Monday, July 06, 2015

Saab unveils superstealth 'ghost submarine' that is virtually invisible to enemies and even allows divers to silently enter and exit

Surely this is what Australia should be buying rather than more Australian-made rubbish.  Surely the Collins submarine fiasco is enough. It took 13 years to build 6 of them and they have NEVER worked properly.  They are good when they do work but are always breaking down.  There is often only one at sea, with the rest undergoing "maintenance". They are based on a successful Swedish model so it is the build-quality that is the problem, not the design.  "She'll be right mate" is sometimes just not good enough.

And don't mention the mega-bungles of the air warfare destroyer project.  Three were ordered in 2007 but the first is now projected to enter service only in 2017.  Australia just does not have the capacity to build leading-edge military ships

Saab has unveiled what it claims is the world's most advanced stealth submarine.  The A26 sub is 207 feet long, and features a 'ghost mode' to make it virtually undetectable when underwater.

It also features a unique pod that allows special forces divers to enter and exit the sub while it is underwater. 

They have an endurance of 45 days or 18 days underwater. They have a test depth of about 658 feet.

They will be conventional diesel-electric submarines equipped with the Kockums Stirling AIP (air-independent propulsion) system for enhanced stealth.

The firm has already signed a $1 billion deal to build two of the new submarines for the Swedish Navy.

'Extreme stealth is at the heart of the Kockums A26 submarine,' the firm said.  'Sweden is unleashing its GHOST (Genuine HOlistic STealth) technology, thus making the Kockums A26 submarine effectively invisible.'

The order, with a value of about $1.04 billion, is for construction of two Type A26 submarines and conducting mid-life upgrades to two Gotland-class submarines. Work on the two A26s is to be completed by 2024.

Type A26 submarines have an endurance of 45 days or 18 days underwater.

'Sweden has long experience in designing very silent submarines,' the firm says.

'In the Kockums A26 submarine, an extremely resilient platform technique incorporating extensive rubber mountings and baffles is used to minimise noise from operating machines and transient noise, as well as absorbing shocks.

To further reduce emitted noise, the space between the frames is equipped with acoustic damping plates... Hull shape and fins designed to make it appear almost invisible

'Intelligence gathering, surveillance and sea denial along coastlines are becoming increasingly important, ' Saab said.

'Operations in shallow water enable submarines to carry out covert monitoring of targets on land or sea using a range of electro-optical and electromagnetic sensors.

'Moreover, the ability of a submarine to lie motionless on the ocean floor, or 'bottom out', makes it almost impossible to find.'

This highly optimised design also cuts the hydrodynamic signatures and flow noise around the submarine, both in deep water and near the surface.

The magnetic signature is suppressed by an advanced degaussing system that is controlled by external sensors to facilitate compensation in all geographical locations and headings.

Galvanic signatures, primarily electrical but including secondary magnetic signatures are reduced by a specially designed cathodic protection system and careful material selection that minimise electrical signatures without compromising the corrosion protection of the submarine.

The two vessels will be delivered to Sweden's Defense Materiel Organization in late 2018 and late 2019, respectively.

'Saab will deliver world-class submarines to Sweden,' said Hakan Buskhe, president and chief executive officer of Saab. 'Our ability to work closely with customers, to meet their needs with modern manufacturing and products, is one of Saab's greatest skills.

'Saab is also exploring export opportunities to provide complete submarine systems to a select number of countries, plus sub-systems across the wider market.'


How Labor misses the asylum-seeker boat

“So we beat on,” goes the oft-­quoted final line from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby that seems to have been adopted by the ALP as its border protection theme, “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Labor, urged on by activists and the political class, refuses to learn the lessons of our asylum-seeker horror story. So, while the boats have been stopped and most voters have breathed a sigh of relief, we have had another chapter in the parlour game that is Labor’s internal contortion on boats.

Former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon kicked it off by saying Labor might want to embrace all available tools to prevent a restart in the people-smuggling trade. “Now, one of those tools currently is boat turn-backs,” he said, “Personally, I believe turn-backs will remain part of Labor policy.”

In a rational world this would have been an insignificant statement of the obvious. Fitzgibbon was merely urging his party to promise what it pledged in 2007 (but failed to implement) and now would amount only to continuing what the government already was doing successfully.

But, on this issue, the ratio of logic to emotional hyperbole is as skewed as an ABC Q&A audience. Fitzgibbon’s comments triggered days of self-fascinated blather.

Realists see an issue of border security, immigration integrity, 1200 lost lives, 800 boats, 52,000 unauthorised arrivals, overflowing detention centres and refugees who, without cash for people-smugglers, can’t access a full ­humanitarian quota.

But for the compassionistas — including much of the media — it is about political selfdom and identifying as caring rather than cruel, or tolerant rather than ruthless.

On Monday, Labor’s immigra­tion spokesman Richard Marles tried to clarify his party’s stand.

“Well, we retain concerns about turn-backs, it is a really difficult area,” Marles told the ABC’s Radio National, “and there are a range of views on this issue within the party and out there in the community, it’s complex, and I understand those different views, but at the end of the day we are concerned about the impact that turn-backs have in relation to the relationship with Indonesia, specifically when it comes to co-operating with Indonesia around the question of asylum-seekers’ vessels, and of course all of this happening under a shroud of secrecy.” Clear as mud.

Then, as ever, Marles switched quickly from effective outcomes to presumed motives. “We are motivated by a position of compas­sion,” he said, “whereas for the gov­ernment that is really the central piece of an architecture which is really about putting a wall around Australia and turning Australia’s back on the world’s problems.”

The world is, indeed, a cruel and dangerous place and Australia, relatively speaking, is nirvana.  But to commend itself for government, Labor needs to say what it proposes to do.

Politicians can be forgiven, I suppose, for sometimes losing sight of policy outcomes in their pursuit of political success.

This, presumably, is one of the reasons we have journalists: to drive the debate back to what matters — you know, how to keep the borders secure, prevent people drowning and a trade in human desperation.

So after Marles on RN’s Breakfast we heard from Michelle Grattan. “It’s a push that’s really a very pragmatic one,” she said, promisingly, of Labor’s talk about turn-backs. “People who think the policy should be changed feel that it would be electorally very, very difficult for Labor to say it wouldn’t turn back boats because this has been seen as one way of stopping the people-smuggling trade and the government would be easily able to say, ‘Well, you’ll just be opening the door again to it.’ ”

So, when Grattan said “pragmatic” she didn’t mean a practical solution, she meant electorally pragmatic. Still, host Fran Kelly had a chance to steer her back to boats and people’s lives.

“This whole issue of asylum-seeker policy has been a real thorn in the side for the Labor Party for well over a decade now,” she said.

I suppose “thorn in the side” is one way to characterise 1200 dead men, women and children and untold misery for tens of thousands of others.

“A fight within Labor over this is gift to the government electorally,” Kelly went on. “Even if Labor comes down on the side of turning back the boats, which it might think would sort of, you know, take the heat out of the issue, just the whole fight and discussion hurts Labor, doesn’t it, or benefits the government?”

This was a typical and illuminating exchange.

For the political-media class — the group Robert Manne identified from the inside as the “permanent oppositional moral political community” — this issue is always seen through an ideological prism.

When Bill Shorten was asked if Labor would adopt a turn-back policy it proved too hard.

“Labor believes in a compassionate approach to refugees and a constructive approach to asylum-seekers,” he said. “Labor are the people who started regional resettlement to help break the people-smugglers’ model. I am determined to make sure that never again do the seaways between Java and Christmas Island become the opportunity for people-smugglers to put unsuspecting people into unsafe boats and drown at sea. That is our position.”

He was asked again.

“Part of the dilemma with boat turn-back policy is that the government insists in shrouding it in secrecy. We want to see what the actual policies are and how they are actually working.”

As best we can tell, Labor’s policy is that while the government’s policies seem to have worked, they are shrouded in so much secrecy that Labor will keep its policy secret.

Marles audaciously blamed Labor’s confusion on the government. “Now there are legitimate questions in relation to turn-backs and I’ve raised concerns about that,” he said.  “The fact of the matter is the government has been hopeless in answering those.”

By Wednesday on Radio National Grattan was starting to see signs Labor would change its policy. Perhaps she would be comforted by how this could prevent further human misery and trauma.

“A change is necessary if Labor is to be competitive at the election in the whole border protection issue,” she said, preoccupied with the misery and trauma of marginal Labor MPs.

Labor’s lack of self-awareness is extraordinary.  It reminds me of the old joke about two friesians chewing their cuds in a paddock. One cow says, “It’s a bit of a worry, this mad cow disease.”

“Doesn’t worry me,” says the other. “I’m a penguin.”

The opposition needs to see its stand the way most of the public does. First: the present policies are working. And second: no matter what Labor says now, there is little chance it will be believed.

The ALP backflipped on offshore processing in the shadows of the 2013 election and now has seen the Coalition’s strong resolve, temporary protection visas and turn-backs solve the problem — to great humanitarian benefit — yet it refuses to endorse this prescription. Rather, it has criticised the government for everything from secrecy to megaphone diplomacy, from cruelty to cash payments.

The media has been complicit, if not culpable, in the ALP’s folly and indulges the opposition’s introspective debate.

After this month’s national conference, almost two years on from the election, Labor will say it has worked it out and then try to convince the public it can be trusted on border protection.

Sorry, comrades; that boat has sailed.


Qld. Labor set to water down the Bikie laws, inviting criminal bikie thugs back into Queensland

IT HAS been heralded as the most successful anti-crime campaign in Australian history. Outlaw motorcycle gangs in Queensland have been stopped in their tracks by heroic police efforts led by Taskforce Maxima.

The chief of the Australian Crime Commission, Chris Dawson, has commended Queensland's tough laws and praised police efforts to curb bikie terror.

Yet the State Government crazily seeks to wind back the Newman government's anti-gang laws, with Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath going so far as describing them as "a stunt-driven mish-mash of legislation".

That's not the ways police, nightclub owners and restaurateurs see it, especially on the Gold Coast, which was at the epicentre of bikie violence and serious crime.

If Labor waters down the laws, it would be inviting criminal bikie thugs to ride again.

The laws, meanwhile, are the envy of crimefighters not only in Australia but in Asia, New Zealand and the US.

A new set of crime figures confirms the success of the bikie crackdown, which began in October 2013 when Deputy Commissioner Brett Pointing set up Operation Resolute.

Today I can reveal 2214 -offenders have been arrested throughout the state on 6439 charges since the start of Operation Resolute and up until the close of the -financial year on Tuesday.

It's a stunning result and Pointing and his team deserve special commendations.

Taskforce Maxima alone has arrested 1154 bikies or their associates on 3341 charges. The offences included the most serious drug offences, including trafficking, assault, extortion and money-laundering charges.

Although the laws are working well, D'Ath has the gall to criticise the LNP for installing them. She announced an inquiry to be headed by -retired -Supreme Court judge Alan Wilson.

Interestingly, the VLAD laws and the association laws were an extension of tough anti-gang laws first proposed by Anna Bligh's Labor government.

In the most serious cases under the new laws, 156 criminal bikies face 477 charges.

These include 42 charges relating to known gang members assembling three or more in public, six charges of entering a proscribed bikie clubhouse, and 12 charges of entering licensed premises with club colours.

Previously, bikies wore club colours as a way of in-timidating club and restaurant owners and their patrons, Taskforce Maxima Comman-der Mick Niland said.

The laws have worked best on the Gold Coast. Pointing praised the efforts of Super-intendent Jim Keogh and the head of the RAP, the Gold Coast's Rapid Action Patrol Group.

Pointing said the arrests on the Coast had been stunning, with 7175 arrests on 10,311 charges. He said: "The role of RAP was to conduct high--visibility policing on the Gold Coast and to rid the Gold Coast of street violence and gang violence."

He said the streets had been "returned to the public" and the Gold Coast was now "a safer place to live, work and visit". This week Pointing ended his anti-gang involvement, handing control of Taskforce Maxima to the state's crime command under Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett. Keogh will leave the Gold Coast for a new role in Brisbane.

Niland says Taskforce Maxima remains committed to curbing bikie crime.  "One of the most pleasing things is that more than 300 outlaw motorcycle gang members have disassociated, or quit clubs," he said.

Niland's team had a major breakthrough last week when it smashed a lucrative ice trafficking ring allegedly turning over about $1 million a week being run by senior Queensland Mongols outlaw motorcycle gang members.

Detectives will allege each of the 10 current and former Mongols charged were trafficking up to $100,000 of the drug every week. That works out to be combined turnover of about $4 million a month, with gang members allegedly raking in about $28 million in just seven months.

Shadow attorney-general Ian Walker said the Palas-zczuk Government seemed to be setting the stage for softer gang laws.  One of the inquiry's terms of reference seeks "to advise how best to repeal, or replace by substantial amendment, the 2013 legislation".

Walker feared the inquiry was a "closed shop with a pre-determined outcome". He added: "The taskforce must consult academics, experts, law-enforcement agencies, the Government and people who claim to have been specifically affected by the laws - but is not required to hear from ordinary Queenslanders who, with reason, feel safer in their homes and on the streets with this legislation in place.

"The LNP always planned to review this legislation three years into its operation - we intended a fair process looking at how effective the laws were and whether any reasonable changes needed to be made.

"A review of that sort would have been welcome - but this taskforce has already been told to `get on its bike' and give the Government the result that it wants."


Australia gets a border force

The Australian Border Force Act took effect on Thursday, creating a new body that merges the frontline operations of the Immigration Department and Customs. In the words of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, it will "ensure the legitimate passage of people and goods through our borders while preventing all illegal passage".

Perhaps most controversially, the Australian Border Force Act includes new guidelines for how its staff must conduct themselves – with a heavy focus on secrecy. It says those "entrusted" within the Border Force regime – including doctors, teachers and social workers employed in detention centres – could face two years' jail if they disclose confidential information.

Under the changes, which were supported by the Labor opposition, a professional who works in an immigration facility can speak out only if they have been given departmental approval.

What has been the response?

Doctors, nurses, teachers and contractors who work in immigration facilities expressed their outrage. In an open letter to Mr Abbott, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, more than 40 former detention centre workers challenged authorities to prosecute them for publicly discussing conditions in centres.

Mr Dutton responded that their claims were inaccurate, and that contractors would still be able to speak out about the conditions under the Public Interest Disclosure Act. That act says a public interest disclosure can be made only if a person believes that there is "substantial and imminent danger to health, safety or the environment".

Mr Dutton says the controversial bit of the new border force act will protect "sensitive operational information from unauthorised disclosure", but that it will not restrict anyone's ability to raise genuine concerns about conditions in detention should they wish to do so through "appropriate channels".

Last year, former immigration minister Scott Morrison used Section 70 of the Crimes Act to refer a number of Save the Children staff working on Nauru to the Australian Federal Police, essentially for leaking information. The staff were cleared of the allegations by an inquiry long after they had been removed from the island. This strategy is something that could be easily used against immigration and contractor staff under the news laws.

Why has Mr Abbott brought in a border force commissioner?

As described by the government, the Australian Border Force has been introduced to protect and secure Australia's borders. Many commentators believe it has been modelled on the US Department of Homeland Security. They say it is militarising immigration, and pushing the Immigration Department far from its role of resettling refugees.

In a recent press statement, Mr Dutton said the border force would undertake "operational responsibilities". They include intercepting prohibited imports at the border, immigration compliance and "maintaining the good order of Australia's detention facilities".

What will the commissioner do, and who will he replace?

Commissioner Quaedvlieg was previously the head of Customs. Mr Pezzullo will remain as the secretary of the Immigration and Border Protection Department and will "work closely" with Mr Quaedvlieg.

Mr Quaedvlieg said he would look after the operational side of immigration, including targeting visa overstayers, unscrupulous migration agents, narcotics traffickers, people smugglers and everyone in between.

At a press conference last week, he said that operational security was "paramount" to conducting effective and tactical operations. That meant he would continue the practice of not releasing information about what the government calls "on water matters".

"I don't intend to stray from the current position in relation to operational security in relation to Operation Sovereign Borders," he said.

The Australian Border Force will also work closely with the Australian Federal Police to target national security threats, with dedicated counterterrorism units at Australia's major airports.


Barnaby Joyce warns Asian countries could see Australia as 'decadent' if same-sex marriage legalised

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has warned Asian countries could see Australia as "decadent" if moves to legalise same-sex marriage are successful.

Mr Joyce was asked about comments last week by another frontbencher opposed to gay marriage, Eric Abetz, who is the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Abetz suggested that if Asian countries did not accept same-sex marriage then Australia should not either, pointing to the often-repeated phrase that for Australia this was the Asian century.

"Eric is right in saying where we live economically is south east Asia, that's where our cattle go," Mr Joyce told the ABC's Insiders program.

"When we go there, there are judgments whether you like it or not that are made about us.  "They see us as decadent."

Insiders host Barry Cassidy asked: "So would they see us embracing gay marriage as decadence?"  "I think that in some instances they would, yeah," Mr Joyce replied.

He added he did not believe marriage should be redefined by the legislation.  "I don't think if you go and pass a piece of legislation and say a diamond is a square makes diamonds squares — they're two different things," he said.  "It's not making a value judgement about either."

Mr Joyce went on to say he viewed marriage as "a process that's inherently there for the support of ... or the prospect of ... or the opportunity of children".

"I think that every child has a right, absolute right to know her or his mother and father and also ... should be given the greatest opportunity to know their biological mother and father," Mr Joyce said.

The issue of gay marriage has been back on the agenda, with confirmation last week that Liberal MP Warren Entsch planned to introduce a private member's bill to legalise same-sex marriage, with cross-party sponsorship, when Parliament resumes next month.

Before the last election Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised to allow the Coalition party room to decide if government MPs and senators should be allowed a conscience vote on the issue, which if it was allowed would give the bill a chance of passing.

However last week Mr Abbott played down the chances of the private member's bill being debated and put to a vote.

"It's quite unusual for private member's bills to come on for debate and vote in the Parliament," he said on Thursday.


Sunday, July 05, 2015

The shabby treatment of Tim Carmody by Queensland's snooty legal eagles

The "Courier Mail" apparently got a lot of letters to the editor about the forced resignation of Queensland Chief Justice Tim Carmody.  The selection they published is below.  Clearly it is the legal eagles who refused to work with Carmody who have come out smelling bad.  Carmody was too much a man of the people and not a silvertail.  He has himself been gracious and said he is happy in his new job

YOUR Editorial (C-M, Jul 3) was correct The resignation of Tim Car-mody as chief justice ends a sorry saga in what should be the most trusted institution of ouistate's legal system. That Justice Carmody was seemingly bullied into resigning casts a pall over our judicial  system. The serious nature of Justice Carmody's departure points to the flaws in our judicial system. That 23 out of 27 Supreme Court judges can go on leave at the same time shows that those in positions of power are seemingly granted special rights compared to other public servants. Major reforms should come from this Carmody saga. The petulant schoolyard antics of our top legal minds are dear to see and undeniably Premier Annastacia Pal-aszczuk and Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath have some difficult times ahead in cleaning up this sorry saga. This matter has shown that the common sense, decency and integrity of our top legal minds has been superseded by petty mind games.

Paul Henderson, Wynnum

TIM Carmody's resignation was acclaimed while the Supreme Court justices were castigated in your editorial. What action can be taken to obviate grievances over the outcome of legal appointments? On any inference of other agendas or a politically motivated appointment, rather than one made on merit with due deference to separation of powers, the principle of natural justice should apply. This rule against bias and the right to a fair hearing is up-held in the opinion pieces of Terry Sweetman, and Bill Potts and Rebecca Fogerty, in the same edition. The Westminster system in Australia would be strengthened by an independent commission for judicial appointments, with the Attorney-General exercising discretion on the final decision. Such a process would preclude criticism of and protect judicial appointments.

Roslyn Smith. Middle Park

TERRY Sweetman was incorrect in his column "Justice must now be served". Tim Carmody was qualified for the position of chief justice and capable of doing the job. The issue was that the other silver-spoon justices were not happy as he was not one of their crowd.

Laurence Rucker, New Beith

TIM Carmody can at least take comfort from one thing. He will be relieved of being stabbed in the back by the pack of judges and barristers who set upon him and plotted to railroad him out of the job of chief justice from the moment he was controversially appointed by former attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie. Justice Carmody's biggest weakness is that he's too human for his own good. He wears his character flaws on his sleeve. Unlike his peers in the upper layer of the judiciary, he is not elitist, fake or pretentious. That is what his subordinates saw as a threat. Okay, at times his conduct was ill-advised and unorthodox and he probably shouldn't have had that meeting with Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston last year. But he didn't deserve to take the fall in the manner in which he did.

Tim Badric, Toogoolawah

IT WOULD appear that Queensland has far too many judges if 23 out of 27 of them are on walkabout for their "winter break". Is this a low point in the season for crime and other issues requiring the presence of members of the justice system? One of the claims made against Tim Carmody was that he did not shoulder a fair share of the work. It would appear to me that a fair share of the work amounts to little time indeed, if the system functions with only 14 per cent of judges available for duty.

Mike Heap, Dicky Beach

AFTER their schoolboy per-formance over the Carmody affair it is nice to see that the judges have gone on their school holidays along with all the other children.
Nola Croucher, Kenmore

Not previously online.  Scanned in from The "Courier Mail" of 4 July

Islamic State: Member of Australian charity charged with raising funds for jihadists and recruiting for IS

Members of an Australian charity are under investigation for alleged links to Islamic State (IS).  The charity, Dar al Quran wa Sunnah, was set up to help Syrian orphans, but it has come under scrutiny from Lebanese authorities after the arrest of one of its members, Ibrahim Barakat, in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on May 2.

Barakat appeared before a military court in Lebanon on Friday. He faces charges of fundraising for jihadists, recruiting for IS and fighting against the Lebanese army.

The ABC understands two other dual Australian-Lebanese members of the Sydney-based charity are under investigation in relation to the fundraising charges.

Susan Pascoe, the commissioner for Australia's charity watchdog Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC), said the allegations against Barakat of fundraising for jihadists and recruiting for IS would "absolutely" trigger an investigation.

"That would be a very serious matter and, I might add, that would be a matter not only of interest to the ACNC, but the intelligence and security agencies," she said.

For large-scale investigations, ACNC cooperates closely with financial intelligence agency the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), as well as the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Security sources have alleged Barakat is the religious leader for IS in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli and accused him of recruiting for the group.

He also featured in a video thanking Australians for their donations towards Ramadan food packs distributed in northern Lebanon last year.

The charity is registered with the ACNC and continues to fundraise in Australia for its operations in Tripoli, Turkey and Bangladesh.

Adnan Baradaaji, a dual Australian-Lebanese citizen, is listed on the ACNC website as the charity's president and lives in Sydney.

Lebanese security sources said he was also known as Adnan Baradei and was under investigation.

Ahmad Taleb, the lawyer representing Barakat, said Mr Baradaaji was frequently mentioned in Barakat's file.

Mr Taleb told the ABC that Mr Baradaaji had sent money to Barakat for a long time, but it was unknown whether that money was legitimately used for the purposes of aid, or if any of the money was used to fund jihadist activities.

Mr Baradaaji declined repeated requests by the ABC for an interview but said Barakat was innocent, and maintained his charity did not support terrorism.

The charity has no known office in Australia but operates one branch in the poor Lebanese neighbourhood of Quibbi in Tripoli.

The English Facebook page of the charity regularly posts images of the group handing out aid in Tripoli, Lebanon, but its Arabic Facebook page makes regular references to martyrs who have died fighting in Syria.

One post, uploaded in 2013, features Osama bin Laden with the caption "of the faithful men".

The group was seen in June raising funds from a shopping centre in the south-western Sydney suburb of Bankstown, asking interested individuals to give their bank details for regular direct debits.

It is not known how much money the charity has raised in Australia, with the majority of their fundraising thought to happen online.

The charity has been operating since December 2012 and is due to submit its first financial statement with ACNC in January next year.

Security sources in Lebanon said one other member of the charity, a Sydney-based, dual Australian-Lebanese citizen, was arrested around the same time as Barakat.

He appeared before a military court and was charged with "funding jihadist groups".

The dual-national was then moved to Lebanon's central prison Roumiyeh with other jihadists.

About one month after his arrest, the man was released and it is understood he made his way directly to Australia and is thought to be living in Sydney.

Financing terrorism has been included in the Government's proposed laws, which would see dual nationals stripped of their Australian citizenship if they engage in financing terrorist activities inside or outside Australia.

Barakat will appear again before the military court on November 11.  If convicted, the charges against Barakat carry a prison term of seven to 10 years.

In a statement, Dar Al Quran Wa Sunnah sought to distance itself from Ibrahim Barakat.  The charity said it "completely disavows and rejects" Barakat's alleged actions.

It said the Lebanese man is a "former teacher" of the group, and his actions are "not representative of the organisation itself in any way, shape or form".

"Dar Al Quran Wa Sunnah prides itself on its transparency, robust corporate governance and meeting the objectives for which it was established. It will continue its work in providing education and aid to the poor, needy, widows and orphans in the countries in which it operates", the statement said.


Shock, horror!  The Salvation army are Christians

An internal investigation has been launched at The Salvation Army's much-praised Oasis Youth Support centre in Surry Hills amid claims of homophobia after a young woman was advised to "pray" away her attraction to other women.

The incident has also been blamed for the sudden resignation of the centre's general manager Michelle Bryant, who has been a central figure in promoting the services helping the homeless and disadvantage youth – services that have won the support of many high-profile people, including Hollywood heavyweight Cate Blanchett.

Bryant, who joined the Oasis centre from the corporate world, declined to comment when contacted by PS this week, however she is understood to have described the incident  as "horrific" to friends, who say she has long harboured concerns about how troubled youth, especially those struggling to deal with their sexuality, were being "evangelised" by Salvation Army officers.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Salvation Army said: "The incident relates to alleged comments made to a client in relation to 'sexual orientation'. The Salvation Army is conducting an investigation into the alleged incident and is providing counselling support to both the client and staff of the Oasis Youth Support Network at this time. Salvation Army officers and staff treat every person who comes into our care with non-judgmental respect and acceptance no matter what their situation or circumstance."

However, non Salvation Army staff at the centre were this week questioning exactly how impartial the "non-judgment" claims are given the incident and previous well-documented controversies the organisation has become embroiled in when it comes to gay and lesbian issues.

In 2012, the Salvation Army was forced to make a public apology after one of its majors stated that the Salvation Army believed gay people should die. At the time Major Andrew Craib was the Salvation Army's spokesman in several states and was being interviewed on Melbourne radio station Joy FM about the organisation's Handbook of Doctrine, which refers to the Romans book from the Bible.

The Oasis Ball will be held at Town Hall next month to raise money for the Surry Hills centre. Photo: Kitty Hill
When asked directly whether people who identified as gay or lesbian should "die", as written in Romans, Craib responded on air: "We have an alignment to the scriptures, but that's our belief."

The Salvation Army later claimed the "death" inferred was a "spiritual death" rather than a physical one, but the comments had already generated a national outcry.


Not so little Lambie compares Greens to Islamic State

She's got a point

INDEPENDENT senator Jacqui Lambie's comparison of the Greens to Islamic military extremists has left the political group demanding an apology

ADDRESSING a mining conference in her home state of Tasmania on Friday, Senator Lambie opened her speech with "a little joke".

"What's the difference between the Greens and ISIS?" she asked an audience gathered for the third and final day of the Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council annual conference.

"Not very much. They both want to take us back into the dark ages."

Pre-empting a backlash, Senator Lambie said she was not talking behind the Greens' backs.  "I told the same comments (to) a group of Green senators at the last sitting of Parliament. "I make no apologies. They need to be told, and often."

However, Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O'Connor took offence.
"It is outrageous to compare Greens and conservationists with murderous terrorists," she told reporters.  "It's unnecessary, divisive language and she should apologise."

Senator Lambie's comments came in response to a United Nations committee decision in Germany on Thursday to uphold protection measures across Tasmania's 1.5 million hectare Wilderness World Heritage Area.

"The people from the UN would be better off listening to the average person from northwest Tasmania than the environmental zealots and alarmists like the Wilderness Society's Vica Bayley, who will never be satisfied until we're all living in caves, burning candles and eating tofu," she said.

The first-term senator renewed her call for an upper house inquiry into the activities of the Greens, citing the party's move to shut down Tasmania's mining and logging industries. "The key question is: did they use taxpayer funds to kill off Tasmanian jobs and sabotage a sustainable, environmentally friendly industry?"

Senator Lambie went on to tell the conference that she struck a deal with federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, that guaranteed Tasmania the right to burn wood waste to produce energy, in exchange for her support of the renewable energy target legislation.

"Let's see if he keeps his word," she said, according to News Corp.


Taxing Bank Deposits

In the current economic climate of grossly indebted governments and faltering economies, it is imperative that policy for the medium to long-term should focus on wealth-creation, major reductions in government expenditure and a structure of incentives for entrepreneurship, production and savings. Tax reductions have a crucial role as incentives and capital accumulation and savings support investment. The federal government has taken a bold step along these lines in encouraging investment and innovation by small businesses through concessions and tax reduction.

It therefore beggars belief that the government should now be considering imposing a tax on bank deposits. Rather than encouraging enterprise and production by tax reduction, it now proposes to take more money out of the private sector instead of reducing its own expenditures. This will be done by punishing those who save the capital that may be applied to private investment and production - savers whose interest earned on their savings is already taxed to the point of exploitation.

Current monetary policy entails low interest rates for prudent savers, on the one hand and, on the other, encourages the search for higher savings to combat this low rate of return and a degree of inflation that further reduces returns. Savers have therefore turned to the stock market in search of better returns, but at high risk. That high risk has now eventuated and billions of dollars are being lost.

To overfill the cup of dismay, those who have rescued a fraction of their investment from the stock market face the prospect of another smack in the eye if they put their remnants into a bank account.

The proposal to tax bank savings, therefore, is not only bad economic policy it is also bad social policy, and, at the margin, will make some victims candidates for welfare support.

It is said that the government's back-benchers are challenging the proposal. Good luck to them!


Friday, July 03, 2015

Australia could have a Congo on its doorstep

Piers Akerman 

LAST week, PNG’s former police commissioner Geoffrey Vaki was found guilty of contempt for not arresting the country’s Prime Minister on corruption charges. As Australia is to provide $477 million in foreign aid to PNG in the coming year, Australians should be better informed about activities in our closest neighbour.

At low tide Australia’s closest islands are less than 3km from PNG, well within wading distance or a short canoe trip.

The conviction of a former police commissioner is no small thing. The fact he was found guilty of contempt for not arresting Prime Minister Peter O’Neill on corruption charges magnifies the importance of this case.

Our nation played a long and honourable role in the history of what is now PNG. Nearly 6000 Australian troops fought in Papua during WWII and, until the prevalent anti-colonisation forces prevailed and PNG attained independent nation status 40 years ago, Australia was responsible for its administration.

In hindsight, independence was premature. The administrative structures were not sufficiently mature and PNG now appears to be teetering on the brink of becoming yet another failed nation.

Last June the country’s anti-corruption agency, Taskforce Sweep, accused O’Neill of official corruption relating to allegedly fraudulent government payments paid to a local law firm and an arrest warrant was issued for him.

O’Neill refused to co-operate and sacked the police commissioner, appointing Vaki.

Vaki prevaricated and refused to arrest O’Neill, saying he wanted to investigate further to make sure the case was “watertight”. In July he told media any moves to arrest O’Neill on corruption charges were “a long way down the road”.

Contempt charges were filed against Vaki by two senior police officers — Detective Chief Superintendent Mathew Damaru, head of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, and his deputy, Detective Chief Inspector of Police Timothy Gitua — for ignoring the court-ordered warrant and, a year after the arrest warrant was issued, PNG’s Supreme Court found Vaki guilty of two charges of contempt for not executing the arrest warrant and for telling the media he would not make the arrest.

O’Neill is challenging the arrest warrant in a separate action.
PNG is drifting into very dangerous waters. The rule of law must hold or Australia may have a Congo on its doorstep.


Queensland’s gifted students neglected as teachers focus on strugglers

GIFTED students are being overlooked in the classroom, with schools instead focusing attention on strugglers.

University of Southern Queensland special education lecturer Mark Oliver said there was a danger smart students were being turned off school as they coasted through the curriculum.

Mr Oliver warned that gifted students needed support to reach their full potential.

“When you get a bored student they can refuse to go to school or refuse to participate because they don’t see the point ... it then affects their long-term attitudes to school and self-esteem,” he said.

Mr Oliver said there was a focus on teaching for tests and getting students to obtain minimum standards, rather than providing extension to gifted students. Policy change was needed across the education sector.

“Maybe that’s not the best way to go for developing the creativity and talent we need for future careers,” he said.

An Education Department spokesman said schools were committed to meeting the needs of gifted and talented students.

Mr Oliver said teachers did their best but resources were often targeted towards struggling students, rather than those who needed to be challenged.

“We want to make sure these kids are tracking into their abilities for applied creative purposes and are not just producing future worker bees,” Mr Oliver said.

Several workshops have opened over the school holidays to encourage gifted students in Queensland, aiming to give them the best chance at developing their skills.

Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children president Anthony Stevens said gifted children needed a challenge.

“People think gifted children don’t need any extension,” he said.  “There’s that idea that we have got them to a certain level and can stop worrying.

“But the problems of the future are going to be solved by people who can come up with wonderful, creative solutions. That isn’t going to be the stuff taught in classrooms because we don’t know it yet.”

He said gifted students needed to be challenged with teachers often trying their best to accommodate students at all levels. “Just like anybody else, gifted kids need to experience what it’s like to work at something,” Mr Oliver said.

An Education Department spokesman said funding had been allocated to each region to support education of gifted children and to develop strategies to meet the needs of students and teachers.

“This is achieved through challenging learning experiences that engage these students in their learning and support them to keep advancing their knowledge and skills,” the spokesman said.

He said there were several programs and awards, including the Queensland Academies’ Young Scholars Program and the Peter Doherty Awards, which were geared towards recognising gifted students.



Three current articles below

Unpacking wind farm impacts in Australia

Fears over adverse health impacts caused by wind farms are being heavily scrutinised during a parliamentary inquiry into the controversial renewable energy source.

The Senate select committee inquiry into the regulatory governance and economic impact of wind turbines, established last November, is due to report by August 3.

The inquiry’s extensive terms of reference include investigating the impacts of wind farms on household power prices and the Clean Energy Regulator’s effectiveness in performing its legislative responsibilities.

The role and capacity of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in providing guidance to state and territory authorities is also under scrutiny.

The first public hearing was held at Portland in Victoria on March 30 while two were held in Cairns and Canberra in May.

About 460 public submissions have been received with four more public hearings scheduled for June in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra.

Conflicting views

At the most recent hearing in Canberra on May 19, witnesses presented a range of conflicting views about the adverse health impacts of wind turbines, particularly around low-frequency infrasound.

Family First Senator Bob Day said the inquiry had heard extensive evidence from state and local governments that they were struggling with regulating the wind turbine industry.

Senator Day said infrasound did not appear to be covered by regulations, “which mostly cover audible decibel measured sound”.

He said evidence from hearing expert Dr Andrew Bell claimed infrasound cannot be measured, and it was unknown how the ear coped with infrasound.

“It is just not possible to measure it – all you can do is accept the overwhelming evidence that people are affected by it,” he said.

Dr Bell said large infrasonic impulses – whether from a wind turbine, coal mine or a gas turbine or “whatever” – can have an effect of altering the middle ear and causing a pressure effect, “maybe headaches, maybe seasickness and things like that”.

“I think infrasound by itself with very large low-frequency pressure pulses does disturb the human ear,” he said.

“Exactly how it happens is unknown; my suspicion is that it is the middle ear muscle – the gain-control before the cochlea – but we are just beginning to do work in this area.”

The annoyance factor

The Australia Institute research director Roderick Campbell referred to a report on the wider impacts of wind energy written by researchers at the Nossal Research Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne.

Mr Campbell said the institute’s medical researchers concluded in the report that there was “no credible peer-reviewed scientific evidence that demonstrates a causal link between wind turbines and adverse physiological health impacts on people”.

But he said they found that there was some connection between annoyance from wind turbines and sleep disturbance.

“They felt that attitudes towards wind farms have a considerable influence on these factors and the extent to which noise, visual disruption and social change resulting from wind farms can cause stress or annoyance, which in turn can contribute to health issues,” he said.

“Any effects from such exposures are therefore likely to vary considerably across communities and are best considered indirect effects.”

Mr Campbell said the Warburton review – along with almost every other review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) “which is dominated by wind energy” – found that the RET either has a minimal impact on household prices or, in the longer term, is likely to put downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices.

‘No problems whatsoever’

Australian Wind Alliance national co-ordinator Andrew Bray said evidence also existed of people living near wind farms with no reported problems.

Mr Bray said he had also spoken personally to people who were in “great distress” – and “I certainly do not want to say that they are making stuff up”.

However the danger of looking at those cases selectively was “that you miss the much larger pool of people who live near wind farms who have no health problems whatsoever”.

Mr Bray said if a study was undertaken of all people living around a wind turbine, “you would find that the incidence of health problems is not high”.

However, NSW Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm said: “With cigarettes, the incidence of lung cancer was not high either”.

Public Health Association of Australia CEO Melanie Walker said complaints from people affected by noise from wind turbines must be recognised and managed, with fair and reasonable solutions developed.

Ms Walker said allegations of harm to health from wind turbines must also be placed in the context of minimal evidence supporting some claims and the considerable evidence supporting harm from other energy sources.

She said governments should also support wind power as one of the viable evidence-based renewable energy options to rapidly transition the economy from fossil fuels.

“This is supported by the Public Health Association on both health and safe climate grounds,” she said.

“We know that people who are disturbed by noise become annoyed, and we know that if you are annoyed you become more acutely sensitive to the cause of your disturbance,” she said.

“We are also aware that if you are annoyed and disturbed that you are going to have interrupted sleep, and we know that this is not good for people’s health in the short term.

“The linkage from the short-term annoyance to longer term health problems is more problematic, because there is a chain of events that takes decades to work through.

“But we do know from the broader social determinants of health literature that there are some connections between psychological distress and, over a period of years, the emergence of chronic diseases.

“So we are not saying that this does not happen, but we are saying that it is a long-term, not immediate, effect.

“We are also aware that people who live near coalmines in the Hunter Valley or people who live in Morwell in Victoria also have sources of stress in their environment which is contributing to their sense of unease as well.”

Senator Leyonhjelm said the committee had heard from people who favoured having wind turbines erected on their properties and were also very supportive of renewable energy.

But he said after the wind turbines were erected, some of those people then reported suffering adverse health effects.


Bass Strait's artificial structures good for hungry fur seals

Greenies will hate this,  Everything artificial is BAD, according to them

A study looking at the feeding behaviour of Australian fur seals in Bass Strait has found the animals benefit from the shipwrecks, pipelines and cables in their underwater world.

The researchers found these structures act like artificial reefs, attracting fish and other marine life. This makes them a happy hunting ground for hungry fur seals, which feed on a variety of bony fish, squid and octopus.

Revealed by the study's GPS tracking data and underwater "seal-cam" footage, the results showed the animals from the Kanowna Island colony off Wilsons Promontory favoured particular foraging routes.

"In one case we looked at the GPS track and it was a straight line, which made us think that the seal might be following fishing vessels," said John Arnould from Deakin University.

On closer inspection the researchers realised something else was at play: the animal's foraging path mirrored a pipeline. And it wasn't alone. Others were doing the same.

Underwater infrastructure in Bass Strait includes the high-voltage Basslink power pipeline, communications cables, wells and numerous shipwrecks.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE on Thursday, the findings showed this infrastructure benefited the fur seals because by forming an artificial reef, marine life became concentrated in what was otherwise a sandy seafloor with very little habitat variation.

Associate Professor Arnould said the Australian fur seals, which feed almost exclusively on the seafloor, appear to have cottoned-on.

"For some individuals it influenced where they were foraging and for some of the 36 studied, the artificial structures were heavily influencing where they were foraging," he said. 

The research team, including scientists from the University of Tasmania and the University of California Santa Cruz, also looked at how far from the infrastructure the seals were feeding.

In some cases it was up to 100 metres but Associate Professor Arnould said this still indicated the artificial environment was having an impact on foraging behaviour.

"Structures can influence currents and therefore nutrient transport," he said. "So even if seals aren't always feeding on the pipeline, the pipeline is influencing where they forage."

On one case, black and white video footage of a seal foraging around an oil rig revealed a surprising number of fish concentrated in the area.

"The amount of fish around this structure was unbelievable," Associate Professor Arnould said.

Thirty-six Australian fur seals were fitted with a GPS tracker and dive recorder as part of the study. Two of the 36 had an underwater camera attached to their dorsal fur.

Heavily hunted for their coats in the 1800s, the Australian fur seal population dipped to as few as 20,000. Now protected, the seal population is recovering at about 3000 pups a year, or 2 per cent.


Huge subsidies needed for electric cars:  Australian government not interested

Renault Australia boss Justin Hocevar has held up the delivery of the Renault Nissan Alliance's 250,000th electric car as evidence the Australian government has the wrong approach to motoring.

The partnership sold the landmark car, a Renault Zoe hatch, to French resident Yves Nivelle, who took advantage of a €10,000 ($14,500) subsidy to buy a €21,990 ($31,885) car for little more than half its retail price.

"The government's environmental bonus was a big factor in my decision to get an EV," Nivelle says.

The French subsidy encourages drivers to trade in older diesel models for a new electric car.

For customers who aren't prepare to pay cash for the car, other French subsidies allow drivers to lease an electric Renault for just €99 ($145) per month.

Australian drivers miss out on the Renault Zoe as tawdry charging infrastructure and a lack of rebates provide little incentive for people to choose electric cars.

"The lack of support for electric vehicles certainly impacts the business plan for Renault to introduce electric vehicles to Australia," Hocevar says.

"Currently electric vehicles in Australia carry a price premium over their internal combustion engine counterparts and in such a competitive and price sensitive market; this does make it difficult for us to look at introducing product."

Asked whether the Federal Government would consider subsidising electric cars, a spokesman for Ian Macfarlane, Minister for Industry and Science, says the main encouragement for people to consider green cars lay in the Green Vehicle Guide website that helps consumers compare cars "based on greenhouse and air pollution emissions".

The government also charges less in luxury car tax to prestige vehicles that use less than 7.0L/100km, however that threshold (set at $75,375) hasn't changed in four years.

Minister MacFarlane is on the record as saying electric cars are "an idea, not a solution", and that he is more interested in hydrogen-fuelled cars than machines that primarily use coal-sourced electricity.

That's not a notion supported in Norway, where government subsidies have pushed electric car sales to around one in five of all models. More than 50,000 electric cars are on the road in Norway, where battery-powered motorists benefit from reduced taxes, toll-free use of motorways, free parking and the use of public transport lanes.

Hocevar says "it would be fantastic if we could emulate this support in Australia", but "at this stage we don't believe there is a plan for the government to introduce support in the near future".  "The lack of support for electric vehicles in Australia is disappointing," he says.

The difference between Australia and Norway is that the majority of local power comes from coal, whereas the Scandinavian nation relies on hydroelectric energy [Those wicked DAMS!] . Yet plenty of other federal, state and local governments around the globe provide strong incentives for green cars, and Hocevar isn't the only Australian executive to criticise the government's approach to electric machines.


Thursday, July 02, 2015

Sydney Morning Herald judged by its weasel words

I read the SMH most days but from the day of his election until now I have yet to see a good word about Abbott from the SMH.  They are obsessional Leftists -- JR

THE DESIRE for revenge is an understandable, if often unattractive, human trait. As Fairfax have now discovered, it can also be an expensive one.

Yesterday the publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age lost a long-running defamation battle with Treasurer Joe Hockey, who sued following a front-page headline and associated tweets that labelled him a “Treasurer for sale”.

As the court heard, Fairfax’s hostility towards the Treasurer followed an earlier mistake by The Sydney Morning Herald which led to a grudging apology. Rather than being angry at his own staff, Herald editor Darren Goodsir was more ­inclined to be angry with Hockey.

In a text message to Melbourne Age editor in chief Andrew Holden, Goodsir offered this very revealing sentiment: “I have long dreamt (well actually since last Friday) of a headline that screams: Sloppy Joe! I think we are not far off but perhaps even more serious than that.”

As it happens, a “Sloppy Joe” headline may have saved Fairfax $200,000 in defamation payments to the Treasurer. Instead, the Herald went with a more aggressive line, obviously prompted by an equally revealing text message from Holden to Goodsir: “F. k him.”

It is possible that Hockey’s enemies, both inside and outside of parliament, will try to frame this outcome as an example of the government’s alleged opposition to free speech.

It is nothing of the kind. Fairfax was and remains free to publish any words it chooses. But it remains the case that Fairfax is also responsible for those words, and that Hockey maintains the right to take legal ­action when he is wronged.

This is particularly so when words are used out of a misguided sense of retribution. Hockey’s lawyer Bruce McClintock was convincing last year when he pointed out “there was a big measure of payback ­because the Herald had been forced to apologise to Mr Hockey”.

Now Fairfax has been forced to do a lot more than merely apologise. The publisher should consider the motivation behind its attacks on the government, and especially on individual members of that government.


That Leftist double standard again

Attorney-General George Brandis was widely ridiculed after he made these comments in the Senate in May, 2014: “People do have a right to be bigots, you know. People have the right to say things that other people would find insulting, offensive or bigoted.”

Many of Brandis’s critics were from the ABC, where the Attorney-General is something of a hate ­figure.

So it was a surprise on Monday night to hear so many people on the ABC’s Q & A program using Brandis’s exact argument to defend the show’s decision to grant several minutes of airtime last week to ­Islamic extremist Zaky Mallah.

Host Tony Jones kicked off the homage to Brandis with these opening remarks: “The ABC’s editorial standards tell us to present a diversity of perspectives so that, over time, no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded, nor disproportionately represented.”

Guest Anne Aly, a research fellow at Perth’s Curtin University, readily agreed. “We deserve to have these issues brought to our attention,” she said.

A video question from viewer Michael Daley followed Aly’s theme: “The High Court has held that there is an implied freedom of political communication. Therefore, while I disagree with the comments made by Zaky Mallah last week, we have an obligation to honour his right say them.”

And guest Lawrence Krauss, one of those relatively obscure American academics who so frequently appear on Q & A, joined in. The ­director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University said that some of Mallah’s views were “despicable”, but in our society “we have to be willing to have discussions about despicable views”.

In other words, people have the right to say things that other people would find insulting, offensive or bigoted. George Brandis should consider himself deeply honoured by the ABC’s belated agreement.


The crooked BOM again

Vanishing hot days of December 1931 — and BOM monthly averages hotter than every single day that month

Lance Pidgeon has drawn my attention to the mysteriously detailed weather maps of the Australian BOM, with their mass of contradictions. The intricate squiggles of air temperature profiles suggests an awesome array of data — especially remarkable in places like “Cook”, which is a railway station with a population of four. Eucla, the megopolis in the map, has a population of 368. The shared border in the map (right) is 674km long top to bottom.

Thankfully, after 80 years of modern technology, the weather at Eucla and in the Great Victorian Desert is much more bearable than anyone would have expected. The BOM ACORN data set works better than airconditioning. In places near Eucla, where old newspapers record 43C, the BOM tells us the highest maximum that month was “under 27C”. Far to the north of there, the highest maximum stayed under 36C, but the average for that same whole month was above 36C. Go figure. It’s a new kind of maths… [or maybe the miracle of reverse cycle a/c?]

There are a half million square kilometers in this map here and almost no thermometers, but plenty of lizards. It is so empty that every railway station and even a single house will earn a “dot” and a label. The point where WA meets SA and the NT is so remote that more people have been to the South Pole. Despite that, the BOM can draw maps of daily air temperature variation separating sand dunes and salt lakes where no man probably walked in a whole year.  Marvelous what computers and assumptions can do.

Jokes aside. The state of the BOM database is not so funny.


Dole crackdown comes into effect

WELFARE recipients will face a federal government crackdown from Wednesday in a bid to bolster the budget.

THE government is increasing the fraud detection activities of the department that manages Centrelink from July 1. It expects to recoup about $1.7 billion from thousands of welfare cheats who have already been identified for lying about their incomes.

Jobseekers who don't show up for appointments with their employment service provider will also have their dole payment docked.

Unemployed people who have their benefits halted after failing to turn up will no longer be able to obtain full back pay if they reschedule a meeting and attend a new appointment.  They must have a good reason for not attending the meeting or cancel ahead of time.

There's also new criteria for people who use Centrelink payments to rent TVs, fridges and other household items.  They'll no longer be able to lease goods under an indefinite or short-term contract of less than four months.

Meanwhile, parents earning more than $100,000 will be cut off from the Family Tax Benefit Part B payment, the threshold for which has been reduced from $150,000.

But there's good news for others.  Thousands of young NSW residents with disability will get the national disability insurance scheme three years early.

The scheme is being rolled out in full for people under 18 years of age from the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury, Lithgow and Penrith regions.  They'll start receiving individualised care plans from Wednesday.

Hundreds of people with a disability will mark the occasion with an information session for families and the disability community in Penrith.


Wednesday, July 01, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is unhappy with the Pope's backing of what Zeg insists on calling "anthropological" global warming. 

Zeg seems to be a bit of a Latinist too.  That gobbledegook above the Pope's head in the toon is not dog Latin  but real Latin.  It translates as, "The crack-brained poison of Rome".

Charleston shooting massacre should prompt us to consider another gun amnesty and buyback (?)

Jane Fynes-Clinton (below) must be desperate for something to say.  The gun scenes in Australia and the U.S. have virtually nothing in common.  Our rate of gun deaths is about a thousandth  of theirs and you are already not allowed to own a gun for self-defence in Australia.  They are allowed to members of gun clubs for sporting purposes only. She is using the fact that the police trace and seize a lot of illegal guns to argue that more illegal guns should be seized.  But do not the seizures show that illegal gun ownership is difficult already and  that a lot is  being done to enforce that?

WE NEED to go back to 1996: a new-age firearm buyback and amnesty is needed. And we need it now.

The US President Barack Obama lauded Australia this week for the success of the hard line stance the federal government took 19 years ago in banning semiautomatic and automatic weapons and buying back the newly illegal firearms, but those on the front line say Australia is again on the edge of unthinkable horror.

After witnessing yet another shooting massacre in the US – this time in Charleston, South Carolina in which eight people died as they attended church – we must act. We must not wait for our own mass shooting tragedy to make us sit up.

Victoria Police said this week they are stumbling on illegal firearms every two days in the course of their other work. [so if you make them doubly illegal how is that going to help?]

But if you break down the statistics, Queensland’s situation is possibly worse than in Victoria. The most recent Queensland Police Service annual report shows between 2012 and 2014 the Firearms Investigation Unit seized 804 unlicensed weapons and 4.2 tonnes of ammunition, or more than five weapons a week.

The dedicated Gold Coast Firearms Investigation team recovered 158 unlawful firearms in 2013-14.  Queensland’s part of Operation Unification, a nationwide two-week police operation to recover illegal weapons in June last year, netted 59 firearms.

The Australian Crime Commission last month told a senate committee inquiry it believed there are about 260,000 illegal guns out there.

The ACC last month detailed the emergence of new threats from the illicit supply of firearms, with crims taking advantage of digital technology to open up new supply networks and making guns using 3D printers. Surely taking the standard weaponry out of circulation would free law enforcers to get on with tackling these new threats?

The massacre at Port Arthur, Tasmania was, at the time, the worst mass killing by a single gunman anywhere. Within weeks of Martin Bryant’s horrific murder of 35 people, the law was changed to ban rapid-fire weapons, implement a market-value buyback and open up a firearm amnesty on those guns.  Incredibly, 643,726 newly illegal guns were then bought by the government. We have not had a mass shooting since – using the international measure of five people or more being shot.

In the decade up to and including Port Arthur, Australia experienced 11 mass shootings. In these 11 events alone, 100 people were killed and another 52 wounded. But police are telling us of warning shots over our bow and we have to heed them.

The numbers of stashed, illegal firearms is creeping up. These are not box cutters or Tasers: guns have what scientists call a “high lethality index”.

We need another buyback, another amnesty. It would not hurt the responsible owners of the 25,000 registered handguns in Queensland, but would keep us all safer.

And we need to detain those found with illegal, unregistered weapons until their day in court.

Getting tough and calling in illegal weapons worked before . It is worth giving it another whirl, 20 years after its first run.
Let us not have a bloodbath to remind of us of what we should have done.


No Greek tragedy for Australia

Australia itself is not a parasite nation and the Greek parasites have not been bleeding us

Australia is as distant in an economic sense as it is in geography from the financial tsunami in Greece.

The fact that both countries are part of global debt and equity markets means that we get caught up in the contagion effect to some degree – hence local shares fell on Monday by more than 2 per cent as a generalised hysteria hit most stock markets.

World markets will remain skittish until there is some certainty on what happens in Greece, and this means we will retain a seat on the markets rollercoaster ride.

The spectre of Greek mums and dads unable to access their bank accounts, and long queues outside ATMs, is a scary graphic but Greece's problems will not lead to a worldwide financial armageddon. 

The outcome of this week's game of chicken between the Greek government and other European governments, Europe's central bank and the International Monetary Fund won't have a significant impact on the Australian economy.

Australia's trade relationship with Greece is tiny – some olives and a bit of tourism. Greece makes up about 2 per cent of the European economy and 0.3 per cent of the world economy.

Australian private holdings of Greek government bonds is also almost non-existent. Thus it won't really affect our financial system.

Treasurer Joe Hockey believes Australia is "well placed" for a Greek exit from the eurozone.

"Treasury has been engaging with the Reserve Bank, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and we are monitoring the situation closely," he said.

That said, to suggest that a Greek exit is on the cards may prove premature. Plenty of economists and market experts take the view that the parties will blink rather than see a true Greek tragedy.

History has shown during the past six years that debt-laden European economies that have been on the brink of default and whose membership of the European Union has been under threat have seen their various crises averted.

There has been too much at stake in the past for the rest of Europe to allow member countries to undermine the European Union by leaving it.

Until last Friday there was a willingness from other European countries, the ECB and the IMF to thrash out some kind of deal with Greece.

The latest drama emerged because Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras moved the goal posts on Friday by announcing he would leave it to the Greek people to vote on whether they would accept the austerity-heavy bailout package on offer.

Complicating the matter is the fact that before the Greeks even get the chance to vote, they will also have defaulted on loans due for repayment this week.

There is plenty of tough talk from the European lenders and the IMF about an act of default leading to an end to providing Greece with financial assistance.

This unravelling could end in the Grexit and, with it, the introduction of a new Greek currency. But under this scenario the European lender governments, the European Central Bank and the IMF would have little chance of being repaid the €243 billion ($351 million) they have lent.

Thus there is plenty of incentive for Greece's creditors to keep negotiations rolling and kick the can further down the road.

Germany is owed €57 billion, France €43 billion, Italy €38 billion and Spain €25 billion – on top of those countries' contributions to the IMF loans. However, many of these are long-term loans.

And while the Greek people hate the European-imposed austerity sanctions, recent polls suggest most remain in favour of staying in the European Union.

If it loses Greece, the EU also risks losing some of the other national "hospital case" governments that might see leaving as a viable outcome.

But as AMP economist Shane Oliver points out, even the weaker economies within the EU have become stronger in recent years and many have been removed from life support thanks to getting their economic health in order.

There is less toxic debt in Europe than there was a few years ago, in part because the European Central Bank's quantitative easing measures have been soaking up European government bonds.

Thus, there are plenty of compelling reasons for all parties to work out a solution and there would be very few parties (other than the Greek government) that would want to see a true default and a Grexit.

And even though a Greece secession from the EU would be painful, it might at least bring to a close the drawn-out negotiations, which have been going on since 2010.

Even if Greece were to exit, the ripple effect in Australia – or in many other countries – wouldn't be particularly meaningful.

Indeed, the weakness in the Australian currency against the euro should provide an opportunity to book a cheaper holiday in Europe.


Marriage Battle Picks Up Steam in Australia: ‘No Parliament or Court has the Authority to Repeal Biology’

“No parliament or court has the authority to repeal biology,” an Australian pro-family campaigner said at the weekend as the ripple effects of the U.S. Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling lent additional momentum to a growing campaign to redefine marriage in Australia.

Australian Marriage Forum president David van Gend said decisions like the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage is a right was a reflection of “the moral dementia of the West.”

Describing the court decision as an “historic act of social self-mutilation” akin to Roe vs. Wade, van Gend warned it will lead to “a new era of civil discord.”

“We must not let that happen here.”

“If same-sex couples cannot marry, that is because they do not meet nature’s job description for marriage and family: marriage and childbearing is a specifically male-female phenomenon in nature, and no parliament or court has the authority to repeal biology,” he said.

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision America’s biggest LGBT civil rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), is throwing its backing behind the Australian campaign.

The HRC expressed support for the activist group Australian Marriage Equality, whose national convenor Rodney Croome says his country is “now the only developed, English-speaking country that doesn’t allow same-sex couples to marry.”

“We welcome the Human Rights Campaign’s support for the Australian campaign because it will muster support across the world and highlight how far Australia is falling behind,” said Croome.

“Now marriage equality has been achieved in the U.S., all eyes will be on Australia with the hope we are next.”

The leader of Australia’s official opposition Labor Party, Bill Shorten, recently introduced a bill that would alter the definition of who can be legally married by replacing the words “man and women” with “two people.”

“Those eight words [‘the union of a man and a woman’] maintain a fiction that any other relationship is somehow inferior,” Shorten said when introducing the bill on June 1.

The issue was thrust into the political spotlight a decade ago, when Australians who had solemnized same-sex marriages in Canada tried to get courts in their own country to declare those unions to be valid and legal.

In response, the federal parliament in 2004 defined marriage explicitly as a union between a man and a woman.

The next skirmish occurred in 2013, when the federal parliament defeated a bill that would have allowed homosexuals and lesbians to marry. At that time both the then-Labor prime minister, Julia Gillard, and center-right opposition leader Tony Abbott opposed the bill, and it was voted down 98-42.

That same year the legislature of the Australian Capital Territory, which comprises Canberra and the surrounding area, passed the nation’s first same-sex marriage legislation. It was challenged by the federal government, and just five days after it came into effect in December 2013 the High Court overturned it, declaring it “a matter for the federal parliament.”

In the face of the new parliamentary push, Abbott – now prime minister – remains opposed to same-sex marriage.

“What happens in the United States is obviously a matter for the United States, just as what happened in Ireland a few weeks ago is a matter for the Irish,” he said in Melbourne on Saturday, referring to the Supreme Court decision and to Ireland’s May 22 referendum legalizing same-sex marriage.

“As for our own country, obviously there is a community debate going on,” Abbott said. “I have views on this subject which are pretty well known and they haven’t changed.”

‘The dominos are falling around the world’

Parliament is expected to take up Shorten’s bill when it resumes after the current winter recess.

“This is a joyous day in America,” Shorten said in response to the Supreme Court decision. “In Australia, let us make it a call to action.”

It was the Irish referendum that prompted Shorten to introduce the measure. He told reporters on Saturday that if a “famously religious society” like Ireland could take the step, “why couldn’t we in Australia?”

“America is another society which is very influential in Australia from its media, its culture, to its system of government in many ways,” Shorten added. “So now America too has moved on the path of marriage equality.”

“The dominos are falling around the world at an ever increasing rate, and it’s well beyond time that Australia caught up,” said Nick McKim, a lawmaker with the Australian Green Party.

“Marriage in Australia is a civil institution that belongs to our people, not to the churches which continue to oppose marriage equality,” he added.

But the Australian Christian Lobby slammed the decision by “five unelected judges,” charging that the necessary flow-on effect of making marriage available to same-sex couples is to deny a child either its mother or its father.

“The five judges overturned the democratic votes of more than 50 million Americans in 31 states which have voted to keep marriage as between one man and one woman,” said ACL managing director Lyle Shelton.

“Only 11 states [10 states and DC] permitted same-sex marriage through legislative or voter action. Everywhere else, judges have made the decision for the people on behalf of the homosexual lobby.

“America, the land that gave us ‘we the people,’ has ceded its democracy to ‘you the judges.’”


Big Greenie Pow wow may lead to more moderation in demands

The set of policy principles released by the Australian Climate Roundtable yesterday are extraordinary for two reasons.

First, the principles themselves offer some calm common sense in an arena that has been dominated by ferocious partisan politics and dramatic policy reversals. They could therefore offer a way to break the current policy deadlock and re-establish a bipartisan approach to climate change.

Second, the principles are the product of a highly unusual alliance of ten organisations, representing business, unions, environmentalists, and the community. It is unusual that such disparate groups can sit down together to talk, and downright extraordinary that they can agree on a common set of principles. So what is going on here?

A principled approach to policy?

On the first point, the principles state that: Our overarching aim is for Australia to play its fair part in international efforts to achieve this while maintaining and increasing its prosperity.

The Roundtable’s ideal policy would lead to “deep reductions in Australia’s net emissions”, using policy instruments that are well targeted, well designed, based on sound risk assessments, internationally linked, operate at least cost, and are efficient.

On the environmental side, there is a demand for net zero emissions in the long run, an acceptance that there are market failures that need to be fixed, and a call for long-term planning based on climate change scenarios.

On the economic side, there are statements about achieving reductions at the lowest cost, avoiding regulatory burdens, ensuring no loss of competitiveness for trade-exposed industries, and the need for a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy, without undue shocks for investors.

Finally, on the social side are concerns about providing decent work opportunities, protecting the most vulnerable people, and helping communities to make the necessary transition.

While there is apparently something here for everyone, the contentious issues are avoided.

There is no mention of the Government’s Direct Action Emissions Reduction Fund, the former Government’s price on carbon, or the recently reduced Renewable Energy Target. This is clever politics, as it allows for the establishment of a broad consensus without the need to quibble over policy detail.

An unlikely alliance

The roundtable’s membership is remarkably diverse: the Australian Aluminium Council; the Business Council of Australia; the Australian Industry Group; the Energy Supply Association of Australia; the Investor Group on Climate Change; the Climate Institute; WWF Australia; the Australian Conservation Foundation; the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU); and the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS). How and why did these disparate groups form such an alliance?

It is clear from the principles themselves that all the member groups want some policy consistency that will survive regardless of who is in Government. The last thing they want is for the recent cycle of major policy changes to continue.

Such reversals impose waves of new compliance costs on industry and create uncertainty for investors, which is why business is so heavily represented in the Roundtable. Policy changes also make it difficult to consolidate significant emissions reductions, which is where the environmentalists come in. Finally, policy uncertainty has implications for employment options and the cost of living, which is why the ACTU and ACOSS are also on board.

There are also some specific strategic advantages to being involved in the Roundtable for each of the participants.

Business groups that have been getting bad publicity about their contributions to climate change might use the Roundtable to improve their image and frame the future policy debate in a way that suits them (for instance, by calling for a strong focus on costs and competitiveness).

Environmentalists, who have effectively been sidelined by the Abbott government on climate change, might see this is a way to deal themselves back into the policy game and make some progress in reducing emissions.

Unions concerned about their members' future employment might see this as a way to manage the transition by creating new “green-collar” jobs that will offset the loss of employment opportunities in the older polluting industries.

Finally, ACOSS is clearly worried about the impact of climate policies on low-income households, and being part of the Roundtable ensures that their concerns are heard.

A precedent for influencing policy?

While unusual, alliances such as the Australian Climate Roundtable are not unknown in Australian environmental policy. Sometimes they have led to the creation of effective long-term policies; other times they have fizzled out, leaving little more than rhetoric.

One positive example is that of Landcare. In 1989 the Australian Conservation Foundation and the National Farmers' Federation proposed a grant scheme that would empower communities to rehabilitate their local environment. More than a quarter of century later, Landcare is still going strong with the support of all four leading political parties.

On the negative side, an extensive consultation process involving all levels of government, business, unions and environmentalists led to the creation of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development in 1992. It is still on the books and referred to by current legislation, yet we don’t appear to be much closer to sustainability.

So will this be a Landcare moment or not? Only time will tell.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG sees the campaign for homosexual marriage as an offshoot of Marxism

Making Greenies pay their own way is "Blue blooded"?

New Matilda says so -- so who am I to argue?  I can see no logic in it however.  I think "Blue blooded" just seemed like a good term of abuse for them.  As good Leftists they of course think that government should fund everything.  The idea that Greens are just another political lobby who should pay their own way is incomprehensible to them.  A few excerpts from the usual long-winded ramble below

In December 2013, the Abbott government gutted the Australian Network of Environmental Defenders, cutting off all funding, including $10 million over four years despite the agreement being just six months in.

Much of it was effective immediately, and the eight EDOs around the country were told that beyond June 2014 the recurrent base-funding the organisations had received from federal governments for 18 years would be pulled.

The flow of federal funds to the EDOs was critical to their ability to perform their public interest role, but the Attorney General refuses to meet with them to discuss the cuts.

There had been no warning, no consultation, and despite recommendations from the Productivity Commission and a Senate Inquiry, there has been no back-down.

The government has made it clear it does not value the work that the 20 full-time legal staff and 17 non-legal support staff around the country do, or the function they serve our democracy.

Driving them out of the democratic contest over the environment will diminish citizens’ access to justice, the quality of environmental protections, and the scrutiny and awareness of the corporations whose operations have the potential to permanently damage our environment.

The Productivity Commission has noted that the work EDOs do - on law reform, on public education, in outreach and importantly, running cases for people who otherwise couldn’t afford them - is not being done by anyone else.

Environmental Defenders Offices are a recognised bulwark against corporate power over the biosphere. Implicit in that, Smith said, is the fact they “can’t apologise for being relevant and playing the role we do”.

“We are not a lobbying group, we’re not a campaign group. But the work we do - public interest environmental law - is, by nature, about being relevant,” he said.

“That means working in the areas which are often high-profile and highly contested.

“At the moment that is definitely in the area of coal mining and coal seam gas, but it wasn’t so long ago we were working almost reservedly in the area of, say, native vegetation reform.”

Earlier this year EDO Queensland brought a case which revealed that coal mining company Adani had provided decision makers with extremely high estimates of the taxes, royalties and jobs its mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin would create.

The company plans to build the biggest mine in Australia’s history, along with the world’s largest coal terminal, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. In August, a separate EDO case will examine its environmental record, which is scarred with breaches and negligence in its home state of India, and whether the Environment Minister should have taken the development's vast carbon emissions into account.

Despite the potential for huge environmental damage and dodgy calculations the state government, under Campbell Newman’s tenure, had been offering to help pay for critical and expensive rail infrastructure to ensure Adani’s mine (and nine others) went ahead.

Recent weeks have shown that the Abbott government - which George Brandis reiterated last week believes “coal is very good for humanity indeed” - is more than willing to extend the same favour through its $5 billion Northern Australia Investment Facility.

The case the EDO brought - through logic and proper application of environmentally law - directly challenged the legitimacy of the Galilee developments.

And yes, it potentially damaged proponents’ chances of approval and financial close.

The small community group the Queensland EDO represented could not have funded a five-week case involving nearly two dozen expert witnesses, but the new information it dragged into the public domain has added substantial weight to widespread community concern.

Facilitating communities’ use of the law is central to the EDOs function, which is largely why the Senate Inquiry Into the Abbott Government’s Attacks on the Environment this week found that “the long-term cost to communities and to the environment will far outweigh the short-term financial gains achieved by the defunding of the EDOs.”

To the EDO, access to justice for communities and the environment is a public good: “The dominant purpose is not to protect or vindicate a private right or interest, but to protect the environment.”


China FTA skills test waiver alarms racist union

Anti-Chinese paranoia from unionists again -- from the rogue and far left ETU  this time.  Unionists were behind the original white Australia policy. It looks like nothing has changed

Chinese tradesmen will be allowed to work here without undergoing the usual skills tests,-under a secretive "side" deal struck as part of the Australia-China free-trade agreement, unions have claimed.

The Electrical Trades Union said it would hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to demand a reversal of the federal government's decision to forgo skills assessments for Chinese workers in 10 trades.

According to a letter outlining the deal, there will be no requirement for Chinese electricians, cabinetmakers, carpenters and mechanics to undergo mandatory skills assessment in order to qualify for a 457 visa.

Skills assessments are normally required to make sure a prospective migrant has qualifications and skills that match the Australian standard.

ETU national secretary Allen Hicks said waiving the requirement was dangerous.  "To allow electricians from a country with an appalling record on industrial safety – where more than 70,000 people a year die in workplace accidents – to practice without first assessing their skills or competency is negligent in the extreme," he said in a statement on Sunday.

"If we stop assessing the skills of overseas workers and just starting handing licences around, it's not a matter of if, but when, somebody is killed."

The China-Australia free-trade agreement was reached a fortnight ago. Mr Hicks said the skills assessment waiver was only revealed on Friday, when the government released a series of documents about the agreement.

A letter from Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb to Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng was dated June 17 and said other occupations currently requiring skills assessments will be reviewed within two years, with the aim of further reducing, or even eliminating, such requirements for all occupations within five years.


Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said the claims were the latest instalment of the xenophobic scare campaign being mounted by the union movement against the China FTA.

"The FTA does not, I repeat does not, change the skills and experience requirement that needs to be met by a skilled worker applying for a visa to work in Australia. Applicants will still be required to demonstrate to the Immigration Department that they possess the requisite skills and experience to work in this country.

"This includes evidence of qualifications, memberships of relevant bodies or associations, references, CVs, documents showing English language skills and so on," Mr Robb said.  "This brings China inline with countless other countries including the US, countries in the EU, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and so on."


Teachers will undergo national literacy and numeracy exams to test skills

TEACHERS will face a new national exam on literacy and numeracy from August, designed to stop universities from churning out graduates who struggle to spell and count.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne will today announce a pilot program to test the first 5000 teaching ­students.

But the first guinea pigs for the new test will be assured that they can still graduate — even if they fail.

The sample exam paper reveals a taste of what teachers can expect, including the style of questions that teachers will be asked on numeracy and ­literacy.

It includes problems designed to test teachers’ understanding of syntax, grammar and punctuation, with graduates asked to spot sentences without errors.

Teachers will also be offered a calculator to assist with some of the questions that ask graduates to determine the percentage of funding remaining in an education budget, and challenges graduates’ ability to calculate a student’s marks.

From next year, passing the test will be a requirement to graduate.

“I want to ensure we get this right,’’ Mr Pyne said. “For too long there have been public concerns about the variability in the quality of teaching graduates and in the effectiveness of existing ­programs in preparing new teachers.

“Testing key aspects of the personal literacy and numeracy skills of aspiring teachers will assist higher education providers, teacher employers and the general public to have absolute confidence in the skills of graduating teachers.’’

In one study, graduates at an unnamed Australian university struggled to spell a list of 20 words including ‘acquaintance’, ‘definite’, ‘exaggerate’, and ‘parallel’.

More than 200 students were tested with not a single teacher managing to spell every word right in a list of 20 words. One teacher struggled to spell more than one word correctly on the list.

Mr Pyne has also written to university vice-chancellors to stress that the new national exam must become core content for graduates from next year.

The test plan follows complaints universities are accepting students to teaching degrees with marks lower than 50 per cent for their Year 12 exams.

But Mr Pyne has insisted that ATAR scores are a “blunt instrument’’ that he doesn’t want to get too caught up on.

According to Department of Education statistics, universities offered 894 places to applicants with ATARs of 50 in 2014. The results were an improvement on the previous year.

The new trial will be available for any teaching student regardless of whether they are in first year or a graduating student.

The tests will be conducted by Australian Council for Educational Research.

Students in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, Darwin and the regional locations of Albury and Ballarat will be tested.

Mr Pyne said the trial of the first 5000 teachers is designed to ensure that the test is “fit for purpose”.

It will become a course requirement for all initial teacher education students graduating from Australian universities from the end of next year.

New measures will also be introduced to ensure that teachers are provided with greater training on how to teach literacy and numeracy including a focus on phonics.

The decision to introduce a national exam for new teachers was a recommendation of the Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers report.


Lever Action - the new DEMON GUN!

Many of you may have read or viewed disturbing media reports over the past week on how Victorian Police are “concerned” about a new “rapid fire” lever action shotgun about to be released for sale in Australia. As expected these reports have been followed by calls in the media and by various “experts” and officials for a rethink (read new gun grab) on Australian gun laws.

At Shooters Union we have been aware of a disturbing trend appearing over the past year. First a rumour here and a dropped word there from someone in a meeting. We were hesitant to bring it to our members because, to be honest, every single official that was approached denied there were any plans afoot to change legislation regarding certain types of firearms.

OOPS, now it appears these same people are coming out from their dark little corners because they think a modern lever action shotgun can be used to make the public fearful enough to push even more non-effective restrictions on you, the legitimate law-abiding firearm user.

In a nutshell, this is what we have been hearing over the past year or so:

Various state police officials in several states, have been working together with a shadowy group that operates under the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Office (Firearms and Weapons Policy Working Group) on various firearm related issues and one that has been repeatedly raised has been the concept of heavily restricting “Manually Operated Rapid Fire Weapons” MORFW (surely only a government department could even imagine such a title).

MORFW’s include the following:

 *   All lever action firearms (rifle/shotgun)

 *  ALL pump rifles (pump action shotguns already heavily restricted)

 *  Straight pull bolt action rifles with detachable magazines
The basic proposal is that MORFW’s should be reclassified as Category C firearms, as is currently done for self loading rimfire rifles and shotguns and pump action shotguns. This means that 95% of shooters could not own or use them!

BUT, here is the good news. To accomplish this the Federal government would have to get ALL Australian state governments to agree to change their legislation.
This will be hard to do as most state governments have ZERO interest in changing these laws and going through all the massive political fight that will come with such proposals (I am hoping you are in the fight right alongside us).

So that is exactly why you are now seeing very carefully dropped articles in media across the country about the new “demon shotgun” that can fire so rapidly and is “deadly” (I guess other 12 gauge shotguns are not deadly??). The people pushing for these outrageous changes need a focus, something to try and gain some support and the lever action shotgun has been picked as the new poster child for “bad gun”.

Leaving aside the inherent idiocy of the whole “good” gun “bad” gun concept we live with in Australia, this new move against what amounts to probably 30-40% of all legally owned firearms is mind numbing.

As firearm owners we need to be united in opposing this concept totally, utterly and completely.

Some facts:

 *  Lever Action Shotguns have been around since the 1880s, and newmodels have been selling well in Australia for a number of years without problems.

 *  Lever action rifles are the second most popular action type in Australia and have been selling here since the 1870s.

 *  All firearms are safe in the right hands.

You can  write or talk to your local MPs and let them know your feelings on the issue. The only way these laws will get through is if you and your shooting friends say nothing and do nothing.


Australia Post cuts 1900 jobs after losing more than $1.5 BILLION in five years

Australia Post will cut 1900 jobs as the use of letters continues to sharply decline.

The company announced of Friday that its letters business had recorded losses of more than $1.5 billion over the past five years.

Australia Post managing director Ahmed Fahour said the letters business had recorded losses of nearly $500 million for this financial year.

'We have reached the tipping point that we have been warning about where, without reform, the business becomes unsustainable,' Mr Fahour said in a statement.

'We welcomed the Federal Government's decision to support reform so we can manage the mail service losses, meet the changing needs of our customers and continue to invest in growing parts of our business such as parcels and trusted services.'

The company is planning to offer 1900 voluntary redundancies over the next three years, the ABC reported.

Australia Post said it had established a fund to assist with employee retraining and redeployment – with $190 million set aside for voluntary redundancies.

'The significant and ongoing decline in physical mail volumes means there is less work in our mail service,' Mr Fahour said.

'We forecast in the next three years there will be a gradual reduction in jobs across the mail network because of this dramatic shift in consumer behaviour.

'I have made a commitment that there will be no forced redundancy of staff impacted directly by changes in our mail service and who are actively seeking jobs in other parts of the business.

'The provision will provide a safety net for employees who we know will choose not to transition with us and who may be legally entitled to a voluntary redundancy.'

Australia Post said ordinary mail volume decline accelerated to more than 10 per cent this financial year, the largest annual decline ever recorded.

The company added there would be no change to its five-day-per-week delivery service.