Wednesday, September 03, 2014
Pig-headed Qld. Premier Newman facilitates pedophilia
Pickering Post reported last year that Graeme Paul Hancock, 31, had been released from prison where he had served five years for the sexual assault, including rape, of three children aged five, seven and nine.
Hancock had a lengthy criminal history for similar offences dating back to November, 2004, when he was convicted on 26 child sex charges including rape. Police had also discovered a USB device which contained 100 child pornography images and four child exploitation videos during a search of his Wacol home.
A laptop was also found which contained seven child exploitation videos which were deemed to be in the second worst category of child sexual offences. Hancock’s release was subject to a continuous restrictive supervision order under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act.
Shortly after his release he was again arrested at South Bank, Brisbane, while filming a naked four-year-old girl. This time he was sentenced to 18 months.
Hancock then appealed the “severity” of that 18 month sentence, and after hearing Hancock’s appeal the judge inexplicably said the South Bank offence was... "at the lower end of the scale because the child was unaware the video had been taken”. Hmmm, what an amazing ruling!
He then ordered Hancock be immediately released despite two psychiatrists having classified his risk of reoffending as “high” and that he had already been in breach of strict supervision orders on three previous occasions.
Well, I guess an innocent four year old may not have a sophisticated grasp of what a sexual offence is but maybe the Premier of Queensland should have had the sense to step in and order a review of the judge's ruling.
But no, Hancock walked, free to continue his sexual addiction to small children.
It was no surprise the judge showed an unfathomable leniency toward the despicable Hancock because the judge himself had also shown an addiction to small children (mostly young boys) along with his partner in crime, ex-Premier Rob “Bubbles” Borbidge. Bubbles and the judge go back a long way.
So, who exactly is this bastard judge? Well, he was Chief Justice of Queensland, Paul “Daphnis” De Jersey (pictured) and, if you’re a Queenslander, he is now your new Governor, courtesy of an appointment by Campbell Newman.
To the legal fraternity’s dismay Newman had over-promoted the embarrassingly hapless Tim Carmody to fill De Jersey’s former position as Chief Justice. You see, Carmody had undertaken to uphold Newman’s VLAD laws despite the judiciary’s hostile objection to them.
Prior to his appointment as Governor, Newman was shown extensive information regarding De Jersey and was warned about his history, particularly within the Anglican Church, but Newman responded with the comment, “I don’t take any notice of internet blogs.”
If Newman is unaware of the suppressed findings of the CMC and the alarming Anglican record regarding this grub, then he’s had his head in the sand for the past three decades.
CFMEU took weekly kickbacks from George Alex companies, Royal commission hears
Explosive revelations of union kickbacks from businesses linked to crime figures, terrorists and standover men emerged from the royal commission into union corruption on Monday.
Witnesses gave evidence that the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union allegedly received a weekly kickback of $2500 from labour-hire companies linked to Sydney crime figure George Alex.
They also expressed fears for their safety.
During extraordinary evidence supporting findings unearthed by Fairfax Media investigations, the royal commission was told:
* Prison inmate Jim Kendrovski, who was assaulted in Parklea jail on Friday after being summonsed to give evidence at the commission, refused to answer questions because he feared for the safety of his wife and children.
* Union official Jose [Mario] Barrios received a threatening phone call from Mr Alex late last month after Mr Barrios raised questions with CFMEU NSW secretary Brian Parker about why the union was negotiating a workplace agreement what he suspected was one of Mr Alex's businesses.
* Convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf helped his mother-in-law Karen Nettleton get a job as a bookeeper for Mr Alex, an associate of Mr Sharrouf.
* Criminal identities including Sharrouf and ex-Comanchero bikie, Bill Fatrouni, were seen as guests at Mr Alex's house in Burwood where business was conducted informally.
* CFMEU NSW officials Mr Parker and Darren Greenfield were seen at meetings in Mr Alex's home.
* A director of one of Mr Alex's businesses said he started feeling uncomfortable when people from the company were being murdered - a reference to the murder of Mr Alex's standover man Joe Antoun in December last year.
The commission heard the CFMEU allegedly received a weekly kickback of $2500 from labour-hire companies linked to Mr Alex.
Under cross-examination, Michael Cohen, director of Elite Access Scaffolding, said he gave the weekly "union payment" to Mr Alex's standover man, Joe Antoun before he was murdered in December.
When counsel assisting, Jeremy Stoljar, asked whether the weekly payment was to be given to the CFMEU, he said: "To my understanding."
Pressed, he said: "That's correct", adding that was based on what Antoun had told him.
Douglas Westerway, a former director of Elite Access Scaffolding NSW, said he withdrew weekly payments of $2500, which were designated as union payments in accounting records he kept.
However, he could not confirm whether the payments were made to the CFMEU after he gave the money to Mr Cohen to be passed on toAntoun.
Mr Westerway said he saw criminal identities including convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf and ex-Comanchero bikie, Bill Fatrouni, at Mr Alex's house in Burwood where business was conducted in an informal way. He said he also saw union officials including CFMEU NSW secretary Brian Parker and another CFMEU official, Darren Greenfield, at meetings with Mr Alex.
Mr Westerway started feeling uncomfortable working in the business after the murder of Antoun, who had seriously assaulted him.
"People around you being murdered, it's not a comfortable place to work," he said.
While Mr Alex does not appear in company searches as a shareholder or director of the Elite holdings or Active Labour companies, Mr Westerway said he and Antoun effectively controlled the companies and how money was spent. Evidence was given that Mr Alex and Antoun received regular dividend payments of $2500.
In October last year, Mr Westerway said Antoun had discussed the need for some money for a property development in Marrickville.
But Mr Westerway indicated the company needed the funds to pay its own bills.
Antoun had seemed to have accepted this but, 10 minutes later, located Mr Westerway and assaulted him.
"Joe Antoun and somebody else came across the street and he yelled at me about being disrespectful to his wife who I hadn't even spoken to that day and told me this was my last warning and started throwing punches at me and hitting me," Mr Westerway said.
"He kept on screaming at me and telling me it was my last warning."
As a result of the assault, Mr Westerway said he went to hospital with two perforated ear drums.
Around Christmas time last year, Mr Westerway said he was buying a sandwich in Burwood when a male walked up behind him and said: "You're a smart arse aren't you?".
"He said, 'Don't f--- around with that business - it's not your business to f--- around with. This is your last warning'."
"I've had phone calls. I've had text messages."
In further evidence, Karen Nettleton said her daughter's husband, Khaled Sharrouf, was an associate of Mr Alex and had helped her get a job as an accounts clerk for Access Scaffolding, linked to Mr Alex.
Asked if she had received an explanation of $2500 described as "union payment" was – she said "no".
Fairfax Media understands Mr Alex will be called as a witness on Tuesday when hearings continue.
'A litany of failures': Tony Abbott tables royal commission's report into the Rudd government's home insulation scheme
A royal commission report into the former Rudd government's $2.8 billion home insulation program found a "litany of failures arising from a dysfunctional culture in the former administration", Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said.
The findings by Commissioner Ian Hanger, QC, were "grave and its [the report's] recommendations are detailed", Mr Abbott told the House of Representatives.
The report identified seven significant failings in the design and implementation of the program, including: "inevitable and predictable conflict or tension between the two aims of the HIP. One aim was to insulate 2.2 million homes and the other was to stimulate the economy. Both were doubtless admirable aims but there was an inherent conflict between them".
In addition it highlighted:
The Department of Environment was ill-equipped to deal with a program of its size and complexity. This problem was made worse by a switch in the delivery model from a regional brokerage model to a direct delivery model
A failure by the federal government to identify and manage the risk to the installers of injury and death.
The reflective foil insulation was "manifestly unsuitable and dangerous"
The decision to relax training and competency requirement
Allowing the program to move to "phase 2" without a robust audit program
The federal government's reliance on states, territories and employers to enforce health and safety requirements
Decisions made under the insulation program were found to have "unnecessarily exposed workers, particularly inexperienced ones, to an unacceptably high risk of injury or death".
"There was no compelling reason to commence the main phase of the Home Insulation Program on 1 July 2009, other than the generally perceived need to commence it as soon as reasonably possible, and because the prime minister had publicly announced that as the starting date."
"The reality is that the Australian government conceived of, devised, designed and implemented a program that enabled very large numbers of inexperienced workers – often engaged by unscrupulous and avaricious employers or head contractors ... to undertake potentially dangerous work. It should have done more to protect them."
The deaths of four young Australians – Queenslanders Matthew Fuller, Rueben Barnes and Mitchell Sweeney and Marcus Wilson from NSW – who lost their lives while working on the economic stimulus program "would, and should, not have occurred had the Home Insulation Program been properly designed and implemented".
The use of reflective foil sheeting had directly contributed to the deaths of Mr Fuller and Mr Sweeney and "should never have been permitted".
The report notes that no one, including former prime minister Kevin Rudd and former ministers Mark Arbib and Peter Garrett, had given evidence of the economic imperative for a July 1, 2009 start date.
Mr Arbib, the former minister for government service delivery, had not technically had the authority to make decisions, yet "at all times pushed the commencement date of 1 July, 2009 despite any concerns expressed by others as to whether it was properly attainable". The commissioner also found that Mr Arbib had received a risk assessment "shortly after his request for it" and rejected his denial of having received it.
And at the level of the political executive, "Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett and Mr Arbib all had direct and close involvement in various aspects of the program. Mr Garrett, as the Minister for the Environment had formal control over the HIP. Mr Rudd, as, in effect, the 'Secretary of Cabinet' had control in an overall governmental sense".
Additionally, the scheme "wreaked havoc" with pre-existing installation businesses, which initially scaled up their operations to meet program demand and then were hard hit by the snap suspension of the program in February 2010.
Many of the businesses that existed before the scheme was put in place had been devastated and compensation should be made available to them.
Much of the report is critical of the public service's handling of the scheme, with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet slated for its insistence on undue speed in its implementation.
Deficiencies in the technical expertise of public service employees are identified, while the Department of the Environment had "no experience with a delivery model such as this".
The Commonwealth had deliberately chosen not to use states and territories to help with the program, despite their experience, and "that the Home Insulation Program was a particularly bad example of shortcomings caused by a very inexperienced Department having been asked to deliver it".
Overall, the report found, the scheme was "poorly planned and poorly implemented" and in the case of the HIP "the failings of senior management [in the public service] assured the failure of the project. There can be no substitute for the leadership, advice and decision making that senior managers are required to provide".
Mr Abbott told the Parliament that "four young men lost their lives as a consequence of this bungled programme. As well, homes were damaged or destroyed and businesses badly affected. I hope this report brings some comfort to everyone affected."
The federal government will deliver an initial response into the report by the end of the month and a final response will be handed down by the end of the year.
Series of inquiries
There have already been numerous inquiries into the failed program, including by state coroners and the Australian National Audit Office.
During the 12 months it operated, there were 1.1 million insulation installations. A total of 224 fire incidents were linked to the program, with 144 involving flames, though that rate was no higher than it had been before the program started.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he had not yet seen the report but "in terms of the tragedy of four people losing their lives that's what matters to me".
He said his colleagues would be standing up later on Monday to discuss the findings of the report and he wanted to see better workplace safety.
"My interest is first and foremost the safety of people going to work," Mr Shorten said, adding he was not up for a "political blame game".
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said the deaths of the three Queensland insulation workers was a "terrible tragedy" and his first thoughts were with their families.
He said the lack of government planning was clear.
"It just shows that governments need to plan properly when they implement programs or infrastructure," Mr Newman said. "That comes out loud and clear."
Compensation under consideration
Mr Newman said compensation for the families could now be considered. He stressed that he was yet to look at the insulation report findings in any detail.
"I think these sorts of things now need to be looked at," he said.
Gold Coast lawyer Bill Potts said Murray Barnes, whose son Rueben was electrocuted laying batts in the ceiling cavity of a house at Stanwell, did not want compensation.
"For him, it has never been about money. No amount of money can bring a much-loved son back. No amount of money will compensate for a life," Mr Potts said.
"Murray Barnes has only ever wanted answers and for him at least he has the start of the answers. But he has to live with the questions. And the question at the end of the day is, 'Why did his son have to die in this way?'
"A 16-year-old son is worth effectively not a very large amount of money. I know that sounds brutally cruel, but that's the simple truth. At the end of the day, the government will no doubt make up its own mind about what it wants to do.
"For Murray, it has been about answers, not about money."
Speaking on behalf of the Sweeney family, Peter Koutsoukis of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers called upon the federal government to compensate grieving relatives.
"I call on the government to compensate the families affected by this program," he said.
"The Sweeney family has been profoundly affected by this. Members of the family have had an inability to work, substantial grief and ... if as the report finds, the Australian government is clearly to blame to this, well why shouldn't they get compensation."
Mr Koutsoukis said the firm would also consider suing the Australian government as part of a civil claim lodged against Mr Sweeney's employer, Titan Insulations.
My Muslim religion has problems that need fixing
Under attack: The Muslim community is quick to stand up and use its democratic right to protest against being singled out.
Under attack: The Muslim community is quick to stand up and use its democratic right to protest against being singled out.
I am an Australian, I am a Muslim. I am an Australian Muslim. The recent actions of the group known as Islamic State have put my faith in the spotlight as a threat to my nation and fellow Australians with whom I share the privilege of living in this great nation. It is here that I practice my faith freely.
A number of Muslim community organisations and Councils have come out in recent weeks against the Anti-Terrorism legislation proposed by the Australian Government in response to individuals who go to Iraq and Syria to fight.
As a lawyer I am very sceptical of any legislation which reverses the onus of proof. However, I do not understand the resentment against this legislation from the Muslim segment of the population which feels it is being unfairly targeted.
The Muslim community is quick to stand up and use its democratic right to protest against being singled out. It feels under attack by the government. Maybe it is, maybe it is not, but the government is able to explain and justify the proposed legislation.
When will the Muslim community see the other side of this argument and realise that yes, we are under attack. Our faith is under attack. Our faith is being eaten up from within by fundamentalist elements around the world who twist it to suit their political agendas and interpret it to make their case. To them it's nothing but a tool to control people. They justify their actions through our faith.
When will Muslims stand up and accept that yes we have problems within our faith. Maybe a few more problems than other faiths, but sure, we have problems. They don't just affect us as Muslims, they affect our friends, their families and our neighbours. They affect a society that welcomes us here, treats us as equals and gives us the opportunity to live a decent and dignified life. Democratic Australia gives us a voice and tries its best not to judge us.
The issues that we face within our religion range widely from individuals brutally beheading people in the name of establishing an Islamic Caliphate to, at a local level, female genital mutilation.
Muslims need to be able to discuss these issues openly and denounce barbaric behaviour. Instead, we choose to remain silent and then criticise a government that tries to make Australia safer. We use democratic values such as the right to equality, to claim the existence of discrimination, racism and Islamophobia.
The Islamic Council is against the government taking steps to secure its citizens from Australian fundamentalists who fight wars in other countries. It's their prerogative to fight wherever they want. But these fundamentalist want to bring this war back to Australia. They do not value what Australians have. They do not agree with our way of life. They do not want to respect the law and the democracy in which we thrive.
What is the Islamic Council doing to eliminate the threat of radicalised individuals? What is it doing to protect Muslims and those of other faiths in Australia? Who is responsible for protecting us from fundamentalists, who, on their return to cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, might try to inflict pain on us? Why is the Islamic Council critical of the government's efforts to secure its citizens from this threat? Where do our priorities lie as Muslims?
As Muslims we need to change our mindset and our attitude towards the society in which we live. We need to understand the value of what we have in this country and we should be the first to protect Australian society from elements within our faith that want to harm it. We shouldn't fight a government that is trying to protect Muslims and others alike. When we are able to separate our faith from our politics, we will see how damaged our faith has become.
When IS beheaded a civilian journalist we didn't go out on the streets and protest. We don't self-reflect and accept that there are problems within our faith and it is up to us to fix them so they do not affect people around us. We are too busy being calculative, examining the details of the government's actions and the impact they might have on us. So what if I need to answer questions upon my return from a war zone? If it saves one person from being killed or injured in Australia we should be lining up to support it.
When IS beheads an innocent person, it is doing so in my name. I am here to make a declaration that it is not in my name. These people are a threat to me, my faith and my country and I will do all I can to protect Australia from any harm that these people within my faith may inflict on it.
Labor party coverup in the ACT?
The ACT government is asking $2000 for the release of information on profits made by the ACT Labor Party from changing the status on the lease of the Weston Creek Labor Club.
The Canberra Liberals, who submitted the freedom of information request, say they compromised to only request documents relating to the Weston Creek club after they were told access to documents relating to all three Labor clubs would cost over $6000.
A letter from the ACT Environment and Planning Directorate said the request will take 65 hours – with nearly 29 hours allocated to deciding what it would release, at a cost of $614.56.
The letter also said looking for the documents would take 36 hours and cost $376.62 and photocopying would cost $1096. The directorate said the total would come to $2087.
ACT Planning Minister Simon Corbell recently came under fire from the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which accused him of not properly consulting the public interest and of responding in a formulaic fashion to 13 lease variation approvals since late 2010.
The 13 leases that have been approved as no longer concessional are mostly clubs, and include the Weston Creek venue.
Concessional leases, long a controversial issue, are low-cost leases granted to groups for activities that benefit the community.
If they apply to have the lease no longer concessional, allowing for the site to be sold or developed, the minister has to weigh up whether the change would disadvantage the community.
The change does not grant development rights, however, and clubs or groups are required to pay out the lease.
The Combined Community Councils has criticised the process, saying clubs were profiting from conversions, particularly when they sold the land for development, and community facilities were suffering.
The lease for the Weston Creek Labor Club at Stirling was made no longer concessional in 2012.
The ACT government has refused to reveal the amount paid in lease variation charges, saying it could not disclose taxpayer information.
Opposition Deputy Leader Alistair Coe said he wanted to ensure due diligence was carried out in the club's case.
Mr Coe has sought a waiver of the $2000 freedom of information charge citing the public interest, and expected to hear back from the directorate within a week.
"It would look quite dodgy for this one not to go through in the interests of probity," he said.
Canberra Labor Clubs, whose board is made up of Labor members, runs clubs in Civic, Charnwood and Weston Creek.
Mr Corbell told the assembly this month he "acted on a number of occasions to seek to reject proposals to redevelop concessional leases for private development" and acted transparently in the public interest.
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Setting the record crooked
I've worked out why it is that these bloody Laborites, having left us behind in the flotsam and in Kevin's case, jetsam, of the shit fight they created, feel they have to madly get pen to paper quick smart. The tomes are literally queuing up at University Press and others in the wake of the worst 'Gummint' we have ever endured. Barbara Cartland has nothing on these pricks!
The reason is not only did they not get to finish the job (for which we can be eternally grateful) they didn't get time to explain themselves or justify what was six years of unmitigated garbage as a party before being elbowed off the rostrum by a happy, but extremely bewildered, Liberal Party.
The mess, when coupled with the residual joke that is today's Senate, is going to be the toughest that any government has ever had to deal with.
So our bungling Kruddsters have been belting their keyboards well into the night turning out volume after volume of fanciful crap, essentially a rewriting of history, except for the bits where they bag the man they all stood behind at some time or other. On that they are rock solid. Kev was a cretin. Kev was an arsehole. Kev was a control freak. And Kev was a bully. A bad tempered one according to Wayno.
Which is undoubtedly why Kev hasn't written his book yet... although I will lay London to a brick that he will have the last word. It's his nature.
Former Governor General, Quentin Bryce will formally launch 'My Story', the memoir of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard next month. This will probably live in the fiction section of most libraries because if she actually tells the truth about anything she will be locked up.
The nine books by Labor figures, from 2012 to the present are:
* My Story, by Julia Gillard; a work I am sure of complete fiction. Probably about the fight against misogyny or something equally ludicrous.
* The Good Fight, by Wayne Swan; another work of fiction except for the bits about Kevin.
* Power with Purpose, by Lindsay Tanner (2012); A work about power withOUT purpose.
* Hearts and Minds, by Chris Bowen; A nice lead up to Bill Shorten's book, which may be called Tits and Bums.
* Diary of a Foreign Minister, by Bob Carr; a work of complete delusion by someone up the sharp end of a jet with too much time on his hands when he wasn't listening to opera or his wife snoring.
* The Fights of My Life, by Greg Combet; another 'fight' themed book. It's all about fighting in the Labor Party, but we knew that already.
* A Letter to Generation Next, by Kim Carr; er, generation next doesn't exist yet, basically more bullshit about Labor realignment strategies that will never work.
* Tales from the Political Trenches, b Maxine McKew (updated 2013); political trenches? Get outa here! The silly cow knew as much about politics as she did about responsible broadcasting! The only time she went near a trench was when she fell in the gutter carrying three bottles of bubbly from the Crow's Nest Deli.
* Glory Daze, by Jim Chalmers (former Swan adviser now an MP); Jim got that right at least. It was a daze! A complete daze. And we are still dazed. One thing it wasn't. Happy Daze! Happy reading, NOT.
The crazy world of Renewable Energy Targets
Nothing makes sense about Renewable Energy Targets, except at a “Bumper-Sticker” level. Today the AFR front page suggests* the federal government is shifting to remove the scheme (by closing it to new entrants) rather than just scaling it back. It can’t come a day too soon. Right now, the Greens who care about CO2 emissions should be cheering too. The scheme was designed to promote an industry, not to cut CO2.
UPDATE: Mathias Cormann later says “that the government’s position was to “keep the renewable energy target in place” SMH. Mixed messages indeed.
We’ve been sold the idea that if we subsidize “renewable” energy (which produces less CO2) we’d get a world with lower CO2 emissions. But it ain’t so. The fake “free” market in renewables does not remotely achieve what it was advertised to do — the perverse incentives make the RET good for increasing “renewables” but bad for reducing CO2, and, worse, the more wind power you have, the less CO2 you save. Coal fired electricity is so cheap that doing anything other than making it more efficient is a wildly expensive and inefficient way to reduce CO2. But the Greens hate coal more than they want to reduce carbon dioxide. The dilemma!
The RET scheme in Australian pays a subsidy to wind farms and solar installations. Below, Tom Quirk shows that this is effectively a carbon tax (but a lousy one), and it shifts supply — perversely taxing brown coal at $27/ton, black coal at $40/ton and gas at up to $100/ton. Because it’s applied to renewables rather than CO2 directly, it’s effectively a higher tax rate for the non-renewable but lower CO2 emitters.
Calculating the true cost of electricity is fiendishly difficult. “Levelized costs” is the simple idea that we can add up the entire lifecycle cost of each energy type, but it’s almost impossible to calculate meaningful numbers. Because wind power is fickle, yet electricity demand is most definitely not, the real cost of wind power is not just the construction, maintenance and final disposal, but also the cost of having a gas back-up or expensive battery (give-us-your-gold) storage. It’s just inefficient every which way. Coal and nuclear stations are cheaper when run constantly rather than in a stop-start fashion (just like your car is). So the cost of renewables also includes the cost of shifting these “base load” suppliers from efficient to inefficient use — and in the case of coal it means producing more CO2 for the same megawatts. South Australia is the most renewable-dependent state in mainland Australia, and it’s a basketcase (look at the cost stack below). Real costs only come with modeling, and we all know how difficult that is.
If the aim is really the research and development of renewables (and not “low CO2″) then I’ve long said that we should pay for the research and development directly, not pay companies to put up inefficient and fairly useless versions in the hope that companies might earn enough to pay for the research out of the profits. Tom Quirk points out that it’s all frightfully perverse again, because most innovations come from industry, not government funded research, but in Australia we hardly have any industry making parts used in power generation — we don’t have the teams of electrical engineers working on the problem anymore. I suppose the theory is that Chinese companies will profit from solar panels and do the R&D for us (keeping “our” patents too)? It would be cheaper just to gift them the money direct wouldn’t it — rather than pay an industry to produce and install a product that no one would buy, which doesn’t work, and hope that the “profits” translate into discoveries that will produce royalties and jobs for people overseas. I’m sure Chinese workers and entrepreneurs will be grateful. Yay.
Meanwhile, Green fans have suddenly discovered the idea of sovereign risk (where were they while the Rudd-Gillard team blitzed Australia’s reputation for stable, predictable policy?). According to the AFR, the government is scornful (and rightly so):
"The government source said the market was oversupplied with energy and there was no longer any cause for a mandated use of any specific type of power. The source said while there would be investment losses if the RET was abolished, or even scaled back, investors “would have to have been blind to know this wasn’t coming’’.
On Catalaxy files, Judith Sloan mocks the Fin for pushing a press release from a rent-seeking firm, and guesses the Abbott government will be too “gutless” to ditch this economic and environmental dog of a policy.
More HERE (See the original for links)
Sacked SES whistleblower Tara McCarthy in limbo as government claims it is powerless to reinstate her
The corruption watchdog found she was improperly sacked from the State Emergency Service as a "reprisal" for exposing potential misconduct in the ranks.
But Tara McCarthy is still waiting to be reinstated in the "job of her dreams" – and the government says it is powerless to do so.
Ms McCarthy, the first female deputy commissioner of the SES in its 60-year history, was vindicated in May when the Independent Commission Against Corruption found her boss Murray Kear had acted corruptly by sacking her a year ago for making allegations against his "mate" Steve Pearce.
"I can't believe that they can't just reappoint her, given that the ICAC found the original sacking was a corrupt sacking," Public Service Association general secretary Anne Gardiner said.
Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres says he is unable to give Ms McCarthy her job back because it is a matter for the head of the Justice Department, Andrew Cappie-Wood, and Public Service Commissioner Graeme Head.
Ms McCarthy said she had been negotiating with the men "for three months and it feels as if I am on a merry-go-round, going nowhere ... with no decisions made and no offer of reinstatement".
A former paramedic and a mother of two teenage boys, Ms McCarthy said her "unlawful and corrupt sacking was devastating enough, but now the failure of the government to provide me with the protections they promise to whistleblowers is soul-destroying".
"All I ask is to be reinstated to the job I loved, a job I should rightfully have," she said.
She said she would also consider a permanent position of equivalent rank and responsibility. But the only offer on the table has been for a temporary and more junior role at another organisation.
In a letter to Mr Head on July 15, Mr Cappie-Wood said it was his "firm view" that Ms McCarthy's "well-being and safety" would be at risk if she returned to the SES. But he said in a statement that he and Mr Head remained in "active discussions" with Ms McCarthy about her future.
A spokeswoman for the Public Service Commission said that existing whistleblower laws – introduced 20 years ago – did not have a mechanism for reinstating senior executives "where removal has occurred contrary to the legislation".
"Hence there is no legal capacity to reinstate Ms McCarthy in the role she held in the NSW State Emergency Service or an equivalent role," the spokeswoman said.
The commissioner was finalising advice for the government's consideration "on mechanisms that would enable reinstatement", including where a person was sacked as a reprisal for whistleblowing.
Ms Gardiner believes "a good option" would be for the Minister to intervene and exercise his power to appoint Ms McCarthy as commissioner or acting commissioner of the SES. Mr Kear resigned as commissioner earlier this year following the ICAC's findings. Mr Pearce remains on leave with full pay.
NSW school principal calls students with mental health issues 'morons' and 'village idiots'
It was clearly a joke but jokes are unwise these days
Chris Cundy, head of Calare Public School in Orange, wrote to teachers announcing a mental health and social skills workshop to be held at the school. In the letter, he appears to have considered it humorous to speculate about students with "two heads" and "webbed feet" requiring special assistance.
Mr Cundy dubbed the program "Operation Nutcase" and asked teachers to "start identifying students at our school with the following characteristics:
suffering from undue anxiety
lacking any resilience
poor socialising skills
"I would like to start Operation Nutcase in week 5 but this might be a bit ambitious," Mr Cundy wrote. "All victims, er candidates must have a signed form from their parents before we commence. We will have groups of roughly 10. (but in the two headed group there will only be 5)."
The DEC spokesperson said Mr Cundy had not been suspended, but had been formally counselled by the department.
"The department stresses that the material is contrary to the values of public education and the school's track record of support for students with disabilities and other learning needs," the spokesperson said.
More relationship education needed in schools
The Deputy NSW Coroner will recommend that the Department of Education introduce the topic of domestic violence and abusive relationships into the NSW school curriculum, after finding that Sydney woman Kate Malonyay was murdered by her ex-boyfriend.
Coroner Hugh Dillon revealed that he would personally write to Education Minister Adrian Piccoli to make the request, following a coronial inquest in which it was revealed that Ms Malonyay's ex-boyfriend, navy analyst Elliot Coulson, had not only abused her, but also another woman from a previous relationship.
"It will be no panacea but may help over time [to] engender respect between boys and girls and increase the self-confidence of young women in seeking the protection of the police and the law courts against domestic abuse," he said.
Mr Dillon found that Coulson murdered the 32-year-old sometime between April 17 and 19 last year by means of strangulation and the infliction of a head injury caused by blunt force.
Coulson killed himself days later as police closed in by jumping from a high-rise hotel room on the Gold Coast.
The coroner's findings reveal that, while Coulson had only once been physically violent towards Ms Malonyay, she had complained to friends that he was sometimes aggressive, controlling, jealous and verbally abusive, particularly in text messages.
They also show that Coulson had previously subjected another ex-girlfriend, Anne Thoroughgood, to more overt physical violence.
This included one occasion when the heavily built naval employee threatened to kill her, shoved her against a door frame and then later began to strangle her.
The coroner noted that each woman contemplated seeking an Apprehended Violence Order but did not do so.
"It appears that Ms Thoroughgood was deterred from taking action because she thought she would have to disclose her home address to get an AVO and was nervous about confronting Elliot Coulson face to face in court," Mr Dillon said.
"It is not entirely clear why Kate did not proceed with her AVO application. Like many other women, Kate may have found the process too daunting and stressful or lacked confidence in the AVO system ..."
A police officer told the inquest that, based on his experience, had Ms Thoroughgood proceeded with the AVO it may have made a significant difference for both women.
"A woman in genuine fear of domestic violence should never be dissuaded from approaching the police and the courts for an AVO," Mr Dillon said.
He determined to recommend the addition of domestic violence education to the school curriculum after Ms Malonyay's mother, Wendy, made a powerful verbal statement to the court.
Monday, September 01, 2014
Australian weatherman’s records reveal warming fraud
AS a child, Ian Cole would watch his father Neville take meticulous readings from the Bureau of Meteorology thermometer at the old post office in the western NSW town of Bourke and send the results through by teleprinter.
The temperature was recorded every three hours, including at night when the mercury sometimes plunged to freezing, and the data was logged in handwritten journals that included special notes to help explain the results.
That all changed in 1996 when the Stevenson Screen, the official measuring equipment, was replaced with an automatic station and moved to an airport site.
The Stevenson Screen went to the dump and, but for fate, the handwritten notes could have gone there too. But without instruction, the records were kept and are now under lock and key, held as physical evidence of what the weather was really doing in the mid-20th century.
These Bourke records have assumed a new significance in light of concerns about how historic data is being treated at many sites around the country. The records are also important in an ongoing row that frustrates Mr Cole.
The Bourke cotton farmer may be managing director of the local radio station 2WEB but Mr Cole can only broadcast temperature records that date back to 2000 because the Bureau of Meteorology won’t supply historic records to service provider Weatherzone.
As a result “hottest day on record” doesn’t really mean what it seems. “We keep on being told about records that are not actually records and averages that are not quite right,” Mr Cole said.
Worse still there are concerns about what has happened to the precision of those handwritten records in the earlier years. Bourke now forms part of a network of weather stations used to make up the national record known as ACORN-SAT. The raw temperature records are “homogenised”, a method BOM says has been peer-reviewed as world’s best practice and is used by equivalent meteorological organisations across the world.
Independent research, the results of which have not been disputed by BOM, has shown that, after homogenisation, a 0.53C warming in the minimum temperature trend has been increased to a 1.64C warming trend. A 1.7C cooling trend in the maximum temperature series in the raw data for Bourke has been changed to a slight warming.
BOM has rejected any suggestion that it has tampered inappropriately with the numbers. It says the major adjustment to Bourke temperatures relate to “site moves in 1994, 1999 and 1938 as well as 1950s in homogeneities that were detected by neighbour comparison which, based on station photos before and after, may relate to changes in vegetation around the site”.
Queensland researcher Jennifer Marohasy, who has analysed the Bourke records, says BOM’s analysis is all very well but the largest adjustments, both to maximum temperature series, occurred in the period 1911 and 1915 with a stepdown of about 0.7C, followed by a step-up between 1951 and 1953 of about 0.45C. Of greater concern to Dr Marohasy is that historic high temperatures, such as the record 51.7C recorded on January 3, 1909, were removed from the record on the assumption it was a clerical error. In fact, all the data for Bourke for 40 years before 1910 has been discarded from the official record. If it were there, says Dr Marohasy, the record would show that temperatures were particularly hot during that period.
For Mr Cole it is a simple matter of trusting the care and attention of his father. “Why should you change manually created records?” Mr Cole said. “At the moment they (BOM) are saying we have a warming climate but if the old figures are used we have a cooling climate.”
The fuse has been lit in Sydney
LAST week a brief but bloody battle took place in the Middle East which went largely unreported in the Australian media.
It marked a significant and alarming development in the rise of the terrorist forces, now including a number of Australians jihadists, which are laying waste to Syria and Iraq.
While Sydney’s sadistic poster boy for terrorism, Khaled Sharouf, may have captured the headlines of late with his well publicised acts of depravity and brutality, the sheer scale of what is occurring and the inevitable repercussions it will have here at home, is something few Australians have grasped.
It is not just Syria and Iraq that are now involved. There is another country to the west of these two troubled States that has now become a target for the terrorist army formerly known as ISIL or ISIS that has declared its caliphate under the name of the Islamic State.
It is a country that represents the homeland for the largest Middle-Eastern ethnic population in Sydney. It is of course, Lebanon. On August 2 the Lebanese army engaged with Islamic State forces within their own borders near the town of Arsal — in a battle which lasted five days.
According to the Lebanese army’s General Jean Kahwagi the terrorist forces were well armed and captured and killed dozens of Lebanese soldiers.
Their aim was to take parts of southern Lebanon and declare the country under its new caliphate — in other words to annex part of Lebanon into its new illegal terrorist state which now covers northern parts of Syria and Iraq.
According to local newspaper As-Safir, General Kahwagi said the Lebanese army had “saved Lebanon from jihadists before they could declare their own state”.
“The army saved Lebanon from killer ‘sectarian strife-seekers’ by the Arsal battle,” General Kahwagi said.
“Had the army lost, they (jihadists) would have entered Akkar and from there they would have reached the sea and declared their own state,” General Kahwagi warned.
It is believed the Shia-based Hezbollah also joined the fighting, on the side of the Lebanese army, and captured Islamic State fighters, who are predominantly Sunni militants.
The Islamic State, according to Australian defence sources is an army that commands the equivalent of three brigades — around 12,000 troops.
When they captured Tikrit and Mosul in Iraq, they also captured the fleeing Iraqi army’s weaponry, which was all supplied by the US.
It has also seized hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Islamic State is a terrorist organisation of the likes the modern world has never seen. These are not jihadists hiding out in the hills.
It is an army operating under a rigid command structure armed with heavy weaponry and armoured vehicles.
It is also rallying people around the world to its cause through social media — Western Sydney is emerging as a fertile recruitment source.
The engagement of Lebanon in the conflict has obvious implications for the region but also for Australia, which has large Lebanese Muslim and Christian populations.
News of the battle in Lebanon — and the sectarian tone of Shia fighting Sunni on Lebanese soil — is currently rippling through Sydney’s Lebanese community.
“The confrontation has thrown kerosene on the already combustible community relations in Western Sydney,” one informed observer of the situation remarked.
Supporters of the Islamic State in Sydney, which is an illegal organisation under Australian counter terrorism laws, are known to be already trying to apply pressure to some Sydney Muslim businesses to have them declare their allegiance to the caliphate — with the clear aim of then extracting money from them.
Many are now living in fear.
The risk for Australia is that the harmony that has been the fabric of the Lebanese community, which consists of Shia and Sunni Muslim as well as Christians, could easily be shattered by what is occurring in the Middle East.
The patriotic Lebanese are outraged at the Islamic State laying claim to their homeland and authorities in Sydney are concerned at the speed with which historical relationships are being shattered.
To put it bluntly, they are worried about the sectarian conflict spilling over into the Sydney ethnic communities.
What the world is witnessing, and has appeared impotent in dealing with until the US belatedly approved air strikes this week, is a fundamental redrawing of the strategic and political situation in the Middle East.
While it may appear sectarian from afar, the motivating force is a rampant and shockingly violent anti-Western sentiment.
In a briefing last week, based on a global threat assessment provided to the National Security Committee, key Australian intelligence officials warned that the world — and Australia — will be dealing with the dangerous consequences of this for years and possibly decades to come.
Those dire consequences appear to have already started playing out here at home in Western Sydney.
Robin Hood is alive and well in Australia
Fairness is a matter of opinion, but one that should be informed by facts and analysis.
Opponents of the budget have done a great job of branding it as "unfair" through repetition of assertions rather than by appeal to facts and analysis. Here are a few relevant facts.
Australia's system of tax and social benefits is one of the strongest in the world in ameliorating the unequal distribution of market incomes through highly targeted social benefits and a strongly progressive personal income tax that concentrates the burden on a small slice of those at the top.
Even if all the 2014-15 budget measures are implemented, the Australian system of tax and social benefits will remain highly redistributive. The changes are so small relative to the inherited structure that they would hardly make a dent in the redistributive system.
Critics of budget measures appear to believe that social benefits both individually and in aggregate should only ever go one way (up) and that the desirability of more redistribution is a given.
The reality is that there are limits to redistribution and progressivity, and it is legitimate to question the design and affordability of social benefits.
Higher income groups are in fact contributing to the budget repair task. Quite apart from the temporary budget repair levy imposed by the present government, the Gillard and Rudd governments introduced many belt-tightening measures in budgets and mini-budgets, the bulk of which are affecting higher income earners - for example, the one-third increase in the Medicare levy that took effect just last month, means-testing of the private health insurance rebate, tightening of various other means tests, doubling of the superannuation contributions tax for high income earners, and so on.
None of these changes were 2014-15 budget measures, but they are all part of the mix of policy adjustments designed to take money away from people to reduce the budget deficit, and they are now costing many better-off households thousands of dollars a year. They are being overlooked in the furore over the current budget.
Robin Hood is alive and well in Australia and we don't need more of him
Racist employment practices at the ABC
ONCE upon a time, in a land far, far away, employees were hired on merit.
Now, in Australia, the national broadcaster is about to introduce something called a “cultural diversity tool” to ensure that employees in the ABC’s news and current affairs operations reflect the nation’s ethnic and cultural diversity.
Nothing in there about skill levels or competence.
The ABC has even hired a person named Phillipa McDermott, as head of indigenous employment and diversity.
No, this is not part of a script for Rob Sitch’s tragicomedy Utopia, this is politically correct employment practices 101, as embraced by the People’s Republic of Ultimo.
According to an interview with The Australian, McDermott thinks senior management needs to become more ethnically diverse and the ABC’s reporting should more fully reflect Australia’s ethnic and cultural diversity.
There was a time in that far, far away land when news stood on its own merits.
It was not filtered through a lens of diversity or culture.
Little wonder so many ABC viewers seem confused about the national identity when the ABC demonstrates that it has to mandate standards for diversity.
Let me predict that in a very short time, individuals applying for jobs at the Ultimo collective will be discovering long-forgotten kinship with remote Aboriginal tribes and associations with members of exotic ethnic groups in remote corners of the globe.
When a similarly politically correct framework of diversity employment was installed in Washington, DC, employers were required to present prospective employees with a list of ethnic groups and nationalities and ask applicants to indicate to which group they belonged.
Certain groups carried greater weight than others.
Thus, if an employer gave a Pacific Islander, for example, a job, it would enable that business to employ a few more Anglo-caucasians.
The human relations executive who demonstrated how this scheme operated nominated herself as a prime example of the sheer stupidity of the program.
“As a black woman,” she said, “I’m worth two points. So the company can employ two white males for every black woman they have on their books.” That’s why, she added, with a disdainful sneer, black women were known among those in HR as “twofers.”
Hunting to hounds lives on in Tasmania
In a small way
EVERY winter members of the Northern Hunt Club brave the cold to saddle up and continue a decades-long tradition.
While many Tasmanians are enjoying a Sunday morning sleep-in, hunt club members are heading off to properties across the north for a weekly ride through some of the state’s most picturesque countryside.
Northern Hunt Club master Ian Klye addressing the riders on Sunday at the traditional por
Northern Hunt Club master Ian Klye addressing the riders on Sunday at the traditional port stop. Source: News Corp Australia
Slippery and soggy conditions did little to dampen enthusiasm at the club’s final hunt of the season last weekend, with about 15 riders gathering at Sally Keen’s property Little Run, near Bracknell.
The club organises about 22 drag-hunting events each season, running from late March until the end of August.
Hounds on the hunt follow an aniseed trail laid down by riders who travel a few minutes in front of the main hunt field, along a predetermined course.
Each hunt is divided into several runs of about 1km in length and include a variety of optional obstacles such as jumps and water crossings.
Hunt Club master Ian Klye has been involved with hunting since he was a child and has been the club master for six years.
During the year, Mr Klye is responsible for looking after and training the club’s hounds.
There were 10 hounds used during last Sunday’s hunt.
Mr Klye said harnessing the hounds’ natural pack instincts was vital to ensure they worked well to track the aniseed trail.
“They naturally want to work together, so all we do is use that to our advantage so they stay together when we’re out in the field,” Mr Klye said.
The club has about 60 members, who range in age from juniors through to the club’s most senior participant, Sandra Atkins, who has been hunting with club for about 53 years.
A traditional port stop is held half way through each hunt, when a toast is made to thank the property owners.
Horses and riders cover between 10 and 13km on each hunt.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
HSU's Jackson lashes out at Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy as 'vultures'
Health Services Union whistleblower Kathy Jackson has accused Labor Party leader Bill Shorten and his allies of being in a "corrupt little gang" and of circling unions like vultures to further their own political power.
She has also called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to put the HSU into administration and accused the union of putting her through "judicial gang rape".
Speaking outside the royal commission into trade union corruption on Friday, Ms Jackson, who is on sick leave as national HSU secretary, accused Mr Shorten of being part of a "corrupt little gang" that put the troubled HSU into administration in 2012 for "their own political ends". "It was about protecting their power base," she said.
"This is a minister of the Crown abusing federal crown resources about putting this union into administration to advance his own political needs. "
Ms Jackson, who has been questioned in the commission about alleged misuse of a union slush fund, said the fund had been necessary to protect members from being taken over by the Labor Party's right-wing faction. She denied allegations she used the fund to pay for a divorce settlement with her former husband Jeff Jackson, or used it inappropriately for travel to Hong Kong and the US.
Ms Jackson said Mr Shorten and his ally from the ALP right, Senator Stephen Conroy, were circling unions like sharks to get more votes at ALP state conference.
"Slush funds, I agree, are abhorrent. But to play the game and to be an effective union leader, to be left alone by those vultures, namely Shorten and Conroy from the right, you need to be able to fight back and protect your patch from these people," she said. "They are cashed up, so you need to have these funds to make sure that these vultures that are circling these unions to take them over aren't able to do that."
Ms Jackson said she has written to Mr Abbott, who has previously described her as a "hero", asking him to put the HSU back into administration.
Ms Jackson side-tracked the commission for more than an hour on Thursday after she asked for barrister Mark Irving to be stopped from cross-examining her because she had had sex with him 21 years ago.
On Friday she said: "Forget the former lover stuff. Everybody makes mistakes and has a charity shag along the way. I just could not believe he had the audacity to sit there and want to cross-examine me."
Ms Jackson said Mr Irving was not "your normal ... barrister" and was part of a vendetta to bring her down. "Mr Irving is a combatant in this. Mr Irving has skin in the game," she said.
Mr Shorten declined to respond to Ms Jackson's claims, saying he will not provide a running commentary, but said the royal commission was being used to settle scores. "It will be up to the royal commission to sort out, amongst the evidence, what is right and what's wrong," he said.
Ms Jackson said the HSU had subjected her to "judicial gang rape".
"They've got lawyers, guns and money. You should ask them how many hundreds of thousands of dollars have they spent on getting Kathy Jackson," she said.
Asked whether, if she had her time again, she would have blown the whistle on former HSU boss Michael Williamson's corruption, she said: "I don't think so. Why would you go through this?"
Acting Health Services Union secretary Chris Brown said Ms Jackson should be credited for reporting Mr Williamson's corruption to police. "But that doesn't excuse her having done the same sorts of things as what Michael Williamson has. That is: misused members money for her own personal benefit and her own personal gain," he said.
Choice ridicules government's piracy crackdown
Consumer advocacy group Choice has stepped up its campaign against the Abbott government's proposed anti-piracy measures with a crowdfunded advertising campaign aimed at politicians.
The 30-second satirical TV advertisement depicts a fake "Minister for the Internet" who unveils a decidedly useless-looking "internet filter" as the government's "foolproof" solution to online copyright infringement.
"The increased price we'll all pay for the internet will be worth it for this 100-per-cent effective solution," the fake minister says.
The government last month released its Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper outlining three proposals that would see internet providers such as Telstra and Optus take a leading role in policing copyright infringement.
While not describing a government-run internet filter, the proposals would require providers to take "reasonable steps" to monitor and prevent copyright infringement by users. This could include blocking access to websites that contain infringing content.
The proposals also include extending authorisation liability, a policy that would effectively reverse the High Court's 2012 ruling that service provider iiNet was not liable for copyright infringement on behalf of its users.
The government is also considering allowing copyright owners such as movie and recording studios to take legal action against providers to force them to terminate offending individuals' internet connections.
Choice campaign manager Erin Turner said the government's course of action against online copyright infringement was "ineffective" and "high cost for low result".
"Anyone with access to basic technology or the ability to Google how to get around an internet filter is going to be easily able to circumvent these measures," Ms Turner said.
Internet providers - which have also opposed the proposals - were likely to pass the costs of compliance on to consumers, she said.
Rather than targeting consumers with its campaign, however, Choice will air its advertisement on WIN television in Canberra during a parliamentary sitting week in a bid to capture the attention of policymakers.
It will also deliver the $11,000 campaign nationally via YouTube.
Ms Turner said the key message to parliamentarians was that the government must "work smart, not hard, to stop online piracy".
"There's no independent evidence that the government's proposal will work," she said.
Instead, she said online piracy should be treated as a competition issue. She added the root causes of piracy in Australia - high prices and poor availability of overseas content - must be addressed.
"What we are looking for is affordable content, opening up access to international content markets," she said.
"We don't expect this will stamp out piracy 100 per cent - there will still be people who will illegally download no matter what - but if you want to fix the bulk of the problem in Australia then the best starting point is looking at this as a market and trying to find a market-based solution."
A parliamentary inquiry last year found Australians pay up to twice as much as overseas buyers for IT goods and services.
Digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia is urging the public to make submissions before the consultation period closes on Monday.
EFA executive director Jon Lawrence said the plan to extend authorisation liability was a "blunt instrument" that could also implicate providers of public Wi-Fi such as libraries, universities and cafes.
The provision for copyright owners to make court injunctions to block offshore websites was "entirely futile", he said.
"The Pirate Bay is the most blocked website in the world and they have no trouble doubling their traffic year-on-year."
Mr Lawrence said internet access was a basic right and the EFA opposed a policy of disconnecting repeat offenders for what is essentially a civil issue.
Both Ms Turner and Mr Lawrence said copyright holders had a legitimate right to protect their content, but that consumers had shown they were willing to pay for content at a fair price.
This was evident in the growing instance of consumers using virtual private networks to circumvent geoblocking and access US movie streaming service Netflix, which is not yet available in Australia, Mr Lawrence said.
The rate of piracy in the United States was shrinking alongside the rise of Netflix, he said. A Netflix subscription costs $US8.99 ($9.60) a month.
Choice has made six recommendations to the government in its submission, including monitoring the pricing of electronic products, removing import restrictions, and reforming legislation around geoblocking.
It also flagged "serious concerns" that internet providers would be encouraged to terminate customer accounts "on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations made by content owners", with "little to no safeguards in place to protect" customers.
It also raised concerns around a proposal that would give the government "carte blanche" to prescribe a scheme of its choosing if no effective agreement was reached by industry. The group called for further independent research to properly quantify the costs and benefits of any policy proposals on the matter.
A parliamentary inquiry last year found Australians pay up to twice as much as overseas buyers for IT goods and services.
Federal cops discredited
The Australian Federal Police should not be let "anywhere near" an investigation of fresh evidence casting renewed suspicion on the Calabrian Mafia for the assassination of Colin Winchester, according to a retired judge with extensive knowledge of the case.
The AFP was last week subjected to a blistering criticism for its failure to seriously and impartially investigate secret new information potentially linking the 'Ndrangheta to the 1989 killing of the assistant federal police commissioner outside his Deakin home.
John Dee, QC, retired Victorian judge and counsel assisting to the original inquest into Mr Winchester's death, believes an independent taskforce needs to be set up to properly look at the fresh evidence, utilising Victoria Police, a force with past intelligence involvement in the case.
A senior Victoria Police source said the creation of such a joint organised crime taskforce was feasible, albeit under an AFP lead, and said his state's detectives were skilled and well placed for such a job. "It can be done," he said.
Mr Winchester was said to have double-crossed members of the organised crime group, who believed the assistant commissioner had been paid off to guarantee protection over drug crops near Bungendore.
But 11 Mafia members, known as the "Bungendore 11", were later charged over the crops following a mission codenamed Operation Seville, which Mr Winchester had worked on in the early 1980s.
Links between the group and Mr Winchester's murder were only ever speculative, and extensive investigations failed to identify any individual suspect.
But the inquiry into David Eastman's conviction for Mr Winchester's murder this year unearthed new, untested claims that appear to have taken the Mafia theory further.
The evidence is highly sensitive and was heard in secretive and restricted hearings before inquiry head Acting Justice Brian Martin earlier this year.
Yet internal AFP documents showed the agency was reluctant to investigate the new claims.
They reveal the AFP had a policy of not looking at areas already investigated by Operation Peat, the original team on the Winchester murder.
They also reveal the AFP believed such an investigation would be an "unnecessary diversion" from the factual issues surrounding Eastman's conviction, and that public disclosure of the new evidence could result in public criticism of the agency.
Mr Dee said he believes the AFP are not the right agency to be investigating the 'Ndrangheta theory.
"I wouldn't allow anybody from the AFP to get anywhere near it, except on a peripheral basis," he said.
"I would think it'd be good to have a separate taskforce from [Victoria Police] to have a look at it, because they're well in touch with what's going on up there, and they're very experienced at what they do."
Eastman's long-term campaigner and former lawyer Terry O'Donnell also said the new claims need to be properly investigated, and supported a call for Victoria Police to look at the matter, given their background with the case.
Mr Dee, years before Eastman's trial, warned the AFP about their use of Victorian forensic expert Robert Collins Barnes.
He had worked with Mr Barnes on the trial for the infamous Russell Street bombing of the Victorian police headquarters in 1986, and believed Mr Barnes had not been independent and was trying to be the "star of the show".
It is now known that his warnings were accurate. Mr Barnes was found to be biased and his work deeply flawed in the report of the inquiry into Eastman's conviction.
Tasmanian conservatives' Forestry Bill passes first vote in Legislative Council
THE Liberals are on the verge of achieving their dream of ripping up the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, with the Forestry Bill passing an initial vote in the Legislative Council.
The Bill – passed by 9 votes to 5 – has now reached committee stage, with MLCs currently debating a list of amendments that were introduced last week.
The MLCs who voted against the Bill at its second reading were independents Kerry Finch, Ruth Forrest, Rob Valentine, Mike Gaffney and Labor MLC Craig Farrell.
In favour of the Bill were Liberals Vanessa Goodwin and Leonie Hiscutt and Independents Adriana Taylor, Tania Rattray, Rosemary Armitage, Robert Armstrong, Ivan Dean, Greg Hall and Tony Mulder.
In State Parliament this morning Resources Minister Paul Harriss said the Bill represented a turning point for Tasmania.
“For the first time it seeks to remove reserves from the clutches of the Green locksmiths,” Mr Harriss said.
Central to the Bill is the removal of 400,000ha of native forest from reserves created under the TFA.
Also in State Parliament this morning, Treasurer Peter Gutwein confirmed he had signed a “letter of comfort” assuring the Government could cover Forestry Tasmania’s debts.
The Greens have asked repeated questions in the House of Assembly on whether the Liberals were continuing to prop up the finances of Forestry Tasmania after removing the taxpayer subsidy FT received under the TFA.
Mr Gutwein said a letter of comfort was not unusual and that one had been supplied by the previous government.
Report shows the NBN is worth doing
The Vertigan report on cost-benefit equations for various broadband rollout options gives Labor's aborted fibre to the home project the dunce's cap. It reaches that conclusion after making assumptions about the future, however, and that's a fraught exercise.
Vertigan says that if government does nothing and the private sector rolls out broadband in high population density areas where it sees the strongest demand and the best revenue and earnings potential, the net benefit will be biggest, at $24 billion.
It says the Coalition's plan to roll out a "multi-technology" hybrid network that matches population densities with fibre to the premises, fibre to the neighbourhood node, wireless connections and satellite coverage produces a benefit of $18 billion. The benefit is lower than the one an unsubsidised rollout generates because the Coalition will still directly connect 1.5 million premises to broadband fibre, and extend to areas outside the cities that cost more to connect and generate less user activity.
The fibre to the premises rollout that Labor began and the Coalition killed off after it took power would also have delivered a benefit, Vertigan concludes, but a much lower one, only $2 billion. The report says this reflects the cost of rolling much more fibre, and a more extended construction phase and revenue ramp-up.
My first conclusion is that Malcolm Turnbull was right to argue patiently inside the Coalition when it was in opposition that while Labor's gold plated network should be scrapped, the concept of a national network should be retained.
Its hybrid rollout will create $6 billion less value between 2015 and 2040 than an unsubsidised, undirected private sector rollout would on Vertigan's calculation, but it will deliver a national network instead of an urban one.
Passing up a gain of $6 billion or $240 million a year between now and 2040 to achieve that outcome is politically acceptable, even if Labor had not signed watertight contracts with Telstra for its fibre to the home rollout. That locked in value for Telstra that will be preserved in the Coalition's modified project, and would spark multi-billion dollar claims for compensation if it were not.
As for whether the report conclusively condemns Labor's fibre to the home project, it is trite to say so, but only time will tell.
The report is lengthy and thorough, but it pivots on estimates of future demand for broadband capacity that are rooted in our understanding of what Broadband is today.
It says for example that video downloading and streaming is going to a key driver of broadband capacity demand in future. That's an obvious trend: the more interesting questions are how obvious it would have been 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, and what technologies and applications will be new demand in 10 or 20 years.
We can speculate, but we can't know: or as Sydney University associate professor and digital technology commentator Kai Riemer put it yesterday, we can make a reasonable fist of extrapolating the cost of building a new broadband network, but "the benefits it will unlock are fundamentally unknowable and unpredictable."
It cuts both ways, of course. The same unpredictability makes it impossible to assert that a fibre to the home rollout would have made a better fist of "future-proofing" Australia against communications technology developments.
Fibre still offers the best upload speeds, and unlike wireless it doesn't slow down as the number of users rises. For long haul, it appears to be unassailable. Wireless is increasingly competitive over shorter distances, however, and as the Vertigan report also points out, the lower cost, less ambitious hybrid network is less of an all-or nothing technological bet than the network Labor was building.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Friday, August 29, 2014
African predators in Sydney
A TERRIFIED woman who was chased by two would-be rapists along two trains in a 10km escape says she feared for her life.
The woman, identified as Merlyn, claims two men approached her at Wolli Creek station at 11pm on Tuesday night, calling her “babe” and trying to grab her, before she escaped by jumping on to an outgoing train.
Thirty minutes and 9.4km later at Beverly Hills, the scared 29-year-old was forced to fend off one of the same attackers with her umbrella outside Beverly Hills station when the attack escalated.
She said the terrifying ordeal started at Wolli Creek as one of the two men followed her down the stairs to a platform. After switching trains at Turrella and getting off near her home at Beverly Hills around 30 minutes later, she was terrified when she saw the same two men get off the train and again follow her.
Still visibly upset 12 hours after the alleged incident yesterday, Merlyn said she tried to fend off one of the men with her umbrella as he chased her down the middle of King Georges Rd in pouring rain while she screamed for help.
Later she was attacked again at Beverly Hills station, but managed to beat them off with
Later she was attacked again at Beverly Hills station, but managed to beat them off with her umbrella. Picture: Toby Zerna
With no one stopping to help Merlyn said she feared she would be killed or raped until a woman named “Helen” whisked her to safety in her car. “If not I don’t know what would have happened,” she said. Merlyn, who migrated from the Philippines eight years ago and has a four-year-old son, said she believed the pair were going to abduct and sexually assault her.
Merlyn said both men were aged 18 to 22 and of African appearance. One was skinny with curly hair, the other was fat. Police are investigating.
Islam in Australia: Living and dying for the flag of Allah
A SENIOR leader of radical Sydney-based Islamic organisation al-Risalah has denounced the Australian flag, as the group’s supporters posted Facebook messages about beheading “non-believers”.
Wissam Haddad, the head of the al-Risalah Islamic Centre in Sydney’s southwest, yesterday told The Daily Telegraph he followed the “flag of Allah” rather than the flag of Australia.
The flag, called the Shahada, is the same as the one used by Islamic State terrorists who have been spreading death and terror across the Middle East.
“For me to have the Shahada flag, as it’s called, that’s a flag that I stand and live and die for and I don’t stand and live and die for the Australian flag.”
It is frequently found on modern Islamic flags and over the last few decades has been adopted by Islamic insurgents.
Mr Haddad, who has ties to Sydney men fighting with Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria, avoids appearing in public and never allows his photograph to be taken.
He said his group was entitled to fly the ancient symbol. He cited the “genocide of Aboriginals” and the use of their flag as justification for supporting the Shahada.
Mr Haddad, who was not invited to join a group of Muslims for talks with Mr Abbott yesterday, has had eight social media accounts shut down, forcing him to rename his profile. He claims Muslims are being unfairly targeted both by Facebook and Twitter.
“I know a lot of people (who have had to shut down and restart their accounts),” he said. “Pretty much anyone very outspoken is getting their accounts shut down.”
In the past week, al-Risalah followers have posted messages about beheading, in the wake of the shocking image of Sydney terrorist Khaled Sharrouf’s son holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier.
This followed fellow terrorist and former Sydney boxer Mohamed Elomar posting similar photographs on Twitter. Al-Risalah members wear black supporter vests, which sell for $65.
The al-Risalah centre has hosted radical preachers, and Mr Haddad is a supporter of the Islamic State’s “Jizyah” protection tax on Christians and Jews in Syria and Iraq.
Also yesterday, teenage Muslim extremist Sulyman Khalid, who was arrested for an alleged hate crime against a Bankstown cleaner, has been released on bail. Mr Khalid, who calls himself Abu Bakr, will front Bankstown Local Court on September
Apartheid Billboard -- "Wrong in South Africa. Wrong in Palestine" -- taken down
Libel has never had free speech protections and the message on the billboard is an egregious lie -- grossly defamatory to Israel and Israelis
The Free Palestine billboard that was taken down last week from its City Road, Southbank [Melbourne] position by oOh! Media pending a determination, will not be put back.
The Chief Operating Officer of oOh! Media said that his company had decided the Apartheid message – Wrong in South Africa. Wrong in Palestine. was political and that it was within its rights to terminate the contract with Australians for Palestine. He also advised that the Advertising Standards Board would not be making a ruling.
While clause 10.1 does allow for termination of the contract, the required seven (7) days written notice was never given. Instead the billboard was arbitrarily taken down within 48 hours. The company claimed that it had made its decision after considering the unprecedented number of complaints.
Ms Samah Sabawi speaking on behalf of Australians for Palestine said “that this action contravenes the rights to freedom of opinion and expression as set out in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Australia is party.”
According to the website of the Attorney- General’s department, Article 19(2) of the ICCPR protects freedom of expression in any medium, for example written and oral communications, the media, public protest, broadcasting, artistic works and commercial advertising. The right protects not only favourable information or ideas, but also unpopular ideas, including those that may offend or shock.”
In regard to this particular advertisement, Ms Sabawi went on to say “that the advertisement was truthful and in no way offensive, and furthermore, that its message was informational and educational rather than political. It is shameful, “Ms Sabawi said, “that in a democratic country like Australia, such pressure can contradict the opinions of the world’s two most eminent human rights proponents – Mandela and Tutu.”
Senate Must Seize Chance To Back Sensible Reform
The passing of the Government’s Fair Work Amendment Bill through the House of Representatives gives the Senate the opportunity to demonstrate that it is in support of sensible and balanced industrial relations reforms that will help boost economic and jobs growth.
“Master Builders urges the cross bench Senators to seize this chance to back the Bill’s balanced productivity reforms which for the building and construction industry means it can increase its productivity and create jobs,” Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia said.
“The Bill is a positive step in returning the industrial relations system to the sensible centre and includes reforms recommended by the previous Labor Government’s Fair Work Review Panel,” he said.
“Particularly important are proposed changes to right of entry provisions to end abuse by building union officials who use right of entry as an illegitimate industrial weapon and brutal exercise in power,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.
“Claims by union officials that right of entry abuses are justified on safety grounds have been thoroughly discredited. Safety is paramount for contractors and workers on construction sites. However union officials continue to debase the importance of safety by using it as an industrial weapon,” he said.
“Master Builders also supports reforms to Greenfields Agreements to curtail the ability of building unions to drive up costs and hold up the delivery of vital community infrastructure projects,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.
“Why should the community have to pay more for less hospital beds and class rooms because of the union’s unjustified and unlawful behaviours on construction sites?,” he said.
“The Fair Work Amendment Bill does not constitute a return to WorkChoices but instead introduces common sense changes which will improve the productivity and job creating capacity of the construction industry and the broader economy,” he said.
“Master Builders urges the Senate, particularly the cross bench Senators to support this Bill when it comes before them,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.
Scientists reveal how they feel about climate change in handwritten letters and photos
Another attempt to substitute appeals to authority for actual evidence
SCIENTISTS can be a practical bunch, they deal with facts, data, hard evidence. But even scientists can lose their s*** sometimes and now they are revealing how they really feel.
Academics from around Australia have posed for striking photographs, while others have put their feelings about climate change in handwritten letters as part of two independent projects.
In one masters project, Australian National University student Joe Duggan contacted scientists and asked them to write the letters about how they felt about climate change.
“What follows are the words of real scientists. Researchers that understand climate change,” states the Is This How You Feel website, where Duggan is publishing the letters.
The letters feel more personal because they are handwritten and the passion, frustration and anxiety is palpable in some of them.
But there is also guilt that they too are left feeling apathetic because of the lack of action and interest in tackling the problem.
A letter from Dr Ailie Gallant of Monash University reflects many of her fellow scientists views: “I hate feeling helpless. I’m ashamed to say that, sometimes, my frustration leads to apathy. I hate feeling apathetic. “All I can hope is that people share my optimism and convert it into Action.”
Duggan told news.com.au that scientists were generally called on to communicate with the public about climate change using data and clinical prose but it occurred to him that this might not be the best way, and perhaps giving them an opportunity to express their passion might be a way of cutting through the apathy that many people felt about the issue.
“I’m not trying to convert denialists, I’m trying to reach people who are apathetic, who don’t have an opinion, to show them that climate change is relevant to them,” Duggan said.
On another website launched this month scaredscientists.com, some of Australia’s top minds have posed for striking portraits and describe what they are most scared of.
This includes earth system scientist Will Steffen of the Australian National University, who says his biggest fear is the loss of control of the climate system.
“If we push the climate too far, if we start losing ice too rapidly, start flipping things like the Amazon, then the internal dynamics of the climate will take over - and even if we pull emissions back, we won’t be able to stop very large changes - that’s my biggest fear.
“The thing people don’t realise, is getting emissions down is not only feasible but economically promising and will actually lead to a better life.”
One of the founders of the site, photographer Nick Bowers said the project was a labour of love that came about after conversations with two fellow creatives copywriter Rachel Guest and art director Celine Faledam.
“We were interested in environmental issues and discussed this constantly among ourselves, we all have young kids,” Bowers said. “We wanted to try and bring authenticity and humanity to this issue.”
He said the scientists were photographed while they were being interviewed. This includes many prominent names such as mammologist and palaeontologist Tim Flannery.
Bowers said he thought scientists were more willing in recent years, to put forward their personal views as the information around climate change had become overwhelming. “There’s more evidence of rapid change in climate and that it is going to effect us,” Bowers said.
While some critics have suggested climate scientists are motivated by grant money, Bowers said he got the sense that they just wanted the debate to move on so they could do other science. “They want to get on with doing other stuff, they are sick of trying to spruik this stuff themselves.”
Duggan has also experienced a strong response from scientists willing to put forward their views. He said he had received about 20 letters from scientists in Australia and estimated that about 70 to 80 per cent of those he had contacted had responded.
“The thing that hits me the most, are that these people are the ones that understand the facts, that understand the data and can pass judgment on climate change and they’re scared. They are literally scared for the world they are leaving behind for their children. “They get the statistics, they get the facts and they are scared.”
However, Duggan said that while he expected that fear would be the overriding sentiment, he did not expect how optimistic the scientists would be. “They expressed optimism as well, even with all the problems, there was optimism that they could reach their goals.”
Thursday, August 28, 2014
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is desperately hoping for some enlightened politicians
Lying old bag, Gillian Triggs
One hesitates to call the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, a liar but she leaves you little room to call her anything else. Her appalling display when chairing an inquiry into child detention on Christmas Island last Friday left Scott Morrison nonplussed and viewers of A-Pac Channel reaching for bricks.
“I’m a lawyer”, she screeched when asked to withdraw a claim that there were armed guards at the children’s detention centre. She refused, and continued to make ridiculous assertions that there wasn’t a blade of grass to be seen, that children were diseased, suicidal and Ill-cared for without decent medical facilities.
Having recently visited the site Ms Triggs was knowingly telling bald faced lies and was determined to mislead the Press who were eager to report her “opinions”, rather than those of Minister Morrison.
Such blatant dishonesty can be expected of [Greenie Senator] Sarah Hanson-Young, but not from a Human Rights Commissioner.
Ms Triggs, a confessed Lefty, was appointed to the position of President of the Human Rights Commission in 2007 and up until 2013 had ample opportunity to criticise the sparse facilities afforded more than twice the number of children detained under Labor. She chose not to.
Yet conditions at Christmas Island under Morrison are first class and above anything available to residents on the island. “Children have a fenced pool and access to swimming lessons, schooling, Tai Chi/Yoga, they participate in community sporting events, have a Persian band, disco, movie nights, picnics and many other activities, all supervised”, according to our Christmas Island contact.
“They have the best of medical care and are immediately flown to the mainland if specialist care is needed, I wish we had the same services ourselves”, he said.
“I find it most distressing that her professional ethics have resulted in the detainees being used as pawns for her political agenda.”
Perhaps Ms Triggs might reflect on the care she afforded her own child, Victoria, who she describes as, "being profoundly retarded as anyone who is still alive can be".
Triggs told the Melbourne Age, "Her condition usually results in death shortly after birth. In fact, the doctors kept saying to me, 'just leave her in the corner and she'll die.’ I know it sounds terrible, but I'd look at Victoria and think, 'Well, you're going to die, so I'm not going to invest too much in you.’”
But Victoria didn't die so, at six months of age, an impatient Triggs, found a family prepared to look after her. The family gave her the primary care she so desperately needed before she died seven years ago at the age of 21.
Now there’s a CV befitting a Commissioner for Human Rights.
Resign now Ms Triggs and stop degrading your commission and your adopted country. You are truly an obnoxious disgrace.
Some background on the old bag here
Tim Blair hits back over Muslim ghetto in Sydney
Last week’s column about Sydney’s Muslim heartland of Lakemba upset one or two people. Shouty lawyer Chris Murphy, guest Fairfax columnist Zeynab Gamieldien and the usual online types all decided that the piece was racist.
Apparently these people believe Islam is a race rather than a religion. Here’s a typically charming note from Twitter identity Melinda: “Tim, you’re a dumb, racist little bitch, you really don’t amount to anything, hope you die.”
Thankfully, for Mel and other fans, there is a quick way to sort this out. First, convert to Islam. All you need to do is recite the Testimony of Faith, which runs something like this: “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasoolu Allah.” There you go. Job done.
Now try converting to Asian, or white, or Aboriginal, or some other race that you are not. It’s slightly more difficult.
While you’re struggling with that racial change, consider the reaction to revelations in my column that Lakemba’s Islamic Bookstore is selling books that demonise Jews, praise Hitler and slam women as unintelligent and worthless. “To try to paint the whole of Lakemba as being typified by the contents of an obscure bookshop really stretches the imagination,” wrote Canterbury mayor Brian Robson.
The shop isn’t obscure. It’s large and it’s in the middle of Haldon street. Moreover, it has been there for 16 years and is clearly profitable, which is more than many other Sydney bookstores can say. Note to Borders: maybe your chain would still be open if you’d concentrated on selling sexist and anti-Semitic texts in Sydney’s south west. Seems to be quite a market.
“Last time I checked, nearly every suburb in Sydney has bookstores, yet we don’t define the residents of those suburbs by what the authors of those books say or think,” wrote Labor’s member for Lakemba Robert Furolo. “That would be just absurd.”
Really, Bob? In almost every other Sydney suburb, a shop selling outright hate literature would face protests and closure. In Lakemba, however, it’s a successful business model.
At least those two mentioned the shop. A number of other critics couldn’t even bring themselves to acknowledge it. The Sydney Morning Herald‘s John Birmingham offered 341 words on my column last Saturday, all of them avoiding a certain awkward subject. “The truth of Lakemba,” he concluded, “is the greater truth of Sydney.” Birmingham wrote that from 1000 kilometres away in Brisbane.
Lakemba resident Zeynab Gamieldien, writing for Fairfax’s online ladypages, also side-stepped the book issue, merely noting that I’d provided “several quotes from three books he happened to spot amongst the hundreds on shelves.” As it happens, one of them – Women Who Deserve to go to Hell – was in the front window. On those quotes, it may be instructive to change a key word or two. Imagine the reaction if Sydney stores sold books containing these lines:
* “Is it allowed to support and love Muslims? No, it is not allowed.”
* “Men’s perfection is because of various reasons: intelligence, religion, etc. At most, four Muslims have this perfection.”
* “No one can deny the fact that the Muslims are the worst kind of barbarian killers the world has ever known!!! The decent great Adolf Hitler of Germany never killed in the manner of the Muslims!!! Surely only mad people or those who love killing infants, pregnant women and the infirm will think differently.”
Just a hunch, but that sort of thing might lead to a protest or two. When an Islamic store presents identical slurs against women and Jews, however, the PC crowd is absolutely silent.
Their standards are difficult to understand. A few weeks ago, for example, Sydney journalism academic Wendy Bacon led an attempted advertiser boycott of the Daily Telegraph after I ran an online poll making fun of feminist “frightbats”. Apparently it’s just fine, though, to sell books that claim women are worth only half the value of a man. And they are going to hell.
The ABC’s Jonathan Green performed an impressive leftist two-step, first describing my Islamic Bookstore criticism as a case of “book burning” then urging censorship of images showing the imminent Islamic State beheading of US journalist James Foley. Consistency isn’t exactly his strong suit – unless you’re talking about consistent cowardice in the face of Islam.
Anyhow, enough of this evidence-based malarkey. Time to get my apology out of the way.
For any readers who actually followed those instructions at the top of the column and converted to Islam, I neglected to include an important warning. Although converting to Islam is extremely easy, converting from Islam – particularly in the Middle East – may cause beatings, head loss and death by stoning.
Looks like you’re stuck with it. Sorry about that.
Pyne position the way to get budget through Senate
One moment last week it seemed that most of the budget had sailed through Parliament as if the need for fiscal repair had miraculously disappeared. It looked like the government was going to wobble on its mantra on the need to repair the budget. Fortunately Finance Minister Mathias Cormann put that nonsense down at the weekend but one MP said to me that many were still wondering: what is the message we are supposed to be selling? It's a fair question. It still needs a clearer answer.
What I'm calling "the Pyne position" is the only way to go. If the Senate refuses to give the government the chance to keep its election promise to repair the budget then the government is perfectly entitled to cut somewhere else, where the government does not have to rely on the Senate. So, he might not want to do it, but Education Minister Christopher Pyne is not just within his mandate to cut research spending or some other university spending but he has an obligation to do so. That's not blackmail, as his opponents say - the Senate has deliberately reduced his options.
But on the other side of the coin, if the Senate is blocking revenues or spending measures and thereby limiting the extent of fiscal repair, the government should drop its own unfunded budget proposals. Unfortunately the government is intending to do the opposite and increase debt as a consequence. Apparently the $20 billion medical research scheme is to continue regardless of the reality that revenue from the co-payment is now unlikely to be supported by the Senate. In my view, the medical research scheme, which was only ever a poorly thought out and rushed political tactic to soften the blow of the Medicare co-payment, should be axed if the co-payment is rejected. I find it hard to understand how the government can talk about fiscal repair and then propose an unfunded new scheme. I thought unfunded schemes were one of the main legacy problems left by the dysfunctional Labor government. I also opposed budget measures for infrastructure spending before the budget even being announced because I thought fiscal repair was the number one problem.
The rationale for infrastructure spending is that it is needed to stimulate a weak economy. Personally I doubt that it works as well as the Keynesians would claim. But the issue now is should the government be spending money it doesn't have? And if we want to do something, then why isn't the government pushing for labour market reform that would cost nothing to the budget but which would significantly improve economic performance?
Of course, the budget is not the only starting point for governments who like spending.
I now understand that the Abbott government is thinking seriously about proposing or part financing a whopping great big new gas pipe to bring gas from Western Australia to Sydney. Apparently the rationale is to supply gas to Sydney because it looks like there will be gas shortages that will affect business and maybe residential users.
I find it hard to understand why the Commonwealth would even be considering the matter when the prospect of gas shortages has been obvious for at least 18 months while NSW has done virtually nothing. Under former premier Barry O'Farrell, NSW had been largely paralysed by green campaigners who totally opposed any fossil fuels and had been given a platform by radio commentator Alan Jones. Nearly all their claims have been largely debunked by independent scientific advice from the likes of GeoScience Australia and others. Even if at the very last moment NSW finally wanted to do something about gas shortages, there is nothing to stop the NSW government fast tracking private sector gas production within NSW and running a pipe from northern NSW to Sydney. It would be cheaper than transporting gas from WA, much quicker to build and would utilise the coal seam gas now available in NSW.
The other reason for such a pipeline might be to permanently "import" gas into NSW. About 95 per cent of gas for NSW now comes from states other than NSW, and NSW users pay for that transportation. But it's a long way from WA compared with some coal seam gas in NSW.
I don't understand why the Commonwealth should be even thinking to clean up the consequences caused by the failures of the NSW government to ensure gas supplies to Sydney. A benign framework for infrastructure is essentially the responsibility of the states, even though Prime Minister Abbott wants to be the PM for Infrastructure. Infrastructure is a state responsibility and it makes no sense for the Commonwealth to fund some infrastructure such as roads but not rail. Only the states can take the comprehensive approach that is required to best plan the needs of our great cities and beyond.
School chaplain funding to go ahead despite High Court decision
THE Abbott government has moved to circumvent a High Court decision, allowing school chaplains to still be funded in schools.
In June the High Court ruled the scheme’s funding was not constitutional, awarding a Queensland father Ron Williams his second victory against the Commonwealth.
But today the Coalition has announced the program will go ahead, but instead of giving funding directly to schools, it will flow to states and territories.
In a statement, Parliamentary Secretary Scott Ryan said he would be writing to state and territory leaders “in the near future” inviting them to participate.
The scheme, which sees schools given $20,000, will still be exempt from secular workers.
“The Government believes that school chaplains make a valuable contribution to the wellbeing of students and school communities,” Senator Ryan said.
“I encourage State and Territory Governments to accept the invitation of the Commonwealth to participate in the National School Chaplaincy Programme and give all schools the chance to apply for funding for a school chaplain.”
Labor had opened the program up to secular workers, but the Coalition reversed that decision when announcing an extra $245 million over four years in the May budget.
New Poseidon aircraft on the way
AUSTRALIA is a big step closer to buying eight advanced Poseidon patrol planes from the US.
UNDER the deal worth up to $7 billion, Australia is buying the aircraft from the US Navy, which is in the process of acquiring them from manufacturer Boeing on Australia's behalf.
This is termed a Foreign Military Sale, where equipment is acquired through the US military.
Defence Minister David Johnston says these state-of-the-art planes will boost Australia's ability to monitor its maritime approaches.
The eight Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft will replace the RAAF's ageing Orion AP-3C aircraft which entered service in the mid-1980s and are due for retirement in the coming years.
The Poseidons will operate in conjunction with Triton unmanned surveillance aircraft and will be based at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia.
Delivery of the first aircraft is set for 2017 with all eight to be delivered by 2018.