Shanghai and Liechtenstein is of limited value for policy solutions.
Inevitably, connections have been drawn between the issues of funding and performance. The Sydney Morning Herald and the author of the Australian PISA report have claimed that the PISA results demonstrate the need for increased funding for disadvantaged schools, and for the 'Gonski' model in particular.
Increased resources to schools can make a difference, but only if spent prudently. This has not been characteristic of funding increases in Australia in the past; hopefully it will be in the future.
Foreign fishing boats stopped off Darwin
TWO foreign fishing boats have been stopped in northern waters in the past week for alleged illegal fishing, Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison says.
A Border Protection Command "asset" intercepted the first alleged illegal foreign fishing vessel last Friday and a second on Wednesday, Mr Morrison said in a statement.
"A significant volume of fresh and stowed catch was discovered on the first vessel including giant clams, live crayfish, hawksbill sea turtles, sea cucumbers, shark and frozen fish. The second vessel was found with an amount of reef fish on board," his statement said.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority is conducting further investigations into the activities of the vessels found off Darwin and considering charges against the crew.
The maximum penalty for illegal foreign fishing can be up to $1.275 million depending on the size of the vessel.
Highest court orders immediate release of serial rapist Robert Fardon, rules new sex laws invalid
REVILED sex predator Robert Fardon is a free man after the State Government last night abandoned an 11th-hour bid to keep him behind bars.
Queensland's highest court yesterday dealt the Government a crushing double blow, ordering the immediate release of the 65-year-old serial rapist.
The Court of Appeal in Brisbane also ruled invalid the Government's new sex offender laws, which allowed Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie to keep sex offenders behind bars in prison despite court orders.
The decision means leaves the new laws are now in tatters. They cannot be applied unless re-drafted or until a High Court application, which would occur only in the rare event the Government is given special leave for the case to be heard.
Mr Bleijie is considering appealing in the High Court.
The Court of Appeal, comprising justices Kate Holmes, John Muir and Hugh Fraser, unanimously dismissed Mr Bleijie's appeal to reverse last month's Supreme Court decision to grant Fardon supervised release.
The court said Mr Bleijie's claim that Fardon remained an unacceptable risk to the community was "opaque" and lacked "supporting evidence".
The court also ruled that sections of the Criminal Law Amendment (Public Interest Declarations) Act 2013 were invalid.
In its written decision, the Court of Appeal said the laws were "repugnant" and eroded the integrity of courts to make decisions and in effect "undermine the authority of orders of the Supreme Court".
"These (legal) amendments are within that exceptional category of legislation which is invalid on the ground that it is repugnant to (the) institutional integrity of the Supreme Court,'' the court said.
Lawyers for Mr Bleijie immediately applied to have the release order stayed pending further legal argument.
But late yesterday that application was withdrawn, paving the way for Fardon's immediate release.
No reason was given for the withdrawal, with Justice Muir adjourning the hearing without submissions being made.
While Fardon is technically free to live anywhere under supervision, it is expected he will for now live in housing outside Wacol Correctional Centre, in Brisbane's west.
The site, dubbed the "dangerous sex offender precinct'', is where Fardon lived when he was first released in 2006.
One of Fardon's victims, Sharon Tomlinson, burst into tears after the announcement. Outside court her tears turned to rage.
"This man will reoffend and someone (innocent) will have to pay the price. (Crime) survivors and the community are no longer safe," she said.
"I hope he's not coming after you or someone you love."
Barrister Dan O'Gorman, for Fardon, said his client would be relieved the Court of Appeal had ruled in his favour.
He said Fardon had great respect for the courts and was committed to abiding by the strict conditions he must obey as part of his supervision order.
Those conditions, imposed by Justice Peter Lyons on September 27, include GPS tracking and a drug and alcohol ban.
Sources last night told The Courier-Mail Mr Bleijie was "nothing short of livid".
Mr Bleijie said the Government would continue to do everything it could to keep people like Fardon in jail. "We want to make sure we protect the women and the children of this state from these vicious, nasty sexual predators,'' he said.
Fardon has waged a 10-year battle for freedom after serving the full sentence he received for the rape, assault and sodomy of a woman in 1988.
The violent assault happened when Fardon was released from jail on parole after serving eight years of a 13-year sentence for the rape and assault of a girl, 12, and wounding of her 15-year-old sister.
Gluttons for government intervention
The anti-obesity movement, unlike the targets of their attention, moves fast. As soon as they achieve one policy objective, it's on to the next.
Last week, the second annual Obesity Summit was held in Canberra by the not-for-profit health-promotion group Obesity Australia. Among those attending were many of the same activists who in June convinced the Gillard government to sign off on a new 'Health Star Rating' system for food. The government pledged that this anti-junk-food labelling system would become mandatory if, after two years, not enough food producers had signed on voluntarily.
Five months later, the health-mongers have already developed a new policy wish list, including extra taxes on unhealthy food, legal restrictions on food advertising aimed at children, and guidelines for GPs designed to make obesity a topic of every doctor's visit.
John Funder, head of Obesity Australia, says that the proposed GP guidelines would force patients to hop on the scales any time they visit a GP, even if they originally came in 'because they've got a cold or a broken toe.' The idea is to embolden doctors to raise the awkward subject of weight loss, since according to Funder, many GPs now consider mentioning a patient's weight 'an intrusion.'
Considering the intrusiveness of some of the exams these doctors routinely perform, and the various intimate, personal, and gastroenterological questions they ask their paper-gown-clad patients, Funder's proposed salve for their delicate sense of awkwardness may be a solution in search of a problem.
The second main policy push at the summit was a campaign to get the Australian Medical Association (AMA) to label obesity a 'disease.' The American Medical Association officially designated obesity a disease in June, but here in Australia the AMA has been reluctant to follow suit.
Calling obesity a disease sounds like a kind-hearted and non-judgmental way to reassure the overweight that their condition does not necessarily indicate a moral failing. But this policy push has nothing to do with overweight Australians' self-esteem and everything to do with obtaining government subsidies for 'stomach stapling' and other bariatric surgeries.
There are a multitude of weight-loss systems available on the market that are less expensive and less drastic than surgery, from nutritional counselling to personal fitness training to Jenny Craig. If our rule of thumb for government intervention is that the state should step in only when the market fails to provide, weight loss fails the test.
Four days after the Obesity Summit closed, the federal government announced a new Diabetes Task Force to be co-chaired by the doctor who gave the summit's opening lecture, which was titled, somewhat histrionically, 'An Obesity Apocalypse: Can It Be Averted?' That is as far as the government should go in supporting Obesity Australia's misguided policy agenda.
Friday, December 06, 2013
Problems for NSW Liberals
A corruption scandal threatens to engulf the O'Farrell government next year as it prepares to seek a second term in office after energy and resources minister Chris Hartcher resigned from cabinet following raids by investigators.
Mr Hartcher, who remains the MP for Terrigal, announced his resignation on Wednesday only weeks after the offices of his fellow central coast Liberal MPs Chris Spence and Darren Webber were raided by officers from the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
ICAC is believed to be investigating whether political donations were secretly funnelled through a front company for the benefit of the three MPs before the 2011 state election.
Last year Fairfax Media revealed the suspension of two of Mr Hartcher's staff - senior electorate officer Ray Carter and policy adviser Tim Koelma - after the Liberal Party referred allegations they had breached donations laws to the Election Funding Authority.
Mr Koelma resigned from Mr Hartcher's office shortly afterwards, while Mr Carter remains suspended on full pay more than a year later.
It was subsequently revealed a $5000 payment to a company owned by Mr Koelma, Eightbyfive, from Wyong builder Matthew Lusted, sparked the referral by the Liberal Party. Mr Lusted was a preselection candidate for the federal seat
of Dobell on the central coast. Fairfax Media has since been told Mr Lusted was approached for the payment by Mr Carter shortly before the March 2011 state election.
It is understood Mr Lusted's name and others were given to Mr Carter by Wyong mayor Doug Eaton. Mr Eaton has previously refused to comment due to ICAC secrecy provisions.
Property developers have been prohibited from donating to candidates in NSW elections since 2009.
The new Liberal MP for Dobell, Karen McNamara, has also been drawn into the scandal over questions surrounding her fundraising for Mr Webber's election campaign. During her preselection interview for Dobell, Ms McNamara claimed to have raised as much as $100,000 for Mr Webber's campaign.
But this was questioned at the time by Liberal state executive member Hollie Hughes, who had confirmed that official party receipts were far lower.
The discrepancy is believed to have prompted the Liberal Party to examine donations to Mr Webber and Mr Spence and later refer allegations about Mr Carter and Mr Koelma to election funding authorities.
Ms McNamara's husband, John McNamara, was a Wyong Liberal councillor between 2008 and last year. Ms McNamara has previously said she had complied with her obligations as Mr Webber's campaign manager "to the best of my knowledge" and would assist with any inquiries.
The investigation by the Election Funding Authority was referred to ICAC earlier this year. ICAC is believed to be preparing to hold public hearings into the central coast donations matter next year, complicating the Coalition government's preparations for its campaign to seek re-election in 2015.
In a statement, Mr Hartcher said he had resigned following "the issue of a search warrant by the ICAC against me" but that he was "confident I will be cleared of any wrongdoing".
"This is the first contact I have had with the ICAC and given that their investigations have thus far had an unknown timeframe, it is appropriate that I resign," he said.
Premier Barry O'Farrell said in a statement from India, where he is on a trade mission, that Mr Hartcher informed him of his decision on Wednesday. He thanked Mr Hartcher "for his services to the government and the state".
Mr Hartcher is the second casualty from the O'Farrell cabinet after Greg Pearce was sacked as finance minister over a perceived conflict of interest relating to a government board appointment.
Opposition leader John Robertson said the O'Farrell frontbench was "unravelling."
Joe Hockey gets help from Greens over debt
Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has mocked Labor’s response to a deal he struck with the Australian Greens to end the row of the debt ceiling, calling it "absolutely bizarre".
Mr Hockey on Wednesday reached the extraordinary last-minute deal with the Greens - once dubbed "economic fringe dwellers" by the government - to scrap Australia's $300 billion borrowing limit.
The rare Coalition-Greens alliance, designed to circumvent Labor's opposition, means the Treasurer will no longer have to seek parliamentary approval to lift the maximum borrowing cap.
The deal requires further debt reporting in the budget and its updates.
Greens leader Christine Milne said the debt ceiling had been a "toxic political tool" that rendered the Australian debate around debt artificial.
The new agreement will allow for a "reasonable debate" to take place, she said.
But shadow treasurer Chris Bowen questioned how the new measures would improve the transparency over debt.
"More transparency is always welcome but the ultimate transparency is seeking parliamentary approval and having to answer questions," Mr Bowen told ABC radio.
To suggest that the new requirements would boost transparency "is a bit of a big call", he said.
He accused the Greens of an about-face on the debt issue, saying Senator Milne had originally opposed lifting the ceiling to $500 billion.
"She’s gone from saying that the increase wasn’t justified to ‘why do we have this debt limit at all’," Mr Bowen said.
Mr Hockey said that the reaction of Labor to the debt deal was "absolutely bizarre".
"It’s like a husband being upset that their ex-wife went off and had a cup of coffee with some other man," he said, in reference to the Greens support for the minority Gillard government.
Labor’s Kelvin Thomson joked that the Greens-Coalition alliance was "a bit more than a cup of coffee".
"I think it’s the candlelit dinner and flowers," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
The Coalition, which railed against debt continually while in opposition, will have unrestricted access to credit, only having to issue a statement to both houses of Parliament every time it racks up another $50 billion in debt.
With just days to go before the existing legislated debt ceiling was reached on December 12, the Treasurer sealed the agreement late on Wednesday with Greens leader Christine Milne.
To do so, he has agreed to increased reporting requirements to Parliament on the nature of Commonwealth borrowings and the ongoing debt position of the government, but Parliament will have surrendered its capacity to veto government borrowings.
Mr Hockey praised the Greens for coming to the "sensible middle" on economic policy.
"The Labor Party is stuck in the basement on economic policy and all of their own making," Mr Hockey told Sky News.
Senator Milne was due to introduce the legislative repeal of the debt ceiling in the Senate on Wednesday evening with a view to the controversial bill being passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday.
The strange political marriage came after Coalition frustrations reached boiling point as Labor and the Greens used their combined numbers in the Senate to block an increase to a new limit of half a trillion dollars - a $200billion increase in one increment.
In a letter to Senator Milne on Wednesday, Mr Hockey wrote: "We have agreed to repeal the current legislative limit on the total face value of stock and securities on issue set out in the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911."
Earlier in the day, Labor had sought to head off the deal which it knew would render its opposition to the proposed $200 billion debt increase irrelevant.
In response to a question from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he agreed that the Greens were on the economic margins.
"I agree, Madam Speaker, that the Greens have been economic fringe-dwellers, and that just means that [Labor] members opposite are worse," he said.
Labor brandished a photo of Senator Milne in the lower house to taunt the government, suggesting it was taking its orders from the minor party.
It was the second day in a row that her photo had been used after Immigration Minister Scott Morrison made the same case against Labor on Tuesday when it sided with the Greens to block temporary protection visas.
Under the arrangement, Mr Hockey has agreed to "comprehensive debt reporting" in the annual budget papers as well as in other regular economic statements and forecasts.
There will also be additional debt statements tabled in Parliament within three sitting days of a $50billion increase in debt, setting out the reasons, the extent of the debt incurred as a result of falling revenue, higher spending, capital purchases, or payments to states and territories.
Other transparency measures have been agreed to but the statements will not set out specific borrowing purposes in all cases, despite a Greens request for that level of detail.
Shadow finance minister Tony Burke was furious, and slammed the Coalition for breaching its intentions to reduce debt and its statements opposed to dealing with the Greens.
He said Mr Hockey "was no Peter Costello" and had even suffered the humiliation of not getting to announce the move, which had been announced first by Senator Milne.
"In one stroke today, they cut a deal with the Greens, to make Australia's debt allowed to be unlimited," he said.
"The level of hypocrisy today from the government is way beyond where I thought they would be."
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox strongly supported the removal of the debt ceiling, saying it was "good public policy".
He said the ceiling was an "artificial device" that imposes unnecessary inflexibility and creates unhelpful openings for political opportunism.
"It is vital that we have transparency of, and clear accountabilities for, public finances but the debt ceiling is a poor substitute for these and, at best, gives a false assurance that appropriate restraint is being exercised," he said in a statement.
The deal came at the end of a day in which a grim-faced Treasurer faced up to news he said showed the economy was "stuck in second gear".
The economy grew by just 0.6 per cent in the September quarter and grew 2.3 per cent over the year, well below the 3 per cent annual growth rate regarded as normal.
However Mr Hockey said the outlook was worse than the figures suggested.
So-called net exports accounted for 90 per cent of the growth over the past year.
They were unusually high because export volumes were climbing as imported machinery for mining collapsed.
"We have some challenges ahead as mining investment drops from around 8 per cent of gross domestic product to somewhere per cent over the next few years," Mr Hockey said.
That is going to create a growth hole in the economy.
On the positive side the exchange rate was coming down, interest rates were historically low and retail sales, consumer confidence and business confidence were lifting. But they weren’t yet lifting by enough.
The mid-year economic and fiscal outlook due within days would "clearly illustrate the full state of the books we have inherited". But it would not be used to unveil "a massive round of spending cuts,” other than those needed to pay for the extra $1.2 billion of spending on schools announced on Monday.
Questions of spending would be left to the May budget which would be drawn up after considering the report of the Commission of Audit due in January.
Even in the budget there might be fewer cuts than some have been expecting. "We are not obsessed with cuts," the treasurer said.
"We've got to fill the hole. We've got to find ways to stimulate the non-mining side of the economy. That means re-tooling the nation. So much of what Tony Abbott and Warren Truss and myself are focused on is about how we can stimulate productive infrastructure investment."
Senior public servant Tara McCarthy sacked for being a whistleblower, ICAC hears
The head of the NSW State Emergency Service, Murray Kear, sacked a whistleblower who raised concerns about the misuse of funds by one of his mates, a corruption inquiry has been told.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption heard on Tuesday that Mr Kear "allowed the importance of ... mateship to permeate the manner in which he administered a significant public entity".
Mr Kear sacked Deputy Commissioner Tara McCarthy in May after she initiated investigations into the use of SES funds by her fellow deputy, Steven Pearce.
The ICAC heard Mr Kear and Mr Pearce had known each other since at least 2006 and "the two men and their families holiday together".
Counsel assisting the ICAC, Michael Fordham, SC, said Mr Kear faced a potential criminal charge if the inquiry found Ms McCarthy was "terminated as a reprisal" for investigating Mr Pearce.
Ms McCarthy was employed in November 2012 to review procurement contracts and deliver budget savings.
In his opening address, Mr Fordham said Ms McCarthy's moves to ensure "appropriate governance" relating to overtime, use of motor vehicles, parking and travel caused some "disquiet" in the SES ranks.
She had investigated the use by Mr Pearce of his corporate credit card to pay for roof-racks "to carry surfboards" on his SES vehicle and later to pay for electric brakes to be installed "for the towing of his camper trailer".
Mr Kear signed off on the installations on the basis the money was repaid 15 months and two years respectively after the events.
After further credit card statements were brought to Ms McCarthy, she engaged public service auditor IAB to do a "desktop audit", which uncovered potential irregularities totalling more than $11,000.
Ms McCarthy had also raised concerns about Mr Pearce approving $60,000 worth of overtime for one colleague, the private use of a company car by another, and entering into two consultancy agreements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The inquiry heard Mr Pearce "provided badging and logos" so the contracts would look like SES documents. The contracts were later terminated.
"The 1902 short story about a cursed talisman that grants wishes, The Monkey's Paw, written by W.W. Jacobs, opens with the line: 'Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it'," Mr Fordham said.
"Commissioner Kear and the SES needed an efficient, process-driven person to guide the SES and improve its governance. That is exactly what it got in Ms McCarthy.
"Having got governance and accountability it began to interfere with what seems to have been regarded as an appropriate status quo."
Mr Fordham said Ms McCarthy saved the SES "significant amounts of money" during her tenure.
Despite the fact that there were "never any competence or performance issues" arising out of her employment, she was not given a chance to comment before she was sacked.
"It is telling that a cab had already been arranged to take Ms McCarthy home," Mr Fordham said.
"Commissioner Kear openly stated that one or both of his deputies had to go. He chose Tara McCarthy."
The inquiry heard that Mr Kear had made false statements to ICAC investigators. He also failed to 'identify, acknowledge of appropriately manage the clear conflict of interest that arose out of his relationship" with Mr Pearce.
Mr Kear took leave earlier this year pending the outcome of the inquiry.
An unfortunate sense of humor
Many people find an Indian accent amusing and some are good at imitating it. Jokes in public can be unwise, however. Monty Panesar is actually England-born of Indian descent. He is a Sikh
An Australian cricket announcer has been sacked on the spot after using an Indian accent to pronounce the name of Engand spinner Monty Panesar.
David Nixon was fired from his match-day duties by Cricket Australia after his announcement in England's tour match at Traeger Park.
He appeared to mock the cricketer, who plays for Essex, and was relieved of his duties after lunch on the second and final day.
There were reports that he used an Indian accent when announcing the name of England bowler Monty Panesar, but CA would not comment on the specifics of the dismissal.
But Nixon took to his Twitter account to explain that his 'style' did not work with the broadcaster. He wrote: 'Really? I love Monty P - cult hero. He should bat 3. My style didn't fit theirs. That's all.'
The announcer concerned was known for banter
Cricket Australia apologises for 'offensive' Monty Panesar tweet
I don't really see what's offensive. Panesar is a Sikh and their turbans tell us that the guys in the picture are Sikhs. And Indians are fonder of bright colours than Anglos are. Why are we not allowed to mention that Panesar is a Sikh? He even wears a Sikh head-covering while playing. Sikhism is a religion, not a race
Cricket Australia has apologised for referencing England spinner Monty Panesar with a photo it tweeted of four bearded men wearing turbans.
CA posted the picture - taken from Instagram - on its official Twitter account late Thursday morning, day one of the second Ashes Test in Adelaide, with the caption: "Will the real Monty Panesar please stand up".
The men were dressed in bright purple, red, green and yellow clothes, depicting children's TV characters the Teletubbies and orginated from here.
The tweet sparked claims of racism and CA promptly deleted the post. "We apologise for any offence caused by our earlier tweet. That was certainly not the intention. It has been removed," it wrote.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Cut ABC funding, urges Senator Bernardi, as Coalition ramps up attack on the national broadcaster
The ABC's funding should be cut and the national broadcaster forced to sell advertising and paid subscriptions online to compete with commercial newspapers, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi says.
"I don't want to see a state run media effectively dominating this landscape," the South Australian senator said.
Senator Bernardi's call for ABC funding cuts, which he made in an interview on ABC radio on Wednesday morning, comes amid widespread anger within the Coalition about the ABC's collaboration with The Guardian Australia to report on the alleged phone-tapping of the Indonesian President, its perceived left-wing tendencies and its $1.2 billion annual budget.
Such is the ABC-directed anger within the government that, in a rare move, Prime Minister Tony Abbott publicly condemned the chief executive of the national broadcaster, Mark Scott, for exercising "very, very poor judgment" by publishing the Indonesian spying revelations, leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
"The ABC has grown exponentially over the years," Senator Bernardi told ABC radio on Wednesday. "And now it's basically encroaching into the newspapers of the 21st century, which is the online space."
Senator Bernardi said he was happy for the ABC to keep its radio and television stations, but not for it to publish free news on its websites. This would destroy newspapers published by Fairfax Media and News Corp, Senator Bernardi said.
So strong are the feelings within the Abbott government against the ABC, that a joint party room meeting on Tuesday was dominated by criticisms of the national broadcaster, led by Senator Bernardi.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull attempted to fend off a mini-revolt in the Coalition party room over the ABC, telling the meeting that he believed the ABC did a pretty good job of observing its charter, but was open to criticism for what he called outdated work practices.
He denied that the national broadcaster was contributing to the ruin of newspapers, arguing the publishing industry suffered from a lack of advertising revenue, not from a lack of readers.
However, Mr Turnbull agreed with Mr Abbott, in a rare rebuke of the national broadcaster, that the ABC should not have collaborated with The Guardian to "amplify" or advertise the spying story.
Mr Abbott has so far resisted pressure from within his party room to announce cuts to the ABC's funding.
In the party room meeting, Senator Bernardi described the ABC as a "taxpayer-funded behemoth". He was joined in his attacks by the Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Senator Ian Macdonald, among others.
Senator Bernardi also criticised the ABC for what he characterised as muddled priorities which, he said, saw the board go to extraordinary lengths to withhold the salary information of its senior broadcasters while showing no such reluctance to reveal information detrimental to the national security interests of the country.
He said there was a compelling case to consider breaking the ABC into two entities with the traditional television and radio operations protected to ensure services in the bush and regional Australia, while the online news service could be disposed of.
''It is in the national interest, the budget interest, and the competitive media interest, that the broadcaster be separated,'' he later told Fairfax Media.
According to multiple sources in the meeting, the trio of Ms Bishop, and senators Bernardi and Macdonald, received ''warm'' support for their assessments that the broadcaster had failed to maintain political balance, and was using its annual $1.1 billion taxpayer funding to crowd out commercial news organisations in breach of its charter.
Senator Bernardi described its behaviour as ''cannibalisation of commercial media''.
So much for the Southern summer: snow predicted in Southern Australia today
Snow will fall on Victoria's Alps on Thursday as a cold blast of wintry air hits the state.
Between 10 and 20 centimetres could fall on the Alps, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, while rain will continue steadily elsewhere. Already more than 30 millimetres of rain has fallen in Melbourne and regional areas.
"We'll see that snow falling, snow down to 1100 metres on Thursday," said Bureau forecaster Michael Efron. "We'll see that really cold air arriving over the state."
Nearly 20 millimetres has fallen on Melbourne since rain began on Tuesday night. Falls have been markedly heavier in the south-eastern suburbs, with Moorabbin receiving 30 millimetres and Mentone, Hampton and Sandringham 29.
Elsewhere in the state, Mt Buller has had 45 millimetres and Mildura, 35. Melbourne could get another 10 to 20 millimetres on Thursday, said Mr Efron, and parts of Victoria between 10 and 20.
A top of 17 is expected for Melbourne on Thursday, with gusting south-westerly winds. "It could feel a lot colder than 17 with those winds," said Mr Efron.
Fortunately, the cold won't be around for long. Friday will be 20 ndegrees, with a shower or two, but Saturday will be warm and 27, Sunday a shower or two and 29. Monday and Tuesday will have temperatures in the low 20s.
"Saturday is looking the best day in the outlook," said Mr Enfron.
Morrison visa halt 'brutal': Labor, Greens
IMMIGRATION Minister Scott Morrison has been labelled brutal for banning new permanent protection visas for asylum seekers already in Australia.
Mr Morrison has used his ministerial powers to put an immediate cap on the number of protection visas for people who have arrived by boat. That means the number has been limited to 1650 until at least July next year, when the cap will be reset.
The minister blames Labor and the Greens for playing parliamentary games by combining in the Senate on Monday to scuttle the coalition's re-introduction of temporary protection visas (TPVs).
Greens MP Adam Bandt condemned both Mr Morrison and Prime Minister Tony Abbott for "acting like thugs" and leaving refugees in permanent limbo.
"What a way to treat some of the world's most vulnerable people who have come here seeking help," Mr Bandt told reporters.
"This is a government that is revealing its former brutality day by day."
Labor MP Kelvin Thomson disagreed with Mr Morrison's description of the disallowance motion as an "own goal" for Labor and the Greens, and voiced disappointment the refugee intake will not reach the former Labor government's 20,000 a year.
"I think that's a pity ... a move in the wrong direction," Mr Thomson said.
"What we can do is be decent, generous and compassionate citizens, and have a refugee program of the order of 20,000.
"There's no reason why we can't accomplish that."
PISA report finds Australian teenagers education worse than 10 years ago
AUSTRALIAN teenagers' reading and maths skills have fallen so far in a decade that nearly half lack basic maths skills and a third are practically illiterate.
The dumbing down of a generation of Australian teenagers is exposed in the latest global report card on 15-year-olds' academic performance.
Migrant children trumped Australian-born kids while girls dragged down the national performance in maths, the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, released in Paris last night, reveals.
Australia's maths performance dropped the equivalent of half a year of schooling between 2003 and 2012.
And rowdy classrooms and bullying are more common in Australia than overseas, the report says.
China tops the latest league table of 65 countries in maths, science and literacy.
The average 15-year-old student from Shanghai is nearly two years ahead in science, and a year and a half ahead in maths, than a typical Australian teen.
Four out of 10 Australian students flunked the national baseline level for mathematical literacy - compared to just over one in 10 in Shanghai and two in 10 in Singapore.
At least one in three Aussie students fell below the national baseline level for reading and science.
The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) called on governments to "act now to stop the slide".
The ACER director of educational monitoring and research, Sue Thomson - who wrote the Australian chapter of the PISA report - said Australia now has fewer top-performing students, and more at the bottom.
She said the reading results showed Australian students were illiterate in a practical sense. "It's not saying they're totally illiterate or innumerate," she said. "But they don't necessarily have the skills they need to participate fully in adult life."
A year after former prime minister Julia Gillard set the goal for Australia to rank among the top five nations for reading, maths and science by 2025, the latest PISA report shows Australia has fallen further down the ladder.
As the debate over school funding continues, the results also reflect how increased spending on education has failed to arrest the slide of other countries, including the United Kingdom, which despite an increase of billions of dollars in funding is producing high school graduates who trail almost every other developed country.
Australia still performs above average for developed countries within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - but its ranking has dived over the decade.
Poland has now leapfrogged Australia in maths, helping push Australia from 11th place 2003 to 19th in 2012.
Australian teens came fourth in PISA's world literacy rankings in 2003, trailing only Finland, Korea and Canada. But they now rank an equal 13th with New Zealand.
The ranking for science fell from 6th place in 2006, to 16th place in 2012.
Australian girls' performance in maths has fallen to the OECD average - dragging down Australia's result. But boys are a year behind girls in literacy levels at the age of 15.
PISA exposes an educational underclass in Australia - with a two and a half year gap between the performance of students from poor or indigenous families and those from well-off households.
Dr Thomson said taxpayer funds should be targeted to disadvantaged students. "Just putting more money in won't work, but targeting money will work," she said.
Dr Thompson said Asian education systems, such as Singapore, gave more remedial attention to children lagging at primary school so they did not fall behind.
The PISA report shows that migrant students performed best in the Australian test.
Even in English literacy, 14 per cent of foreign-born students were top performers, compared to 10 per cent of Australian-born students.
Indigenous students or those living in remote areas were twice as likely to do worst in the PISA tests.
Students from wealthy families were five times more likely than the poorest students to excel.
But results also varied widely within schools, between classes.
"A larger-than-average within-school variance means that, for Australian students, it matters more which class they are allocated to than which school they attend," the report says. "(However) the choice of school still has a significant impact on outcomes."
Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne - who this week pledged to give the States and Territories an extra $2.8bn in funding for schools over the next four years - said Australia's results had declined despite a 44 per cent increase in education spending over the past decade.
"These results are the worst for Australia since testing began and shows that we are falling behind our regional neighbours," he said. "For all the billions (Labor) spent on laptops and school halls there is still no evidence of a lift in outcomes for students."
Australian students also reported a higher frequency of noise and disorder, and teachers having to wait for students to quieten down, than the OECD average.
More than 40 per cent of Australian students reported that "family demands" interfered with their school work.
One in five students felt they did not belong, were not happy or were not satisfied at school.
Australian Greens spokeswoman for schools, Senator Penny Wright attacked the Abbott government for handing the States "no strings attached" schools funding.
"It is deplorable that in the 21st century, Indigenous students are two and a half years behind non-indigenous students, and that kids in remote areas are as much as 18 months behind children in the city," she said.
The Australian Education Union blasted the results as a "wake-up call" for the Abbott government to increase funding to schools in poor areas, and set higher entry standards for teachers.
Nearly 15,000 Australian students aged 15, from 775 schools, were selected at random to take the PISA test last year. More than 51,000 students in 65 developed countries took the test.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
The fix is in at fair work agency
PUBLIC trust in institutions is an important ingredient of social harmony and economic efficiency. In the absence of confidence in the workings of governments, courts, tribunals, regulators and public bodies generally, compliance with rules and laws can break down and order can crumple.
Luckily, in Australia, there is widespread support for most of our public institutions, support which is generally deserved. But there are exceptions. One obvious example of an institution of which the public has every right to be suspicious is the Fair Work Commission, a successor body to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
Misleadingly referred to as the "independent umpire", the staffing of the FWC was so distorted by the Labor government in favour of former union officials and Labor-affiliated persons that the public should doubt its impartiality - indeed, the common sense of its decisions.
And the performance of the organisation in dealing with clear regulatory breaches by a registered trade union suggests that some of the staff are more motivated by pleasing their (Labor) political masters than actually complying with the law.
Needless to say, these are serious accusations. But the weight of evidence from the past four-or-so years confirms the picture of an organisation that is stuffed to the gills with appointments based on political affiliation and decisions that are influenced by partisan bias.
When the new tribunal was established by the Fair Work Act 2009, both the then-prime minster, Kevin Rudd, and the workplace relations minister, Julia Gillard, ruled out any stacking.
"I will not be the prime minister of this country and appoint some endless tribe of trade union officials and ex-trade union officials to staff the key positions of this body," declared Kevin Rudd.
But this is precisely what happened. Of the 27 appointments made by the Labor government, 18 were either union officials or Labor affiliates. And of these appointments, nearly one-third were at the presidential level. The FWC is now a ridiculously top-heavy organisation, with half of all the members at the presidential level.
And just take a look at the salaries. The total annual remuneration of a vice-president is $534,000 and of a deputy president, it is $435,000. Even the more junior commissioners earn $358,000. In other words, nice gig if you can get it, particularly as most senior union officials, unless you are from the Health Services Union, earn considerably less than $200,000.
There is, of course, the possibility the appointees to the FWC will act in a detached and even-handed way. But, alas, it has not been the case. One member of the tribunal is so inclined to hand down lop-sided and prejudiced decisions that many of them are appealed. And as many members seem to take only a passing notice of the legislation that is intended to govern their decision-making, a large number of inconsistent decisions have been handed down, causing havoc for those parties that are bound by incoherent rulings.
The Australian Mines and Minerals Association, the resources industry employer group, has outlined a number of areas of significant inconsistency. These include: whether employers have the right to test for drug and alcohol use by workers; whether accessing pornographic material is the basis for justified dismissal; whether assaulting a fellow worker is the basis for justified dismissal; whether annual leave can be cashed out; and whether individual flexibility agreements must actually deliver on their promise.
If that is not bad enough, take the performance of the FWC in relation to the handling of the misuse of funds by officials of the HSU. Given the political sensitivities of the case - Craig Thomson, former HSU national secretary, was by then a critical member of parliament keeping Labor in power - the lack of urgency applied to the case is malodorous, nay, shocking. And when we learn that the prime minister's chief of staff contacted relevant persons within the FWC, the reputation of the tribunal is further undermined. There can be no legitimate reason even information gathering for this person to have contacted FWC staff.
And when the heat was soaring in the kitchen and there was a possibility that the general manager of the tribunal might be called before a Senate committee to explain the course of events in relation to the HSU investigation, the Labor government conveniently appointed this person a commissioner of the tribunal, thereby preventing him from answering any questions.
If there is one event that should seriously alarm the public and completely undermine its trust in this institution, it is this one.
But there's more and we can thank then workplace relations minister, Bill Shorten, for completing the destruction of the integrity of the FWC. There are a number of parts to the story, but the most egregious is the appointment of two vice-presidents, positions that had previously not existed. Egged on by the president of the FWC, who by rights should have expressed no opinion on the matter, the Labor government appointed two friendly vice-presidents to quash the two Coalition-appointed vice-presidents with (lower) deputy president status. It was this brazen. Even the Law Council of Australia was unimpressed.
The two Coalition appointees have been effectively marginalised by the president, with one of the new vice-presidents, in particular, being allocated a disproportionate number of significant full bench cases.
The reputation of the FWC has hit rock bottom. It has become a machine for approving unfair dismissal claims. Its handling of the recent penalty rates and apprentice pay cases underscores its complete lack of understanding of economics. More generally, many of its decisions are quite bizarre and anti-business.
I'm just pleased that the overpaid members of the FWC will increasingly find themselves overwhelmed by individual grievance cases as bullying is shifted into its jurisdiction. Of course, most members of the public have no knowledge of the operations of the FWC. If they did, it would make their hair curl - like mine.
Refer racial vilification straight to police: inquiry
Serious cases of racial vilification could be referred directly to the police for full investigation with a view to possible criminal prosecution under changes recommended by a NSW parliamentary inquiry.
The inquiry has also recommended the NSW government increase the period within which criminal complaints can be lodged from six months to a year, review current penalties for serious racial vilification and give police training about the offence.
However, it has rejected calls to lower the bar for prosecutions so that offensive racial slurs could be criminally prosecuted even if they do not incite violence.
The inquiry into racial vilification laws in NSW was initiated by the upper house Law and Justice Committee after a request by Premier Barry O'Farrell last year.
Mr O'Farrell said he was concerned there have been no successful criminal prosecutions in the history of the laws and that they have fallen out of step with community expectations.
The inquiry focused on Section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, which deals with the criminal offence of "serious racial vilification" and requires proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" for a prosecution.
Penalties of up to $5500 and six months' jail apply to anyone found guilty of inciting "hatred", "serious contempt" or "severe ridicule" of a person or group by threatening physical harm to them or their property or inciting others to do so on the basis of their race.
Yet not one of the 27 complaints referred to the Anti-Discrimination Board for criminal prosecution since 1998 has been prosecuted.
In the final report tabled in the NSW Parliament on Tuesday, committee chairman David Clarke, a Liberal MP, said the the operation of Section 20D had been hampered by "a number of procedural impediments".
The report recommends allowing the president of the Anti-Discrimination Board to refer serious racial vilification directly to police, rather than having seek consent from the Attorney-General, who then may refer it to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
It points out that while there is a 12 month timeframe in which to commence a prosecution under the Anti-Discrimination Act, the Criminal Procedure Act only allows six months.
The committee said this could prevent serious racial vilification matters being prosecuted and recommends extending the time within which a criminal matter can be commenced to 12 months.
The inquiry also recommends changing the law so serious racial vilification can be prosecuted even if the perpetrator is mistaken about the race of the person they are allegedly vilifying.
In their submissions to the inquiry, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the NSW Community Relations Commission called for a radical overhaul of the laws, arguing that the reference to physical harm should be removed.
The board of deputies suggested a new offence of "conduct intended to harass on grounds of race" be introduced to allow criminal prosecutions for racial harassment that involves threats, intimidation or "serious racial abuse", whether or not a physical threat is involved.
The groups called for larger fines and jail sentences of up to three years.
The inquiry said the government should "review the adequacy" of existing penalties but agreed with stakeholders who argued that criminalising racial harassment would "unduly infringe on freedom of expression".
It said any amendments made by the government following the recommendations should be reviewed by the committee in five years.
If in place at the time, the recommended changes could have made it easier to criminally prosecute broadcaster Alan Jones for labelling Lebanese Muslims "vermin" and "mongrels" who "rape and pillage" in an April 2005 broadcast before the Cronulla race riots the following December.
Jones was instead ordered by the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal to apologise on air, which he did last December. Last month he was granted the right to an appeal.
Criminal prosecution of a woman who racially abused the ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez on a Sydney bus in February might also have been possible under the proposed changes.
Bleak employment prospects for young Australians
Young Australians have presented a bleak picture of their employment prospects, with only half believing they will get a job in their desired occupation and a quarter fearing there won't be enough work or training opportunities available when they finish school.
The survey of 15,000 people aged between 15 and 19 for Mission Australia found that the economy was the most pressing concern for young people.
Mission Australia chief executive Toby Hall said fear of unemployment was prevalent among both affluent and disadvantaged young people.
"It's a major concern across the social spectrum," he said.
Youth unemployment is up to three times higher than the average unemployment rate and one in four youths aged between 18 and 19 are not fully engaged in work, school or training.
Mr Hall said young people risk falling into an employment black hole unless policy makers rethink how to help young people into the workforce.
"We know that young people who don't finish year 10 and go into the workforce without qualifications are pretty much guaranteed to live their whole life in poverty," he said.
"They might not get that message when they're in year 8 but that's the reality of what will happen to them. We need to prepare young people to become part of the workforce Australia needs in the future."
Young women also expressed concern about discrimination at work, with females in full-time work earning 17.5 per cent less than full-time male workers, according to the ABS.
"If they do get a job, they are not going to be paid as as well as a male," he said. "Young women are saying this is unfair."
But the young women surveyed said they were more likely to pursue further education, with 70 per cent intending to go to university, compared with 57 per cent of males.
Marrickville student Eloise Willis-Hardy, 18, has just finished the first year of a communications degree at UTS and believes most graduates don't get the job they want.
"There is an expectation that it will be near impossible to go straight into a job of your choice," she said.
"The other expectation is that you'll have all this paid experience in the area you want to work in. Usually, a degree isn't enough. It's annoying. You go straight from school into a degree that you think will get you a job – but mostly that's not the case."
Maddison Potter, 19, had to move from Sydney to Brisbane to study for a degree in business and creative industry at QUT and expects she will have to continue moving to find work when she finishes her course.
"There aren't that many jobs in the creative industries and there is a lot of competition for the jobs that are there," she said.
"I have a feeling I'll be moving around a lot, looking for work, because it will be hard to find a job."
Their friend Bradley Gimbert, 19, of Marrickville, is working part-time in a cafe while he focuses on playing guitar and saving up to go overseas.
"I just haven't thought too much about a long-term career at the moment, to be honest," he said. "I would love to be able to make a bit of money and then travel."
ABC Catalyst TV show on cholesterol gets results
THE fallout from the controversial ABC TV Catalyst program on anti-cholesterol drugs is gathering pace with three in four doctors reporting patients have stopped their medications.
Almost half of the patients that have stopped their drugs are considered at high risk of a heart attack.
The ABC's own health expert Norman Swan has warned "people will die" as a result of the Catalyst program that questioned the role of cholesterol in heart disease and the benefit of statin drugs that reduce cholesterol.
Drug company Merck Sharp Dohme commissioned a survey of 150 doctors a week after the Catalyst program aired on ABC TV and found two in three had patients who had stopped taking the drugs or considered ceasing them.
A follow up study just released has found that had increased to three out of four doctors on two weeks later on November 21.
Again, half the patients who had dropped their medicine were considered at high risk of a heart attack.
And nine out of ten doctors told the survey they feared they had patients who had stopped their drugs without consulting a doctor.
The survey found two in three patients who wanted to drop their anti-cholesterol treatments after watching the Catalyst program cited side effects as another reason for stopping their drugs.
Almost a third said they wanted to drop their medication because of the cost.
Merck Sharp Dohme manufactures a cholesterol lowering stating drug called zocor.
The Catalyst program was based on the evidence of a group of doctors and a supplement salesperson who are all promoting their own books on the subject.
The Australian Medical Association branded the program "sensationalist" and the chair of the Australian Advisory Committee on the Safety of Medicines asked the ABC to pull part two of the program off the air.
One doctor responding to the Merck Sharp Dohme survey said "the Catalyst program has been the most biased and damaging TV show ... medically ... in years".
Another doctor commented that "it was a rubbish and biased program in the same grain as anti-vaccination propaganda".
"There should be a governing body to stop idiots reporting on shows like Catalyst that can have devastating results to the overall health of the community.......and Medicines Australia worry about us hard working Dr's being influenced by a pen or a dinner! " another doctor said.
Most of the doctors surveyed said they would not change their prescribing of statins as a result of the Catalyst program.
However, 14 per cent said they would decrease their prescribing of statins to low risk patients.
Shortly after Catalyst went to air the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in the United Kingdom announced it would reconsider its guidelines on the drugs as new evidence suggest more people could benefit from them.
Leading researcher and cardiologist Professor David Colquoun says a 1996 Australian trial of over 9,000 patients that he took part in found decreasing cholesterol in people who had experience a heart attack reduced the risk of stroke by 20 per cent, the need for a heart bypass by 25 per cent and a further heart attack by 30 per cent.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop is a true supporter of peace in the Middle East
Australia's decision to change its position and abstain on two United Nations resolutions regarding settlements and the Geneva Convention was the act of a true supporter of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Explaining the decision to change the vote, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the shift ''reflected the government's concern that Middle East resolutions should be balanced'' and said: ''The government will not support resolutions which are one-sided and which pre-judge the outcome of final status negotiations between the two sides.''
The reality is that the UN's entrenched biases against Israel - reflecting the imbalance of power between one Jewish state versus 22 Arab states plus 56 majority Muslim states - have rendered it ineffective as a mediator. Arab states have long sought to use the UN to delegitimise Israel and seek an affirmation of the narrative about Israel being a usurper state existing on ''stolen'' Palestinian land.
Thus the resolutions in question presuppose the final borders of Israel and a Palestinian state, which undermine agreements made at Oslo that such issues be directly negotiated by the parties. In addition, it encourages the Palestinians to walk away from negotiations with Israel and pursue their goals in international forums.
Highlighting how ridiculous the UN has become recently was an unlikely source. A UN interpreter, unaware that her microphone was on, said: ''I think when you have, like a total of 10 resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there's gotta be something, c'est un peu trop, non? [It's a bit much, no?]. There's other really bad shit happening, but no one says anything about the other stuff.'' Laughter erupted among the delegates. But the matter is not funny.
By the end of its annual legislative session, the General Assembly is expected to adopt 22 resolutions condemning Israel - and only four on the rest of the world combined, with only one on the Syrian civil war that has led to more than 100,000 deaths and the use of chemical weapons.
Ms Bishop clearly recognises this problem, and this is doubtless why Australia decided to change its votes on two typically one-sided resolutions from ''in favour'' to ''abstain''. These resolutions made prejudgments on key issues to be negotiated between the parties while making no demands of the Palestinian side, refusing to specifically acknowledge Palestinian terrorism, incitement or the rejectionism of Hamas, which rules Gaza. Australia's allies the US and Canada voted against these resolutions.
The resolutions were regarding the applicability of the Geneva Convention and settlements in the West Bank. A true friend of peace recognises that while settlements are an issue that must be resolved in negotiations, housing construction in settlements is not the main obstacle to peace, as construction in West Bank settlements is not absorbing additional land that will ultimately be part of a Palestinian state, as is widely implied.
Israel has not built any West Bank settlements for more than 15 years. Since 2003 all settlement growth authorised by Israel has occurred within the existing boundaries of long-standing settlements under an agreement reached between Israel and the United States.
Furthermore, settlements themselves take up less than 2 per cent of the land in the West Bank, a fact acknowledged by Palestinian leaders. Finally, most settlement blocks, where the vast majority of recent construction has occurred, have long been expected to be retained by Israel in exchange for land swaps with the Palestinians. Even the Arab League has endorsed this idea.
The official position of every successive Israeli government since 1999 has been to support a two-state outcome and Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered a Palestinian state on land equivalent to nearly all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Arab neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem. Meanwhile, demonstrating Israel can adjust its policy on settlements to facilitate peace talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instituted a 10-month moratorium on building in settlements in 2010 and recently cancelled controversial Housing Ministry long term plans for settlement units.
Israel and the Palestinians are in the midst of negotiations and together they will confront many tough issues: the future of Jerusalem, refugees, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, relations with Hamas and settlements.
A true friend would know it is essential for the parties to decide the outcome of negotiations and encourage maximum flexibility rather than support UN resolutions trying to dictate what that outcome should be.
Primary school bans leather footballs
A SCHOOL has banned children from using leather footballs and soccer balls after concerns were raised about possible head injuries.
Only 'soft' balls are allowed in the playground under new rules introduced at Albert Park Primary School.
Experts have backed the move but warn parents and teachers not to be lulled into a false sense of security.
The school introduced the new ball rules in a bid to lessen the impact of stray balls which hit students in the head.
Assistant principal Sue Pattison said the school's almost 450 students shared an oval little bigger than a basketball court, increasing the chances of an accident.
About 480 students are expected to attend the school next year.
"We still want kids to be able to run and play - it's an important part of having a break - but to do it in as safe an environment as we can manage," Ms Pattison said. "It's really just about prevention of major injuries."
The soft balls, introduced last term, are constructed of foam or have a foam layer under the skin.
Students who bring their own equipment must comply with the requirements. Regular basketballs and tennis balls are allowed.
"We didn't actually have a major increase in incidents but it is a proactive decision because it's a busy yard," Ms Pattison said.
Under Education Department rules the parents of any child who suffers a head injury must be notified. Albert Park contacts parents even if children are hit with a softer ball.
Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health neurosurgeon Prof Gavin Davis said softer balls were likely to reduce minor head injuries like lacerations and fractures but may not necessarily reduce concussion.
Concussion was more commonly caused when children fell over and hit their head or if it collided with another child's body part.
"It's an admirable intention to reduce head injuries with a softer ball," Prof Davis said. "In general the principle is sound - in application it's not always the case."
"Education about recognising and acting on concussion was vital, he said.
Kidsafe Victoria executive officer Melanie Courtney said use of soft balls was an "innovative" way to ensure safety in a cramped playground.
Victorian Principals Association president Gabrielle Leigh said it was important each adapted to their settings to ensure student safety.
Federal Education Minister calls for return of phonics
SCHOOLS have failed to help a generation of students who struggle to read, prompting an Abbott Government pledge to bring back phonics in "a big way".
Education Minister Christopher Pyne has outlined the principles of his new needs-based funding model for the nation's schools that he will unveil next year, focusing on teacher quality, traditional literacy learning methods including phonics (which involves sounding out the letters in words), principal power and parental engagement.
But he has also admitted he couldn't promise that no school would lose a dollar, arguing that the states ultimately decided individual school grants.
Mr Pyne sparked national controversy after he revealed he was going "back to the drawing board" on Labor's Gonski reforms because a majority of states had not signed legally binding agreements.
Accused of junking an election promise that he was on a "unity ticket" over the funding model for public and private schools, a defiant Mr Pyne said he was ready to "take on the education establishment".
A father of four, Mr Pyne said he had a deep understanding of learning difficulties after members of his own family had struggled to read.
"While it might have been pursued with all the goodwill in the world, there's no doubt that literacy standards for Australian students have declined measurably," he said.
"We are very determined and I am personally very determined to drive an agenda in literacy that focuses on phonics. It's far too important to turn a blind eye to what is failing our students in Australia and I am not prepared to do it."
Phonics is regarded by advocates as superior to more recent "whole language" learning, which is based on teachers providing a "literacy rich environment" combining speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
Mr Pyne said getting results was not simply about funding but better teachers, school autonomy and parental engagement.
He said claims by state ministers that public schools would bear the brunt of any cuts were wrong.
"Why on earth would I be an enemy of public schools? They educate two-thirds of our students," he said.
"We send the money to the states and they apply the formula. So for them to say that somehow we may have to make a commitment that no school will be worse off -- it's quite impossible for us to follow through with that commitment. Because we don't actually apply the model in the final instance," he said.
Australian Olive Association ad campaign on substandard imports
The standards for olive oil production in Europe do appear to be appalling. I buy Australian olive oil purely to be sure it is olive oil I get in my olive oil bottle
LOCAL olive oil makers will launch a $300,000 national ad campaign tonight after failing in a two-year bid to have what they say are substandard imports comply with Australian standards.
Australian Olive Association CEO Lisa Rowntree said the campaign was "a last-ditch effort" as various authorities had failed to enforce the same standards on imports as applied to local olive oils.
"We had been hoping the regulators would step in and not leave a lot of this decision-making to consumers but they don't seem to want to do that," she said. "We need to now educate consumers ourselves."
But Paul Berryman from the Australian Olive Oil Association, which represents olive oil importers, hit back saying there is room for everyone, local and imported, refined and pure olive oils and the focus should be on using olive oil fit for purpose.
"What everyone should be doing is promoting the use of good olive oil and that is what we are trying to do but they (the AOA) seem very much intent on denigrating imported oil," he said.
"We consumer in Australia 55,000 tonnes of olive oil and Australia produces (about) 15,000 tonnes of olive oil, so they can't even meet supply, so why they are carrying on as they do I don't understand."
Ms Rowntree said the campaign was "not import bashing".
"We are happy to call our product what it is and we don't mind competing head to head with imported product as long as it is labelled correctly and the claims it makes are true," she said.
AOA testing over two years found that, of 106 imported oils representing 40 different brands, 77 per cent failed the Australian Standard.
The EU admitted last month that olive oil is the No. 1 product most at risk of food fraud, including the substitution of Greek olive oil for Italian oil to the addition of refined or cheaper oils such as corn, hazelnut and palm oil.
Refined oils are often labelled as "Pure", "Light" and "Extra Light" and make up about 45 per cent of Australia's total olive oil consumption, which is almost two litres per person per year.
"In Europe they don't make claims like pure and light and extra light because they are meaningless and they are not terms that are used. But in Australia they are allowed to happen," said Ms Rowntree.
"These people are able to label a refined, bleached, deodorised product with terminology that intentionally confuses a consumer."
Australians have doubled their consumption of locally produced extra virgin olive oil to 31 per cent of total consumption in the past 18 months and grocery sales of local olive oil are expected to exceed $100m by 2014.
The three-week national ad campaign, starting tonight on television and followed up in print, will be fronted by nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan.
"People assume that be buying a European oil you are going to be getting a better oil," said Dr McMillan. "In fact that is not true at all. Europe do produce some great oils but they are keeping it for themselves and the stuff that they send over to Australia is the real substandard stuff unless you spend a lot of money in your local posh shop."
Local chefs backing the campaign include Stephanie Alexander.
"I would like to convince as many consumers as possible that Australia extra virgin olive oil is the freshest product and that it doesn't age," she said.
"You don't need to keep a bottle of olive oil for three years in the back of the cupboard because that's the worst possible thing you can do with it."