Thursday, September 18, 2014

Corrupt union's sweet Coca-Cola deal adds cash to slush fund

A militant construction union's slush fund booked more than $300,000 in revenue over five years under a deal struck with Coca-Cola to take a cut of the sale of soft drinks and chips on building sites.

The unusual deal emerged as part of royal commission hearings into the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's Victorian construction branch. The inquiry heard on Tuesday of the cashed-up  Building Industry 2000 election fund, which was set up by senior officials from the CFMEU.

Documents tendered to the inquiry showed a number of lucrative revenue streams and events – including an annual grand final breakfast – held by the Building Industry 2000, and counsel assisting, Michael Elliott, said there had not been an audit of its accounts for a number of years.

Under the deal with Coca-Cola, dozens of vending machines were placed on building sites across the state, with Building Industry 2000 taking a cut of as much as 20 per cent on every sale. Coca-Cola also agreed to give 20 cases of water to the union.

Mr Elliott questioned at length Bill Oliver, former secretary of the CFMEU and a director of Building Industry 2000, about the blurring of lines between the union and the slush fund. It is unlawful to use union resources in union elections.

Mr Oliver said along with builders and sub-contractors, other attendees at its grand final breakfast included workers, unions and companies not in the building sector.

Documents provided to the royal commission list major builders, including Baulderstone Hornibrook; Brookfield Multiplex; Westfield Design and Construction; and Probuild, spending thousands for tables and tickets in recent years. Also listed buying a table was underworld figure Mick Gatto's Elite Cranes.

Mr Oliver denied builders attended to maintain a good relationship with the union. He said it was to "enjoy" the football.

"The grand final breakfast promotes itself every year," he said.

Mr Oliver described an ad hoc process of meetings of Building Industry 2000 including having casual discussions about its affairs with directors at the pub, on the street or in the lift. He said he made "mental notes" and said he had  "trust in people" involved.

Mr Oliver said it was set up in 2000 as an election fund to ward off challenges from rivals to the union's leadership, as the union had a history of internal battles after the deregistration of the Builders Labourers Federation in the 1980s.

Among its directors are current union secretary John Setka, Ralph Edwards, former official Tommy Watson, and Mr Oliver.

In its latest accounts for 2013 it had more than $1 million in cash, or cash equivalents, and annual revenue of more than $300,000.

Mr Oliver said money from the fund was spent on helping workers in need, and donations.

"The one thing I didn't agree with was giving it to the ALP," he said. "We would help people in the need, we would help workers in need."

Later, the union detailed more than $200,000 in spending from the fund on a range of community causes such as $21,000 on funeral costs for some victims of the 2013 Swanston Street wall collapse, as well as medical costs for a person well known to members of the union, and $46,000 on a memorial fund.

"The fund has never donated to the ALP, or provided funding towards elections in other trade unions," the CFMEU said in a statement.

Mr Elliott said union staff were used to organise events and business deals for the slush fund including a Race Day and the grand final breakfast, which was badged as a Building Industry 2000 and CFMEU event.

Mr Oliver repeatedly sought to deny the CFMEU's role and said one CFMEU administrative staffer did work for it after she retired from the union.

Of the grand final breakfast, he said. "No hiding from the fact CFMEU people were there. But it was the Building Industry 2000 plus who was putting the event on."

Other events that raised money for the fund were the sale of CFMEU merchandise and a golf day, where people were invited to attend on union letterhead. "I drive around with a beer cart giving them beer and a soft drink," Mr Oliver said. "Maybe they get a bit of a kick out of the CFMEU secretary driving around giving them a soft drink and can of beer."

Meanwhile the commission on Tuesday afternoon heard more claims that Kimberley Kitching, an unsuccessful ALP candidate, had completed online right-of-entry tests on behalf of other Health Services Union staff.

Ms Kitching is the general manager at the union's number one branch in Victoria and took the role after the election of Diana Asmar in 2012.

The commission heard evidence from a number of witnesses that Ms Kitching had done the tests - something she has denied - and her lawyer,  Remy Van der Wiel, said it was part of a "political conspiracy" by opponents of the current leadership of the union.

The Federal Court recently delayed elections in the HSU after allegations about the eligibility of two candidates opposing Ms Asmar's ticket.


Muslim Branding on Our Food: Dick Smith

We have received a number of letters from people asking if we will be putting the Muslim Halal logo on our food.

To acquire Halal certification, payment is required to the endorsing body and involves a number of site inspections of both our growers and processors in order to ensure that our practices comply with the conditions of Halal certification.  It is important to note that this does not reflect the quality of the food being processed or sold – it only means that the products are approved as being prepared in accordance with the traditions of the Muslim faith.

We are aware of an increasing number of large companies both in Australia and overseas, such as Kraft and Cadbury, who have obtained accreditation to use the Halal logo.  We don’t believe they have done this because of any religious commitment but rather for purely commercial reasons.  Perhaps these large organisations can afford to do this.  While we have a choice however, we would prefer to avoid unnecessarily increasing the cost of our products in order to pay for Halal accreditation when this money would be better spent continuing to support important charitable causes where assistance is greatly needed.

We point out that we have never been asked to put a Christian symbol (or any other religious symbol) on our food requiring that we send money to a Christian organisation for the right to do so.


Parasites evicted from Millers Point

They had stocked the kitchen with food, hauled in crate-loads of belongings and even brought their tortoiseshell cat.

But the two-month long rent-free bliss enjoyed by a group of squatters at Millers Point ended abruptly on Tuesday, as the state government pushed ahead with its plan to empty the harbourside suburb of vulnerable residents.

The small group of 20-somethings left the Argyle Place property about midday after being ordered out by police.

Banners draped from the balcony read "Millers Point Not 4 Sale" and "Communities Not Commodities".

Tayce, a 27-year-old squatter who declined to give her last name, said the eviction was a "farce".  "I'm homeless - there are so many people on the waiting list for [public] housing and this house was empty for two years," she said.  "There is nothing wrong with the house, it's beautiful. I don't think houses should be sitting empty."  The house was connected to electricity and, despite a bit of mould, was otherwise "amazing", Tayce said.

About four squatters had occupied the terrace house after finding the back door unlocked and the property empty. Squatters are also known to be occupying other homes in the area.

Scores of properties at Millers Point are lying idle as the government embarks on a two-year program to evict public housing tenants and sell hundreds of homes.  The first four sales well exceeded price guides and netted the government $11.1 million.

The government says the homes are too expensive to maintain, and sale proceeds will be reinvested into the social housing system. However, welfare advocates question why all properties must be sold, rather than letting some elderly and long-time residents stay on in the area.

Housing groups have also called on the government to ensure the proceeds are used to build new social housing in inner Sydney areas.

Millers Point community spokesman Barney Gardner said the squatters evicted on Tuesday had not caused a nuisance, and should have been allowed to stay until the property was ready for sale.

"The property has been vacant for some time and will remain vacant for some time. These people ... are not damaging the property, they are just living there," he said.  "They haven't had anywhere to live and now they are being turfed out on the street again."

It is understood no charges will be laid, because the squatters left voluntarily.

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said the vacant properties at Millers Point "should have been used to house people in need".

He said public housing residents had previously raised concerns about other squatters, however the government was only taking action now the sell-off had begun.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Family and Community Services said the Argyle Place home had been vacant since late 2011 "and is being prepared for sale".

"The government has continued to carefully monitor the safety and security of vacant Millers Point properties and any illegal occupancy or squatting will continue to be subject to action by NSW Police," she said.


Federal push to make Victorian schools independent labelled 'privatisation'

Principals and teachers fear they are headed down a path of privatisation by stealth, after Victoria signed a contentious deal to enhance Tony Abbott's push to create 1500 "independent public schools" by 2017.

Schools will get access to extra funds if they become more autonomous; parent-based councils could get new powers to select principals and acquire property; and administrative work in small schools will be increasingly outsourced as part of the $16 million agreement.

The changes form part of the federal government's plan to entice at least one-quarter of Australian public schools to become more "independent" over the next three years.

Unlike Western Australia, where the idea was pioneered, Victorian schools opting into the program will not be rebadged as "independent public schools", but will still get access to the money if they adhere to targeted activities designed to make them self-govern and be more accountable for their results.

"We know that great schools have leaders and teachers who have the independence to make the decisions and develop the programs that best meet the needs of their students," said Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

Modelled on the US charter school system, the concept of independent public education generally allows government schools to operate like private schools, with boards appointing principals and leaders having greater control over budget and staff decisions.

But while the concept differs between jurisdictions - and Victoria already has high levels of autonomy - it is nonetheless contentious because critics fear it could exacerbate the gaps in education and lead schools down the path of "privatisation by stealth".

"We already have the highest level of independent schools in the developed world and on the basis of OECD results we aren't near the top at the moment. It could be argued that we should in fact be moving in the opposite direction. Worse still if this is an attempt to further privatise our school systems," said Berwick Lodge Primary School principal Henry Grossek.

The state-federal agreement, obtained by The Sunday Age, shows that funding will be used to:

 *   Train principals, assistant principals and business managers to "assume greater decision making powers" over their school and staff.

*   Give school councils extra powers, which "may include, with appropriate safeguards, an enhanced role in relation to principal selection, acquiring property and assets, and investment".

*   Expand the government's so-called Local Administrative Bureau program, which outsources time-consuming paperwork for small schools to education department experts.

Schools will be encouraged to "opt in" to the program, with about 250 schools expected to benefit within the first 12 months. State Education Minister Martin Dixon said the federal money – almost $16 million over four years – would "build the capacity of principals, school leaders and school communities to take full advantage of the level of autonomy already available to them".

The funding deal would also support schools embracing the Napthine government's new governance reforms, which includes moves to merge school councils, overhaul membership, and give parents more say in the performance reviews of their principals.

Ringwood Secondary College principal Michael Phillips said he was open to the changes, pointing out that some schools could have an opportunity to be more innovative and creative with curriculum programs, for example, "without being constrained by bureaucratic decisions".

However, others are already worried about the ongoing push towards self-governing, and the new agreement is likely to exacerbate their concerns. Australian Education Union state president Meredith Peace accused the government of using its autonomy agenda to shift more responsibilities on to schools without extra support.

Tarneit Senior College principal Michael Fawcett agreed, saying he was unconvinced that the latest state-federal deal would improve student outcomes.

"Where's the Gonski money?" he asked. "I'm still waiting for resource funding, let alone some other mythical funding to make us an independent public school system."

But Mr Pyne said the independent public schools funding initiative would "allow Victorian schools to better meet the needs of their student communities".


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A new set of university rankings has just come out

I am a bit dubious about "diversity" being included as one factor in the rankings and think more emphasis could have been given to publications but the methodology is defensible as a whole.

I also don't fully agree with the Shanghai Jiao Tong methodology.  I think they give far to much eweight to Nobel Prizes -- which disadvantages younger institutuions.

But in the end the results are pretty similar and probably as most people would expect.  The major difference is that British and Australian universities did particularly well.  Four Australian universities (ANU, Melbourne, Sydney, UNSW) made it into the top 50 and eight British (Cantab, ICL, Oxon, UCL, KCL, Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester).  American universities were the biggest winners, as usual.

Another way of looking at the data is to note that London had 3 universities in the top 50 while Sydney had two. As Sydney is much less populous than London, that is pretty good.

Currumbin mosque: Gold Coast City Council rejects building application

A controversial proposal for a mosque in Currumbin has been rejected by Gold Coast City Council.

The proposal for an Islamic place of worship, which received 3,500 objections, has sparked protests, threats and insults against some councillors.

Ten councillors, including area representative Chris Robbins, voted against the proposal.  Five voted for the development application to be approved.

The council cited issues involving community concerns, car parking and opening hours.

Councillor Robbins said the planning committee had not properly considered the social impacts of the mosque.  "Those residents who live near the site have had some very stringent concerns," she said.  "This was decided by the councillors on town planning grounds."

Earlier today, the council went into a closed session to discuss possible legal issues associated with the plans.

Debate on the development application in an industrial estate had just begun when Councillor Lex Bell raised legal questions.  Councillor Bell argued if council rejected the application it would likely go to court and be approved with fewer conditions than would be imposed by council. Last week the council's planning committee recommended the application be approved - but with more than 50 conditions.

A group of about 30 opponents of the mosque cheered as the vote was counted.

James Darby from the 'Stop the Mosque' group welcomed the decision.  "The mosque should be well away from any person that its amenities are going to disturb," he said.

But local Islamic Society president Hassan Goss said all the guidelines were met.  "Everything that the council required was done — everything we had to do to obtain the approval of that centre was done," he said.  "I believe that because of public sentiment and the climate we're in at the moment, it hasn't gone through."

The developers now have the right to appeal against the council's decision in court.

Two councillors received death threats for their support for the proposed mosque.


Gillard forgetting who her friends used to be

TICKLISH questions remain swirling around Julia Gillard following her appearance at the royal commission into trade union corruption. Not the least of which is the haste with which she sought to distance herself from the two witnesses who preceded her into the witness box on Wednesday and their remarks about her role in suggesting the establishment of a slush fund similar to the one she assisted former boyfriend Bruce Wilson set up in Western Australia — the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association.

Robert Elliott, a former national secretary of the HSU, the union which gave the nation two disgraced former officials, Craig Thomson and Michael Williamson, was quizzed first, followed by his wife, the Victorian MLC Kaye Darveniza. Elliott has known Gillard since they were involved first in university and then union and Labor politics.

“I had been a member of a group formed around Ms Gillard and supportive of her political career,” he said in a document he prepared for a possible legal action against the HSU two years ago

The document, he told counsel assisting the commission Jeremy Stoljar, had been prepared carefully. Elliott agreed he wasn’t proposing to be deceitful and was satisfied it was true and correct when he supplied it to his solicitors in October, 2012.

Yet in September, 2014, his recollection has changed.

Two years ago he believed “Gillard was supportive of a ‘reform group’ of which I was involved in the HSU in the late ‘80s, including assistance with fundraising and legal advice. Ms Gillard and Slater & Gordon became legal advisers to the HSU Vic No. 2 branch and Ms Gillard continued to give not just strictly legal advice but also offered more general political counsel. It was generally understood that success for Ms Gillard’s allies in union elections was of benefit to Ms Gillard’s political career, and, in turn, Ms Gillard’s advancement would benefit those unions.

“Such was the closeness of the political relationship that Ms Gillard felt able, on one occasion, to offer, at a meeting of me, her and another senior HSU official to undertake the legal work to establish a fundraising entity, outside of the union, to raise funds for the re-election in the HSU of the officers of that entity but established for the ostensible purpose of promoting health and safety in the health industry.

“This offer was not taken up by me or others on the basis that it seemed an exotic and suspect arrangement particularly since the promotion of workplace health and safety was the proper preserve of the union itself.”

The other senior union official present was Elliott’s current wife Kaye, then known as Kaye Williams but who has now reverted to her maiden name, Darveniza.

Elliott said his recollection of the meeting with Gillard and his wife has changed.

It began to change two weeks ago when he was contacted about giving evidence to the royal commission and he began having discussions with his wife.

In fact, Elliot told the royal commission it was a regret to him that what he now believes is a “false memory” has been the subject of inquiry.

But it shouldn’t be because Elliott, just two years ago, was so proud of his memory he even referred to it in the statement he was preparing for his proposed legal action.

He said then that when he was asked to review the matters relating to Craig Thomson (his successor at the HSU) and his misuse of a union credit card, Michael Williamson (former ALP national president and former HSU general secretary, who pleaded guilty to two fraud charges last year and is currently serving 7½ years), Williamson “told me on several occasions that he particularly wanted me to participate because of what he considered to be my good judgment, my corporate memory, my experience of the national office and my relative sophistication on legal matters”.

That corporate memory and relative sophistication on legal matters apparently evaporated after the recent discussion with his wife.

While Darveniza recalls Gillard offering advice “informally as a friend and political ally with legal expertise” on setting up a fund or account into which branch officials would pay to provide funding for contesting branch elections (a slush fund), she has her own memory problems.

Gillard, however, is in no doubt. She didn’t have any meeting of the type described by Elliott and she never discussed setting up an incorporated association with them. They have vague memories, partially recanted, of discussions of the establishment of a fundraising entity like the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association. She is adamant they are wrong.

What is indisputable is that Gillard’s partners at Slater & Gordon were so concerned about her involvement in setting up a slush fund, possibly corruptly, possibly involving corrupt money, that Gillard abruptly left the firm.


Referendum on indigenous Australians should be conservative: PM

Tony Abbott has signalled his conviction that a referendum recognising indigenous Australians is more likely to succeed if it is "spiritually ambitious" but legally conservative.

Declaring that the timing and process for the referendum will crystallise within weeks, the Prime Minister said he was acutely aware of, and determined to avoid, the consequences of failure.

"There'd be nothing worse than having a go at this and finding that it fails because we've been too ambitious or, in the process of trying to do something wonderful, we've ended up dividing the country," Mr Abbott said in his most expansive comments on the referendum that is supported by both sides of politics.

He said the challenge would be to emulate the success of the 1967 referendum, which was carried with overwhelming support, but was "legally unambitious" while spiritually "very ambitious indeed".

"Sometimes the more legal ambition you've got, the less spiritual and ethical and cultural achievement you'll grasp and I think it's important to carefully weigh and consider these things in the weeks and months ahead," he said after his first discussions on the subject with indigenous leaders in north-east Arnhem Land.

Mr Abbott will discuss the referendum with indigenous leaders including Garrawuy Yunupingu, Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine on Wednesday, amid speculation that 2017 is the likely date for the question to  be put to the people.

Delaying the vote until then would, advocates say, maximise the prospects for building momentum, avoid the vote being politicised and draw of the euphoria of the vote 50 years earlier.

Asked by Fairfax Media if there was a danger that the question would fail to meet the expectations of those who say the question must be substantive, Mr Abbott replied: "We are really still at the beginning of this journey. We're not approaching the end.

"There is a lot of goodwill, there is a firm intention on the part of this government, on the part of the opposition, I think on the part of the Parliament generally, to embark on this journey, but it's got to be a successful one."

While there has been heated debate over whether the question should include a prohibition on racial discrimination, Mr Abbott said he was not going to rule specific proposals in or out.

"Generally speaking, the only proposals that I would rule out at this stage are proposals that would divide our country, and sometimes you only know whether a proposal would divide the country after it's been out there for a while and you've had a chance to gauge the reaction.

"My job here is not to be a private pontificator; my job is to be, as far as I humanly can, a national leader and national leaders do not rush into final decision making, given that the urgent task now is to bring forward a timetable and finesse a process.

"Once that's done, I think we're in a good position to start serious discussions over what the proposal might be."

 Mr Abbott suggested an announcement on timing and process was unlikely after Wednesday's talks, but added: "I do think we can crystallise this to the point of finalisation within a few weeks. I think it's important that everyone knows where our country is hoping to go.

"We shouldn't try to pre-empt the outcomes of this process, but there does need to be a clear process in place with an end point for our consideration."

 An announcement on timing in the next few weeks would coincide with a parliamentary committee that includes Aboriginal MPs Ken Wyatt and Senator Nova Peris releasing its recommendation on the wording of the referendum question


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Abbott moves to Aboriginal community for one week

Tony Abbott, Australia's prime minister, has moved into a tent in a far-flung stretch of outback bushland to govern the nation for a week from a tiny Aboriginal community.

In an unprecedented move by an Australian leader, whose usual residence is a stately 1920s house in Canberra, Mr Abbott has shifted the seat of government to the outskirts of Yirkalla, a remote Aboriginal township in northern Australia with a population of 843.

He will govern from a canvas tent – complete with secure phone and video lines for cabinet meetings and calls to international leaders – and has brought with him some of the nation's top civil servants, who are also staying in tents.

After landing by plane on a dusty red dirt tarmac on Sunday afternoon, Mr Abbott, looking somewhat bewildered and bemused, was given an official "welcome to country" ceremony by a group of red-skirted Aborigines smeared from head to toe in white clay; they beat sticks, chanted, leapt and danced, all while moving gradually backwards to make way for their guest.

"It is good to be back in this part of the world," Mr Abbott said.

The unusual visit is not out of character for Mr Abbott, 56, a London-born, fitness-obsessed former boxer and trainee Catholic priest, who has been known to subject himself to punishing physical ordeals.

His various feats as an MP and prime minister include several 600-mile bicycle rides, working as a rural firefighter and beach lifeguard, completing a 14-hour iron man contest, and an infamous 36-hour bout of non-stop election campaigning in 2010, his first contest as opposition leader.

But the visit is also part of Mr Abbott's attempt to address the plight of the nation's Aborigines, who have far higher rates of infant mortality, disease, imprisonment and poverty than the non-Aboriginal population.

As an MP, Mr Abbott frequently stayed in Aboriginal communities and he promised last year that if elected he would spend a week each year ruling from a remote indigenous township. He has vowed to be "the prime minister for indigenous affairs".

"For an entire week, Aboriginal people will have my full focus and attention as prime minister," he said. "This trip will mark the first anniversary of my swearing in as prime minister. It will be a significant personal milestone and it will be a great honour to spend it among Aboriginal Australians."

Mr Abbott will also hold discussions this week on his plan for a nationwide referendum to change the constitution to recognise Aborigines as the nation's first peoples. He said this could help to heal the historical rift that has plagued relations between Aborigines and non-Aborigines since British settlement and would mark "a unifying and liberating moment for the nation".

But he has indicated that any such symbolic gestures of reconciliation should be accompanied by moves to improve the economic well-being of Australia's 700,000-odd Aborigines and ensure they attend school and find jobs.

He forcefully made this point yesterday during a one-on-one meeting with Galarrwuy Yunupingu, a local Aboriginal elder who would be regarded by his clansmen as equally or perhaps more powerful than the prime minister.

On a balcony overlooking the vast and untouched bushland, Mr Abbott told his local counterpart: "The important thing is to make sure that the land is not just a spiritual asset but an economic asset, that people are able to make good use of their land. That is what I would like to see."

The local Yolngu people are believed to have lived in Arnhem Land for 40,000 years and claim to be the inheritors of the world's oldest living culture. The region's 16,000 people speak fifteen distinct dialects and are renowned for their intricate bark paintings.

Bawuli Marika, 44, a schoolteacher who took part in the welcome celebrations, said the ceremonial chant recounted the arrival of two ancient female creatures who came ashore in a canoe and gave names to the animals and trees and allocated objects to various tribes.

"We do this ceremony for important people," Ms Marika told the Telegraph.

"It is good that he came here to learn our culture. It is a big thing. It is a happy thing. We can teach him about ourselves and what we want."


Australia's charmimg "Middle Eastern" (predominanty Lebanese Muslim) migrants at work

Four men armed with machetes assaulted a security guard at the elite Scots College in Bellevue Hill in an attempt to reach weaponry stored on the school grounds.

The men confronted the guard on the school perimeter about 1am on Friday but failed to gain access to any building. It is understood the men demanded entry to an area where guns were stored but were refused by the guard. The men fled the scene in a car that was possibly driven by a woman, police said. The guard was not injured.

Scots College maintains target-shooting rifles on the property as part of its sport program, which are incapable of firing except when used for practice or competition, principal Ian Lambert said. The school also keeps a number of ceremonial drill rifles used by its cadet unit which are permanently disabled.

"The police conducted a review of the storage and security arrangements of this equipment and were satisfied that all requirements were met or exceeded," Mr Lambert said.

 He did not believe there had been any previous incidents of a security guard being assaulted while patrolling the college. Staff and students on the senior campus, which has more than 1000 pupils, were informed of the incident on Friday morning.

The men armed with machetes were described to police as being of Middle Eastern appearance and wearing jumpers and pants. Police would not confirm if the Middle Eastern Organised Crime squad was involved in the investigation but a spokesperson said the investigation was "in full swing". No wider alert had been issued for sporting clubs or other schools in the area, the spokesperson said.

Scots College has subsequently beefed up its physical security as a precaution, Mr Lambert said. The Presbyterian school is one of the oldest boys' colleges in Australia.


Death threats to mosque opponents

POLICE are investigating death threats made against Gold Coast councillors who voted to support the controversial Currumbin mosque.

Threatening phone messages were left at offices of northern Gold Coast councillors William Owen-Jones and Cameron Caldwell just after noon yesterday.

Police told the Bulletin the threats were of a “non-specific” nature but related to both councillors supporting the approval of the mosque at Wednesday’s planning committee meeting.

They were among five councillors who voted to support the project, including Lex Bell, Greg Betts and Donna Gates.

The Bulletin understands both councillors were interviewed by police late yesterday and Cr Owen-Jones has declined to make a complaint.

It is understood the person suspected of making the threats is known to councillors but both Cr Owen-Jones and Cr Caldwell declined to comment.

Queensland Police confirmed threats had been made and said the investigation was ongoing.  Threatening a public official is a crime in Queensland.

Currumbin councillor Chris Robbins, who voted against approving the mosque, has also been threatened.

Cr Bell, a former lawyer, called for calm and said threats of violence against councillors was inappropriate and uncalled for.  “I understand people are upset but they should control themselves,” he said.

Wednesday’s council meeting was marred by a radical anti-­Islamic protest at Evandale which city and community leaders dismissed as a “redneck” movement.

Yesterday’s threats came after weeks of abuse hurled at Cr Robbins while the controversial development was under public discussion. Cr Robbins said she had received threats of gang-rape and murder from anonymous opponents.


The Wind Industry’s Worst Nightmare – Angus Taylor – says: time to kill the LRET

No, Taylor is not a dream – he’s the wind industry’s worst nightmare.

Member for Hume, Angus “the Enforcer” Taylor has taken the lead on behalf of the Coalition in Tony Abbott’s quest to bring the wind industry to its knees. While there’s been a lot of huff and puff emanating from Ian “Macca” Macfarlane and his faithful ward, young Gregory Hunt about saving the mandatory RET with magical “third ways”, STT says keep your eyes focused on Taylor and the PM.

To give you some idea of where Taylor is coming from – and where the wind industry is headed – here’s a transcript of an interview he gave last week (9 September 2014) on Sky News:

"Graham Richardson: Angus Taylor is the member for Hume, and he’s in our Canberra studio. G’day Angus how are you?

Angus Taylor: G’day Graham.

Graham Richardson: Now I’ve got to say that if I was a minister, I’d be looking behind me and saying there’s a Rhodes scholar on the backbench, we can’t have him there for long. I mean, you’d have to get, you’d have be promoted – I don’t see how they can keep a Rhodes scholar on the backbench.

Alan Jones:  He is a patient man, he’s a farmer’s son. He’s a patient man. Angus, just explain to us would you, in layman’s language, what is the Renewable Energy Target.

Angus Taylor:  Alan, it’s a scheme designed to increase the level of renewable electricity in Australia. And the way it works practice is it gives big subsidies to renewable projects and it builds those subsidies into our electricity prices ….

Alan Jones:  Sorry to interrupt you – go even simpler – the Renewable, Angus, a renewable project – just explain what a renewable project is.

Angus Taylor:  Well, so there are two schemes, the large scale scheme, which is essentially wind – there is a bit of hydro in there but no new hydro. So that’s the large-scale scheme and that is the majority of it. That’s about 90% of the total. And then there is the small scale scheme which is largely rooftop solar. So they’re the two schemes, and we pay for those big subsidies in our electricity prices, in our bills – they’re not transparent.

Alan Jones:  And that energy is infinitely dearer to produce than coal-fired power so isn’t it fair to say that without massive subsidies, these outfits couldn’t survive. Now if the government is not going to give money to the motor vehicle industry, and it’s not going to give money to SPC Ardmona, why is it giving billions of dollars to Qatari owned wind turbines?

Angus Taylor:  Well that’s a good question. I mean we’ve just had a review of this, led by Dick Warburton, and what the review concluded was that these are expensive schemes, very expensive schemes, but as importantly they’re very expensive ways to reduce carbon emissions. They did come to different conclusions on solar and the large-scale, the wind subsidies, and what we know is rooftop solar in remote areas can be economic, but large-scale wind it’s very clear that it’s not economic on any grounds.

Graham Richardson: If it is not economic, tell me how uneconomic is it? How much dearer? You know, is it 50%, is it 80% dearer than coal-fired power? How much?

Angus Taylor:  Well, put it in perspective. A wind project to get investment will probably need a price somewhere in their long-term contract of somewhere close to $100. And we’re buying electricity now, wholesale electricity at about $30 a megawatt hour. So say three times is a good rule of thumb … What we also know is the cost of reducing carbon emissions this way – it’s something like $60-70 and of course the carbon tax was far less that and we think still way too high.

Alan Jones:   Let’s just go  … just go to where our viewers are involved in all of this. Let me just ask you a simple question, right, I’m a big Qatari investor, because I know that Australians are suckers, we know the Australian government is just shelling out money, now I come from Qatar and I want to build wind turbines and I’ve found this armer, Angus Taylor in Goulburn and he’s got this a big hill out there – and I think this would be a good place to build wind turbines, so go to Angus Taylor and I say to him I want to put 70 wind turbines on your property. Just basically rule of thumb, how much would you expect to get from me, the big Qatari Guru, how much would you expect to get from me per wind turbine? And I want 70 of them on your farm.

Angus Taylor:  You’d get about 10 to 12 thousand dollars so if you going to have

Alan Jones:  So I kick in $700,000 to you, that’s right. So I build the 70 wind turbines. Enter the taxpayer. So I’m from Qatar, I’m a big wind power man, what’s the taxpayer going to fork out to me in order that I so-called ‘produce’ this wind power?

Angus Taylor:  Look on average you’d expect it to be about $400,000 per year, per turbine.

Alan Jones:  For 30 years.

Angus Taylor: In fact in the next few years – yes for 30 years (GR Wow). 400,000 per turbine.

Alan Jones: Start again

Angus Taylor: So if you had 70 turbines, that’s $28 million a year.

Alan Jones:   28 million on his farm – on his farm – 28 million – so the people watching you – say it again – I’m a Qatari I’m not even an Australian – $28 million a year for one farm. How the hell can this be sustainable?

Angus Taylor: For 70 turbines – and of course we are all paying for that in our electricity bills that’s how it’s coming through.

Graham Richardson:  Can I ask you Angus – at the moment what is the energy target and how close have we got to it?

Angus Taylor:  Right so the energy target is supposed to be 20% of total demand. It’s turning out that it is way above that. The unit is 41 terrawatt hours – but what’s important is we’re overshooting the 20% target by a long way. Now the problem with that, the problem with that is from here on in, we would have to build a Snowy Mountains Scheme every year for the next 5 years to reach the target. That’s a Snowy Mountain every year, for the next 5 years to reach the target. And the target will take us well over the 20% mark. The reason it’s going to take us way over the 20% mark, which was the original target, we were originally set ourselves a target of 20%, the reason we’re going way over is that electricity demand has actually been going backwards in Australia and the expectation was it would keep growing. So we’ve got this very high target, huge amount of renewable capacity to be built to reach it, and it’s going to take us way over what we originally expected to do.

Alan Jones:   And Angus isn’t t fair to say that written into the budget there is an expenditure figure of $17 billion – 17 thousand million dollars, to build between 700 and 10,000 of these. Now can I just ask this? If the Abbott Government is not going to give money to SPC Ardmona, and if it’s not going to give money to the car industry – and out there is tax payer land they say, nor should they, why the hell are we subsidising Chinese and Qatari wind farmers jacking up the price of energy, pushing manufacturing out of business? Why are we doing it?

Angus Taylor:  Well, look this is the good question. We are paying these massive subsidies out in our electricity bills we are going way over the target we originally set ourselves and really what this is becoming now is just industry assistance, it’s becoming industry assistance and primarily for the wind industry.

Alan Jones:   It’s industry welfare on steroids.

Graham Richardson: How much investment goes into it? How much private investment goes into it?

Angus Taylor:  Well look, you know, it depends on what’s being built Graham but it is a big number, 17 billion is probably not a bad number to go with, which is the number that Alan mentioned earlier. So there’s a lot of investment- but remember what’s happening here – it’s not creating jobs, we’re actually taking jobs away from other places. In fact, Deloitte tells us that we’re actually going to lose in total 5000 jobs as a result of this – now we gain some in one place and lose them in the other, but the net, we are going to lose 5000 jobs and the reason for that is that it is inefficient investment – we are actually replacing electricity generation we don’t need to replace because demand is going backwards, not forwards. So this is costing us a lot.

Alan Jones:   Yes, it is costing us. Isn’t it valid to say – and it may be an oversimplification, you can either have a manufacturing industry, or a Renewable Energy Target – you can’t have both.

Angus Taylor:  Well, the other part of this, of course, is if it’s pushing electricity prices up, and in the next 5 years it’s likely to push them up quite a lot, if it’s pushing electricity prices up, not only is that hurting households, it’s hurting businesses in exactly the same way that the Carbon tax was hurting businesses. There’s no difference. It’s pushing up electricity prices and that’s hurting all of us.

Alan Jones:  But you said …

Angus Taylor: We’ve gone from being a low cost energy country to a high cost energy country and this is continuing to be one of the contributors. So if all of this was for a good purpose, if it was a cheap way to reduce carbon emissions, depending on your view on whether that’s a good thing to do, then you might be able to justify it. But it’s not and the Review Panel told us that very clearly.

Alan Jones:   Terry McCrann, the very experienced economist said many many years ago, if you want to de-carbonise the Australian economy, your writing yourself a national suicide note. Now here we are forcing manufacturing overseas, forcing jobs, Deloitte said that, up to 6000 jobs. Now at what point do we say to Macfarlane, you said it in the party room, Macfarlane is the Energy Minister, he said this week, there’d be no changes, there’ll be no changes, we’ll make no changes that damage or end the Renewable Energy Target. This is the Energy Minister. You’ve got a Rhode scholar here saying – hang on – this is an inefficient use of resources, this is welfare on steroids and you’ve got the Minister – don’t ask me what I think of that bloke – but you’ve got this Minister saying the exact opposite. What is the party room saying about this?

Angus Taylor: Look, there’s clearly some concerns about solar in the party room, but the overwhelming view of the party room has always been that we have got to contain electricity prices. There’s no question about that. I think, to be fair to the Minister, in the last 48 hours he’s made it very clear that he’s concerned about the rise in electricity prices we’re likely to see in the next few years. He’s made that very clear. You know, look if there’s one cause that we took to the last election, aside from stopping the boats, it was that we needed to contain electricity price increases. That was a view that the party room held…

Graham Richardson:  But the argument was … Angus , the trouble is you ran the argument about the Carbon tax being the cause and it was only a small part of the cause, so you actually didn’t really tell the truth about the Carbon tax, because I think it was about 9% and everybody tried to make it sound like it was a great deal more.

Angus Taylor:  Well, 10% on someone’s electricity bill Graham is a big number for the average Australian and remember the people who are hit hardest here are those are least well off, and energy-intensive businesses which have been the core of Australia’s strength over the years. So 10% impact on electricity bills, and we are seeing that come off now, now that the Carbon tax is gone, that’s a big deal, it’s a big deal for your average Australian and it’s a big deal for Australian businesses.

Graham Richardson:  If we dropped these massive subsidies, which by the way are far greater than I’d ever believed, what would be the effect on electricity prices then?

Angus Taylor:  Well look, it depends but it will be 3-5% over the next few years, but the real problem is this, over the next 5 years, we are not likely to reach the target that was set. We’re not likely to reach it. Now when that happens, the price of these subsidies, they’re caught up in these certificates, the price of those certificates, which goes into your electricity bills, will go sky rocketing.

Alan Jones:  Correct.

Angus Taylor:  And this is the worry – and to be fair to the Minister – he has voiced this concern in the last 48 hours – the real worry is that the sky rocketing price of these subsidies because we can’t get enough of this large scale renewable capacity coming on, the wind turbines, we can’t get them on fast enough, the cost of this scheme is going to go right up in the next few years. And that’s the real concern and it’s a concern that I think the Labor party should share too, I mean they know. You only have to go door knocking in the less well off parts of my electorate or in any other electorate, to know that electricity prices and cost of living are right at the top of the list – so anything that’s pushing that up they’re concerned about.

Alan Jones:   But manufacturing is moving offshore. Jobs are being lost all over the place. Deloitte said that. But you talked at the beginning of this program Graham ‘what’s this bloke doing on the back bench?’ What kind of an Energy Minister would he make? You’re being very charitable to Macfarlane – I will tell you what Macfarlane said about the Renewable Energy Target. These are his exact words. ‘Anything the government does, will not effect any existing investment in renewable energy’. ‘Any existing investment’. I mean, is this bloke off his head? Manufacturing is closing down, jobs are being lost people out there can’t turn on their electric blanket because of the escalating cost of electricity and there should be a comprehensive movement by the Abbott government to reverse all of that.

Angus Taylor:  Look the concern the Minister voiced there is that people have invested to this point in good faith and we should respect investments they’ve made in good faith. I think what he has also said in the last 48 hours is the real issue is here is do we want more of this investment, accelerating over the next 5 years and costing us all a great deal and I think that is the real concern – I mean, do we want to just keep going – and do we want to miss this target.

Alan Jones:  But the real concern, just finally, Angus, isn’t the real concern if there is no money for Holden in the car industry, and no money for SPC Ardmona, why are there billions and billions of dollars for this industry?

Angus Taylor:  I think that’s a good question. I think unfortunately a lot of these schemes set out with the best of intentions and end up being industry assistance, industry pork-barrelling on steroids, as you say, and that’s the concern here. And it’s why there is a legitimate debate – a very legitimate debate in my view, about scaling it back. The Review Panel has said to us that that’s its preferred option. It gave us 2 options on the large scale, on the wind subsidies, and you know, I have made no secret of the fact that I think that we should scale it back. I think, as I say, to be fair to the Minister, he knows that if we don’t scale it back, we have a very serious risk of big increases in electricity prices and escalating subsidies.

Graham Richardson:  I really got to say we have to leave it here. Now I am not concerned about being fair to the minister If the Minister is fair dinkum, then he’ll do something out it, and he will do it quickly. Because this is a debacle. And it is just something that you can’t wait. You can’t sit and look at it. It’s got to be addressed immediately. And I don’t understand why he doesn’t. I can’t get it. But we have got to leave it there. Well go on have one last word, very quickly…

Angus Taylor: I was just going say we need the Labor party to help us, we’ve got to get this through the Senate. Either the Labor party or the cross-benchers have got to help us as it needs legislative change so it is incredibly important.

Graham Richardson: Well we will see what we can do.

Alan Jones: good on you Angus

Graham Richardson: I don’t actually hold out a great deal of hope on that front – but I will see what I can do because I think you are right.

Alan Jones:  Hope of the side – this bloke.

Graham Richardson: Certainly is – as I said if I was a Minister looking behind, I’d be on my toes. Angus Taylor, a pleasure to have you on the show. I hope to talk to you again soon.

Alan Jones:  Thanks Angus.

Angus Taylor: Thanks Graham.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Australia’s Goldilocks economy

WHAT an incredible run we’ve had.  Despite significant uncertainty in the global economy, the end of the mining construction boom, a slowdown in China and stubbornly high dollar, Australia has now completed its 24th year of uninterrupted economic growth.

And we’re not limping along either, with the Aussie economy likely to see an annual growth rate over 3 per cent for 2014. That’s about our long term average. Not too hot and not too cold — a “Goldilocks” economy.

The problem is that because we seem to be bombarded with new economic figures every day it’s hard to step back and get a realistic big picture of what is actually happening.

Here’s our take on the economic state of play and how it could affect your financial decision making.


It’s a mixed bag for the world’s major economies at the moment.

China is taking a breather from the breakneck, double-digit growth they’ve averaged in the last few years, but remains on track to meet a more reasonable growth target of around 7.5 per cent.

However, there’s rising concern that their domestic housing market is in trouble, which would stifle their economy and demand for Australia’s commodity exports such as iron ore.

Meanwhile, the US continues its stimulus-driven recovery, although weaker-than-expected jobs data for August and the end of its economic stimulus program next month may serve to dampen market confidence.

Europe is heading in the other direction entirely, with the European Central Bank dramatically ramping up their stimulus efforts, dropping interest rates and moving deposit rates into negative territory.


Locally, the Reserve Bank has held official interest rates steady for 13 months at a historical low level of 2.5 per cent to encourage growth in the economy.

But they’ve found themselves between a rock and a hard place lately, namely the hot property market and a stubbornly high Aussie dollar.

Low interest rates have driven up property prices, with worrying double digit rises in Sydney and Melbourne property over the last 12 months.

A persistently strong currency, on the other hand, constrains exports and hinders our ability to move away from mining driven growth.

However, the RBA appears unlikely to take any direct action against the dollar, and instead seems happy to ‘jawbone’ or talk down the currency in an effort to push it lower.

The majority of economists still expect the next interest rate move to be an increase in early 2015.


There was a bit of a scare in July when the unemployment rate unexpectedly jumped from 6.0 per cent to 6.4 per cent.

However, as with GDP, the unemployment rate is backwards looking.

A more forward-looking indicator of employment is job advertisements, which reflects what employers are doing right now.

Fortunately, job ads paint a healthier picture, up 1.5 per cent in August and 7.7 per cent higher than a year ago, suggesting that businesses are confident and looking to grow.


Profit-reporting season has wrapped up and corporate Australia appears to be in reasonable shape.

Total revenue for reporting companies was up 4.1 per cent to $585 billion, while net profits rose by 31.4 per cent to $52 billion.

Investors can look forward to getting a piece of those profits very soon, too, with $20 billion in dividends due to be paid out over the next two months.

And despite an unpopular budget and uncertainty in the global outlook, business and consumer confidence are relatively positive, which bodes well for further growth.

If companies make bigger profits, bosses are happier and more likely to hire more staff and invest. That’s great for the economy.


Overall, Australia appears to be on track for another year of positive economic growth.

There’s still a lot of uncertainty, particularly in the global economy, but our domestic economy remains strong and the RBA appears comfortable managing the risks posed by the hot property market and strong dollar.

So as we ease off our reliance on resources, there’s no reason we can’t adapt and continue to grow into the future.


Terror alert: Australian troops could be the targets of terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists on our soil

FEARS Muslim extremists could target serving Australian Defence Force members in a terrorist ­attack has sparked an official warning to the troops after a ­uniformed officer was abused in Sydney’s CBD.

Just 48 hours before Australia increased the public terrorism alert to High, the Defence Security Authority underlined the risks of a Lee Rigby-style attack in an email obtained by The Sunday Telegraph.

British soldier Lee Rigby was run down by a car, murdered and almost decapitated by Muslim ­extremists on a London street in broad daylight last year.

Marked Security Intelligence Report, the memo details verbal threats made against a uniformed officer. It says the ADF member was approached by a group of young men and told to “go to the Middle East so we can blow your f ... in head off you c. t”.

The incident was reportedly witnessed by a large group of ­people but the ADF member walked away from the scene.

Australian intelligence agencies have privately cited the Rigby case as one of their biggest fears because the brutal attack underlined that once intent was established the tools of a terrorist attack, in this case a car and knife, could be readily obtained.

The document does not detail when the verbal attack occurred but was sent to army officers across Australia just 48 hours ­before the Prime Minister ­increased the nation’s official ­terrorism alert level to High.

“The Defence Security Authority assesses that this incident of anti-Defence sentiment is related to Defence’s current and possible future operations in the Middle East,” the memo states.

“A further escalation of anti-Defence sentiment in Australia cannot be discounted.

“During the initial deployment of Australian troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, the DSA received an increase in reported threats of verbal abuse. This verbal abuse was from individuals who rejected Australian troops’ deployment to the Middle East.

The DSA, which advises the Chief of the Defence Force on how to manage security risks in Australia, warns in the memo of the need to be vigilant and report any verbal threats in an official ­incident report.

Australia’s intelligence agencies have also cited the Rigby case to illustrate the risks of opportunistic, lone wolf attacks by homegrown terrorists.

The warning underlines the three major risks intelligence chiefs have outlined: an opportunistic lone-wolf attack such as the Rigby case, the storming of a major shopping centre or building or a mass casualty event.



Hate for sale as Muslim flag adopted by jihadists goes to auction at Sydney mosque

PREMIER Mike Baird said the Islamic State flag could be banned across NSW.  His stance follows footage of one of the flags, which is linked to the barbaric terrorist organisation, being auctioned in front of families and young children in Sydney.

“That is something we will consider and work with community groups about but we can’t have the position where you are seeing any activity that is promoting terrorism, supporting terrorism,” Mr Baird said today.  “There is no way in this state that we are going to support that.

“It is a flag that is used by ISIS, and ultimately that is something we have to respond to and we have to have a zero-tolerance approach,” he said.

The flag, used by the terrorists responsible for thousands of murders across Iraq and Syria, including the execution of two Western journalists, was auctioned at a Liverpool mosque.

Disturbing footage of the sale is being shared among Australian teenagers, some of whom appear to have been radicalised by the extreme violence associated with the outlawed Islamic State, and its black and white flag featuring the Shahada.

One 15-year-old Muslim boy who posted footage of the auction to his Instagram account has since posted pictures with the black flag of jihad.

In a chilling reflection of the IS campaign in Syria, another image of himself in a headscarf has a caption directed at Syria’s president: “going to kill Bashar al Assad now”.

While a Muslim community leader claimed the Shahada symbol had largely been hijacked by IS militants, political leaders slammed the flag auction at Liverpool’s Markaz Imam Ahmad mosque and youth centre, led by Sheikh Abu Adnan Mohamad. A painting depicting the flag was also sold.

Mr Baird said earlier: “We expect everyone in NSW to obey the law or face the consequences. All parents and all communities need to protect young people from the insidious and corrosive effects of the radical ideologies that are causing so much suffering around the world.”

NSW MLC Fred Nile called the auction “disgraceful” and said the flag used by the Islamic State should be banned in Australia. “They fly the flag as something to be proud of — they should be ashamed of beheading people and selling women into slavery,” he said.

NSW Police investigated and said the auction would only constitute an offence if the proceeds were funnelled to terror groups.  The stated objective of the auction was to raise money for the mosque.

Attorney-General George Brandis has signalled the government’s intention to introduce new laws making it illegal to incite and promote terrorism. IS is designated as a terrorist organisation under Commonwealth law.

While repeated attempts to contact the mosque for comment by phone and email went unanswered, Muslim community leader Keysar Trad last night defended the sale, saying the Islamic State had “hijacked” the black and white standard, which bears the Shahada — an ancient Islamic creed that reads: “There is no God except God and Mohammed is the messenger of God.”


Terror alert will fuel "islamophobia": Islamic leaders

They should be complaining to their Muslim brethren in the Middle East  -- whose behaviour is the reason for terror fears

Islamic leaders fear Australia's heightened terror threat rating will victimise Muslims and deepen "Islamaphobia".

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils says the country's Muslim population – about 500,000 nationally – will be unfairly targeted and face increased prejudice due to the high terror alert announced on Friday.

Federation spokesman Keysar Trad said raising Australia's threat level to the point that a terrorist attack on Australian soil is considered likely will be a "dog whistle to hate writers in the media who will write more negative rhetoric directed at the Muslim community".

"This only increases pressure on the Muslim community and makes it even more difficult to feel like an Australian," he said.

Mr Trad said Muslims already faced unfair targeting by law enforcement and security authorities, but "what happens is that increases in times like this".

Australian Islamic Mission secretary Seyed Sheriffdeen said Friday's decision was an overreaction, and raised suspicion that it was a tactic designed to "implant fear in the minds of Australians".

"We are going back to the Howard era here, terrorising the minds of people unnecessarily," he said.

"People going to Syria and Iraq make up a very marginal number of Muslims ... ISIS are actually anti-Muslims and what they are doing is lunacy."

Dr Sheriffdeen urged the Australian government to instead address youth unemployment and work on engaging with young people to prevent them accessing extremist views.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has denied that raising the national security threat had anything to do with religion.

"This is about ensuring that this marvellous country of ours ... continues to be just that."


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Libertarian Federal MP wants pot in supermarkets, hard drugs available for addicts to break crime rings

CANNABIS should be sold in supermarkets and hard drugs be available from the Government for heroin, cocaine and ice addicts under a federal MP’s radical drug reform plan.

Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm wants to kill the power of organised crime in Australia by decriminalising drugs, opening up the market and bringing down prices.

Senator Leyonhjelm said while it might not be smart to use marijuana, it was a harmless, non-addictive drug and should be openly available. His party’s philosophy is that if a person is not hurting anyone else, the Government should stay out of their business.

Like in the fruit-and-vegetable industry, farmers should grow cannabis for sale in supermarkets and other shops, he said. And anyone should be able to grow it in their garden.

Senator Leyonhjelm believes the same open slather availability could be possible for party drugs, such as ecstasy, as long as it can be proven the only real risk is to the person taking it.

“I’m not saying they’re safe, I don’t recommend them, advise them, endorse them, no,” he said. “All I’m really saying is it’s an individual, adult choice.”

For hardcore, addictive drugs, the NSW politician suggests the Government stop wasting millions on chasing crime gangs peddling drugs and peddle them itself.

Under a “harm minimisation” model, registered addicts would get replacement drugs, such as methadone or “other options”, erasing the need to pay up big to criminals.

In the days of legal opium smoking, people lived their whole lives addicted to heroin, he said. “Because supply was never restricted, they lived a normal life and they functioned quite well.”

He said while being an addict was “not ideal”, it wasn’t destructive until you added in the desperate behaviour of scoring a fix.


Alan Jones compares Muslims to bikies and says Aussie kids know more about Koran than their own country

SHOCK jock Alan Jones left no stone unturned into attacking the Muslim community when he spoke at a senior citizens luncheon in Sydney, stating those in “religious gangs’’ should be treated like bikies.

The 2GB host went on to suggest children in schools know more about the Koran than Australian history and urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to criminally investigate anyone who travels to countries where terrorists operate.

Mr Jones was speaking at the Rotary Club of Beecroft’s annual Seniors and Retirees Luncheon which is a fundraising event for their charity work.

It began with Mr Jones singing Que Sera Sera on stage with Epping State Liberal MP Greg Smith and the Rotary Club’s Dianna Hammond.

He covered a variety of topics from climate change to rugby but kept coming back to Islam.

“You won’t get a better person than Tony Abbott,’’ Mr Jones said. “He says Islamic State are a death cult. Why don’t we say that? I’m not saying all Muslims are terrorists but I tell you, most terrorists are Muslim.

“We have bikie legislation where they are outlawed. Well this mob in Western Sydney are a religious gang. Why don’t we get in and go after them?’’

He said in the “current climate’’ Mr Abbott should nominate a list of overseas states and if an Australian travelled there, they should become the subject of a criminal investigation.

“This is where Abbott has been magnificent,’’ Mr Jones said. “I think it’s part of his Jesuits training. He’s led the world and said that Islamic State practice evil.’’

Mr Jones then moved on to the education system and its flaws.

“I’ve got little kids saying to me they want to talk about climate change,’’ he said. “They can tell you about multiculturalism, about Muslims and the Koran but they can’t tell you where Mackay is or who Bourke and Wills are. They don’t know anything about their own country.’’

The theme of Mr Jones’ speech was how the world is split into builders and wreckers. He described Mr Smith, who will step down from parliament at the next election, as a builder who was knocked down because he stuck his head up.

He also spoke about working for former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who has been highly critical of the Federal Government’s asylum seeker policy. Mr Jones described him as an “Easter Island figure” with the “personality of a dial tone’’.

Mr Jones received the widest support when he spoke about this generation needing an “attitudinal change’’.

“Don’t be preoccupied with what I can take, but what I can give,’’ he said. “The most selfish thing you can do is give because you feel so good.’’


The proposed referendum on indigenous constitutional recognition is in serious trouble

Why we need a new referendum escapes me.  The 1967 constitutional referendum has already recognized Aborigines and empowered the Federal government to legislate on their behalf

THE proposed referendum on indigenous constitutional recognition is in serious trouble, with fundamental differences over the core principle now threatening the prospect of bipartisanship.

Tony Abbott’s statement to The Weekend Australian rejecting the push to turn the referendum into a constitutional guarantee of racial non-discrimination is belated but vital. Any such notion would doom the referendum.

The risk is that Abbott’s referendum idea is being hijacked. Abbott, busy with the budget and external crises, must urgently shape this debate before it is ruine­d by false dreams.

Bill Shorten, in his speech at the Garma Festival last month, seemed to endorse “banning racis­m in our Constitution”, with an implied endorsement of a new section 116A in the Constitution as recommended by the 2012 expert panel. This provision is the kiss of death. There is no prospect this idea will be passed by the Abbott cabinet. It would be a dead duck in the Coalition partyroom. It has no traction with the conservative voting constituency. It would be rejected by large sections of the public. It would turn a referendum supposed to be about indigenous constitutional recognition into a referendum on another subject: a constitutional guarantee of racial non-discrimination, a subject that runs far beyond indigenous issues.

Given the Opposition Leader’s misjudgment, he faces two options: either retreat from his section 116A flirtation or see Coalition-Labor bipartisanship ruined, with no prospect of a successful referendum. Abbott would only put a proposal that has a real prospect of success.

With the Prime Minister saying any referendum with a constitutional anti-discrimination rights charter “will fail”, Abbott has laid down a non-negotiable marker. It is not before time.

Indigenous leaders have invested great hopes for this referendum but it only works if the proposal unifies the nation and meets Abbott’s test of “completing the Constitution”, not transforming the Constitution.

The latter is not the answer.

It would tie the referendum into the divisive issue of a constitutional charter of rights, rejected by the Rudd government several years ago. It would provoke another round in the long-running row over whether rights should be given constitutional expression, an issue long opposed by the Coalition and prominent Labor figures.

The 2012 expert committee proposed an extremely wide-ranging new section 116A, saying that neither the commonwealth, nor a state or territory, could discriminate on “grounds of race, colour or ethnic national origin”.

This runs far beyond indigenous issues. It would give judges immense new authority to make policy. It would invite litigation in a range of areas from a range of groups. It would divide the nation.

It would create an absurdity — a constitutional guarantee of rights on a racial and ethnic basis but not on grounds of sex, age or disability.


Time-limits the alternative to waiting times for the dole

Among the most controversial of the measures announced in the May budget was the move to deny 15 to 29-year-olds access to unemployment benefits for up to six months.

This waiting period would be subject to a discount of one month for every full time equivalent year worked to a maximum of five months. There would also be a six month cycle-on cycle-off period over a year.

The Abbott government has thus far not had much luck convincing the crucial crossbench senators of the merits of this scheme, which has been characterised as 'punishing' the jobless for being out of work.

The policy is about reform rather than budget cuts, as it is only estimated to save $1.2 billion over four years. It is mainly about hassling the under-30s to find work. There is some evidence to suggest that periods of joblessness early in life can have a scarring effect on people's future work prospects.

About 60% of recipients of Youth Allowance Other (the payment for 15 to 21-year-olds) have been unemployed for twelve months or more, even though people in this age bracket are aided in job search by youth wage rates. (In general, though, minimum wage rates are a barrier to employment.)

But, there are other policies the government could consider to address youth joblessness.

A CIS report last year detailed how more and more people on unemployment benefits are not required to look for work. Current policy settings mean young people without a Year 12 or equivalent qualification are not required to look for work as a condition of receiving payment. Making job search mandatory as part of the activity test for Youth Allowance Other is a good idea and one that could receive crossbench support.

The Abbott government has also proposed new 'earn or learn' measures to push young people into education and training schemes in order to retain the dole. However, this merely kicks the can down the road and means taxpayers subsidise expensive training courses that fail to produce the desired outcome. Work by CIS Senior Fellow Peter Saunders has shown that education and training are not very effective at increasing job prospects, except for a select few.

Instead of 'more training', the government should consider implementing time limits on Youth Allowance and Newstart for under-30s as an alternative to a waiting period. This would still keep assistance available to those who simply need time to find work. But it would also be clear that this assistance is strictly short-term and intended to assist with a transition to work.

Long-term welfare reliance among youth is a serious problem. Given the cross-bench hostility to waiting times for the dole, alternatives are needed. Time-limits on the dole may be more politically palatable as well, because rather than penalising those out of work, they simply encourage the unemployed to hurry up and get a job.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Immigration minister proposes releasing asylum seekers onto Australian mainland under TPV plan

Asylum seekers who arrived by boat last year could be offered temporary protection visas and allowed to live in the Australian mainland community, in a major policy backflip by the Abbott government.

Until now, asylum seekers who arrived after July 19, 2013, were subject to offshore processing after a policy change by the Rudd Labor government, which meant they would be processed in centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

The policy was adopted by the Coalition and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has consistently maintained asylum seekers who arrive by boat after July 19 would be subject to offshore processing. 

In November, Mr Morrison said: "I want to stress all those on Christmas Island who are there now - those who arrived after July 19 will be going to Nauru or Manus Island. There will be no exceptions, whether you're Syrian, Iranian, single, married, adult, child, they will all be going to Nauru or Manus Island and will not return to live in Australia."

But the minister told an audience at the National Press Club that the government was now looking at TPVs as an "alternative" option for the 2700 people, including 450 children, who arrived by boat and many of whom are being held on Christmas Island. He is currently negotiating with crossbenchers in the new Senate to reintroduce TPVs after Labor and the Greens twice blocked the controversial measure that prevents refugees from gaining permanent residence in Australia.

"Now while it will continue to be the policy of the government that anyone who arrives illegally by boat will be transferred to offshore processing . the government is open to alternatives for the earlier July 19 to December 31 caseload, but not those who may arrive now or who have already been transferred," Mr Morrison said in the speech.

"Combined with other measures, TPVs will also give the government an alternative option for those who arrived after July 19 and before the end of last year, including over 450 children. Seventy five per cent of this group, including children, turned up under the previous government and had not been transferred to offshore processing centres."

Until now, only asylum seekers who arrived before July 19 have been considered eligible for TPVs, if such a measure is reintroduced.

Mr Morrison told Fairfax Media on Wednesday it was no secret he was in negotiations with the crossbenchers, including Clive Palmer, to allow the use of TPVs.

The policy change would not affect any boats that arrived this year. The only asylum seekers travelling by boat who reached Australian shores this year arrived in July. All 157 asylum seekers have since been transferred to Nauru.

The shift could signal a disintegration in the offshore processing policy that the government has so vehemently defended.

Mr Morrison acknowledged that the processing on Papua New Guinea was "challenging".

Until now, not one asylum seeker has been resettled in the country. There are 1084 asylum seekers being detained on Manus Island.

He also said negotiations with Cambodia, which the government hopes will resettle refugees, were ongoing.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said on Wednesday the government's offshore policy was "falling apart".

"Dumping the government's commitment to offshore processing like this is a major policy backflip from the Coalition on the back of a serious policy failure," she said.

"The Abbott government has conceded that it has to process these people's claims in Australia and is simply using TPVs as a distraction."


Fishing interests loom large in Abbott government review of marine parks

The Abbott government's overdue review of Australian marine parks has been launched with representatives of the fishing industry dominating advisory panels.

The previous Labor government established a vast network of new marine reserves throughout five stretches of Australian ocean and set out rules for how much fishing could occur in each one, if any at all.

Heading into the last election the Coalition promised to tear up the management plans for the new parks and to carry out a review, claiming anglers had been locked out of the process.

As part of the review, which was formally launched on Thursday, an overarching expert scientific panel will be set up to take carriage of the process.

The expert panel will be chaired by Bob Beeton, an associate professor at the University of Queensland's School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management and the former head of the Australian Threatened Species Scientific Committee.

The government has also created five advisory panels for each region of Australian ocean where the new parks were set up - the north, north-west, the east, the south-west and the Coral Sea - which are dominated by members of the commercial or recreational fishing industries.

Details of the review had initially been promised by the government by early this year.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the review would examine the management arrangements for the new marine reserves, which had been "rushed through" by the previous government.

"Unlike the previous government, we are committed to getting the management plans and the balance of zoning right, so we have asked the expert panels to consider what management arrangements will best protect our marine environment and accommodate the many activities that Australians love to enjoy in our oceans," Mr Hunt said.

He added that the government was "determined to ensure a science-based review of Commonwealth marine reserves and zoning boundaries, while maintaining our strong commitment to the marine reserves and their estates."

But Michelle Grady, Oceans director for Pew Australia, said the review was unnecessary, created more red tape and was a threat to Australia's marine protection.

"Regardless of who they put on these panels, this puts Australia's marine protection at risk and also the Liberal Party legacy of putting in place large and important marine parks," Ms Grady said.

"It's the Liberal Party who started this [protection] in the Fraser and Howard years."


TAFE response to Industry Minister Hon Ian Macfarlane’s removal of some vocational education regulation

TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) today applauded announcements by the federal government to remove red tape under the regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), and provide greater delegations to low risk vocational educational and training providers.

TDA has strongly argued that the cost and burden to the nation’s TAFE Institutes of regulation and the ‘VET bureaucracy’ has got out of hand.

Martin Riordan, Chief Executive of TDA, said the ‘one size fits all’ approach to regulation adopted by ASQA had failed to adequately recognise that low-risk Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) such as TAFEs need less regulation.  By changing the alignment, as the Minister has announced today, ASQA will be directed to focus its resource on weeding out those high-risk providers that are having a negative impact on quality across the VET system.

Martin Riordan said: “TDA welcomes the changes announced by the Minister today in both regulation and the way Training Packages will be managed.

“These are steps in the right direction - however we urge the Minister not to stop there.

“The nation’s TAFE Institutes are high performance, low-risk providers. TAFEs should receive delegation to manage their own scope of course registration and have the ability to accredit courses.”

TDA is currently reviewing the operations of ASQA, and delegations, and will report to Minister Macfarlane and the Department of Industry’s VET Reform Taskforce as early as next week, on how delegations may better operate – for public and private low risk registered RTOs.

Martin Riordan added: “Another big overhead cost for TAFE Institutes and VET providers generally has been the multiple and frequent changes or ‘churn’ to Training Packages, documented by ASQA under the Industry Skill Councils (ISCs).

“TDA supports the Minister’s announcement today that a more competitive environment may operate for Training Packages. We also acknowledge that industry’s frustration with the current VET system needs to be urgently addressed.”

Martin Riordan said TDA had released a Policy Position Paper arguing that Australian VET public funding be allocated to skill sets and not restricted to the time-based qualification based solely on Training Packages set by ISCs.


New in-school program allows students to start their own business

A NEW pilot program giving students from across Victoria an exciting opportunity to unleash their creativity and boost their innovation, enterprise and financial literacy skills was officially launched today at Carrum Downs Secondary College.

The $20 Boss program has been developed by The Foundation for Young Australians in partnership with National Australia Bank (NAB) and the Victorian Government and will soon begin in schools across Victoria.

Through the pilot, students are given the opportunity to plan, budget and market their business idea, and then one month to run their business.

Minister for Youth Affairs Ryan Smith said the Victorian Government was thrilled to support the program, which would help students get ready to take on the world of work.

"$20 Boss is a fantastic way to engage young people - not only does it allow them to build enterprise skills and boost their confidence, it also makes them more likely to be job creators in future," Mr Smith said.

NAB General Manager, Small Business David Bannatyne said NAB was proud to support an innovative program like $20 Boss.

"We're the bank behind small business in Australia, which is why we want to encourage and inspire a new generation of young Australians to start their own business and create their own opportunities for the future" he said.

"Introducing young people to the idea of a purpose-driven business and showing them how businesses can create both commercial and social value will have great flow-on effects not only for the students involved but also for the wider community."

Foundation for Young Australians CEO Jan Owen said the students with the best and brightest ideas and businesses would be celebrated with awards at an event to showcase the innovation and success of students throughout Victoria.

"Unleashing the creativity of young people is crucial in preparing them for their future roles as innovators and creators of social change so we're very excited about the potential of the $20 Boss program," she said.

"Rethinking business education in this way is critical in tapping into the incredible potential of this generation of students for entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.

"There has never been a generation so willing or so able to embrace and create change."

The $20 Boss program is made possible through a $1.3 million commitment from principal partner NAB and a $200,000 investment from the Victorian Government to support the development of the educational tools and resources to build enterprise and financial literacy.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Who was to blame for this death in custody?

Clementine Ford below doesn't really know.  She even admits that the woman may have died from something she had before she was taken into custody.  She nonetheless suggests that the woman died because she was an Aborigine. There is no doubt that the woman received poor healthcare from a government hospital but is it only Aborigines who receive poor healthcare from government hospitals? 

It is not.  Almost every day in the Daily Mail one can read cases where ordinary (white) Brits failed to receve appropriate heathcare from British government hospitals despite many hospital visits.  And they do sometimes die as a result. 

So I will tell you what Clemmie (who is a radical feminist) would never tell.  The woman died because of the insanity of having uncaring government employees running hospitals.  Most Australians know that from contact with their own government hospitals  -- which is why around 40% of Australians have private hospital insurance

Clemmie also displays typical Leftist dishonesty below.  She says, as if it proved something, that "Aboriginal people make up only 2.3% of the Australian population, yet they accounted for around 18% of deaths in custody".  She totally ignored the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which found that the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody has been roughly commensurate with the fraction of prison inmates who are Aboriginal.

Clemmie is an embittered crook and all the lipstick in the world won't hide it

In terms of infrastructure, Australia is a developed nation. We have a (mostly) affordable healthcare system, access to effective medical intervention and a welfare system that, while imperfect, is still more comprehensive than many other countries. So why do we still hear stories of people who have been so grossly failed by the system that they have become casualties to it?

Last week, the compassionate among us were rocked by revelations that an asylum seeker imprisoned on Manus Island had lapsed into a coma which rendered him brain dead after a cut on his foot was left untreated and became septic. A cut. In response, vigils were held where citizens called once again on the government to apply some basic humanity to the treatment of asylum seekers.

And yet, this despicable disregard for human lives deemed less worthy as a result of Australia's institutionalised racism is not limited to those unfortunate souls who have the temerity to seek safety on our shores. Just over a month ago, a 22 year old woman in Port Hedland died while in police custody. Her crime? Ostensibly, the failure to pay a $1000 fine.

But maybe it was also just that she was Aboriginal.

In early August, the young Yamatji woman (whose name we will refer to only as `Miss Dhu' and whose photograph we will not publish in accordance with her family's wishes) was incarcerated for four days alongside her partner for failing to pay a fine. In WA, recipients of fines can elect to pay them off in custody at a rate of $250 a day, a policy which the shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt believes helps to maintain the persistently high rate of incarceration of Indigenous people while failing to address the underlying issues which might lead to this.

And so it was that Miss Dhu ended up police custody. Despite complaining early on of experiencing severe pain, vomiting and even partial paralysis (which may have been as a result of a septic infection relating to a blood blister on her foot acquired prior to her arrest), Miss Dhu was twice released from the local Hedland Health Campus after being deemed fit to return to the watchhouse. Incredibly, it has been reported that these decisions were made despite Miss Dhu not being seen by a doctor in either visit. Her partner Dion Ruffin has alleged that as she grew increasingly sicker, police laughed and accused her of acting. Around midday on August 4, Miss Dhu made her final visit to the Hedland Health Campus while in a `near catatonic state'.

Shortly after, she was pronounced dead.

This is an horrific outcome, by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, shamefully, it took me almost a full month to even hear about Miss Dhu, let alone the circumstances surrounding her death. And while I don't wish to further disempower Aboriginal communities by assuming to speak for them, I do want to express my horror at the fact that something like this can happen and not cause even the vaguest ripple across mainstream Australian media. Even now, the most comprehensive reporting I can find is on the independent websites The Stringer and the Deaths In Custody Watch Committee WA, while SBS and The Australian have published a handful of pieces. When I spoke to my editor about writing this piece, she confessed she had also not heard about it.

How does such deafening silence happen without the complicity - conscious or not - of a nation all too comfortable with ignoring the systemic racism and oppression inflicted on some of our most routinely degraded citizens?

Aboriginal people make up only 2.3% of the Australian population, yet they accounted for around 18% of deaths in custody between 1980 and 2007. To put a human face on that, 379 Aboriginal people died while in police custody during this period. Between 2008 and 2012, a further 54 Aboriginal people have died while incarcerated. Despite a 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, most of its 339 recommendations (made in its final report in 1991) have never been implemented - recommendations which some people say might have saved Miss Dhu's life.

Why are we so slow to respond to crises involving the treatment of Aboriginal people? Only one person on Twitter raised the issue with me, which was the first I'd heard of it. This silence may be wilful or it may be accidental - either way, it's a shameful indictment on Australia's attitudes towards Aboriginal self determination, autonomy and dignity.

Miss Dhu was a person with as meaningful and complex an identity as anybody else. And while the relative anonymity I have chosen to write about her with may seem isolating to readers used to being provided with names and faces as a point of connection, in the end this may be the most damning point of all. That for an Aboriginal woman living in the Pilbara, death in custody was a fate more likely to befall her than it is me, a middle class white woman living in inner city Melbourne.

Wider society can think of her as faceless and unimportant, just another nameless person whose death can pass us by. Or we can think of her as a symbol for all Aboriginal people disenfranchised by the system, whose oppression is aided by those of us who form part of and benefit from White Australia. She may be a single person of importance whose face can carry the weight of all those unacknowledged deaths, all that ignored pain and suffering.

A person who doesn't matter, or a matter for all persons. Which do you choose?


Climate change deniers raise the heat on the Bureau of Meteorology

By Michael Brown (Michael Brown is an astronomer at Monash University's School of Physics)

A lot of airy generalizations from Mr Brown below but no actual figures.  The work he criticizes DID give the figures.  He sniffs at the qualifications of the skeptics but are his qualifications any more relevant?  What has an expert on the stars got to do with terrestrial climate?

Australia is without a science minister for the first time in decades and some scientists now refer to the missing minister as "our invisible friend". The absent minister symbolises the current ambivalence of the Australian political right to science.

That ambivalence turns to open hostility when it comes to climate science. Five years ago Tony Abbott dismissed the science of climate change as "absolute crap" and that statement still resonates. Now, we are seeing more worrying developments.

Scientists hiding and manipulating data? Mysterious time travelling forces? Easily debunked myths being repeated as facts? Plucky amateurs and bloggers saving us from professional scientists?

Such notions are traits of pseudoscience and would be mocked if being promoted by crystal healers. Unfortunately we are hearing such nonsense being repeated by right wing media, government advisors and MPs.

Over the past few weeks there has been a concerted attack on the Bureau of Meteorology's temperature data. That data, taken with dozens of weather stations, shows temperatures increasing across Australia over the past century.

The warming trend is clear from both raw data and processed "homogenised" data. The homogenised data accounts for changes in data quality, including artificial jumps in temperature produced by relocating weather stations. For example, in rural towns many weather stations were moved from post offices to airports.

The Australian newspaper is publishing attacks on the Bureau's temperature record and the homogenisation process. These attacks are not based on published scientific studies, but instead rely heavily on the claims of former Institute of Public Affairs fellow, biologist and blogger Jennifer Marohasy.

The attacks use the pseudoscience tactic of selecting just a few towns where the homogenisation removes artificial cooling, while ignoring more towns where both the raw and homogenised data show warming. A few potential errors in the data have been highlighted, while ignoring the fact that warming across Australia is seen in both raw and homogenised data utilising millions of individual measurements.

These attacks on the Bureau of Meteorology have combined sloppiness with denigrating professional scientists. Is the Bureau really unwilling to provide 20th century data for town of Bourke? No, that data is freely available from the Bureau's website. Was the vital Stevenson Screen dumped from the Bourke weather station in 1996? No, the Bureau's catalogue has a photo of the Stevenson Screen at Bourke's current weather station. Is the Bureau hiding its methods? No, Blair Trewin details the Bureau's methods in a scientific paper.

Despite the attacks on Bureau of Meteorology having little basis in fact, they are gaining traction amongst right wing MPs and commentators. Backbench MP George Christensen tweeted "It's time for an official investigation of Bureau's handling of temperature records". Columnist Miranda Devine has claimed the Bureau's actions are "fraudulent".

Before commentators and politicians get too excited, they should remember similar claims have been made before. In New Zealand climate change deniers launched a court case making similar claims about that country's temperature record. They lost the case and have been avoiding paying the taxpayers' costs since.

The connection between pseudoscience and politics becomes even clearer when we look at the contributions of Maurice Newman, the chairman of the prime minister's Business Advisory Council.

In two recent opinion pieces, Newman warns of imminent global cooling caused by variability of the sun, rather than global warming. In some instances Newman misrepresents expert opinion when constructing his case. For example, while Newman cites Professor Mike Lockwood's research, Lockwood himself has stated that solar variability may decrease warming by "between 0.06 and 0.1 degrees Celsius, a very small fraction of the warming we're due to experience as a result of human activity".

Newman also relies on climate skeptic David Archibald for expert opinion on climate. Archibald, who isn't a scientist, has been warning of global cooling for some years now, and has previously made cooling predictions that have not eventuated.

Archibald's most recent claims invoke a new force of nature. This force hasn't been observed by anyone, but is the invention of (anthropogenic) climate change deniers desperately trying to downplay the impact of carbon dioxide. Compounding the hubris of inventing new forces without evidence, this force travels through time, with reaction following action after an 11-year delay. This could be an amusing Dr Who plot device, but has zero connection with real world physics.

The current attacks on climate science are embracing pseudoscience. They are a desperate attempt to deny a century of science that proves global warming has occurred and will continue to do so. This is a denial of a century of science, from the physics of radiative transfer to increasing ocean heat content. Unfortunately this denial is being fully embraced by sections of the Australian media and parliament.


Logan Islamic book store raided

The 31-year-old brother of Australia's first suicide bomber is among two men arrested following an Australian Federal Police raid on an Islamic book store south of Brisbane.

Omar Succarieh of Kuraby, and an as-yet unnamed 21-year-old man from Boronia Heights were taken into custody after police raided iQraa Islamic Centre at Underwood on Wednesday morning, along with eight other addresses.

Mr Succarieh's brother Ahmed was investigated over an incident in Syria in September 2013 when a truck laden with explosives was driven into a military checkpoint.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan, the national manager for counter terrorism, said 180 AFP and Queensland police officer executed nine search warrants in Logan and southern Brisbane on Wednesday following a 12-month investigation.

Mr Succarieh was charged with providing funds to Syrian terrorist organisation Jabhat al-Nusra. He was also charged over plans to enter Syria to "engage in hostile activity".

The 21-year-old was charged over "preparations for incursions into Syria, with the intentions of engaging in hostile activities".  He was also charged with recruiting people to commit the same acts.

Among the items seized during the raids was electronic data and one firearm, which Mr Gaughan said prompted Wednesday's raids due to the "public safety concerns".  "We really had no option but to proceed today," he said.

Mr Gaughan said neither man had recently been in Syria.  Both will appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday morning. Mr Gaughan said police would oppose bail for both men.

There was no evidence to suggest the two men were involved in domestic terrorism attack planning, Mr Gaughan said.

Mr Gaughan said it was unclear whether holes in the wall at the iQraa Islamic Centre were caused by bullets.

"The forensic process needs to take its course and it's too early to speculate they are bullet holes," he said.

Queensland Assistant Commissioner Gayle Hogan said there was no risk posed to the upcoming G20 summit, which will be held in Brisbane in November.

Calls to the iQraa Islamic Centre went unanswered. Outside the store, iQraa Islamic Centre customer Abu Amaan came to the centre's defence.  "It's just a simple bookstore selling perfumes to Qu'arans," he said.  "There's nothing radical whatsoever. I just don't understand all the hysteria."  "Every Tom, Dick and Harry goes in there. They're very welcoming."

Mr Amaan said he believed the raid was unfounded.  "I think it's just instilling fear in the Muslim community," he said.

Carpet Court owner Eliseo Censori, whose business was next door to the iQraa Islamic Centre, said police needed a locksmith to get access to the premises.   "When we came in this morning at about 7am, there were about five police," he said.  "The place looked locked.  "Withing three quarters of an hour, there were about 30 of them."

Mr Censori described staff at the centre as "really quite friendly and pleasent".

Another business neighbour, 99 Bikes salesman Steve Wilson, said they never any issues with the centre.  "It's a bit of a shock and everyone's talking about it," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman revealed he held an urgent meeting with Police Commissioner Ian Stewart to discuss G20 security in Brisbane after reports Australia's terrorism threat level could be increased.

Outgoing ASIO chief David Irvine told the ABC he was actively considered raising Australia's terror threat level from medium to high.

Mr Newman said he had been kept appraised of the situation as Brisbane prepared to host the G20 in November this year.  "What has been conveyed to me is that there are heightened threats to Australians but again I stress that we just won't let that roll on," he said.

"We are working very hard with the Commonwealth authorities to make sure we do protect Queenslanders and you can be assured of that.  "There has always been a very strong security response around the G20.

"We have international leaders we have been preparing for a proper security operation in this city and we have done everything we can to make sure we run a very positive and safe G20."

Mr Newman said increased security and special legislation would help protect world leaders and Queenslanders from a terrorist attack during the G20.  "We have been preparing for a proper security operation in this city," he said.  "We have done everything we can to ensure we run a very positive and safe G20 that highlights everything Queensland and Brisbane has to offer the world."


Private schools give more homework but produce no academic advantage says OECD

It appears that the nub of this report is the clause highlighted in red below.  Why should private schools worry that their existence does not lift up other schools?  They are paid to help their own students and it appears that they do that

Australian private school students spend two hours a week more on homework than their public school counterparts but do not perform better academically when socio-economic advantage is taken into account, according to a major report into educational performance around the world.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Education at a Glance 2014 report also finds Australian students spend more time in the classroom than anywhere else in the developed world even though they are increasingly being outperformed by students in other countries.

The report finds Australian private school students spend 7.4 hours a week on homework, an extra-curricular workload that is among the highest in the developed world. Australian public school students spend 5.1 hours on homework a week, just above the OECD average of 4.9 hours a week. Students in Shanghai, China, top the world by spending 13.8 hours on homework a week.

The report found a greater disparity in academic performance between Australian public and private school students than the OECD average, based on the mathematics results of 15-year old students in the 2012 PISA tests.

Australian private school students achieved an average score 37 points higher than public school students, above the OECD average of 28 points. But - in a trend seen across the world - there was no statistically significant difference between the results of private and public school students when the economic, social and cultural status of students and schools was accounted for.

Public schools outperformed private schools in 12 countries when socio-economic status was accounted for while private schools outperformed public schools in eight countries.

"Thus, private schools - and public schools with students from socio-economically advantaged backgrounds - benefit the individual students who attend them; but there is no evidence to suggest that private schools help to raise the level of performance of the school system as a whole," the report says.

There was no significant difference in average class sizes between Australian public and private schools: public schools have a mean class size of 22.4 compared to 22.8 in private schools.

Australian students spend more than 10,000 hours in compulsory primary and early secondary schooling, well above the OECD average of 7475 hours. The 2012 PISA results showed Australia had slipped to 17th out of 65 countries in mathematics.

The report finds the number of Australian children in early education still lags behind the rest of the world but is increasing. Eighteen per cent of Australian three-year-olds were enrolled in pre-primary education in 2012, up from 13 per cent the previous year but well below the OECD average of 70 per cent. Seventy-six per cent of four-year-olds were enrolled in early childhood or primary education, up from 67 per cent the year before.

Australia spends only 0.1 per cent of GDP on pre-primary education - compared to 0.8 per cent in Chile or Denmark - and only 45 per cent of spending on early childhood learning is publicly funded. This compares to an OECD average of 81 per cent public funding.

The report finds Australian men with a university degree will be $152,700 better off over a lifetime than those with only high school qualifications. This is above the OECD average but less than in the United States, where men with a university degree are $228,700 better off. Australian women with a degree are $91,300 better off than those with secondary qualifications.

Forty-one per cent of Australians aged 25 to 64 have tertiary qualifications, above the OECD average of 32 per cent. Young Australian women are now more likely to have a university degree than men: 53 per cent of women aged 25-34 have a degree compared to 42 per cent of men.

International students account for 18 per cent of tertiary enrolments in Australia, second only behind Luxembourg in the OECD.