Monday, March 30, 2015



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



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






A solid win for the conservatives in NSW

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






Australia to sign up to China-led Bank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE


Sunday, March 29, 2015



Citizenship classes ‘anti-Western’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE

Friday, March 27, 2015


ZEG

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




Deadly dive warnings for Airbus A320 aircraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






National register for foreign buyers not 'racist'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






Shallow Shorten endorses a dangerous doctrine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE







Herbicide cancer claim cops a spray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






Builders Commend Stand Against Union Aggression Against Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press release



Thursday, March 26, 2015



Australia could weather housing crash: Deloitte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






Shallow Shorten endorses a dangerous doctrine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE







Herbicide cancer claim cops a spray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE


Wednesday, March 25, 2015




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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE  





Historic workplace deal cuts penalty rates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






Some worthwhile immigration reforms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press release



Tuesday, March 24, 2015



Nazi policy from some hypocritical Australian luvvies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






Australia a puzzling hotbed of Islamic State recruiting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australia's net still has holes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






Dredges will not damage reef

Greenie scaremongering has no scientific basis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE






A house of cards and half of them are jokers

Piers Akerman



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE