Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Double-standards let Jacqui Lambie off the hook for inappropriate 'well-hung' comments

Are you seriously serious?

Earlier today, the Palmer United senator did an interview on the Kim and Dave Show for Hobart's Heart FM.

And here, when asked about her ideal man, the single senator replied, "they must have heaps of cash and they've got to have a package between their legs".

"They don't even need to speak".

Later, when a prospective suitor called up the show, Lambie enquired if 22 year-old Jamie was "well-hung".

This induced great mirth from Kim and Dave (ratings gold!), but just imagine if a male politician had offered a similar opinion, about say, a woman needing to be "really rich and have massive boobs".

It would be a career-ending, resigning offence. Facebook groups would spring up in protest. People would make t-shirts and take to the streets in outrage.

In recent months, Tony Abbott has weathered howling storms for suggesting a Liberal candidate had sex appeal. And for winking when a talk back caller revealed she worked on a sex line.

Clive Palmer has also raised the eyebrow of disapproval for calling female journalists "madam" and "my dear".

And yet, Lambie is sure to stroll away from her Heart appearance and into her next set of public comments with nary a scratch.

Yes, they are lighting up the internet - but only for their "omigawd" value. Not because they might be construed as demeaning and well, sexist.

Of course Lambie is entitled to have financial and physical specifications for her ideal partner (lets face it, she is not alone there). And in her favour, she was not describing her ideal employee.

But here's the worry: if we are to hold male MPs - and men more broadly - to a societal standard about respect and stuff, what happens when when we let women off the hook?

Is it good enough to shrug it off with the excuse that women don't "mean it in the same way"? That men wouldn't be offended?

In the end, the whole set up is undermined.

The other doozy with Lambie is that you can't imagine another female MP making the comments she made either.

They are the kind of thing you might hear between girlfriends having a giggle on a hens night. Not in a radio interview with an elected member of Parliament.

In Australia we don't want our politicians to be stuffy, but there is an expectation that they will maintain a little decorum.

Lambie's comments were textbook crude: along with the well-hung remarks, she also joked about how a whipper snipper would be needed to tackle her bikini line.

The idea of any other female MP talking about hair removal in an interview - albeit on a commercial radio station where things tend to be more informal - is ridiculous.

Once again, the PUP senators are demonstrating that they are not beholden to the normal rules that politicians play by.

PUP leader Palmer turns up to Parliament in his luxury cars, only to skip the next day's sitting because he doesn't think it is worth being in Canberra.

He storms out of interviews and is nonplussed if questioned for changing his mind.

Similarly, Dio Wang has admitted he had "zero" interest in politics before he joined PUP and Lambie is already well known for her ah, colourful turn of phrase.

This is the same person who described Abbott as a "political psychopath".

All of this rule breaking is part of PUP's appeal. They are not like other politicians. And they're not trying to be.

Lambie joked during her radio appearance that she "should have done a runner".

My bet? Lambie will gain support, not lose it for talking of her desire for a well-hung man.

And all because it's not the standard parliamentary package


Billions spent on roads in "hideously inefficient" way

More than $20 billion a year of national road funding is being spent in a “hideously inefficient” manner, according to a leaked assessment by Australia’s independent infrastructure umpire.

The Infrastructure Australia report, obtained by Fairfax Media, has also delivered a scathing critique of “monopoly” state-run road entities such as VicRoads, claiming a culture of resisting reform has led to a situation  in which political leaders are held “captive” to demands for more funding.

“The unhealthy focus of road agencies appears set on ‘getting, controlling and spending’ more taxpayer money, rather than questioning efficiency or value to the motorist and governments,” the report says.

The report, "Spend more, waste more, Australia's roads in 2014: moving beyond gambling," was sent to industry experts on Tuesday for comment. But, just hours after it was circulated, Infrastructure Australia’s acting coordinator John Fitzgerald ordered its withdrawal.

Mr Fitzgerald said the report had been emailed “in error” by a consultant. He said it had been withdrawn because he had not read it, nor had it been properly considered by the Infrastructure Australia council or the federal government.

“While I’m still here, I value good processes to ensure that publications from Infrastructure Australia are of the highest quality,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

The report, which claimed Australia has a “gambler’s addiction to roads”, said national road spending is now outstripping revenue raised through road-related taxes and charges, warning “Australia’s thirst for roads” would come at the expense of other services as the gap continues to widen. In the four years to June 30, 2012, road spending outstripped road revenue by $4.5 billion.

“Given that current governments at all levels display an appetite for much greater road spending in future, this trend should give rise to urgent questions of efficiency about how road funds are raised and allocated,” the report said.

It suggested there was little consideration of whether Australia’s demands for new roads should be satisfied, and argued that rail funding had missed out as a result.

“The current Australian system assumes that roads are an answer to most transport problems and seeks more and more funding to that end, with little consideration of alternatives that most other developed parts of the world enjoy, such as significant heavy intercontinental rail networks and dominant heavy mass transit systems."

It suggested a better approach would be to increase private-sector investment in roads.

“These efforts should bypass road agencies, which in most observed cases, will only suffocate or over-complicate such opportunities if given carriage of them.”

The report said since Infrastructure Australia was set up in 2008 to provide independent advice on infrastructure projects, it has received more than 1000 proposals, mostly for road projects.

“They were almost universally poor, in that they lacked any cost-benefit rigour whatsoever,” it said. “The real problem is that road agencies and other road project proponents in industry and the community spend next to no effort examining what problems their projects and plans are trying to solve, other than the perceived problem that they do not have enough road funding.”

The report raises interesting questions for the federal government, which has a road-focused approach to infrastructure funding. During the 2013 election campaign, Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared that the Commonwealth should “stick to its knitting” and focus on funding roads rather than urban rail.

The Napthine government too has been criticised for failing to submit a robust benefit-cost analysis for its East-West Link  to Infrastructure Australia. But, with about $27 billion of transport projects announced in the May budget, it has also been keen to involve the private sector.

The report was also critical of the federal government’s efforts to predict increases in road traffic, claiming urban congestion had consistently been overstated as a result.

In Melbourne, the government had predicted a 27 per cent jump in road vehicle kilometres travelled in the decade to 2011-12. In reality, vehicle use had increased by just 15 per cent, it said.


Call for paid childcare for 'qualified' grandparents: productivity commission

Nannies and grandparents could be paid by the government to look after children if they get TAFE qualifications under a proposal to overhaul the nation’s convoluted childcare system.  

The bewildering array of childcare subsidies should be replaced with a single, means-tested payment that would go directly to the parents' choice of provider, according to a draft report by the Productivity Commission.

Those on a family income of $60,000 or less would get 90 per cent of the cost of childcare covered and the payment would taper so that families on $300,000 or more would get 30 per cent.

Nannies, grandparents and anyone else willing could join workers at childcare centres and family day care in being eligible for government payments if they had at least a Certificate III in early childhood education, the report says.

The quality of care being offered would be scrutinised by the national auditor, with providers subject to targeted and random checks.

The report found that the current auditing regime was cumbersome and costly and should be rationalised.

But commissioner Wendy Craik said "there would need to to be a credible chance that someone would come round unannounced to the house to check the care being provided" for the system to be successful.

She said the proposal would see the childcare workforce increase by about 15 per cent.

The commission found many families were struggling to find flexible childcare that met their needs and that there were long waiting lists in some areas.

Parents currently have access to two main forms of government support - the childcare benefit, a means-tested payment for low-to-middle income families, and the childcare rebate, a non-means tested payment that covers up to 50 per cent of out-of-pocket costs.

The new payment would be available for children whose parents spend at least 24 hours a fortnight working, looking for work or studying. It would cover all approved services for up to 100 hours per fortnight.

Children deemed at risk of abuse or neglect and those with disabilities would have access to “top-up” payments.

The report also takes a swipe at the Abbott government's paid parental leave scheme, which seeks to pay the primary carer their wage for 26 weeks, plus superannuation, capped at an annual salary of $100,000.

This is up from the current scheme, introduced under Labor, that pays women the minimum wage for 18 weeks.

"The Commission considers that it is unclear that the proposed changes to the paid parental leave scheme . . . would  bring significant additional benefits to the broader community beyond those occurring under the existing scheme," the report says.

"There may be a case, therefore, for diverting some funding from the proposed new scheme to another area of government  funding, such as [early child care education and care], where more significant family benefits are likely."

Early Childhood Australia chief executive Samantha Page backed the idea of redirecting some of extra PPL money.

"Extending paid parental leave is welcome, but this has to be integrated with a quality, affordable early childhood education and care system," she said.

But Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley said redirecting funds from PPL was "not an option".

She said that the Coalition's scheme was a different policy.

"Governments can do lots of things with reports," she told ABC Radio.

Ms Ley, however, also welcomed the release of the report, saying the current child care system was "at breaking point after child care fees skyrocketed 53 per cent during Labor's six years in office".

"We cannot continue with the Labor approach of blindly topping up child care payments on the nation's credit card combined with ineffective band-aid solutions."

But she cautioned that Tuesday's report was only a draft

"There is still much work to be done between now and the final report being handed to government in October," she said.

Ms Ley said the government would not pre-empt the final report and would consider it later in the year.

Labor's education spokeswoman Kate Ellis said that "the only thing that is certain about this review is that Tony Abbott has promised there will be no more money for child care".

"Any new support for families – like nannies and au pairs – will mean cuts to the existing child care services families rely on every day," Ms Ellis said.

"The government has already announced more than $1 billion of child care cuts. If Tony Abbott was serious about improving child care he would stop these continued attacks."

The commission found the federal government should also maintain the current funding arrangement for pre-school for four-year-olds that provides 15 hours a week. The federal government is waiting on a review before deciding the future of the current state-federal funding model to give each child 15 hours.

The number of women who work has increased in the past two decades - from 57 to 66 per cent - and the bill for childcare costs has also grown. The average out-of-pocket cost of childcare is 27 per cent of the average wage - less than in Britain, the US, New Zealand or Canada, but more than the OECD average of 17 per cent.

Other commission recommendations include that school principals be responsible for ensuring schools provide before and after school care, and removing restrictions on the number of child care places for occasional care. 


ATO's 'rotten' culture revealed

The Australian Taxation Office's internal culture is so poor that its ability to do its job is in danger, according to a scathing internal report.

The frank assessment, obtained though freedom of information laws, shows an organisation hamstrung by bureaucracy, risk aversion and internal empire building and in urgent need of sweeping “reinvention”.

The report found that a third of ATO workers disagreed that a climate of trust and respect existed in their workplaces and 38 per cent of workers thought taxpayers were not dealt with in an acceptable timeframe.

ATO management said in a statement on Monday that the report was an “honest look at our culture” and a necessary step in the program of change under way at the agency.

Despite calling for sweeping changes across the organisation, the report’s authors found nearly 60 per cent of the workforce did not know what was expected of them from the ATO’s much-vaunted Vision 2020 reform package.

The ATO is undergoing major upheaval, slashing thousands of jobs in an effort to cut costs and facing public and Parliamentary scrutiny for its enforcement of tax laws and its conduct in disputes with taxpayers.

The report lays responsibility for change squarely with the agency's bosses who, it says, must take urgent action to "reinvent" an organisation with a culture so negative its very core functions are threatened.

In the report Reinventing the ATO, the internal “2020 Program Office” advises that productivity and efficiency in Tax was being hampered by excessive bureaucracy, a silo mentality, risk aversion and poor people skills.

“The ATO is not sufficiently service oriented, major improvements are needed in people skills ... there is not enough focus on measuring or reporting performance or accountability for progressing strategic change, the ATO lacks an outcomes-focused approach and there are inefficiencies and over-engineering of process, staff are disempowered,” the report authors wrote.

They also found many staff “strongly disagreed that individuals at ATO were held accountable for their performance,”

“Bureaucracy, risk aversion, cost reduction focus and [a] silo mentality all inhibit flexibility and adoptability to changes in the client experience, it also means that decisions on client cases take longer,” the report warns.

“With staff not empowered to make decisions, it is more difficult and time-consuming for clients to deal with the ATO and its processes.”

The authors concluded that much was expected from a greatly reduced workforce if lasting change was to be achieved.

“Significant cultural change is needed with organisation-wide initiatives that bring about permanent change to the way the ATO works,” the report states.

“It will take concerted effort from everyone across the ATO to break this cycle.”

An ATO spokeswoman said in a statement on Monday that the report also found 82 per cent of the agency’s public servants supported the Vision 2020 plan, even if they were unsure what they were supposed to do to achieve it.

“As part of our commitment to reinventing the ATO, earlier this year we took an honest look at our culture,” the spokeswoman said.

“It was clear from the findings that our staff overwhelmingly agreed with the 2020 mission and vision the Commissioners have set for the ATO.

“We are proud that at a time of significant workplace change, our staff continue to deliver good services to the community and government.”


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Byelection disaster in Qld: Historian says Campbell Newman's hubris could see him lose his seat

Campbell Newman’s iron grip on Queensland government is now looking decidedly limp-wristed following the disastrous Stafford byelection result.

The Premier’s Liberal National Party suffered an 18.6 per cent swing in the Brisbane bayside electorate, Labor’s victory giving it a ninth MP in the Queensland Parliament.

Historian Ross Fitzgerald predicted Mr Newman would definitely lose his own seat of Ashgrove at the Queensland election, expected within 11 months.

"‘When they say the swing is on in Queensland, it goes bananas. And historically, it is most certainly is on," Professor Fitzgerald said.

"The Premier won the biggest election victory in Australian history in 2012 but he is in danger of losing government.

"And unless they find Mr Newman another seat, he will also lose his in the election. There are too many public servants in Ashgrove who haven’t taken kindly to the big staff cuts."

Professor Fitzgerald said the Queensland Liberal National Party had nobody to blame but Mr Newman for the slump in its electoral fortunes.

"The government’s been brought low by Mr Newman’s hubris. Pure and simple," he said.

"He thought because he had such a huge majority he could hurt, cut and do whatever he liked. Well, it is not panning out like that."

Mr Newman alienated large sections of the community by bullheaded legislation to bring bikie gangs under control and his high-handed appointment of Tim Carmody as Chief Justice, despite him having no Supreme Court experience.

There have been ongoing and embarrassing resignations of LNP MPs and ministers, but Mr Newman’s biggest black mark has been the reduction of 14,000 Queensland public service positions.

He promised to do so in the 2012 campaign. But in a large state where a government presence is a huge and valued component of regional life, the cuts are now starting to bite, and programs and locals are being jettisoned. Consequently, the Queensland government’s popularity has been falling for months.

The fall  in the Newman government’s vote in Saturday’sbyelection followed a 17 per cent swing to Labor in the Redcliffebyelection last February.

Mr Newman scored the biggest victory in Australian electoral history in April 2012, attracting 62.8 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.

Last April, however, Newspoll found his lead over Labor had fallen  to 52 per cent to 48 per cent. Earlier this month the pollster had the LNP trailing Labor 49 per cent to 51 per cent.

On Saturday night Mr Newman acknowledged some Queenslanders were not happy with his government.

"This evening I say to those people, we’ve heard you, we understand how you feel, and I pledge this evening to continue to work hard," he said.

"We will work very, very hard to take our message out to Queenslanders about the positive things we do want to happen in this state."

Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the byelection outcome was a result of Mr Newman not listening to voters.

"This is a Premier who is taking Queensland backwards and tonight Stafford has sent him a clear message," she told supporters on Saturday night.


Rinehart mulls fresh Fairfax bid

This might break the solid Leftist line of the SMH and Age

AUSTRALIA'S richest woman Gina Rinehart appears to be mulling whether to launch a bid to seize control of Fairfax Media.

THE mining billionaire, who is Fairfax's biggest shareholder with a 15 per cent stake in the newspaper and radio group, is reportedly considering launching a full takeover bid.

A report in The Australian said Ms Rinehart had approached business associates for suggestions on who could better manage or sit on the Fairfax board in the event of a takeover.
Ms Rinehart's spokesman Jason Morrison was unable to comment on the report.

The report said the billionaire was disappointed with the performance of Fairfax, which owns the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Australian Financial Review mastheads, and was likely to call for an extraordinary general meeting to sack the board if she decided to lift her stake to 20 per cent.

But Fusion Strategy founder Steve Allen, a veteran media analyst, said it was unclear what Ms Rinehart, who also has an investment in Ten Network and is best known for her high profile in the resources industry, offered Fairfax.

"I don't know what she brings to the Fairfax board room and the Fairfax organisation that will improve things," he told AAP.
"Her entry on to the registers (of Fairfax and Ten) hasn't assisted shareholders whatsoever."

But if Ms Rinehart wanted control of the company she should follow through on a full takeover, otherwise remaining shareholders would be disadvantaged and would likely see the value of their holding fall further, Mr Allen said.

Ms Rinehart bought into Fairfax in early 2012, sparking a fight with chairman, Roger Corbett, as she criticised Fairfax's performance and demanded a place on the board.  Mr Corbett refused, but did allow the appointment of Ms Rinehart's friend, Hungry Jacks founder Jack Cowin, to the board.

In the year after Ms Rinehart bought in, Fairfax's share price slumped to as low as 35 cents and it announced a $2.7 billion loss.  As a result, Fairfax announced a major restructure that saw about 1,900 jobs cut, the closure of two printing facilities, changes to the format of the Herald and Age and the introduction of digital subscriptions.

The share price has since climbed back above 90 cents and Mr Allen believes Fairfax has turned a corner in its transition from a newspaper publisher to a chiefly online business.

Fairfax lifted its underlying net profit 48 per cent to $86.4 million for the first half of the 2013/14 financial year. It was one of the most traded stocks on the ASX on Monday, closing 1.5 cents higher at 92.5 cents after hitting an intra-day high of 95.5 cents.


Why is it The Greens are treated by the media as having the moral high ground?

The snobs in the Canberra press pack tend to ignore Senator John Madigan of the DLP so chances are you won't see much of this speech he gave in Parliament reported.

However, here, he raises some quite significant questions about the integrity of the Greens when it comes to what really motivates their "clean energy" commitment ..... $$$

He also joins the dots between interesting figures lingering behind the scenes of The Greens and the Palmer Party.


Senator Madigan asks a question that deserves some pondering .... why is it that The Greens are treated by the media as having the moral high ground on just about every subject?


Racial discrimination in Sydney's Chinatown?

IT’S the Shanghai shuffle, the fried price — a Mandarin restaurant in Sydney’s CBD is charging English-speaking patrons more than 10 per cent extra per dish than their Chinese-speaking counterparts.

A serving of fried rice costs $2 more on the English menu than for people who order from the Chinese menu — ­effectively a 12.7 per cent fee on English-speakers.

Yin Li Sichuan restaurant owner Diana suggested it was meant to be a secret among Asian customers.  “The Chinese menu is usually just for Chinese people, they like the Sichuan flavour,” she said.

Despite both menus using the same photos and descriptions, she denied there were any discounts for Chinese-speaking guests. “Sometimes people who come a lot get discount,” she added.

The two menus are colour-coded to help waiters quickly discern between the two. The red Chinese menu sits on the top shelf, above the black English menus.

The Daily Telegraph pointed out the discrepancy in prices to a staff member at the Dixon St restaurant on Thursday night.

“The English menu is new, that’s why it’s more expensive,” she said. Both menus, however, appeared equally worn and dated.

A serving of fried rice with lettuce and beef is $17.80 on the English menu but only $15.80 for Chinese speaking customers. Mapo tofu ($16.80) and dried spicy bean ($17.80) are both $1 more if you can’t read Chinese.

The Daily Telegraph could not find any examples of cheaper dishes for English-speaking customers. The double standards have drawn the ire of the online community, with one customer labelling the restaurant “racist” in a review last year.

“Two menus — one for Chinese (cheaper) one for others (dearer),” wrote tripadvisor reviewer Stephanie. “Will never eat there again or encourage others. Racism (in) its worst form.”

Another wrote: “If you are not Chinese, do not eat here.”

It is against the law to offer goods or services at “less favourable terms or conditions” based on somebody’s race or nationality under Section 13 of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

But Restaurant and Catering Association chief executive John Hart said it was difficult to prove discrimination under the current law.

“It obviously doesn’t sit very comfortably,” he said.


Monday, July 21, 2014

The maiden speech of Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales)

A libertarian!

Thank you, Mr President. Fellow senators and Australians, last September the people of Australia chose 40 men and women to represent them here, together with the 36 elected three years earlier—just 571 Australians have been granted this high honour. We come from diverse backgrounds and occupations. Beyond this place, each of us has been tempered by the challenges of life. We have all tasted the bitterness of failure and exhilaration of success. Whatever our political alignments, that experience will have imparted in us a collective accumulation of knowledge, judgement, wisdom and instinct that should serve our country well. Indeed, we are the most representative swill ever assembled.

I also believe we are about to begin one of the most exciting periods in the life of the Senate. In the service of this mission, at the outset I declare that I am proudly what some call a 'libertarian', although I prefer the term 'classical liberal'. My undeviating political philosophy is grounded in the belief that, as expressed so clearly by John Stuart Mill:

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully ever exercised over any member of a civilised society against his will is to prevent harm to others.
I pledge to work tirelessly to convince my fellow Australians and their political representatives that our governments should forego their overgoverning, overtaxing and overriding ways. Governments should instead seek to constrain themselves to what John Locke advised so wisely more than 300 years ago—the protection of life, liberty and private property.

When I was elected nine months ago, and my party's policies became better known, there was a wave of rejoicing in certain circles. When I said I would never vote for an increase in taxes or a reduction in liberty, there were people who said there was finally going to be someone in parliament worth voting for. That was quite a compliment. What they, and I, believe in is limited government. We differ from left-wing people who want the government to control the economy but not our social lives, and from right-wing people who want the government to control our social lives but not the economy. Classical liberals support liberty across the board.

I have long thought that leaving people alone is the most reasonable position to take. I always suspected that I did not know enough to allow me to tell other people how to live their lives. But that did not arise in the background, so a bit of explanation is necessary. I never liked being told what to do, and I tend to assume others feel the same. The simple rule do not do unto others what you would rather them not do to you has always driven my thinking. At least since I reached adulthood I have also accepted responsibility for myself and expected others to do the same. Even when my choices have been poor, as they inevitably were at times, I do not recall being tempted to blame others or to consider myself a victim.

During my early years, the issues that raised my blood pressure were those of individual freedom. But for the election of the Whitlam government, I would have either served two years in jail or in the Army. I refused to register for national service. Being forced to serve in the Army, with the potential to be sent to Vietnam, was a powerful education in excessive government power.

The abortion issue was also controversial at the time. There were doctors and women being prosecuted over what were obviously difficult private choices. Backyard abortions were common. I knew some women affected and could never see how the jackboot of government improved things. I also noticed that those opposed to abortion or in favour of conscription were not interested in trying to debate their opponents; instead they sought to seize the levers of government and impose their views on everyone else.

As my family never had much money, I used to think spreading other people's money around was a good way to make life fairer. As the saying goes, 'If you're not a socialist at 20 you have no heart, but if you're still a socialist at 40 you have no brains.' By that standard I hope I have preserved a bit of both. Not long after I started full-time work as a veterinarian, I recall looking at my annual tax return and being horrified at the amount of money I had handed over to the government. When I looked for signs of value for that money, I found little to reassure me. To this day I am still looking.

Our liberty is eroded when our money is taken as taxes and used on something we could have done for ourselves at lower cost. It is eroded when our taxes are used to pay for things that others will provide, whether on a charitable basis or for profit. That includes TV and radio stations, electricity services, railways, bus services, and of course, schools and hospitals. It is eroded when our money is taken and then returned to us as welfare, with the only real beneficiaries being the public servants who administer its collection and distribution. It is eroded when our money is used on things that are a complete waste like pink batts, unwanted school halls and accommodation subsidies for wealthy foreign students. It is eroded when the money we have earned is taken and given to those of working age who simply choose never to work. Reducing taxes, any kind of taxes, will always have my support. And I will always oppose measures that restrict free markets and hobble entrepreneurship.

But the cause of liberty is challenged in other ways as well. Liberty is eroded when our cherished right to vote is turned into an obligation and becomes a crime when we do not do it. It is eroded when we are unable to marry the person of our choice, whatever their gender. It is eroded when, if we choose to end our life, we must do it before we become feeble and need help, because otherwise anyone who helps us commits a crime. It is eroded when we cannot speak or write freely out of fear someone will choose to take offence. Free speech is fundamental to liberty, and it is not the government's role to save people from their feelings. Liberty is eroded when we are prohibited from doing something that causes harm to nobody else, irrespective of whether we personally approve or would do it ourselves. I do not use marijuana and do not recommend it except for medical reasons, but it is a matter of choice. I do not smoke and I drink very little, but it is unreasonable for smokers and drinkers to be punished for their alleged excesses via so-called sin taxes. Liberty includes the right to make bad choices.

Quite a few people say they support liberal values but claim there are valid exemptions. The most common one is security or safety, something that has become pervasive during the so-called war on terror. As William Pitt the Younger observed:

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.
Perhaps some are scratching their heads right now. How can someone support marriage equality, assisted suicide and want to legalise pot but also want to cut taxes a lot? If you are scratching your heads, it is because you have forgotten that classical liberal principles were at the core of the Enlightenment, the period that gifted us humanity's greatest achievements in science, medicine and commerce and also brought about the abolition of slavery.

Classical liberals do not accept that there are any exemptions from the light of liberty, but we are not anarchists. We accept there is a proper role for government—just that it is considerably less than the role currently performed.


Tax Office sued for $6m after allegedly ruining a man's life

When Gary Kurzer’s day in court against the Australian Tax Office finally arrives in September, he believes he will be fighting for thousands of ordinary Australian taxpayers.

The Sydney man says he lost his business, his home, his marriage and his health trying to fight the legal might of the Tax Office after a botched tax bill based on "incorrect methodologies" sparked a eight-year legal dispute.

The struggle that began in 2006 with a bill for $200,000 in tax and penalties – later corrected to just $8000 – will culminate in a Federal Court showdown in Sydney in September, when the former architect will try to win $5.8 million in damages for the Tax Office’s alleged negligence.

The Tax Office, in its legal defence, says Mr Kurzer’s case is weak and that he will be unable to prove the Tax Office owed him a duty of care, but declined on Wednesday to publicly to discuss the case.

The Tax Office is coming under increased scrutiny for its conduct of disputes and imposition of penalties.

A report published last week by the Inspector-General of Taxation found that up to 35 per cent of the $4.25 billion of tax penalties in the past three years were unfairly imposed and were later reduced.

Top Tax Office officials fronted a Parliamentary committee in Canberra on Wednesday afternoon to defend their agency’s record on disputes with taxpayers.

Mr Kurzer, who has rejected a Tax Office offer to settle the case, said that his experience was just one of thousands of bad Tax Office decisions that had destroyed lives.

The former architect’s troubles began in 2006 when he and his ex-partner sold two seaside units in Terrigal on the NSW central coast and the Tax Office decided that he was liable for a $200,000 GST bill on the proceeds of the sale.

It took five years and action in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and other forums for the Tax Office to concede its mistake, that Mr Kurzer’s liability should have been just $8554 and his tax liability had been assessed using "incorrect methodologies".

But according to his Federal Court case, years of conflict, appeals, claims and counter-claims had taken an emotional, physical and financial toll on Mr Kurzer, who says his emotional problem are so bad that he can no longer work.

He is fighting his case without a lawyer against the might of law firm Minter Ellison hired by the Tax Office, and claiming damages of $5.8 million for economic harm as well as emotional distress, pain and suffering.

Mr Kurzer says a court victory would inspire thousands of Australians battling what they say are unfair Tax Office decisions.

"The Tax Office is allowed to collect what it is entitled to collect," he said. "It is not entitled to harass, to bully, to lie, to cheat, to force people into these situations when they don’t owe the money.

"There is collateral damage to families, to people, to businesses. People are going on welfare, their kids are suffering."

Mark Chapman of lobby group Taxpayers Australia says that most taxpayers who fall victim to mistakes by the Tax Office do not have the money to fight the taxation officials.

"Kurzer is by no means unique," Mr Chapman said. "At Taxpayers Australia, we receive a steady stream of comments from aggrieved taxpayers who have had to fight tooth and nail for their rights in the face of an intransigent Tax Office.

"Like Kurzer, many of these taxpayers find themselves out of pocket and emotionally scarred. Many simply give up, having no stomach for the continued fight, even though they know they are innocent."

A Tax Office spokeswoman said the office could not comment on a matter before the court.

Inspector-General of Taxation Ali Noroozi is reviewing the Taxpayer’s Charter and the legal protections afforded to taxpayers.


Another Aborigine scam

The author below writes very well.  I suspect that someone once taught him Latin.  He is an Aborigine

A few years ago, I casually complained to my local YMCA about their 'Indigenous' display.  I wanted to let them know that what they had done had the potential to offend people, despite how well-meaning they were obviously trying to be.  I expected an answer in the realm of 'we read a history book and that was our inspiration', but was taken aback when instead I was informed that this was the work of a local traditional owner, who oversaw the entire project.

This was the first whiff I had of Scammers posing as Aborigines right under my own nose.  So I started to hunt around, and in my searches, became all too familiar with the name Sonia Murray, aka Scams a'Plenty.

If you are to believe any of what she says as the truth, she was born to an Aboriginal mother and Scottish father.  Not just any Aboriginal mother either, but, one descended from the original owners of some of the best land in Melbourne - Port Phillip to the Dandenongs and then some, according to her sources.  Unfortunately, in the 1830's, her ancestors were captured and taken to the Bass Strait, unable to return to their country until a plucky descendant named Sonia, who would make the perilous journey some 170+ years later to stake a claim to what was once rightfully theirs.

In addition to her exceptional navigational skills, Sonia it appears, has 'the gift' - or is clairaudient, in her words.  A healer with the ability to see, hear and speak to spirits, available at an hourly charge ($100 for a phone consult, or if you're a bit cash strapped, $50 for an email) to cleanse you spiritually, like only a native can.  If you're feeling lost on your life path, she can contact your spirit guide and ask them for directions as to how you get back on track.

For a brief period, Sonia also set up shop as a snake oil salesman, sorry, Mutton Bird Oil salesman, via her wildly unsuccessful venture 'Nangana Healing Centre', where she offered goods that she declared to be Traditional Bush Medicine as well as the obligatory selection of overpriced 'arts and crafts' for suckers to purchase.  Almost all trace of Nanganas existence is gone from the internet now, but rather than assume that is because she scammed someone and had to shut up shop before people sued, as I'm sure some of you more cynical people will already be thinking, take comfort in the fact that it was probably because of all the other side ventures she had going on that were now demanding more of her time. 

One such venture was Hawkseye Heritage.  Far from being a greedy Aborigine, Sonia wanted to ensure that the environment was taken care of properly, and being who she was, self-appointed spokesperson for the Bunurong, decided to start a business that could fill a growing, and luckily for her - lucrative, demand for managing 'Cultural Heritage'.  The current boom industry.  With her partner Steve by her side, a didgeridoo playing traditional owner himself who could luckily double as a 'Cultural Heritage Officer' for her fledgling business as well, they set about having their demands met, and demand they did over the years.

Far away from prying eyes, and subject only to the regulations of a body that is loathe to jump in quickly when an Aboriginal Corporation continually fails to meet compliance, they had a pretty sweet set up.  What might appear to most everyone else to be a 'conflict of interest', is almost par for the course in Aboriginal Organisations.  The transparency that should exist simply does not, and years can go by with annual reports and financial statements failing to be lodged repeatedly before they call in someone to take a look.  By then, it's usually a mess, as it was when the Special Administrator was appointed to Bunurong earlier this year.

How the 'Cultural Heritage' scam works is quite simple.  A local developer wants to get a project off the ground, our laws dictate that he must seek out the local Aboriginal group and get advice on the appropriate people to conduct a 'Cultural Heritage' survey/assessment/report/you-name-it.  How it works in this case goes a little like this - Bunurong, the local Aboriginal group, is approached by the prospective developer. Sonia, as Director of Bunurong advises the prospective developer of what work will need to be done, and, hands off the work contract to Hawkseye, the company she owns.  Nice little earner if you can get it.  In fact, Hawkseye invoiced Bunurong Land Council for a total of $4,955.00 in 'Administration Costs' in a less than 6 week period earlier this year.  That is not including the actual payments to the cultural heritage officers who undertake the work, of course.

With all the cash cows requiring constant milking, and a seat up front on the Gravy Train guaranteed to her, you might be surprised to learn that Scams a'Plenty still felt it necessary to pull off the sickest trick in the Fraudsters book - begging for donations for her sick child.  It seems that in addition to her many business ventures, she has also managed to register a charity.  A charity that proclaims itself to not only assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, but conduct research into childhood cancers.  There is a donations page on the charity website, and searches at (the Government charity register) confirms it does indeed have registered charity status. Should you decide to donate, it's all tax deductible. Which is probably a good thing- they seem to need lots of donation.  Currently, they need help (in the form of money, of course) to take her desperately ill child to a foreign country for treatment.  Treatment she herself is unable to afford, due to her loss of employment, which was of course, another cruel blow for the suffering family.  Unfortunately her timing was off to anyone who noticed (so far, I'm alone in that camp), for you see at the same time she was crying poor and unemployed, her company, Hawkseye, was receiving the above mentioned almost $5k in 'administration charges'.  She also neglected to mention during her shameless begging that she was planning a new business venture - in the form of a cafe/restaurant, and would later negotiate for leased premises in which to operate that venture from.

I thought long and hard about providing the links to what I firmly believe is a scam charity, but one thing stops me.  The freely available information contained at length on the sites about the child in question.  The child may or may not have the disease this mother claims cash donations are needed to help fight.  Ultimately, that is irrelevant as I refuse to publish information that may identify a child.  The mother is scamming people, not the child, and I will ask that anyone who chooses to look into this further and finds out for themselves, that they not publish the information freely. 

But take heart.  She won't be getting away with her crimes.  As luck would have it, I'm not the only one who has noticed something dodgy about Sonia Murray.  Whether it was her aversion to paying taxes, or just that her number finally came up, a story in The Age yesterday is the turning of the tide for this particular fraudster.  A possible missing million dollars does not go away quickly or quietly, and now that it is out there in public, questions - uncomfortable questions - need to be asked.


Tom wins another one

From racing royalty to upstart bookie and now company man, Tom Waterhouse says being the chief executive of William Hill Australia is a “dream come true”, despite missing out on $65 million linked to the acquisition of his online betting venture.

The British wagering giant William Hill bought Mr Waterhouse’s three-year old betting venture for $40 million in cash and debt last August, offering a further $70 million if the entrepreneur hit profit targets in 2015. But he will take an early $5 million settlement of the earn-out.

Following his naming as CEO, which was first revelead by Fairfax Media on Wednesday night, Mr Waterhouse said the settlement was based on “fair value at the time” and was a “terrific result”.

“You couldn’t ask for a better company to be bought by,” he said. “I’ve been part of William Hill Australia [since August] and seen them function within the same offices but now I get to really stick my teeth in.”

But the 32-year-old has a lot of work to do, with the three brands that make up William Hill Australia - Sportingbet, Centrebet and - lagging behind the fastest growing local betting shop Sportsbet.

A recent market update from William Hill rival, the Dublin-based company Paddy Power, showed that in the first 18 weeks of the year to May 11, total bets placed with Sportsbet rose 22 per cent. In the 13 weeks to April 1, bets placed with William Hill Australia grew at a slower rate of 11 per cent.

Former William Hill Australia boss Michael Sullivan left in April.

However William Hill’s group CEO designate James Henderson, who was named for the top job only a fortnight ago, said solid back office systems and a new advertising campaign featuring Aussie cricket legend Shane Warne meant the business was primed for growth. “[We want to] not only catch up with Sportsbet but hopefully overtake them in the near future,” he said.

Mr Waterhouse was the top pick from a shortlist of internal and external applicants, Mr Henderson said. “He’s the ideal person with a proven track record,” he said. “Tom’s is the fastest-growing element of the business.”

Mr Waterhouse - a new father, he and wife Hoda had a daughter last year - is not worried about the stresses and sacrifices needed to take on the much larger business. He will lead 270 staff and a company that had revenue of £86.7 million ($158.7 million).

“I guess my life has always been living and breathing betting and being part of the industry. I’m going to continue doing it because I love it.”

The at-times controversial bookmaker’s aggressive marketing techniques came under fire in 2013 and sparked a community backlash that lead to restrictions on wagering advertising. Mr Waterhouse said he learned “a lot of lessons” from the period. “But one thing about the digital space is you have to try things and experiment and see what works,” he said.

Mr Henderson said Australia was Wiliam Hill’s “second home” and the three betting brands together were growing faster than the online business in the United Kingdom.

“The expectations are high,” he said.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Liberal senator James McGrath makes radical call for GST rise, privatisation of 'left-biased' ABC

An incoming Liberal senator has set out a radical libertarian program in his maiden speech, calling for the GST rate to rise to 15 per cent, federal health and education departments to be abolished and for the immediate sell-off of youth radio station Triple J, with the rest of the ABC to also be privatised if it fails to address perceived left-wing bias.

Former Liberal Party deputy director James McGrath also defended people's right to make homophobic comments, as well as "hurtful and bigoted and stupid and dumb things".

Senator McGrath also flagged plans to introduce a private member's bill that would "bring back true voluntary student unionism" as he argued the GST should rise to 15 per cent and include items that are currently excluded, such as fresh food.

He vowed to argue for lower regulation and smaller government as he took aim at the federal health and education departments, which had thousands of staff but had no patients, ran no schools and did not teach students.

"Bureaucracies have become more bloated, more process-driven and more out of touch," he said.

"The states run hospitals and schools - why do we need to be involved? I'm calling for the abolition of the federal departments of health and education, and for universities to be run at a state level."

Turning to the ABC, Senator McGrath said he had grown up listening to the ABC in country Queensland but that the broadcaster had "left people like me and my constituents behind".

"I want to support the ABC. I like the ABC.  "Yet while it continues to represent only inner-city leftist views, and funded by our taxes, it is in danger of losing its social licence to operate.

"I'm calling for a review of the charter of the ABC and if they fail to make inroads to restore balance then the ABC should be sold and replaced by a regional and rural broadcasting service."

Youth broadcaster Triple J should be sold immediately, he added.

Senator McGrath also set out his support for unrestricted freedom of speech, a proposal the government has been grappling with in its now-stalled attempt to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

"Freedom of speech should never be restricted by government because when freedom of speech is regulated in any manner, speech is no longer free," he said.

"People will say hurtful and bigoted and stupid and dumb things, people will make racist and sexist and homophobic comments. The views are wrong but the right to express them is not.

"If you believe in democracy, you cannot cleanse it of the view you disagree with. The best way to deal with those with whom you disagree is not force them into the dark shadows but let the sun shine, let the disinfectant of light and public scrutiny judge those offensive views."


Conservative army officer contests his dismissal

One of Australia's highest-profile anti-gay activists has recruited one of the nation's busiest anti-Islam campaigners to help him get his job back as an Army Reserve officer.

Bernard Gaynor, sacked by the army over his online comments about gays, Muslims and women, has hired Sydney lawyer Robert Balzola to represent him in a Federal Court challenge to his sacking, which came into effect on Friday.

Mr Balzola has been involved in the groups "Concerned Citizens of Canberra" and "Concerned Citizens of Bendigo", which have campaigned against mosques being opened in the ACT and the Victorian regional city.

The Sydney lawyer and Liberal Party member has also taken part in similar campaigns in Sydney, including the opposition to an Islamic school in Camden, while Mr Gaynor has lent his support to the latest "Concerned Citizens" campaign in Bendigo.

But the team has lost its first legal gambit against Mr Gaynor's sacking by failing to secure a last-minute injunction on the dismissal.

Federal Court Judge Robert Buchanan has found no need for an emergency injunction and told Mr Gaynor and Mr Balzola to lodge their application to challenge the army's decision in the usual way.

The former intelligence officer, father of five and Iraq veteran said he was keen to pursue the case but would make a final decision after more talks with his legal team.

"The Chief of the Defence Force acted to terminate my commission in a biased manner," Mr Gaynor said.

"There's a whole bunch of reasons why this decision is wrong; what you've got is a black-and white case of political discrimination in the Australian Defence Force.

"This termination has been entirely about my religious beliefs, nothing to do with my performance."

Mr Gaynor declined to discuss how he teamed up with Mr Balzola.

"I'm not discussing anything about my legal team," he said.

"My legal team is advising me on issues I face in relation to my termination."

Mr Balzola declined to be interviewed on Wednesday.

Mr Gaynor's dismissal from his Army Reserve position came after Defence Force Chief General David Hurley questioned his ability to uphold the values of the Australian Army.

"Your public comments demonstrate attitudes that are demeaning and demonstrate intolerance of homosexual persons, transgender persons and women and are contrary to the ... cultural change currently being undertaken within the Army," General Hurley wrote in a minute.

Mr Gaynor's sacking was set in train in December last year, despite the former officer claiming he had been cleared of wrongdoing by two military investigations, and became final at midnight, July 11.



Carbon tax merely a blip in power price scandal

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is right about one thing: the price of electricity has shot up and is now a lot higher than it should be. It's a scandal, in fact. Trouble is, the carbon tax has played only a small part in that, so getting rid of it won't fix the problem.

Until a rotten system is reformed, the price of electricity will keep rising excessively, so I doubt if many people will notice the blip caused by the removal of the carbon tax. (As for the price of gas, it will at least double within a year or two, as the domestic price rises to meet the international price, making the carbon tax removal almost invisible.)

So Abbott will be in bother if too many voters remember all the things he has said about how much the tax was responsible for the rising cost of living, how much damage the tax was doing to the economy and how much better everything would be once the tax was gone.

He would be wise to change the subject and join the push to reform the electricity pricing arrangements.

A new report by Tony Wood and Lucy Carter, of the Grattan Institute, Fair Pricing for Power, says that over the past five years the average Australian household's electricity bill has risen by 70 per cent to $1660 a year.

And this has been happening while the amount of electricity we use has been falling, not rising. Just why electricity demand has been falling is a story for another day.

The cost of actually generating the power accounts for 30 per cent of that total. The cost of delivering the power from the generator to your home via poles and wires – that is, the electricity transmission and distribution network – accounts for 43 per cent of the total.

That leaves the costs of the electricity retailer – the business you deal with – accounting for 13 per cent of the total bill, with the carbon tax making up 7 per cent and the various measures to encourage energy saving or use of renewables making up the last 7 per cent.

Of these various components, the one that does most to account for the rapid rise in overall bills is the cost of the physical distribution network. Whereas there's fierce competition between the now mainly privately owned power stations, the network businesses – still government-owned in NSW and Queensland, but privatised in Victoria and South Australia – are natural monopolies.

This means the prices the networks are allowed to charge – whether government or privately owned – are regulated by government authorities. And this is the source of the problem. Loopholes in the price regulation regime have made it easy for the network businesses to feather their nest at the expense of you and me.

Why would a government-owned network business want to overcharge? Because their profits are paid to the state Treasury, which needs all the cash it can get. So the NSW and Queensland governments gain by looking the other way while their voters are ripped off. The gouging hasn't been nearly as bad in privatised Victoria, where electricity prices are well below the national average.

An earlier report from the Grattan Institute identified four main faults in the system used to regulate the prices of network businesses: the pricing formula allows excessive rates of return, considering essential monopolies are low risk; government ownership leads to excessive investment in infrastructure and reduced efficiency; reliability standards to prevent blackouts are wastefully high; the pricing formula rewards investment in facilities you don't really need.

The various combined state and federal regulatory bodies have belatedly begun attempting to fix these problems, but they could do a lot more if the politicians prodded them harder.

Meanwhile, the latest Grattan report proposes a solution to one aspect of the over-investment problem: coping with peak demand. The trouble with electricity networks is that, if you want to avoid blackouts, the network has to be powerful enough to cope with the periods when a lot of people are using a lot of electrical appliances at the same time, which these days is a hot afternoon.

Over the course of a year, these occasions are surprisingly few, so you end up having to build a lot of capacity, which is expensive, but then is rarely used. It would make far more sense to encourage people to avoid such extreme peaks in their demand.

The way the pricing system works at present, however, is that far from discouraging people from buying airconditioners and turning them on full blast on very hot afternoons, they're subsidised by those householders who don't.

The simple answer would be for the part of people's bills that relates to their share of network costs to be changed from charging for how much power they use to a capacity-based charge. That is, they pay according to the maximum load they put on the network in peak periods.

The result would be to remove the subsidy between high and low-capacity users, increasing or reducing their bills by up to $150 a year.

The greater benefit would be the price signal sent to high-capacity users to reduce their use of appliances during peak periods and save. As people responded to this incentive, the need to keep adding to the network's capacity would fall, thus reducing the need for higher electricity prices.


Mentioning the war doesn't discredit government's deft diplomacy

 For the last two weeks, Canberra has been buffeted by Asia's great power politics.

During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Australia last week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott stumbled into North Asia's heated history wars.

Reflecting on Australia's evolving perceptions of Japan, Abbott said that Australians 'admired the skill and the sense of honour' that the Japanese submariners killed in the attack on Sydney in 1942 'brought to their task although we disagreed with what they did.'

Owning to acute Chinese sensitivity to anything resembling amnesia about the horrors of Japan's wartime history, Abbott's comments prompted a biting backlash. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson even suggested that 'no one, as long as he or she is of conscience, would agree with what the Australian leader has said.'

Meanwhile, in response to a Fairfax report last week which seemed to imply that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had said that 'Australia will stand up to China,' an editorial in China's nationalistic Global Times labelled Bishop a 'complete fool.'

Notwithstanding the appearance of a succession of diplomatic debacles, Australia's regional relations are still in excellent health.

China might have been outraged by Abbott's praise for Japanese World War II soldiers, but the substance of Abe's visit prompted a relatively muted reaction from Beijing.

In response to news of Australia's deepening defence ties with Japan, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson noted: 'We hope that cooperation among relevant countries can contribute positively to regional peace and stability, instead of the opposite.'

Canberra's expanding military relationship with Tokyo neither surprises nor disappoints China: It is precisely what Beijing expects given that Japan and Australia are both liberal democratic allies of the United States with a warm and mutually beneficial partnership that spans more than six decades.

Moreover, Australia's embrace of Japan is in step with the region-wide response to Asia's changing balance of power.

China's economic resurgence, rapidly rising defence budget, and aggressive assertions of sovereignty over disputed territory have prompted India, Vietnam, the Philippines and many of Australia's other friends and partners in Asia to develop tighter ties with Japan as a means of hedging against Chinese power.

Of course, Canberra's affection for Tokyo is at odds with feelings in Beijing, where officials warn against the risk posed by Japan's supposed remilitarisation.

However, given that Australia's interests in Asia cannot be reduced to its interests in China, divergence between Beijing and Canberra is to be expected sometimes.

Indeed, with Beijing regularly rankling and intimidating its Asian neighbours, the only way for Australia to support its friends and partners in the region will be to periodically disappoint China.


Friday, July 18, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is asking what lies behind the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner full of AIDS experts

I am inclined to blame the international community for refusing to recognize the reasonable demands of the Russians of Eastern Ukraine.  They should not have had to resort to war to gain independence.  One might remember that a war was fought to gain American independence way back.  Has nothing been learned?


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is pleased with the repeal of the carbon tax

Carbon price helped curb emissions, ANU study finds

As something of a coincidence with Australia's repeal of the carbon tax, a study has come out claiming that the tax did have the effect intended.  A report of the study plus the journal abstract is given below.  There is no intrinsic problem with that conclusion.  Taxing something does generally reduce demand for it.  I nonetheless think that the report is pure guesswork.  I cannot see how they can separate out the effect of the tax from other  factors bearing down on electricity generation. 

For most of the period surveyed the Labor government was in power, energetically pressing a variety of policies designed to have the same effect as the tax.  The winding back of brown coal powered generation in Victoria is the most obvious example of that.  Shutting down the cheapest power generators in the country took some time but it did eventually happen to some extent in the latter phase of ALP rule. 

And if you read the abstract, it is clear that estimates (guesses) were involved.  Their admission:  "There are fundamental difficulties in attributing observed changes in demand and supply to specific causes" is very much to the point

Australia cut carbon dioxide emissions from its electricity sector by as much as 17 million tonnes because of the carbon price and would have curbed more had industry expected the price to be permanent, according to an Australian National University study.

The report, due to be submitted for peer-reviewed publication, found the two years of the carbon price had a discernible impact on emissions even assuming conservative responses by consumers and businesses.

“We see the carbon price doing what it was meant to do, and what it was expected to do, namely dampen demand and shift the supply from dirtier to cleaner sources of electricity,” said Associate Professor Frank Jotzo, director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, and a co-author of the report with the centre’s Marianna O’Gorman.

The paper comes as the Senate voted on Thursday to bring almost five years of Coalition campaigning against a price on carbon to an end by repealing the tax. Labor and the Greens say they will continue to push for a price on emissions.

The ANU report, which used official market data to the end of June, found the drop in power demand attributed to the carbon price was between 2.5 and 4.2 terawatt-hours per year, or about 1.3 to 2.3 per cent of the National Electricity Market serving about 80 per cent of Australia’s population.

Emissions-intensive brown and black coal-fired power generators cut output, with about 4 gigawatts of capacity taken offline. The emissions intensity of NEM supply dropped between 16 and 28 kilograms of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of supply, underscoring the role of carbon pricing rather than slumping demand in curbing pollution, the paper said.

However, investors’ doubts that the carbon tax would last – fostered in part by then opposition leader Tony Abbott’s “blood oath” to repeal it if the Coalition took office - meant high-emissions generators were mothballed rather than permanently closed.

“We’d expect the impact of the carbon price would have been larger, perhaps far larger, if there had been an expectation that the carbon price would have continued,” Professor Jotzo said.

Falling demand

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has said repeatedly that the carbon tax was ineffective, stating Australia’s total emissions fell 0.1 per cent in the first year.

More recent figures, though, show the emissions drop accelerated, with 2013’s 0.8 per cent economy-wide fall the largest annual reduction in the 24 years of monitoring. In the power sector, the industry most directly covered by the carbon price, emissions fell 5 per cent.

“As confirmed by Origin Energy managing director Grant King, there are other factors resulting in lower emissions in the electricity sector – including lower demand, the impact of the [Renewable Energy Target], flooding at the Yallourn power station and increased hydro output,” a spokesman for Mr Hunt said.

However, the ANU paper takes those factors into account in estimating the carbon price impact, Professor Jotzo said.

Rather, the impact of the carbon price is probably understated. The highly politicised debate preceded its implementation by about a year, prompting energy consumers to focus more on electricity costs – and presumably to begin making savings – well before the tax began.

“We would expect politically motivated talk ... may well have had a large impact on people’s power usage patterns,” Professor Jotzo said....

“The only thing that went wrong in Australia was the politics of climate change policy,” Professor Jotzo said. “There was nothing inherently wrong with scheme.”


Impact of the carbon price on Australia’s electricity demand, supply and emissions

Marianna O'Gorman, Frank Jotzo


Australia’s carbon price has been in operation for two years. The electricity sector accounts for the majority of emissions covered under the scheme. This paper examines the impact of the carbon price on the electricity sector between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2014, focusing on the National Electricity Market (NEM). Over this period, electricity demand in the NEM declined by 3.8 per cent, the emissions intensity of electricity supply by 4.6 per cent, and overall emissions by 8.2 per cent, compared to the two-year period before the carbon price. We detail observable changes in power demand and supply mix, and estimate the quantitative effect of the effect of the carbon price. We estimate that the carbon price led to an average 10 per cent increase in nominal retail household electricity prices, an average 15 per cent increase in industrial electricity prices and a 59 per cent increase in wholesale (spot) electricity prices. It is likely that in response, households, businesses and the industrial sector reduced their electricity use. We estimate the demand reduction attributable to the carbon price at 2.5 to 4.2 TWh per year, about 1.3 to 2.3 per cent of total electricity demand in the NEM. The carbon price markedly changed relative costs between different types of power plants. Emissions-intensive brown coal and black coal generators reduced output and 4GW of emissions-intensive generation capacity was taken offline. We estimate that these shifts in the supply mix resulted in a 16 to 28kg CO2/MWh reduction in the emissions intensity of power supply in the NEM, a reduction between 1.8 and 3.3 per cent. The combined impact attributable to the carbon price is estimated as a reduction of between 5 and 8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions (3.2 to 5 per cent) in 2012/13 and between 6 and 9 million tonnes (3.5 to 5.6 per cent) in 2013/14, and between 11 and 17 million tonnes cumulatively. There are fundamental difficulties in attributing observed changes in demand and supply to specific causes, especially over the short term, and in this light we use conservative parameters in the estimation of the effect of the carbon price. We conclude that the carbon price has worked as expected in terms of its short-term impacts. However, its effect on investment in power generation assets has probably been limited, because of policy uncertainty about the continuation of the carbon pricing mechanism. For emissions pricing to have its full effect, a stable, long-term policy framework is needed.


Greenie meat pies rejected

Meat pies are often said to be Australia's national food and I certainly am a fancier of them.  The ones I buy have chunks of steak in them and cost around $3.50

Sustainable. Organic. Locally sourced. These four words bulldoze us at every supermarket corner, on every menu and during many a MasterChef ad break. But how happy are we to pay a higher price for such produce?

A Victorian bakery has removed a meat pie from its menu because of complaints the price was too high.

At RedBeard Bakery in Trentham, about an hour north-west of Melbourne, a conversation similar to the following took place at least 10 times a week:

“One pie, thanks mate.”

“No worries. That'll be $8.”

“You're bloody kidding me! That's highway robbery!”

“Our ingredients are sourced locally and we know the farmers. The meat is grass-fed and sustainable. The pastry is made with organic butter and hand-rolled. The pie is put together by hand and cooked in our 19th century Scotch oven. It actually costs us $8 to make, so we're really providing a community service.”

“Whatever, mate. I didn't ask for a sermon.”

Fed up with explaining the price to tourists and tradies alike, RedBeard co-owner and baker Al Reid ceased making the pie in June.

“Every day there were embarrassing, stilted conversations with customers trying to justify why you're charging what is actually quite a reasonable price given the quality of the product and the labour input,” Reid says. “Customers' perceptions of what a pie should cost seem to be based on what you pay at a footy match. Pies ain't pies, just like oils ain't oils.”

Reid says cheap, mass-produced factory pies are often just gravy, corn starch and pastry made with margarine and transfats. They're cheap for a reason.

The removal of RedBeard's pie ignited a flutter of comments on its Facebook page. Most of these lamented the loss and suggested the complainers buy their frozen pies elsewhere.

But where does popular opinion lie?

An article this writer penned about Sydney's best dumplings attracted a wealth of comments on the theme that prices at high-end dumpling houses are absurd when you can purchase 12 dumplings for $4 “down the road”.

This is true. The Chinatowns of Melbourne and Sydney are rife with dumpling houses that trade potstickers by the pound. However, for the most part these little parcels of (admittedly delicious) mystery meat are in no way organic or sustainable. This is why you'll pay more “up the road”.

At Mr Wong, dim sum master Eric Koh uses Alaskan king crab in his noodle wraps (one for $12) and dumplings. It's not cheap, but then, Alaskan king crab fishing isn't easy: it takes place only in autumn; specific size requirements must be met, and only males can be kept.

“I think that in the past many dim sum chefs did not necessarily appreciate the importance of quality ingredients,” Koh says. “It required a vast amount of research to develop my knowledge about the individual ingredients and the skills needed to make the best quality dumplings possible. In the last five to 10 years more people are appreciating the value of dumplings and understanding that you pay for what you get.”

If RedBeard Bakery was selling $8 organic pies in Surry Hills or Collingwood, would it have attracted the same daily criticism? Probably not. Mary's burger bar in Newtown sells cheeseburgers for $14 – and not the type of baby-elephant-sized cheeseburgers that even a Texan would struggle to finish. They're not much bigger than one from Macca's but Mary's is packed to its exposed rafters every night with punters scoffing them down.

The price is justified: Mary's burger patties are made from a mix of high quality, house-smoked brisket, chuck and rump. But a takeaway store charging $14 for a burger this size in country NSW would be unthinkable.

Then there are the hand-cut chips at Hooked Healthy Seafood in Melbourne. Made from locally grown potatoes that are delivered fresh and unfrozen, the chips are big, fat and incredibly tasty. They will also set you back $7.95 for a large serving. That price would be laughed at in a palm-oil-using fish-and-chippery, but at Hooked (which has shops in Fitzroy, Windsor and Hawthorn) the chips have a status approaching legendary.

Despite justified prices and no shortage of customers, user review sites for Hooked host a good deal of “overpriced” and “rip-off” rants – especially comparing it to chippies (again) “down the road”.

Will Australia reach a point where we can all agree that $8 for a pie made from local, organic ingredients is justifiable? Signs are promising. But while buzzwords like "organic" and "sustainable" are bandied around without wider education on the processes and costs associated with producing organic and sustainable food, that day seems some time away.

And Coles selling four frozen pies for $4 doesn't help.


Head of curriculum review Kevin Donnelly says corporal punishment in schools 'was very effective'

The head of the Abbott government's national curriculum review has backed the use of corporal punishment for ill-disciplined children in schools if it is supported by the local school community.

Kevin Donnelly, co-chair of the national curriculum review and a widely published commentator on educational issues, said on Tuesday that corporal punishment was effective during his childhood and still has some merit.

Mr Donnelly was appearing on 2UE radio to comment on Fairfax Media reports that NSW students are being suspended and expelled from public schools at record rates.

Over 18000 NSW students were suspended in 2012 - 1300 more than in 2011.

"What would you, as you've been involved with this for so long, describe as the best punishment you can come across even if it is one that has gone away?" asked 2UE host Justin Smith. "I'm not alluding to the strap here. I don't think you would ever resort to that. You would never advocate bringing that back surely?"

Dr Donnelly responded by saying, "Well" followed by a pause – an answer that surprised Mr Smith.

Dr Donnelly continued: "I grew up in Broadmeadows, a housing commission estate in Melbourne, and we had a Scottish phys-ed teacher.

"Whenever there were any discipline problems he would actually take the boy behind the shed and say, 'We can either talk about this or you can throw the first punch'.

"That teacher would probably lose his job now but it was very effective. He only had to do it once and the kids were pretty well behaved for the rest of the year."

Dr Donnelly went on to say "those days are gone". But questioned further on the merits of corporal punishment, he said: "If the school community is in favour of it then I have got no problem if it's done properly.

"There are one or two schools around Australia that I know where it actually is approved of and they do do it. I'm sure they only do it very rarely."

Dr Donnelly contrasted corporal punishment with "time out" zones which he said do not work because children can relax and avoid class work.

Dr Donnelly has previously attracted controversy for designing an anti-smoking program funded by tobacco company Phillip Morris for Australian and New Zealand schools. He also questioned, in a book published in 2004, whether gay, lesbian and transgender teachers should teach sex education in schools.

Dr Donnelly and Kenneth Wiltshire, co-chair of the curriculum review, will hand their report to the government at the end of July.


Sexist, misogynistic and racist slogans are set to be painted over by controversial hire company Wicked Campers following public outcry

Wicked Campers has come under increasing pressure this week after an online petition kicked off by Sydney mother Paula Orbea gained national attention, triggering widespread calls for the company to remove explicit slogans form its vans.

The petition - launched after Ms Orbea's daughter spotted a Wicked van in the Blue Mountains with "In every princess, there's a little slut who wants to try it just once" written on the back - now has more than 100,000 signatures.

Ms Orbea has since received an email from the company, offering a personal apology and informing her that the slogan had been removed.

"Wicked Campers Owner, John Webb wishes to acknowledge the prevailing community opinion by REMOVING the slogan in question and making a commitment over the coming six months to changing slogans of an insensitive nature," it read.

Ms Orbea described the company's change of heart as a "people power win".

"The kind of sexism and misogyny on those Wicked Campers vans may seem trivial, but it's not – it's degrading to women, harmful for our children to consume, and condones a rape culture that sees one-in-three Australian women sexually assaulted in their lifetimes," she said.

A motion to stop the company "promoting violence against women" with slogans painted on its vehicles was also passed unanimously in the Senate this afternoon.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters had moved the motion earlier in the day following the petition.  Senator Waters told SBS that it was a clear cut case that the slogans in question were “entirely sexist and misogynist”, as well as “basically inciting sexual violence”.

“I think, in order to send a really strong message to company and to challenge the prevailing culture that normalises violence against women, I sought the Senate’s consent to pass a motion condemning those slogans,” she said.


This firm has been controversial for a few years but the police  ruled that they were not breaking the law.  So it is interesting that a public outcry succeeded where the law did not

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tony Abbott's long hard road has ended in victory

And Julia Gillard's great achievement is now ashes.  She laboured and betrayed in vain


The budget crisis is real, it’s serious, and we ignore it at our children’s peril

Henry Ergas

WITH Clive Palmer, Labor and the Greens combining to destroy the government’s budget, it is important to understand just how serious our fiscal crisis is.

In the recession that began in 1974, which lifted the unemployment rate to 6.5 per cent, there were 6 years of consecutive budget deficits with a cumulative deficit amounting to 7.9 per cent of GDP.

The even more severe ‘recession we had to have’ of 1990-1992, in which the unemployment rate rose to 11 per cent, caused 7 years of consecutive budget deficits and a cumulative deficit of 17.2 per cent of GDP.

Now, despite an unprecedented period of low unemployment and continuous expansion, by 2017-18 we will have run deficits for 10 years in a row.

And if the government’s proposed savings measures are not implemented, the cumulative deficit to 2017-18 will climb to 20.5 per cent of GDP, exceeding that incurred in every previous downturn, including the great depression.

The legacy of cumulative deficits will be rising gross debt, which, even with the savings measures, is expected to increase from $360 billion in 2014-15 to $450 billion in 2017-18.

As well as shifting on to tomorrow’s taxpayers the burden of paying for today’s benefits, greater debt will limit the borrowing capacity of future governments, reducing their scope to use fiscal policy to cushion the impact of adverse shocks.

Moreover, with the Reserve Bank’s cash rate already close to zero, the ability of monetary policy to pick up the slack will itself be constrained.

As a result, when an adverse shock comes, the cuts will have to be deeper and the hardship more widespread and prolonged. And such shocks are not merely possible; they are probable.

The historical record is clear: deep falls in output may be unpredictable, but they are hardly uncommon.

A recent study by John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, examines the 17 advanced economies (including Australia) for which good-quality data is available from the 1890s on. Williams concludes that on average, a contraction as drastic as that the US experienced at the peak of the global financial crisis occurs about once every 19 years. Yes, Williams notes, the sustained expansion that preceded the GFC suggested recessions had virtually been abolished; but like dreams of eternal peace, that illusion was soon shattered, and with a vengeance.

To Australians, basking in the sunshine of seemingly unending growth, the warnings of economic history will appear remote.

But recent decades are an unreliable guide to the challenges that lie in wait.

Rather, the stellar performance of the last 23 years at least partly reflects a series of one-off factors. To begin with, the depth of the recession ‘‘we had to have’’ meant there was a lengthy period in which the economy was simply climbing back towards its trend level. In 1992, national output was nearly 3 per cent below trend; it took until 1998 before the ‘‘output gap’’ (the difference between actual and trend output) was largely closed.

At the same time, structural reform, including labour market deregulation, lifted the economy’s productive potential, extending the growth spurt into the early years of this century. As that momentum faded, the aftermath of the ‘‘tech wreck’’ saw activity dip slightly below trend from 2001 to 2003; but the investment phase of the mining boom then came to the rescue, pushing output and incomes above trend in every year except 2010 and 2011.

However, at least as far as Australia is concerned, heaven may be running low on manna. For sure, the spectacular growth the boom has allowed in our capital stock, which increased by 60 percent in a decade, will permit durably higher levels of production; but the growth rate of that production could well taper off within five to six years.

Additionally, at the turn of this century, barely half of our exports went to Asia; now, four-fifths do. The scope to expand exports by redirecting trade from slowly growing to very rapidly growing markets is correspondingly smaller, with China’s eventual transition towards less dependence on resources
accentuating that effect.

And last but not least, the Rudd and Gillard governments saddled our economy with labour market regulations that punish the young and unskilled, raise unemployment, reduce labour force participation and limit the level and growth of incomes.

None of that condemns us to sackcloth and ashes.

But it does make the current policy paralysis, which entrenches roadblocks to growth and increases our vulnerability to downturns, particularly costly; and it means that counting on ever greater prosperity to redress the nation’s fiscal predicament is not mere complacency but outright recklessness.

The parallels to the experience in Britain should make the situation all the more disturbing. After a recession in 1990-91, a sustained recovery, combined with tighter controls over public expenditure, allowed a sequence of budget surpluses.

Unfortunately, by 2002 the Labour government had lost its fiscal discipline, and surpluses gave way to red ink; but with the deficits only 2 to 3 per cent of GDP, Labour steadfastly dismissed them as inconsequential, especially since the financial boom gave Tony Blair’s “Cool Britannia’’ an aura of invulnerability.

So when the crisis emerged with the collapse of the Northern Rock bank in September 2007, mounting public debt made drastic spending cutbacks inevitable, pushing the unemployment rate to 8 per cent and resulting in a prolonged ­period of slow growth.

Putting Australia’s house in order now, when the economy’s continuing strength can help absorb the costs of orderly fiscal consolidation, is therefore nothing more than prudent risk management.

And there is no mystery about what needs to be done.

Projections for public spending tell the story.

On average, commonwealth government payments have been about 24.9 per cent of GDP.

But unless reductions are made in the growth of public expenditure, cumulative payments to 2024-25 will exceed that benchmark by over $250 billion, corresponding to nearly $10,000 per man, woman and child.

To fund those payments, the tax burden would need to rise to well above its long-term level, with the typical full-time worker on average weekly earnings facing an income tax rate more than five percentage points higher than that in 2014-15.

And as they will be paying payroll taxes, compulsory superannuation contributions and the GST on top of that, average wage earners would therefore be losing well over half of any additional income earned in tax, reducing the incentives to work and save.

But in addition to being economically distorting, intense political competition means high levels of taxation will be hard to implement and sustain.

Rather, if spending is not brought under control, the likelihood is that the run of deficits will continue — until, that is, a severe downturn forces us into far-reaching retrenchment, just as has occurred in every previous bout of debt ­accumulation.

It is absurd to claim, as the visiting American economist Joe Stiglitz has, that a proposed gradual return to fiscal sustainability will worsen inequality.

On the contrary, the greatest threat to the living standards of the poor and vulnerable would come from forcing Australia into a European scenario, where drastic austerity has greatly increased poverty in every country that has felt its effects.

Far from being a recipe for fairness, allowing our fiscal woes to fester can only ensure the ultimate pain is both greater and more inequitable.

Indeed, this is why Norway, whose egalitarianism Stiglitz holds up as an example for Australia, has pursued the most fiscally conservative policies in Europe.

Even more exposed than we are to the commodity price cycle, it has guarded against recurrent deficits and strenuously avoided public debt.

The difficulty, therefore, does not lie in knowing what should be done; rather, it is in finding a way to do it, and for the government, to do so at a manageable political cost.

Labor lacked the willingness and ability that requires; the Coalition, which does want to tackle the problems, risks finding it impossible.

After all, chaos is Palmer’s best friend, while Labor’s sole concern is to prevent Abbott succeeding at what it so spectacularly failed to do.

Averting an eventual fiscal crisis hardly figures in the goals of those who do not make policy, but nonetheless have the power to break it.

Confronted with those dangers, the words of Joseph Schumpeter, the great economist who served as Austria’s finance minister in the trauma that followed the end of World War I, come to mind.

The ‘‘fiscal constitution’’ of a country, Schumpeter wrote, encapsulates in its highest form ‘‘the spirit of a people, its cultural level, its social structure, the deeds its policy may prepare’’.

‘‘He who knows how to listen’’ will discern in its ability to deal with fiscal difficulties ‘‘the thunder of its history more clearly than anywhere else’’.

With that thunder rolling, Australians have every reason to fear the storms that lie ahead.


The high risk of terror is hitting home: Bali-style terrorist attack ‘inevitable’ on Australian soil, says Labor MP Anthony Byrne

A SENIOR member of parliament’s high-powered intelligence and security committee has warned a Bali-style terrorist attack is inevitable on ­Australian soil and the risk of an incident is “accelerating”.

Unless ASIO and other spy agencies were given the sweeping new powers they were asking for, but were being denied, security forces would be limited in trying to prevent it.

Labor MP Anthony Byrne raised the alarm in parliament yesterday, revealing the view of the intelligence community was that an attack on home soil of the magnitude of the 2002 Bali bombing — which claimed the lives of 202 people including 88 Australians — was not only possible but now probable.

In an extraordinary caution to the parliament, the senior MP and former chair of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security said he had a “deep concern that eventually and inevitably in this country, an event will occur on this soil … on the magnitude of a Bali event or just a terrorist event.

“That event will be there to cause immense damage to the psyche of the Australian community. That will be its purpose, its intent.

“I don’t want to be part of a parliament that reacts to an event. I want to be part of a parliament that puts laws in place to prevent that event.”

Mr Byrne’s warning came ahead of a private briefing tomorrow with the heads of all the spy agencies and the Attorney-General George Brandis ahead of the introduction to parliament of legislation to grant new powers to ASIO.

The Daily Telegraph revealed last month Mr Brandis was planning to adopt up to 41 of 43 recommendations from a bipartisan report last year of the JPCIS that called for greater surveillance powers for ASIO.

But the government has stopped short of the more contentious data retention laws, which would force telecommunications and internet companies to keep metadata for two years.

Spy chiefs are concerned the government is moving too slowly at a time when there were heightened warnings about domestic terrorist events and links to Australians fighting with ­jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

Mr Byrne claimed that, without the data retention abilities — similar to laws granted to spy agencies in the UK last week — our spy agencies would be hamstrung at a time when ­Australia was at greater risk than ever before.


Bridges program proving a powerful key to higher education access

The percentages below are suspiciously high

A program aimed at increasing higher education participation for students from under-represented communities is having a profound impact, according to a new report.

Compiled by KPMG, the interim assessment of the $21.2 million Commonwealth Government program Bridges to Higher Education shows the initiative is delivering highly positive results for families from Greater Western Sydney and rural NSW, as well as those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

The report showed that in two years Bridges programs have engaged with schools and TAFEs in Greater Western Sydney and rural areas, achieving interactions with over 143,000 students, over 12,000 parents and carers, and over 8,500 teachers.

“Increasing access to higher education for sections of the community who traditionally miss out on this invaluable opportunity is one of the most pressing issues facing contemporary Australia,” says Bridges Chair, Annette Cairnduff.

“That means we first have to change some prevailing attitudes around higher education, build an awareness of the opportunities available, and improve academic outcomes in the years leading up to university.”

“The Bridges program is achieving all these goals, having had a major impact not only on students, but also on teachers, parents, carers, and community members who provide such an important support network.”

Commencing two-years-ago, Bridges to Higher Education is a collaborative project involving five universities (University of Technology, Sydney, Macquarie University, University of Western Sydney, The University of Sydney and the Australian Catholic University). It encompasses 88 projects including student-mentoring initiatives, summer schools, tutoring and preparatory programs, and community engagement programs.

Key interim report findings show that:

· 98% of participating students demonstrated improved academic performance

· 88% of students showed improved learning progress

· 84% of students reported improved motivation to continue to year 12 and greater confidence in their academic abilities

· 87% of students reported an increased awareness of alternative pathways to university

· 98% of participating teachers reported being better supported to engage students in learning

       · 91% of parents and carers reported an increased capacity to support their child’s higher education goals

 “Bridges work encompasses all aspects of increasing higher education awareness and access,” said Cairnduff.

“Our programs not only help prepare students for the challenges they’re likely to encounter throughout high school and university, they also help schools to enrich classroom practices and motivate their students to learn. Bridges programs have also broadened families’ views around the availability and value of higher education opportunities, and even increased many students’ confidence to challenge cultural or gender-specific expectations around their future.”

Press release from Medianet.

Joe Hockey warns he will bypass Senate to push tough budget measures through

Treasurer Joe Hockey has warned the Labor Party and the Greens to pass tough budget measures through the Senate or the government will find other ways to push through savings.

But the opposition says if the government wants to "sneakily" avoid the parliament it will have a case to answer with voters.

As the government prepares to front an extended Senate sitting to pass the mining and carbon tax repeals, Mr Hockey said he was prepared for "a marathon" negotiation to win the new Senate's approval for unpopular budget measures, such as a new GP fee.

He said Labor and the Greens risked dealing themselves out of any political influence if they did not approach talks with an open mind.

"I say to Labor and the Greens if your instinct is to say no immediately and to stick with that, you are dealing yourself out of having an influence on public policy," Mr Hockey told ABC radio on Wednesday.

"Because if the immediate reaction is no with no opportunity to open discussion . . . then there are other alternatives that we can take."

Mr Hockey said there were already budget measures that the government did not need legislation for.

He said if the government could not clinch the votes it needed on the Senate floor for proposals that would be presented as separate legislation, it would have no choice but to find alternatives.

Mr Hockey added that the warning was not "retribution" against an increasingly unpredictable Senate, and the government remained open to discussions.

''If the Senate chooses to block savings initiatives then we need to look at other savings initiatives that may not require legislation," Mr Hockey said.

''I would ask the Greens and the Labor Party, who between them hold 35 votes on the floor of the Senate, to understand that there are alternatives through government.''

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the opposition was happy to negotiate with the government, but the Treasurer's approach was all ''bluff and bluster''.

''If the Treasurer thinks he can sneakily get his changes through by somehow avoiding the parliament well he should explain to the Australian people what he's planning instead of the normal bluff and bluster we're get from this guy,'' he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

''What we're seeing is pretty much a Prime Minister and a Treasurer who just think, well, we'll arrogantly say what's going to happen and we'll just say that it will pass the Senate and saying it will pass the Senate means it will pass the Senate.

''Well that's not how parliaments work.''