Friday, August 22, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is celebrating the defeat of Clive Palmer by the Chinese.  The buffoon deserves it.

Australian Muslim leadership in chaos: Radicals reject Australia, boycott Tony Abbott

RADICAL Islamic groups have launched a scathing attack on the Prime Minister’s call for Australian Muslims to join “Team Australia”, urging all Islamic leaders to boycott meetings with the PM.

And in an extraordinary rift, the extremist Muslims have even turned on their own leader, Australia’s Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu ­Mohamed, lambasting him for meeting Mr Abbott on Monday to discuss new laws to safeguard Australians from a potential jihadist terrorist attack.

The Islamic Council of Victoria, which represents the state’s 150,000 Muslims, yesterday boycotted a meeting with the PM after earlier indicating it would attend.

And radical Sydney-based groups Hizb ut-Tahrir and al Risalah took to social media to attack Mr Abbott’s bid to unite Australians and protect the nation from extremist violence.

In a rare show of bipartisan support, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten backed the PM’s campaign to unite Australians under our flag. A spokesman for Mr Shorten said Labor Party stood behind Mr Abbott’s push for a united Australia.

The Daily Telegraph yesterday reported exclusively on radical Sydney Muslim leader Wissam Haddad’s rejection of the Australian flag in favour of the flag being used by murderous Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East.

ICV secretary Ghaith Krayem yesterday called on other Islamic groups to avoid talking with the Abbott government. The local branch of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah Association of Australia also pulled out of the afternoon meeting in Melbourne.

“We will not participate in staged processes that have no purpose other than as public relations exercises,” Mr Krayem said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar, who supports “honour killings”, slammed the Grand Mufti, Dr Mohamed, for talking to Mr Abbott and releasing a statement saying the talks were positive.

“All those who signed that shameful statement coming out of the Mufti’s office gave Tony Abbott what he wanted: A rubber stamp for the terror law proposals,” Mr Badar told his Facebook followers.

A #BoycottTeamAustralia campaign was being supported on ­social media yesterday by Mr Badar and others over the proposed national security legislation changes.


The  Australia’s Constitution is perhaps the most successful written constitution in the democratic world


THE air is full of lamentations about our supposedly broken politics. Not just in Australia, but in the US. Not just on the Left, but on the Right. There is wailing about Clive and his antics. There is lamenting from ex-politicos, BBC types stationed here for a bit, from the big end of town.

Their gnashing of teeth and rending of garments sound like this: politics is broken; nothing gets enacted; why not just work together for the common good?

Really, it’s all nonsense. First, our political system is not broken. It is delivering what it is designed to deliver. Way back at Federation the men (and it was all men, so if you’re offended, tough) who put together our Constitution had two models on offer: one Canadian, the other American.

They chose the US model, both when it came to the sort of federal system we would have and to the version of bicameralism. Let me be blunt. Australia’s Constitution is the most American one going and perhaps the most successful written constitution in the democratic world. And I say that as a native-born Canadian.

Australia’s founders liked the Madisonian constitutional structure they saw in the US; they preferred its emphasis on a really strong upper house that could, and on a regular basis would, block what the lower house wanted to do. They liked the model of checks and balances.

True, our founders took that US model and, in my view, made it better: they got rid of its democracy-enervating bill of rights and substituted in a Swiss-style amending procedure that gives you and me a say in change, rather than leave it to the political class as in the US and Canada. (If it were left to the politicos we’d be a republic and we’d have recognised every ethnic group going.)

So when you buy the James Madison checks and balances, not surprisingly you buy lots of checks and balances. It’s hard to get things done. That’s not design failure. It’s what the design is supposed to deliver on occasion.

This will be annoying if you think government almost always gets things right. If the National Broadband Network, carbon taxes, paid parental leave and so on are virtually guaranteed to be good, then you want a New Zealand, British or Canadian setup where a party wins an election and does what it wants. There is no (elected) upper house blocking statutes.

If, though, you suspect government gets things wrong as much as it gets things right, then you are prepared to pay the price of gridlock and few things getting through. You, like Madison, think this is the lesser evil. Sometimes you will feel vindicated when a bill you don’t like can’t get through the Senate. Sometimes you won’t, when a budget measure desperately needs enacting. The two most successful models on offer in the democratic world are the British model, with next to no checks, and the US with loads of checks. It is far from obvious that Britain outperforms the US over time.

Of course there is no perfect choice. But the notion that the US is suddenly more partisan than in years gone by is garbage. And our founders even built in a mechanism the Yanks don’t have, the double dissolution. So in the end our more democratic lower house can prevail over the Senate. Make your case to the people. If the Senate blocks it, keep making the case and if needs be pull the double dissolution trigger. If you can’t sell your medicine, don’t blame the voters. It’s you.

As for the lovey-dovey ‘‘Let’s just hold hands and work together to make our country a better place’’, the point is that reasonable disagreement is a fact of life. The idea that one can explain moral and political disagreement in terms of me being God incarnate and you a defective, intellectually challenged git in need of re-­education is garbage and the natural home of the Greens. The rest of us should avoid it.

We are not living through the breakdown of politics. Voters may have made choices they regret. Any bets on whether a re-run today of the 2007 election would see Howard win? But in the end democracy is the worst form of government except for every other system going. It is not infallible. Right now the system is working as designed. Get the voters on board and our Senate will cave in like a house of cards.


Solar cycles linked to climate pause, assist in coastal planning

Australian data

LONG-TERM  natural cycles linked to the sun could explain the pause in global average surface temperatures and offer a better guide for coastal planners to predict sea level rises, storm surges and natural disasters.

Publication of the findings in Ocean and Coastal Management follows a decade-long struggle for the lead author, Australian scientist Robert Baker from the University of New England, whose work has challenged the orthodox ­climate science view that carbon dioxide is the dominant factor in climate change.

Dr Baker, a former chair of the International Geographical Commission on Modelling Geographic Systems, said what had been a purely scientific debate on climate change until 2005 had become political. His latest paper with his PhD student faced a ­series of ­objections from scientists close to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change but was published after an 11-member peer review panel voted 8-3 to publish. An editorial that accompanied the paper said it was an “excellent ­example of how to approach these complex issues that are now vulnerable to often irrational and heated debate instead of the ­required proper scientific discussion”.

The Baker paper suggests a ­hybrid model that allows future climate change to be estimated with or without human influences. The authors said this would provide a better legal foundation for decision making. Problems with coastal planning in NSW, based on sea-level predictions from climate modelling, were cited in the international paper.

The paper accepts that if there is a human influence on climate change, then it could result in a threefold increase in one-in-100-year extreme coastal events. But it says, as the hiatus shows, human influence can be overtaken by long-term natural cycles, making predictions less certain. The combination of natural and human-induced change in a hybrid model of natural cycles and human influence suggested by Dr Baker produces a “planner’s ­dilemma” of determining whether extreme events are natural fluctuations or from anthropogenic warming.

The paper shows, from scientific analysis of a large number of data sets, that previous fluctuations are periodic and likely to repeat, which has previously been ignored in climate models. According to the paper, the new model was able to simulate a number of climate features . This included greater heat uptake in the oceans to explain the present temperature “pause”; regional effects whereby global warming impacts were not evenly spread ; and planetary, lunar and solar cycles being embedded within the chaotic fluctuations in short-term mean sea-level data. Historic cycles could be predicted to repeat, except with the addition of anthropogenic warming, where the impact could be magnified.

The IPCC’s latest report said the “pause” was due to natural variation and ocean warming. Climate scientists say they expect warming to resume in the near future.


A small minority of ANU students march again over fee deregulation

Students at the Australian National University (ANU) have vowed to ramp up their opposition to the Government's proposal to deregulate student fees.  More than 200 ANU students in Canberra marched against the proposed deregulation of student fees.

The controversial policy was announced in the Federal Government's budget earlier in the year, but the proposal is yet to pass the Senate.

Organisers of the protest warned university fee deregulation would disadvantage students from lower income areas.

The protesters targeted Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, but also the ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young, for supporting the proposed policy.

ANU student organiser Geraldine Fela has warned an uncapped university system could lead to degrees costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Our vice-chancellor Ian Young, who's also the chair of the Group Of Eight universities, has been championing fee deregulation from the beginning," she said.  "He's certainly I think feeling very uncomfortable on the campus."

Speaking at the National Press Club last month, Mr Young said fee deregulation, although not the whole answer, would enable universities to differentiate and play to their strengths, creating real competition in the sector.

He used his speech to urge the Senate to "rise above point-scoring and political trickery" and support deregulation.

Today students marched to the University's Chancellery building, where they were blocked by a small team of security guards.

There was a minor scuffle between protesters and security, before the students left the site.

In May there were fiery protests around the country, opposing the proposed changes


Old-fashioned slang for homosexuals lands Australian regional politician in trouble

The Northern Territory’s Deputy Chief Minister Dave Tollner is in trouble after being heard calling the gay son of fellow Country Liberals Party politician Gary Higgins a “pillow biter” and “shirt lifter.”  [He missed out "freckle puncher"]

The incident happened during a row over the content of a draft speech, reports the NT News. It may have serious fall-out, with Higgins reportedly telling the parliamentary wing that he would boycott all party meetings while Tollner remained in a leadership position.

Tollner has apologised to Higgins’ son for the comments, which have also been condemned by Chief Minister Adam Giles as “inappropriate” and “not acceptable.”


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Palmer bites the dust in dispute with Chinese

Federal MP and mining magnate Clive Palmer has lost his latest legal battle against Chinese giant CITIC Pacific for control of a key Pilbara iron ore port.

The Federal Court has today issued two rulings adverse to Mr Palmer's company Mineralogy's interests at Cape Preston port, used to ship ore from the multi-billion-dollar Sino Iron mine, about 100km south-west of Karratha.

It has upheld an appeal by Hong Kong-based CITIC challenging Mineralogy's designation by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport as the port operator, in January 2013.

In a separate case, the Federal Court has dismissed an application by Mineralogy seeking to overturn the approval of CITIC's maritime security plan at the port.

The department had declared it was a "security regulated port", requiring a maritime security plan (MSP) to protect it from potential terrorist and other threats.

CITIC ships ore out of Cape Preston, after buying the rights to mine the $10 billion Sino Iron project from Mineralogy.

The decisions come after Mr Palmer's comments on ABC's Q&A program on Monday night, where he called the Chinese government "bastards" and "mongrels" and claimed they "shoot their own people".

He later issued a statement saying his comments were directed only at CITIC, with which he is engaged in several long-running legal disputes.

Port operation should be taken out of Mineralogy's hands: CITIC

Lawyers for CITIC had proposed the state of Western Australia, or the harbourmaster appointed by it, should be the designated port operator instead of Mineralogy.

They were appealing an earlier decision by the Federal Court dismissing their application for a judicial review of the designation of Mineralogy as port operator.

In its ruling on the appeal, the court has now found the Department of Infrastructure and Transport did not take into account CITIC's views as required by law when it made the designation.

"That approach was based on a misunderstanding of the statutory requirements and resulted in a failure by the [department's] delegate to carry out the task assigned to him," the court's ruling said.

CITIC, which said it had been exporting iron ore from Cape Preston since December, welcomed the court's decision invalidating the designation of Mineralogy.

"We look forward to the secretary for the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development designating a new port operator for maritime security purposes in accordance with the requirements of the law," the company said in a statement.

In November last year, the secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development had accepted CITIC's maritime security plan for Cape Preston port.

The department has rejected Mineralogy's own proposed maritime security plans several times.

In court, Mineralogy's lawyers argued the decision had seriously prejudiced its rights at the port.

They said the decision was not properly authorised, was an improper exercise of power, involved an error in law and lacked evidence to justify the approval of CITIC's marine security plan.

Mineralogy claimed CITIC had established a near complete "lockout" of its employees from the port.

But Justice Neil McKerracher has upheld the validity of the department's decision and found Mineralogy's complaints could not be sustained.

"In this instance, the approval of [CITIC's security plan] had none of the adverse consequences that Mineralogy has suggested," Justice McKerracher said in his judgement.

He added: "The reality is that it is [CITIC] that is conducting all activities of any significance at the port and it was in its interests, not some future potential interest of Mineralogy, that was affected by the secretary's decision."

CITIC said it was pleased with the ruling.

Justice McKerracher rejected Mineralogy's assertion the department's approval of CITIC's maritime safety plan was "to the exclusion of Mineralogy's MSP".

He noted Mineralogy still had a right and obligation to obtain approval of its own maritime security plan for the port.

He also found the approval of CITIC's safety plan had "no effect at all" on Mineralogy's arguments in other litigation with CITIC claiming it had exclusive right to occupy and operate the Cape Preston facilities.

Mineralogy was ordered to pay CITIC's costs in both cases.


Student test anxiety relieved by new research

While NAPLAN marks slip across the country, new research suggests letting kids look at exams before they begin can help reduce anxiety and improve performance.

Child development researcher and PhD student Myrto Mavilidi, from the Early Start Research Institute at the University of Wollongong (UOW), said that test anxiety is a major threat to student performance that can lead them to ‘choking under pressure’.

“The stress related to pressure-filled exam situations has physiological effects, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, emotional effects, such as worries about the situation and its consequences, and cognitive effects, such as working memory load,” Ms Mavilidi said.

“Our research has found that even letting students skim their exams for one minute before they begin can help to reduce anxiety.”

Researchers from UOW and Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands tested the math skills of 117 sixth grade students across primary schools in Athens and found that both low-anxiety and high-anxiety students were less stressed and achieved better results if they were allowed to scan the test beforehand.

The study, recently published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, also found that students with higher anxiety levels needed significantly more response time and greater effort because their working memories were consumed by negative thoughts, and so performed worse on their exams.


Must not oppose mosque building

A divisive social media page protesting the development of a mosque in Bendigo has been shut down by Facebook for violating its community standards.

The "Stop the Mosque in Bendigo" page claims it was closed over a post calling for Muslim leaders in Australia to sign "a Muslim charter of understanding” abolishing violence against other religions.

But some of those who reported the page to Facebook say they were told it was removed because it breached Facebook’s policy on hate speech.

The page sprang up earlier this year in response to a City of Greater Bendigo decision in June to grant a planning permit for a $3 million mosque, the first of its kind for the regional city.

It was taken down after at least two Bendigo residents complained about it to Facebook, the Bendigo Advertiser reported.

One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she made a report because she found the page’s contents embarrassing and unfair to Muslim people.

"I believe the page is hate speech and I don't think that the average Muslim person living in Bendigo should have to see the stuff that was on that page. The page promoted hate, fear and misguided intolerance and made me embarrassed to live in Bendigo," she told the Bendigo Advertiser.

Tara Harding, also a Bendigo resident, later posted on Facebook: "This was a great community effort by many of the Bendigo residents. I'm happy to say I too received a notification this page was shut down after reporting the page in July."

One of the administrators of the anti-mosque page, Monika Evers, dramatically withdrew a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal challenge to the planning permit after a legal bid to have her identity hidden was thrown out. 

She had told the tribunal she’d received death threats and feared for her safety. The other administrator of the page was a woman called Julie Kendall.

“You know we have been riding a very unpopular stance with our page by many Australians,” Stop the Mosque in Bendigo wrote in an email announcing the closure of the page on Tuesday.

The email went on to explain Facebook had unpublished the page after its administrators boosted a post by an ex-Muslim calling for a more moderate approach to other religions to be adopted by Muslim leaders.

The administrator wrote she was: “considering my options before resurrecting the page” and claimed it had previously been hacked “as part of an ongoing campaign to personally vilify me".

Dr Seyed Sheriffdeen from the Australian Islamic Mission, the group behind the mosque, said he had visited the page only once and found its contents to be “purely racist”.

The move by members of the Bendigo community to have it removed had been heartening, he said.

“It is nice to see people standing for justice and at least a fair go,” he said. “I’m really appreciating the amount of effort taken by local non-Muslim residents to stand up for justice in this community.”


Tasmanian abalone contain protein being developed for new herpes treatment

A fish processor's healed hand warts has alerted scientists to the herpes-fighting properties of the blue blood of the Tasmanian blacklip abalone.

Researchers have found the abalone from pristine bays along the state's coast contain potent anti-viral properties that chemical engineers and virologists have shown block the herpes virus's entry into cells.

Scientists have discovered the same protein that gives the blood its blue colour also has anti-viral properties.

Adrian Cuthbertson from Marine Biotechnologies Australia, which is working with University of Sydney staff and other researchers, said the potential of the abalone blood in developing a better treatment was a chance discovery.

"Initially we started out looking at the prospect of developing an immune support supplement, and that serendipitously led us to the discovery that it was effective on cold sores," he said.

Mr Cutherbertson said 10 years ago when the company was involved in abalone serum trials relating to cancer treatments, patients reported fewer cases of cold sore breakouts.

"Around the same time we had an employee responsible for loading and unloading abalone shell containers," he said.  "After a month of working with the shellfish, he found the viral warts which had plagued his hands for years disappeared."

Mr Cuthbertson said he then contacted chemical engineers at the University of Sydney and virus researchers at the Westmead Millennium Institute to work on the discovery.

Most herpes medication works to manage the symptoms, but the anti-viral properties found in abalone act as a preventative measure.

Professor Fariba Dehghan, director of the university's bioengineering research, said their study showed the particular abalone hemocyanin inhibited the herpes simplex infection.

She said hemocyanins had a primary function of collecting and delivering oxygen to tissues.

"We know once infection occurs the virus integrates itself into a body's nerve cells, where it lays dormant awaiting reactivation," she said

"When awakened it travels back along the nerve tracks to the surface where it takes the form of watery blisters and ulcers on the skin."

Professor Tony Cunningham from Westmead Millennium Institutes said researchers were confident they could develop a therapy to replace current treatments that shorten the disease but do not kill the virus.

"With the information we have now, we are hopeful that we can develop an anti-viral therapy that will prevent or reduce the recurrence of the virus and/or hasten healing of the lesions," he said.

Mr Cuthbertson said there was a potential for a boost to Tasmania's abalone industry when a commercial product was developed.

"In terms of the abalone industry for Tasmania, it has the potential to substantially increase the value of it - this is, if you like, the ultimate value-add process," he said.

"We've now got to the stage where there's every possibility that we can develop pharmaceutical drugs from some of the bi-products.

"We would be hopeful that in the next 18 months to two years that we've got some serious interest from pharmaceutical companies."

The anti-viral therapy's form is still unclear and researchers said it was possible it could be a cream, a nasal spray or a tablet.

The researchers said more than 70 per cent of Australians carried the herpes simplex 1 virus.

About 13 per cent carry the herpes simplex 2 virus, which can cause genital herpes.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG notes that insulting speech is OK if Clive Palmer says it

Clive Palmer, the ultimate loose cannon

There will now be NOBODY who takes him seriously

Palmer United Party senator Jacquie Lambie has stuck her foot in it — again.  Tasmania’s PUP member today emailed a media statement and “opinion piece” regarding her boss Clive Palmer's tirade on Chinese “mongrels” on QandA last night.

In an inflammatory statement, Ms Lambie writes, “If anybody thinks that we should have a national security and defence policy, which ignores the threat of a Chinese Communist invasion — you’re delusional and got rocks in your head.  “Today China is controlled by an aggressive, anti democratic, totalitarian government. We need to double the size and capacity of our military right now.”

Meanwhile, the one politician Australia really wants to hear from this morning has chosen to keep his opinions to himself, as Clive Palmer continues to cop it after launching a tirade against the Chinese last night.  A spokeswoman for the Palmer United Party’s Chinese born senator, Dio Wang, who holds a seat in Western Australia, told Mr Wang had “no comment”.  According to the spokeswoman, Mr Wang was “preparing for upcoming back to back Senate sittings”.

Mr Wang was born in Nanjing, China, and emigrated to Australia in 2003. He has been an Australian citizen since 2009. He earned a Postgraduate Diploma in Planning and Design (Urban Planning) and Master of Engineering Structures at the University of Melbourne.

Wang was Palmer’s top candidate for PUP’s 2013 Western Australia federal election campaign.  He was initially caught up in the recount scandal, eventually winning with 12.3 per cent of the vote. He joined the Senate on July 1 this year.

Meanwhile, former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has shocked Australia this morning by giving a measured and thought-provoking interview regarding Clive Palmer’s explosive tirade against the Chinese on the ABC last night.  In an interview alongside former radio shock jock Derryn Hinch on Channel 7’s Sunrise program, Ms Hanson criticised Mr Palmer for his tirade against Australia’s biggest trading partner.

On Q&A last night, Mr Palmer likened the Chinese government to “mongrels” and called them “b*stards” who wanted to “take over our country”.   In a broad spray the maverick MP accused the “communist Chinese government” of trying to take over Australia’s ports to steal the nation’s natural resources. “I don’t mind standing up against the Chinese bastards and stopping them from doing it,” he said on Q&A.

Treasurer Joe Hockey this morning said Mr Palmer’s comments are “hugely damaging”, arguing he is a big beneficiary of China’s investment.  “I would say to Mr Palmer please do not bring down the rest of Australia because of your biases.”

Mr Palmer has since attempted to defuse the situation, tweeting this morning that his comments were not in reference to “Chinese people”.

Yet in an unexpected twist, Ms Hanson criticised Mr Palmer, telling Sunrise he should “stick your nose out of other people’s business”.  “I never said what Clive Palmer said, and Tony Abbott thought I was his biggest headache,” she said.

“Maybe Clive Palmer should take a position over in China in Parliamentary seats.  “I’ve always said clean up your own backyard before criticising other people.  “It’s not up to Clive Palmer or anyone else. It’s not for us or Australia to get involved in that.”

Meanwhile, Julie Bishop said it was not appropriate for Mr Palmer to “vent his bitterness” on a television program over a business deal.  In an interview with 3AW this morning, she said she would be speaking with the Chinese embassy to explain that the comments were from just one member of parliament, but would not be contacting Mr Palmer.

The Palmer United Party leader is embroiled in a legal battle with Chinese state-owned company CITIC Pacific, which has accused the mining magnate of siphoning off $12 million in funds.  Mr Palmer has strenuously denied accusations his company Mineralogy misused CITIC Pacific’s cash to finance PUP’s federal election campaign. He said the matter was before the Supreme Court this week and he’d keep up the fight against the “Chinese mongrels”.


Dropping bombs and stoking feuds: the other side of Noel Pearson

He writes sensibly.  A pity his conduct does not match

Shortly after 11 am last Friday, Noel Pearson, chairman of the Cape York Group and a nationally prominent Aboriginal leader, walked into the newsroom of The Sydney Morning Herald and approached a senior editor. He proceeded to berate the editor, loudly, obscenely. He took off his jacket and told the editor he would “beat you to a pulp”. He also mentioned throwing him off the balcony. He dropped the “c” bomb repeatedly.

All in the middle of a metropolitan newsroom.

This is the other side of Noel Pearson, the unelected, unaccountable bridge-burner who has left a trail of damage and division that offsets and undermines his efforts to break the cycle of social dysfunction in many indigenous communities.

Tony Abbott is having a shocking run with his inner sanctum. He’s been putting out fires lit by his Treasurer, his Attorney-General, his Minister for Employment, his Treasurer, again, and now his personally appointed special adviser on indigenous affairs.

Abbott’s appointment of Pearson now looks well-meaning but obtuse. If Pearson were to ever appear in court in a defamation action over being called a bully, the court would be presented with voluminous evidence of his foul temper and self-indulgent rages, some of which have been recorded on tape.

One of his tirades was recorded by a former federal minister. Even after Pearson was advised he was being taped he continued a long, expletive-laden soliloquy of abuse and invective. The current Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, is also reported to have been subject to one of Pearson’s rages, repeatedly being told to “f--- off”.

The trigger for Pearson’s rage on Friday was an old sore, a profile published in Good Weekend  two years ago, on August 25, 2012, by Jane Cadzow. The profile was rigorously researched and crafted, a trademark of Cadzow’s work. She has won two Walkley Awards for feature writing and been a Walkley finalist four times.

Cadzow's request for an interview with Pearson had been turned down. Yet on the morning her profile appeared he was on the phone delivering a long blast of outrage. He was aggrieved that it had been written while he was receiving treatment for cancer and that Cadzow did not go up to Cape York when researching the story.

But Cadzow was not going to Cape York without an interview with Pearson. She also felt his rage over the phone vindicated her portrayal of his anger, based on many sources.

“His call went on so long,” she told me, “and I had so little chance to get a word in, that I even made a cup of tea … It was ironic that while he was complaining about the story his behaviour fitted exactly with the pattern I had reported.”

Her profile began with this confronting scene:

The meeting began cordially enough. A Queensland government delegation was in Cairns to confer with Noel Pearson, the most influential indigenous leader in the country. Pleasantries were exchanged as people took their places around the table, then the room fell silent while everyone waited respectfully for him to speak.

What followed, according to former parliamentarian Stephen Robertson, was "a tirade of expletives and abuse", including, more than once, the phrase "f---ing white c---s"...  starting very slowly, very deliberately, and speaking quite softly, then over the next 15 or 20 minutes reaching a crescendo".

Among those present was state environment minister Kate Jones, whose female adviser was dismissed by Pearson as an "arse-wipe". Robertson says his own chief-of-staff, an indigenous man, was called a "sell-out c---". Another member of the group sums up the rest of the diatribe: "'You f---ing white c---s', scream, scream, scream. Full on, for half an hour. Nobody could get a word in.”

The story presented a troubling portrait of a charismatic bully who has extracted millions of dollars of funding for indigenous programs from governments and corporations, via persuasion or browbeating. The portrait of Pearson’s older brother, Gerhardt, was also troubling. The profile was balanced with the many positives for which Pearson is famous - his intellect, his lucidity and his commitment to practical improvements for Australia’s poorest communities.

I’ve interviewed Pearson, seen him speak, seen a room captivated by his eloquence, and  written in his favour. But his positives are offset by his negatives, the feuds, the disdain, the costly demands on the public purse.

And his bullying is often premeditated. Cadzow interviewed many people including a former close associate of Pearson who became an adversary, Lyndon Schneiders of the Wilderness Society. He described how Noel and Gerhardt Pearson planned their intimidation: "They called it 'bombing'. When they were going to go in and make their views forcefully known to government, they were going on a 'bombing raid'. I watched them do it to advisers, to backbenchers, to ministers, to journos. It wasn't pretty."

Even the journalist who did more than any other to push the Pearson mythology, Tony Koch, came to regret his long silence about Pearson’s dark side. In a column for The Australian in April 2012, he wrote: “Instead of drawing people into his orbit, Pearson has succeeded in pushing almost everyone away.”

This does not augur well for his role as Abbott’s emissary. Pearson’s story forms just a fractional part of the tens of billions of dollars of government funding that has been funnelled into indigenous communities and programs with little impact on measurable improvement. The public’s exasperation and cynicism is rampant. It pays the bills.

Pearson’s most recent explosion, on Friday, is emblematic of a man who cannot control his anger or curb his ego. This does not serve his cause. It also damages the cause of the Prime Minister he is supposedly helping.


Qantas flies a flag for Labor with Recognise livery

QANTAS has for the first time in its 94 years turned its aeroplanes into political billboards. Worse, it’s doing it in a racist cause.

The national airline this week painted a giant Recognise slogan on a new QantasLink Q400, and all 31 aircraft in its Q400 regional fleet will soon sport the logo, too.

“As an Australian icon, Qantas is proud to lend its support towards ensuring the first chapter of Australia’s story and the people who forged it are recognised,” said Qantas group executive Olivia Wirth.

But Recognise is not just a campaign to change the Constitution to recognise Aborigines as the first Australians, which is supported by the Abbott Government.

The movement, whose joint campaign director Tim Gartrell is Labor’s former campaign director, wants even more.

It wants not just to divide Australians by “race” but to accord the Aboriginal “race” different rights.

It wants the Constitution changed to allow Parliament to pass “laws for the benefit” of indigenous Australians, to recognise Aboriginal “ languages were this country’s first tongues” and to ban racial discrimination.

These changes could actually mean different laws for different “races”, Aboriginal culture given special rights, and activists getting new weapons to shut down debates they define as racist.

And mind you: this stupid division is happening when many people identifying as Aboriginal actually have many non-Aboriginal descendants.

It is bad enough that Qantas backs something so racist. Worse is that it’s promoting a recognition campaign closer to Labor’s position than the Liberal one set by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Abbott wants only a minimalist change to the Constitution — little more than a simple recognition in the preamble that Aborigines were here before other “races”.

But Labor demands something much closer to the Recognise demands.

A week ago, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten declared “symbolic change is not good enough”.

Any change to the Constitution should be “substantive and substantial”.

So Qantas is not just helping to set Aboriginal Australians against non-Aboriginal. It is also helping Labor against the Liberals.

How useful that is for Qantas, after all its fights with Labor’s most powerful unions. Its real reconciliation is with Labor.


Cancelled: proposed speech by Muslim activist Uthman Badar at UWA

A speech by a controversial Muslim activist planned to be held at UWA has been cancelled by organisers, who claimed they were misled by an outside party.

On Tuesday morning, UWA's Muslim Students Association cancelled the speech by Uthman Badar after Vice-Chancellor Paul Johnson declared the activist had to renounce his alleged view that honour killings were morally justified.

Mr Badar attracted significant media attention earlier this year when he was booked to speak on morally justifying honour killing at Sydney's Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

Negative feedback forced the seminar to be called off.

Now the Australian spokesman for Hizb Ut-Tahrir - an international Islamic group that advocates sharia law - Mr Badar had been invited to speak at a forum at UWA held by the university's Muslim Students Association titled "Gaza Crisis".

The university's Muslim Students Association cancelled the forum, shortly after Mr Johnson said he required a written undertaking that Mr Badar abide by the university's code of ethics and conduct and renounce his views on honour killings "in all contexts".

Muslim Students Association executive officer Nazim Khan, an assistant professor at UWA’s Department of Applied Statistics, said the association had been misguided by a party outside the university.

He refused to name the man who booked Mr Badar but said they would not deal with him in the future.

“When we organised it, it was organised through one of our partners. We didn’t know who the speaker was, we just knew the topic,” he said.

“When it came to light who the speaker was, I didn’t recognise the name but once we discovered who he was, as an association we took the steps to cancel it.

“We have had some dealings with [the booker] before so we took it in good faith but we weren’t told who the speaker was, although this person did know.

“We trusted his judgement to get a speaker on the topic but when it came to light he had misguided us...we will be more vigilant in the future.

“We took the steps to make sure we didn’t damage our reputation within the university or the reputation of the university”

Vice-Chancellor Johnson had earlier labelled Mr Badar's purported views to be incompatible with UWA principles.

"Mr Badar has been reported to hold the view that so-called honour killings are morally justified," he said in a statement.

"This view is completely incompatible with the university’s principles.

"[Mr Johnson] requires Mr Badar to give an explicit, written public assurance that he is opposed to the cowardly and barbaric act of so-called honour killings."

Although Mr Badar was booked to speak at the Sydney festival, it was unclear if he held a view that honour killings were justified.

Mr Nazim said the Gaza Crisis forum may go ahead at a later date with more moderate speakers.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Muslim suburb in Sydney

The Lakemba Hotel is one of the last Anglo holdouts in Sydney’s otherwise Middle Eastern south-western suburb. Frankly, the old joint – it opened in 1928 – isn’t putting up much resistance. Most nights the bar is closed by 8.30pm or so, because by then what few customers it attracts are insufficient to cover running costs.

Still, it’s friendly and hospitable. Staffer Poppy helpfully showed me to my $50 per night room, which is the only option in Lakemba for anyone seeking short-term rented accommodation. There are no other hotels or motels. In fact, there are no other rooms besides number 15, in the hotel’s residential wing. All the others are taken by boarders, one of whom has been here for 20 years.

It isn’t exactly luxurious. The room has a sink, which is nice, but nothing else by way of amenities. There isn’t even a Gideon’s Bible. Instead, reflecting certain demographic changes in the area, there is a Ramadan eating schedule.

Lakemba may be only 30 minutes from the centre of Sydney, yet it is remarkably distinct from the rest of our city. You can walk the length of crowded Haldon Street and not hear a single phrase in English. On this main shopping street the ethnic mix seems similar to what you’d find in any major Arabic city. Australia may be multicultural, but Haldon Street is a monoculture.

This does have its advantages. If you’re ever in need of groceries at 3am, head to Lakemba, where shopkeepers keep unusual hours, particularly during Ramadan. The food is delicious, of course. I recommend La Roche and Al Aseel, but all restaurants in Haldon Street are good. If you’re unfamiliar with Lebanese food, just go for anything with the word “mixed”.

And then there are the downsides.

A few weeks ago a large crowd of mostly young men assembled outside the Lakemba Hotel. Waving black flags, the men chanted:

Palestine is Muslim land
The solution is Jihad ...
You can never stop Islam
From Australia to al Sham.

I asked a non-Islamic local about that night. “You should see them when they really go off,” she said. “That was nothing.” Another non-Islamic woman said young men sometimes shouted “sharmuta” at her from their cars. She looked up the word online and discovered it was an Arabic term for prostitute.

Across the road from the hotel is the Islamic Bookstore, which bills itself as “your superstore of Islamic knowledge”. Three books caught my eye. Here’s an extract from Muhammad bin Jamil Zino’s What a Muslim Should Believe, a handy 64-page Q & A guide to the Koran’s instructions:
Question 43: Is it allowed to support and love disbelievers?

Answer: No, it is not allowed.

Well, that might explain a few things. The History of the Jews seems a bland enough title, but the back cover quotes lines from Martin Luther that were used by Nazi propagandists: “The sun never did shine on a more bloodthirsty and revengeful people as they.” The book offers this view, on page 16:

No one can deny the fact that the Jews are the worst kind of barbarian killers the world has ever known!!! The decent great Adolf Hitler of Germany never killed in the manner of the Jews!!! Surely only mad people or those who love killing infants, pregnant women and the infirm will think differently.

It goes on and on. Another extract:

"Humor and jokes are strictly forbidden by the Jewish religion.
This will come as a surprise to just about every Jew on earth. Another must-read is Mansoor Abdul Hakim’s charming 2009 text, Women Who Deserve to go to Hell. Turns out it’s quite a lot of them.

“Some people keep asking about the denizens of Hell and the reason why women will go to hell in large numbers,” writes Hakim in the book’s foreword, before listing various types of hell-bound females, including the grumbler, the quarrelsome woman, women with tattoos and women who refuse to have sex during menstruation. “Men’s perfection is because of various reasons: intelligence, religion, etc,” Hakim explains. “At most, four women have this perfection.”

Mix this level of ignorance and loathing with the Islamic community’s high rate of unemployment, and conflict is inevitable. The Islamic riots of 2012 ended up in central Sydney but began here in Lakemba and surrounding suburbs, where seething young Muslims formed their plans, including printing signs reading “Behead all those who insult the prophet”.

One of the men arrested in those riots was Ahmed Elomar, who was subsequently convicted for bashing a police officer with a flagpole. His lawyer claimed that Elomar was “overcome with the occasion”. The occasion continues. Lately Elomar’s brother Mohammed has posed with severed heads in Iraq, where he is fighting alongside fundamentalist Islamic State extremists.

Back at the pub, a staffer mentions rare moments of cultural overlap. “Sometimes the young blokes will come in here to buy Scotch,” she says. “They try to hide themselves under hoodies.” But when the staffer sees them later in the street, they don’t return her greeting. The hotel is haram – sinful and forbidden. Those early closing hours will eventually become permanent.


Andrew Bolt's interview with Cory Bernardi

Bernardi is a true conservative but an "extremist" to the LeftMedia

ANDREW BOLT, PRESENTER: The Abbott Government, last week, dumped its promise to reform the Racial Discrimination Act to allow more free speech. It said it had to do this to encourage Muslim Australians to help fight terrorism.

TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: When it comes to counterterrorism, everyone needs to be part of ‘Team Australia’. And I have to say that the Government’s proposals to change 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act have become a complication in that respect.

ANDREW BOLT: Well, it didn’t work. Muslim leaders have still condemned the government’s anti-terrorism proposals. And Liberal MP Craig Laundy, whose Sydney seat has a Muslim vote of more than 10%, also found this ‘Team Australia’ approach didn’t fly at a meeting of the Muslim Lebanese Association on Friday.

CRAIG LAUNDY, LIBERAL MP: The Prime Minister used a term, and it is one that is unfortunately disappeared into the ether this week, but it is one that I believe with my heart and soul. It is Team Australia. There is no… and laugh all you like.

ANDREW BOLT: Many Liberals members now feel sold out. Former minister David Kemp, for instance, asked what the party actually stands for if it cannot defend even free speech. Some Liberal Senators even plan to vote for Abbott’s abandoned free speech reforms when they are presented to parliament by Family First Senator Bob Day. Joining me is the co-sponsor of Day’s private members bill, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi. Thanks for your time, Cory.

CORY BERNARDI, LIBERAL SENATOR: It’s a pleasure, Andrew. Good to be with you.

ANDREW BOLT: Now, why are you cosponsoring Bob Day’s bill?

CORY BERNARDI: Well, Andrew, I believe in freedom of speech, and I think that the Liberal grassroots want to know that there are members of the Liberal Parliamentary party who are absolutely committed to it. And I have to say that the decision by the Government to abandon reform of 18C has disappointed many members of the Liberal Party. We always thought that, you know, the initial proposal put forward by George Brandis was a starting point for negotiations, but would find an accommodation that we could all agree on as part of Team Australia, Andrew.

ANDREW BOLT: Thank you for that. How many Liberals and Nationals do you think will vote for it in the Senate?

CORY BERNARDI: I wouldn’t even like to hazard a guess at it, Andrew. In the end I’ve made this decision because I believe that what Senator Day has put forward, or is proposing, is absolutely consistent with Liberal Party values. It’s to remove, you know, ‘insult’ and ‘offend’ from the 18C provision of the Racial Discrimination Act. I think most level-headed, considered people would think that’s a very sensible amendment to ensure that free speech is available in Australia without the threat of being taken to court or some tribunal, just because you’ve upset someone.

ANDREW BOLT: How upset is the grassroots, the Liberal grassroots,with what the Government has done with these free speech plans?

CORY BERNARDI: Well, Andrew, I have heard some advice from some of my colleagues that, you know, long-standing members of the Liberal Party have resigned, and you know that I have a weekly email newsletter. I canvassed this issue in that newsletter last week and received, quite literally, hundreds and hundreds of people who are saying that they’re disappointed. They’ve made different points how it could be improved or amended, but they’re just disappointed it’s been abandoned, full stop. Now, I don’t want to see the Liberal grassroots start to cast their eyes anywhere else. They’re frustrated already that the Government isn’t able to get through much of its legislative agenda, and I don’t want them to turn off the Liberal Party. So, I want to make sure that, you know, we can present something that is workable, that is acceptable to the majority of Australians, and I hope, I really hope, that Cabinet, and the Liberal Party, will consider supporting it.

ANDREW BOLT: Is there a general sense among the Liberal members you talk to that the Government isn’t really a Liberal Government, that it isn’t giving them much that justifies their support for the Government?

CORY BERNARDI: I don’t think that’s the case, Andrew. There is a sense of frustration, there’s no question about that, but the frustration is borne by the fact that, you know, there are measures that are being taken forward, that can’t get through the Senate. There are road blocks there. Where there are rational road blocks or where there are sensible amendments that are proposed, I think Liberals are accepting of that. But it seems there’s an inconsistency, you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Now, ultimately, I’m a bit more optimistic than many that the Senate will provide a workable solution, but we’ve just got to settle down and get through that, and I think, then, the Government will start to hit its straps, and many more Liberals will think, well, finally we’re getting, you know, the changes through that are necessary.

ANDREW BOLT: Are you happy with Liberal Craig Laundy’s influence in dropping this reform to the Racial Discrimination Act? He says, “Labor is appealing more to Muslim voters, and the Liberals should also soften support for Israel, as well as free speech.”

CORY BERNARDI: Well, I certainly don’t agree we should soften support for Israel. You know, it’s a democracy in the Middle East, and they’re a great ally, I think we’ve got to continue the show them a great deal of support. But one point, I think, that is lost in this, 18C deals with racial discrimination. You know, Muslims are not a race, they’re a religious… a group of religious believers. So, 18C doesn’t deal with religious vilification. There is also, I have to say, Andrew, a sense of frustration and disappointment out there in the public that, you know, a small group of Australians can seem to dictate and determine what many consider is in the national interest, and that’s, I think, a sense of frustration that we’re going to have to deal with at some point in the future. We’ve got to manage for mainstream Australia, not for particular groups within it.

ANDREW BOLT: After this particular backdown, what hope has the Government got for its plans to change the constitution to recognise Aborigines as the first Australians?

CORY BERNARDI: You know, Andrew, I know there’s polarised discussion about this, as well. I’ve reserved my judgement because I haven’t seen what the proposed wording is going to be, but there are many conservatives out there who say, “Why are we tinkering with the constitution to implement, you know, some sort of racial bias or racial delineation within it?” We’re going to have to wait and see what is put forward. But I think there are many constitutional conservatives that have concerns about, you know, what may be coming down the pipe.

ANDREW BOLT; The Government has been struggling. I mean, it’s got a bit of dissent within its own ranks about things like this. Why do you think it’s having such trouble at the moment?

CORY BERNARDI: Well, Andrew, when you say the Government is struggling, I think they’re struggling to get their agenda through the Parliament, and, basically, through the Senate. But, you know, for backbenchers, like Mr Laundy and myself, we’re able to express, you know, different views, particularly if something hasn’t been discussed in the party room. Look, it’s, there’s just frustration, I think. We’ve just got to come to terms with that, you know, the complete Liberal agenda, or the Coalition agenda, is not going to be able to get through the Senate. We have some people with competing interests there, that have different views on how the country should be managed. Some are born more in reality than others, I have to tell you. But we’ve got to deal with them, we’ve got to make it work. And, you know, that’s what we’re coming to terms with.

And I have to make this point, that it’s only, we’ve had two sitting weeks where the new Senate has been there. We asked the new senators, who hold the balance of power, to make decisions that, perhaps, they weren’t entirely familiar with. They weren’t familiar with the processes. I’m optimistic, or, at least, I’m hopeful, I have to say, that, you know, over the coming weeks, they’ll understand their role and how to play it in a more constructive manner, and I think there’s reason for us then to think that we can get through some of the important reforms that we need to.

ANDREW BOLT: And, just finally, you lost your shadow Parliamentary secretary position for some comments you made on Islam, and then same-sex marriage. Has the Government tacked too far to the left? Do you think there are enough advocates for conservative politics within the Liberal Party? CORY BERNARDI: Well, I’ve been chastised many times for my comments, but I think when people reflect on, actually, the words that were spoken and the sentiments behind them, you know, in the fullness of time people will recognise that what I’ve said is entirely accurate. But, you know, that’s for others. I’m not here to wax and wane about that or complain. I’m a backbench conservative member of the Liberal Party and I’ll continue to advocate for what I think is international interests, and a conservative, put a conservative viewpoint through my party machinery.

ANDREW BOLT: Cory Bernardi, thank you so much for joining me.

CORY BERNARDI: It’s a pleasure, Andrew, thank you.


Greens in bed with thug union

In a last-minute bid to prevent the election of Liberal Senate candidate and former ACT leader Zed Seselja in 2013, the ACT Greens received the largest donation in the history of the party branch from the pro-Labor Construction, Forestry, Mining and Electrical Union (CFMEU).

Fairfax Media can reveal a $50,000 donation was made to the ACT Greens federal account, which can only be spent on federal elections or administration, on September 3 last year, in the dying days of polling. It was by far the largest single donation ever given to the ACT Greens party and was more than twice as much as was given to the Labor Party over the same period.

It was also four times as much as a 2012 donation from the CFMEU's ACT branch, which made a few Greens members ''uneasy'' at the time.

CFMEU ACT division secretary Dean Hall said the donation had not come from the Canberra branch but from the national division, meaning he had no direct knowledge of it.

But he said it would have been donated to keep the Senate balance of power out of the hands of the Abbott government.

"It was more about the balance of power in the Senate. We tried to find a situation where we didn't have extreme right-wing legislation being passed," he said.

"[The donation] would have been for the Senate campaign. At the time there was a chance that senator Seselja wouldn't get elected [and] I think that's what it was about, trying to secure the balance of power."

He said a very small amount of the donation would have been funded by ACT voters.

ACT Greens convenor Sophie Trevitt acknowledged the party had recieved a donation from the national branch of the CFMEU but would not say where the money had gone and what it was spent on.

She said they had accepted the donation on the basis it came from the construction division of the CFMEU, compared to the mining or forestry divisions, and was derived from union member fees.

She said the ACT Greens had a lot of common ground with the CFMEU in Canberra.

"[We] have supported their calls for safer and fairer workplaces and we have worked closely with the CFMEU to improve safety in the building and construction industry," she said.

When asked whether there had been any conditions on the donation, Ms Trevitt said the Greens did not accept donations with ''strings attached''.

"All donations go through a vetting process to ensure that donations are not accepted from organisations whose principles and ethics conflict with the Greens," she said.

A spokesperson for the CFMEU's national office said all the union's donations were published appropriately and they donated to a number of parties that supported workers' rights.

She also said she wanted to stress the union did not agree with all of the ACT Greens' policy positions.

Former ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur said there was a donations reference group within the party who veted every major donation and rejected it if it was inappropriate.

She said the Greens had tried to pass donation reform legislation through the assembly which would have only allowed donations from ACT electors, but it had been rejected by the Labor and Liberal parties.

Ms Le Couteur said after all, the Greens were a political party that wanted to get its candidate elected.

"Obviously we don't have anything like as much money as the Liberal or Labor parties [so] if they're playing by rules which allow donations from non-individuals then [refusing those donations] is a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face," she said.

"We'd like it to be otherwise but ... it isn't,"


Shock!  Public broadcasters trying to economize

The ABC and SBS are exploring options for the multicultural broadcaster to abandon its stand-alone studios and offices and move into the ABC's Melbourne headquarters.

The move would result in SBS vacating its flagship premises at Federation Square, which it has occupied for more than a decade, and share space with the ABC in a new five-storey production centre at Southbank.

Giving up its Federation Square lease would free up funds for SBS to spend on new programs and services, but would prove controversial internally because of concerns about undermining the broadcaster's unique identity.

It would also leave a sizeable hole to be filled at Federation Square, which has cemented a reputation as a cultural hub by housing SBS, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

Shared ABC and SBS facilities was a key recommendation of the Abbott government's efficiency review of the two broadcasters.

SBS's Federation Square headquarters, which includes television and digital radio studios, was opened with much fanfare in 2003 to house its 160 Melbourne staff. The ABC is building a $176 million headquarters, including a TV production centre, next to its existing Southbank offices to replace the historic studios at Elsternwick.

Fairfax Media understands the ABC is willing to configure its new premises to house SBS's Melbourne staff and believes sufficient space could be found.

The two broadcasters would be likely to share studio facilities, cameras, equipment and other back-office functions for the first time.

One option, favoured by the government, is for the ABC to rent the space to SBS at a peppercorn rate to show the broadcaster's commitment to saving taxpayer money.

The move would be a coup for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has repeatedly said the government's efficiency review would encourage the broadcasters to take tough decisions they would otherwise have avoided.

Negotiations are said to be in a formative stage. Both broadcasters are bracing themselves for deeper cuts later this year after a combined $43.5 million base-funding cut in the May budget.

ABC managing director Mark Scott said last week: "We are working with SBS to see if, by working more closely together, we can make backroom savings while remaining independent editorially."

Earlier this year former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, whose government established SBS, said if SBS had to move in with the ABC then the ABC would swamp it.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Tony Abbott: pragmatic but don’t expect to see a U-turn

TWO urgent steps are needed in the essential repair job facing the Abbott government: the Prime Minister and Treasurer need to rethink their presentation of the budget and begin to prepare the next stage of their reform agenda.

The strength of the government’s position is that Australia, now living beyond its means, does face the need for substantial reform on both the spending and revenue sides of the budget with the inescapable reality of significant public hardship.

Community denial of this situation may be fading faster than the coalition of obstruction, Labor-Greens-Palmer, realises. But this will not assist Tony Abbott unless he can re-position his government and his message.

At stake is Abbott’s persona as a Prime Minister able to mobilise the battler vote to undermine Labor at the 2013 election. Labor’s branding of the budget as unfair is about far more than the budget — the aim is to ruin Abbott’s profile given that he will never be a truly popular PM.

“I am very proud of the budget,” Abbott said yesterday. But the test is not Abbott’s pride. It is about political viability and that means his ability to listen and adapt. Abbott and Joe Hockey need a circuit-breaker and there is broad agreement about how it begins — radical surgery on Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme to prove the government has listened and acted.

For Abbott, however, there is no U-turn. He will make concessions along the road, on PPL and on section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. But Abbott’s strategy is to operate from strength as a budget restoration and national security guardian PM. These are his foundation stones in office. His intent is to stay the course with some pragmatic adaptations.

There will be no lurch into a mini-budget, no panic into changing his Treasurer, no hastening into a ministry reshuffle or abandoning his budget repair objectives. The gulf between Abbott and the political commentary industry, as usual, remains huge.

Abbott understands that panic destroyed the former Labor government. The idea that Abbott might ditch Hockey is a fantasy: it would send the Liberal Party into a tailspin that would finish the government.

Abbott, Hockey and Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, met 10 days ago to review the budget position. The message is negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. The problem is that some of the new crossbenchers are so raw they don’t know what they want.

Ultimately, however, Abbott and Hockey must turn Senate rejection of many budget measures into a plus; at this point they need to initiate a new debate with fresh proposals, tough but fairer, as part of their budget restoration quest. That must involve revenue measures that hit the big end of town.

But the bottom line remains — the fiscal problem is a Labor legacy and Senate obstruction risks both a deteriorating budget and threatens investor confidence. Abbott believes the public will eventually accept the fiscal reality.

At the same time Abbott’s profile as national security guardian will remain high. Abbott believes US President Barack Obama may yet deploy ground forces into Iraq and, if so, Australia, probably the SAS, will be involved. There will be no independent Australian presence.

But if our allies commit then Australia will commit. It is the Abbott Doctrine. His message is that such an event would constitute humanitarian protection and have no parallel with the 2003 allied invasion to remove Saddam Hussein.

A few weeks ago Abbott was ready to send 1000 Australian troops into Ukraine. Detailed plans had been drawn up for a joint Dutch-Australia troop deployment. Abbott was deadly serious, but abandoned this option when it became unnecessary.

Abbott is determined to legislate new national security laws. He takes advice from the intelligence agencies at face value and with deep seriousness. Given the genuine concern about a domestic terrorist attack on Australian soil Abbott believes any prime minister who had advice to act and declined to act or backed down under pressure would be culpable of betraying his responsibility to protect the public. Such a failure would be graphically exposed and documented by an inquiry after any such attack.

ASIO Director-General David Irvine recently said Australians were involved in Iraq and Syria in unprecedented numbers mixing with “the worst of the worst”. This constitutes a new and fundamental security issue.

Past planning for mass casualty attacks in Australia has been foiled. But many Australians, Irvine says, have chosen allegiance with the most extreme groups drawn by the combination of violent ideology and nihilistic intent. They are involved in recruitment of others and spreading of panic.

While Abbott’s office runs too centralised an operation, Abbott’s instinct is to support his ministers and forgive mistakes. Contrary to reports, he has no intention of removing David Johnston as Defence Minister and, not surprisingly, believes Julie Bishop has been superb as Foreign Minister in the recent crisis.

Abbott sees Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull as one of the government’s most effective ministers but is unmoved by the torrent of media criticism that Turnbull should have been involved in the cabinet National Security Committee decision on metadata. The laws being discussed were the responsibility of the Attorney-General, not the Communications Minister.

Hockey’s blunder this week when defending indexation of petrol excise, saying “the poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases”, reduces our budget debate to even deeper tragic farce. Hockey was silly and insensitive.

There are two ways of looking at this: families in the top 20 per cent pay three times as much for petrol as families in the bottom 20 per cent yet poorer families pay a higher proportion of their income on petrol than better-off families. Consider, however, that in the current year indexation will add an estimated 1c a litre to the cost of petrol. That’s what this row is about.

Indexation would merely restore the status quo existing before John Howard’s abolition decision. Given that the nation has this tax, it is sensible to have it indexed. It is an efficient tax. Indexation raises significant revenue (up to $990 million by 2017-18). It has an environmental dividend. Given the budget position, the argument for indexation is persuasive.

This week Hockey’s poor language became the issue, not the measure’s merit. Labor and the Greens are playing cynical politics in rejecting this measure. That is widely recognised.

The idea that no single budget measure can be accepted unless it is progressive in its own right is ludicrous. That is no way to run a country or conduct public policy.

The truth is that Australia has pretty much the most progressive tax-transfer system in the OECD. It is widely recognised through means testing as the most targeted social security system; it is also recognised as having one of the most progressive tax systems in the OECD.

The upshot: Australia re-distributes more to the bottom 25 per cent than virtually any other industrialised nation. In Australia the bottom 60 per cent of households are net winners from the welfare state with the top 40 per cent of households the net contributors. This has been hardly mentioned during the recent hysteria that the nation’s social compact is being destroyed. The claim is nonsense.

Is the budget unfair? Yes, every analysis shows that. The problem is not so much individual measures but collective impact. For Abbott and Hockey, this is a policy and presentation problem.

Howard’s recent advice is pertinent. Howard says the public will accept tough budget measures provided two conditions are met: they must seem justified (that is, the problem is real) and they must seem to be fair.

Abbott and Hockey failed both steps at the outset. Across time, however, the public is starting to realise the budget needs serious repair. This begins to meet Howard’s first condition. But his second condition is not met.

“Once you decide to cut a deficit by action on the spending side you end up imposing a greater burden on low-income households because that’s where a lot of the money goes,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Saul Eslake said yesterday.

The logic is inescapable. When Abbott and Hockey regroup with a final budget containing a large black hole they will face two tasks. They will recommit to budget repair but they will need a new basket of measures to do the job. That means putting negative gearing and superannuation tax breaks for high-income earners on the table


NSW minister Dominic Perrottet endorses Uber and Airbnb

A senior NSW cabinet minister has endorsed ride-sharing service Uber and home-sharing app Airbnb by saying "governments should not stand in the way" of them despite both services being under scrutiny by his government.

NSW Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet said in a speech on Thursday night at Sydney's Intersect showcase that the apps – part of what he called the "collaboration economy" – were a good thing for society.

My view is that governments should not stand in the way of this change but seek to facilitate it.

NSW Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet
"As someone on the Liberal side of politics, we should welcome the sharing economy as something profoundly conservative," Mr Perrottet said.

He's even asked the Office of Finances and Services to consider using a car-pooling scheme for government employees using such apps and services, because he said they could help "drive savings".

"This is the free market on steroids. It's individuals, or businesses, seeking to make the best use of their existing assets, for a profit. It's being an entrepreneur at a grassroots level. It's a mix of technology, trust and low-cost options to effectively meet demand – and it's all done without government intervention."

The sharing economy was "here to stay", he added.

"The more people move online and take up social, mobile and reputational platforms, the more this is going to grow. It's an efficient use of resources and the uptake so far already shows that the market has spoken. My view is that governments should not stand in the way of this change but seek to facilitate it."

Mr Perrottet's comments came after NSW Roads and Maritime Services began cracking down on Uber by issuing fines to drivers. The City of Sydney has also warned residents they risked fines by sharing or renting out their home for money on Airbnb without approval.

On Friday, Roads and Maritime Services confirmed it was continuing enforcement action for drivers who are found to be breaching the Passenger Transport Act 1990.

"Fines already issued have been paid," a Roads and Maritime Services spokesperson said.

It is understood Mr Perrottet is making his views known to cabinet colleagues, including Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian.

Mr Perrottet said it was no surprise that "most left-wing jurisdictions like New York" cracked down on sharing economy companies. He did not mention the NSW government was cracking down on them too.

"This is because they are stuck in the old world of heavy regulation, union dominance, high fees, high taxes and inflated prices that please no one but those at the top who reap a profit," Mr Perrottet said of New York and other governments that had not embraced the new services.

"The sharing economy presents an opportunity for conservatives, if they are savvy enough to see it."

Mr Perrottet also noted and welcomed news the Western Australia Liberals passed a motion to consider the regulations surrounding companies like Uber last weekend.

Despite endorsing the apps, he said they should still be regulated.

"Some have argued that governments should play no role in regulating these new app businesses," he said.

"I disagree. I think we very much have a role in ensuring that the public are safe and things like health and safety are considered.

"These are paramount. Even the freest of markets requires some regulation to function."

The question for government should not be "should you regulate", he said, but "with what mindset do you regulate?"

"Do you regulate to stifle innovation? Or do you regulate to ensure certain basic principles like safety are met – and let the free market take care of the rest?"


Antisemitic abuse demands our leaders' condemnation

 Antisemitic attacks are on the increase in Australia. Conflict in Gaza as well as the rise of the vicious Islamic State have inflamed racial tensions here.

But the nostrums of political correctness and a fear of causing offence to certain privileged minority groups are making our leaders reluctant to speak out.

Now six Sydney schoolboys stand accused of chanting antisemitic abuse and threatening violent assault on a bus carrying Jewish school children.

Protests in support of BDS sanctions against Israeli businesses such as Max Brenner have normalised the idea that targeting Jewish groups is acceptable.

All six of the bus thugs come from prominent Eastern Suburbs schools. But so far, Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and staff in his department have said nothing.

Local police commander Jason Box thinks the racist attack was isolated and random, and thinks the disgraceful behaviour was really fuelled by alcohol.

Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Victor Dominello, says that all racial intimidation is deplorable. But few other senior state politicians have spoken out.

Even Premier Mike Baird has remained silent. The best the NSW Government was able to do was refer the incident to the State Transit Authority.

But an antisemitic attack on a bus is no more a transport matter than it would be a sporting matter had it occurred in the grandstand of a Saturday morning football game.

Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner has rightly condemned this behaviour as having no place in a harmonious, multicultural country such as Australia. But it is here.

A past President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies tells me this is the worst antisemitism he has seen here in more than 30 years of community leadership.

Placards at recent rallies in support of Israel called for peace and an end to the rockets. Those in support of Hamas bore images of a Jew drinking a child's blood.

The Scanlon Foundation's most recent Mapping Social Cohesion report shows that the vast majority of Australians support multiculturalism.

But true respect for multicultural diversity demands that we must work much harder to secure the safety and well-being of all ethnic groups in Australia.

Antisemitism is a scourge fuelled by bigotry, malice and hatred. All political leaders must condemn it unequivocally if their pursuit of tolerance is sincere.


NSW government gets it right on reading instruction

The best way to improve the quality of school education is to ensure that there is a good, if not great, teacher in every classroom every day. This is achieved by selecting the best candidates and educating them well. It sounds like an obvious strategy, but submissions to the federal government's review of teacher education argue that this is not par for the course in teacher education.

There is a growing consensus that entry standards for teacher education courses at university are often too low and must be elevated, based on consistent evidence that teacher quality is highly correlated with the teacher's own academic ability. But there is also the question of how well teacher education courses prepare prospective teachers for the classroom.

One of the most important responsibilities of primary school teachers, in particular, is to teach children to read. Obviously the home literacy environment provided by parents also plays a role, but the first two years of school are critical in a child's reading development.

The best evidence from methodologically rigorous, well-designed studies on literacy development shows that early reading instruction must have five key elements: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Research also shows that explicit and systematic instruction is more effective than teaching strategies that assume children will acquire these skills naturally, just by memorising words and being read to. Unfortunately, not all primary teacher education courses provide sufficient training and education on the essential elements of reading or the most effective pedagogies to teach them.

Phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, in which children learn that speech and language is made up of distinct sounds, and that these sounds correspond with the print on the page, are often the least well understood by teachers and therefore the least well taught. It is very difficult for teachers to teach what they do not know.

The NSW government has acknowledged that this is a problem and has moved to ensure that all teachers have the knowledge and skills to teach phonics effectively, by pushing universities to include phonics in teacher education courses and providing professional development to teachers. This is a landmark policy and, if implemented well, one which has the potential to have a significant impact on literacy achievement.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

University rankings out again

There are now rather a lot of these rankings, all using slightly different methodology, but the latest out is the well established Shanghai Jiao Tong ranking.

No great surprises in the top ten, though Oxford would be sniffy about being ranked lower than Cambridge.

As usual, Australian universities had a good showing, with Melbourne in the top 50 and ANU at 74,  Queensland at 85 and UWA at 88.  Queensland is my Alma Mater so nobody can cast nasturtiums on my background.  My son is back there too.

And one of Brisbane's newer universities (Griffith) put out a press release expressing pleasure at being ranked 400th!  That is not as silly as it sounds when you realize that is 400th out of 10,000 -- and rankings lower than 500 are not released. Newer universities are somewhat disadvantaged by the weight that Jiao Tong gives to Nobel prizes and Fields medals.
And Israelis will be pleased that their small community produced two in the top 100 -- Hebrew and Technion. And that is despite the "brain drain" of Ashkenazim to American universities.  No Palestinian universities made it into the top 500, however.  I believe there is one. Maybe the Palis could send some suicide bombers over to Shanghai to show those Chinamen at Jiao Tong University a thing or two!

The first non-American university on the list was -- at 19 -- The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, which I know nothing about.  I have certainly never seen a paper from them.  Did Einstein go there or something?

The ranking of Leiden university in the Netherlands may indicate that there is such a thing as Dutch modesty.  They ranked at 77 when in the ranking system that they themselves run they come in only at 100!

Brits will be peeved that LSE made it only into the 100-150 bracket.  I gather that they have a lot of Muslims there.  And I was slightly peeved to see Sydney also in that bracket  I have a large document issued to me by that university. At least it did better than Macquarie, which was at 201-300.  I also have a large document issued to me  by Macquarie.

Three New Zealand universities made it into the top 500, which isn't bad for a country of only 4 million souls, though the ranking of Victoria University Wellington (401-500)  will disappoint many. I very nearly took a job there once.

The methodology used by the Shanghai rankings is entirely academic and research oriented. The project is supported by the Chinese government so it is a pretty good look "from outside".  The huge preponderance of American universities in the rankings would have to be taken with a large grain of salt if it were Americans who were doing the rankings but since the work was in fact done by Chinese academics, it is not subject to that suspicion.

Terrorism supporters to lose dole payments, says Tony Abbott

Australian terrorism supporters will have their unemployment benefits and other welfare payments cut off.

In a significant crackdown on homegrown extremists, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says new legislation would allow the Department of Human Services to cancel benefits to those assessed as a serious threat to national security.

"These new measures will ensure Australian taxpayers are not financing people known to be members of, or working with, terrorist organisations," he said in a statement on Saturday.

Mr Abbott said under current arrangements, welfare payments can only be suspended or cancelled for those who don't meet social security eligibility rules.

That includes failing to fulfil participation, residence or portability qualifications.

The government has already cut benefits to those abroad, but not extremists in Australia who continue to meet eligibility requirements.

Mr Abbott said he was committed to ensuring Australians engaged in terrorist activities were not receiving taxpayer-funded welfare payments.

He said legislation would be introduced to ensure benefits can be promptly stopped for people identified by national security agencies as involved in extremist conduct.

"The new legislation will enable the Department of Human Services to cancel a person's welfare payment if it receives advice that a person has been assessed as a serious threat to Australia's national security," he said in the statement.

Advice will be provided by the Attorney-General, Minister for Foreign Affairs or Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

"Ministers will exercise discretion and take into account all relevant factors including advice from national security agencies, before requesting cancellation of welfare payments," he said.

Mr Abbott said the government would also ensure relevant agencies worked more closely together to share information on issues of national security where that relates to cancelling welfare to those regarded as posing a threat.

"Australians travelling to Syria, Iraq, and other conflict zones to engage in, or support, terrorist activities are committing criminal offences," he said.

Mr Abbott said Australia's welfare system already allowed payments to be suspended or cancelled for those who don't meet their obligations.

"This measure is based on the same principle. It is designed to make sure taxpayers' money is not being used to undermine Australia's national security," he said.


Proposed Islamic school starts new push for registration in the ACT

An Islamic school, whose initial application to set up shop in the ACT failed after a highly critical review, have reapplied for registration under an altered name.

The Canberra Muslim Youth group have resubmitted an application for provisional registration for a kindergarten to year 3 school to open in 2015.

The group submitted the application under the new name "Taqwa School" after previously applying under "At-Taqwa School".

The proposal was opened to public comment in early August after it was submitted on July 30.

Hassan Warsi, the chairman of the board of governance for the school, declined to comment on the move, saying it was too early to do so.

The school was originally proposed for Gungahlin in 2012 and was rejected for registration last year by a review panel.

The panel's report said in February that the application failed to ensure staff were registered properly and that the education programs and curriculum were tailored for the students.

The review also questioned the financial viability of the school's application and said the group had so far failed to consider child protection procedures and background checks of volunteers.

The panel said interviews with the principal and board members "revealed an absence of thorough pedagogical understanding and principles of curriculum design, as it applies to a primary context''.

Andrew Wrigley, the executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of the ACT, said he was aware of the application.

"They have been working very hard on the requirements to gain provisional registration," Mr Wrigley said.

Mr Warsi is also associated with the Islamic Society of Belconnen, whose social media pages reveal the groups has been fund-raising within the Islamic community to get the school off the ground.

The school has lodged a development application for a site in Gungahlin to allow for the installation of fences, demountable classrooms and toilets.

An ACT Education and Training Directorate spokeswoman said a panel would now be appointed to report to the minister on the proposed school.


ABC bias against coal hurts the poor and the workers: Sell the ABC

A new report shows ABC journalists are fond of renewables and overlook their dismal economic value, while putting out bad news on coal, and ignoring the benefits of vast cheap profitable energy. Who could have seen that coming: a large public funded institution attracts employees who like large public funding?

The IPA arranged for a media analysis firm to compare the ABC reporting on coal and renewables.

The analysis of 2359 reports broadcast on the ABC over six months before March 15 this year found 15.9 per cent of stories on coalmining and 12.1 per cent of those about coal-seam gas mining were favourable, while 53 per cent of those on renewable energy were favourable.

It also found 31.6 per cent of stories on coal mining and 43.6 per cent of stories on coal-seam gas were unfavourable, while only 10.8 per cent of stories on renewable energy were ­unfavourable.

The ABC has become its own best case for privatizing the ABC. How much could we get? The funds from its sale, and the savings of the $1.25 billion it costs annually, would help to pay down the massive debt left by the Rudd-Gillard government.  The real benefits could be much much higher. The ABC has become an advertising agency for any group dependent on public funding. Without the constant one-sided promotion of wasteful spending, Australian policy might shift towards self sufficient entrepreneurs instead of rent-seekers. How many countless billions is that worth?

The economic situation of renewables and coal is blindingly obvious:

Brown and Black coal provide electricity in Australia at less than 4c /KWhr, while Solar costs nearly 20c.  Figures thanks to Alan Moran: Submission to the Renewable Energy Target Review Panel, IPA, 2014

Australian energy generation, coal, oil, gas, renewables, hydro, biomass.To put a perspective on it, coal is Australia’s largest exporter industry, producing 33% of our energy and a whopping 75% of our electricity. (Wind and solar produce all of 1%.) The coal industry provides the ABC with funds, via tax, while the wind and solar industries are a net drain on the public purse. The cheapest way to reduce CO2 (and by a whopping 15%) looks like being an upgrade for our coal fired plants so they are like the hot new Chinese plants. But how important is reducing CO2 to the ABC? Apparently it’s not quite as important as cheering on other big-government babies.

We can debate the environmental pluses and minuses of coal, but the economic case is a lay down misere. Renewables are anywhere from 200% to 500% more expensive.

The renewables industry on the other hand makes expensive electricity, which punishes the lower income earners and makes everything from health, to education to organic hemp hairshirts more expensive. Higher energy costs makes it harder for employers to employ people.

Because renewables are awful for the poor and reduce jobs for workers, we can expect the ABC will leave no stone unturned in accurately reporting the economic effect of renewables. Or not…

In a sane world we could expect a broadcaster serving the people  to relentlessly pursue poor government decisions — like, say, a plan to buy overpriced energy in the hope of changing global weather.


We’ll fight radical Islam for 100 years, says ex-army head Peter Leahy

AUSTRALIA needs to prepare for an increasingly savage, 100-year war against radical Islam that will be fought on home soil as well as foreign lands, the former head of the army, Peter Leahy, has warned.

Professor Leahy, a leading defence and strategic analyst, told The Weekend Australian the country was ill-prepared for the high cost of fighting a war that would be paid in “blood and treasure” and would require pre-emptive as well as reactive action.

“Australia is involved in the early stages of a war which is likely to last for the rest of the century,” he said. “We must be ready to protect ourselves and, where necessary, act pre-emptively to neutralise the evident threat. Get ready for a long war.”

Senior intelligence officials have moved to shore up public support for the Abbott government’s tough new security laws, including enhanced data-retention capabilities enabling agencies to track suspect computer usage.

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation director-general David Irvine said the proposed data laws, which require phone and internet companies to retain records for two years, were “absolutely crucial” to counter the jihadist terror threat.

The government’s security package also includes a $630 million funding boost to intelligence agencies and police to help prevent domestic terrorist attacks.

Professor Leahy — a former lieutenant general who ran the army for six years, from 2002-2008 — said the threat of radical Islam would require action on several fronts, including a strengthening of controls against biological, chemical and nuclear attacks.

It would also include greater protection for critical infra­structure and iconic targets against attack.

The Western withdrawal from Afghanistan did not constitute the end of the so-called war on terror, “nor, as was claimed by prime minister Julia Gillard, in January 2013, a transition from the 9/11 decade”, he said.

Michael Krause, a former senior Australian Army officer res­ponsible for planning the coalition campaign in Afghanistan, said he agreed “absolutely” with Professor Leahy. “I have seen these people,” the retired major general said.

“I know how they think. I know how they fight. There is no compromise possible.

“These long wars require long commitment to outlast radical ideas and provide viable, meaningful alternatives which require a whole-of-government response, rather than assuming the military can or should do it all.’’

Professor Leahy said politicians needed to “develop an honest and frank dialogue” with the Australian public.

“They should advance a narrative that explains that radical Islam­ism and the terrorism it breeds at home and abroad will remain a significant threat for the long term, it will require considerable effort, the expenditure of blood and treasure and it will, of necessity, restrict our rights and liberties,” he said.

Professor Leahy is the director of Canberra University’s National Security Institute and part of the Abbott government’s team carrying out a comprehensive review of Defence.

He said radical Islamists intent on a new world order were already a threat to the survival of nations in the Middle East and Africa.

If the declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq survived, bases would be established there for attacks on the West and that would embolden “home grown” radicals to attempt attacks in Australia. Military action would be needed to eliminate the threat.

Radicals saw the West as “the far enemy” and they were undoubtedly planning more attacks in Australia. Senior intelligence believes the view that the threat posed by radical Islam would pass was “optimistic”.

Mr Irvine, who took the unusual step of speaking to the media yesterday, said the current terrorism threat level of “medium” meant that a terrorism “event” in Australia was likely.

“Where our volume of work has increased is that this event could occur in a dozen different places now, whereas before it was in a small, refined area,” he said.

Professor Leahy said that when Australia did choose to be involved its aims must be measured and realistic, with nations under the greatest threat from radical Islamists supported while care was taken not to inflame local tensions.

The solution had to come from within the Muslim world, which so far seemed disinclined or unable to imagine a path to peace.

Professor Leahy said the threat was likely to worsen as radicals returned from overseas and the internet dumped Islamist propaganda into Australian
living rooms.

Some efforts at deradicalisation had begun but a much greater effort must be made to engage Muslim clerics and Islamic thought leaders to debunk radical ideologies being offered to young Australians.

“Dual nationality must be reviewed and, where appropriate, terrorists and their sympathisers either expelled from Australia or denied re-entry,” he said.

Professor Leahy said Australia must support moderate nations with radical Islamist problems, such as Indonesia and The Philippines.