Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kevvy's "stacked" summit

"Branch stacking" is a well-known ALP pursuit and Kevvy's selection of "delegates" for his ideas summit shows that he is a dab hand at it too. A few years ago, two thirds of Australians voted in favour of the monarchy. So did two thirds of Kevvy's delegates feel that way too? Read on:

Monarchists and some participants have left the 2020 Summit less than impressed. Those against severing ties with the Crown yesterday called the summit stacked after it was used to place the republic on the national agenda. A staggering 98 per cent of 2020 summiteers were confessed republicans. At the weekend, GetUp activist Brett Solomon asked those in the governance stream if anyone opposed a republic. Only one delegate, Liberal senator George Brandis, declared himself a monarchist. Former governor-general Sir William Deane [A well-known bleeding heart] abstained. "This is a better result than Mugabe has managed in the Zimbabwean elections," monarchist David Flint said.

It has also been revealed at least 10 per cent of participants were members of GetUp, the Left-leaning activist group. But it wasn't just the monarchists who were disillusioned. Former Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal said many good ideas at the summit had been "lost in translation". "What was discussed on the groups, a lot dropped off or was unrecognisable," Dr Haikerwal said. "But more, some ideas got extremely high prominence when they were in no shape or form agreed to."

Clean Up Australia founder Ian Kiernan said the summit was a success but some good ideas had been ignored. "I was shut out at one stage," Mr Kiernan said. "I was told: 'You've had enough say'. I didn't appreciate that." Mr Kiernan also criticised the coal industry lobbyists in the environment group. "The coal industry is made up of multinationals, which mostly couldn't give a damn about the place," he said.

ANZ economist Saul Eslake said he enjoyed his weekend in the creative stream. But Mr Eslake expressed concern the event had been taken over by professional management consultants in the facilitators' roles.

Melbourne barrister Julian Burnside [A well-known Lefty], in the governance stream, said the summit went extraordinarily well. "There was excitement about it all, including from people with whom I would not normally be agreeing on things," Mr Burnside said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last night reaffirmed his commitment to a republic. "The Australia of the 21st century will be a republic," he told the ABC's 7.30 Report. Mr Rudd said he would proceed slowly. "We lost the last referendum nearly 10 years ago," he said. "We don't want to lose the next one." [The people must be made to vote correctly!]

Environment Minister Peter Garrett joined GetUp yesterday to launch a remix of the Kev Carmody-Paul Kelly song From Little Things Big Things Grow, featuring Mr Rudd and former PM Paul Keating.


Australia expands

Australia has secured a potential oil and gas "bonanza'' after netting an extra 2.5 million square kilometres of seabed. Exploration has already taken place in some of the areas that could potentially deliver the nation billions of dollars worth of oil and gas reserves and help secure its energy future. The extension to Australia's territorial jurisdiction stems from the findings of a United Nations commission on the limits of the continental shelf and the ratification of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea. The decision gives Australia the rights to whatever exists on the seabed in the area, including oil and gas, and biological resources such as micro-organisms that could potentially be used to develop medicines.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said he could not put a figure on the potential oil and gas reserves contained in the areas, but that it was a major boost to Australia's offshore resource potential. "The truth of the matter is that they have been hardly explored,'' he said. "This is potentially a bonanza. We have got unknown capacity up there.''

Mr Ferguson said the UN decision means Australia now has jurisdiction over an area of the continental shelf that is almost five times the size of France, 10 times the size of New Zealand and 20 times the size of the United Kingdom. He said the decision also improves Australia's chances of securing its energy future, and that of other nations. "As you can appreciate when you sit down and talk to countries such as Japan, Korea, India and China the big issue they want from us is security of supply and that goes to the energy security debate,'' he said. "We do need to find another Bass Strait or alternatively develop alternative fuels, such as gas-to-liquids and coal liquids, because the issue of energy security goes squarely to the question of transport fuels.''

But the government has again ruled out exploration of the Antarctic mainland and waters around it. "We have always acknowledged the Antarctic treaty and already have locked in as a nation no minerals exploration in that Antarctic region,'' Mr Ferguson said. He also ruled out exploration of McDonald Island, west of Antarctica. "We've always as a nation basically treated that as off-limits.''

Mr Ferguson was unable to put a timeline on when oil companies might begin mining the seabed for oil or gas deposits. However, some "pre-competitive'' exploration has already taken place, revealing the areas included in the extended jurisdiction have the potential to yield some major gas and oil finds. Geoscience Australia geologist Mark Alcock, who was the project leader for the Law of the Sea and Maritime Boundaries Project, said the Great Australian Bight, Lord Howe Rise, south west of Lord Howe Island, and the Wallaby and Exmouth Plateaus all had mining potential. "Surveys are being undertaken in the Lord Howe Rise region ... looking at the petroleum prospectivity of the seabed in that area,'' he said. It's one of the areas Geoscience Australia has been looking at for this pre-competitive work ... (and) there are similarities with areas that oil has been found in closer to Australia.''

Mr Alcock said that of greenfield areas that had been explored, the Great Australian Bight was considered to be quite "prospective''. "The Great Australian Bight has been looked at to some extent (and) is probably considered a little more prospective than Lord Howe Rise - it's a bit more conventional as a place to find oil,'' he said. "There's evidence in particular that there are source rocks in the region, rocks that will produce oil ... it's in fact there's very large pile of sediments and you find oil in these sediments.''

He said the Wallaby and Exmouth Plateaus in the west also had potential. "They're areas that are lying west of the big gas fields that are found in Western Australia. The Exmouth Plateau in particular is considered prospective, obviously because it's a major gas province in the in-shore.'' Mr Alcock said it was possible that some of the areas under pre-competitive exportation could go to tender within the next couple of years.


Illiteracy blamed for shortage of skills

The high level of illiteracy is contributing to Australia's dramatic skill shortage, the nation's key small business group says. The Council of Small Business of Australia chief executive Tony Steven said data which showed almost half of the adult population had difficulty with literacy and numeracy was a "major impediment" to employment. "This is a matter that deserves urgent attention to address a presently unsatisfactory situation," he said. "Inadequate literacy and numeracy skills mean that even in a time of severe skill shortage many job applicants have to be rejected."

According to the ABS Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey 2006, 45.2 per cent of South Australians aged 15 to 74 have skills below the basic level required to deal with everyday life. The survey found that 45.2 per cent have difficulty in literacy such as reading newspapers, 45.9 per cent have difficulty with document literacy such as bus timetables and 45.9 per cent have difficulty with simple mathematics. Mr Steven said the burden of this deficiency would be felt by the individual and by their family, their community and eventually by the state.

"Low levels of literacy mean that a person does not have the ability to gain adequate knowledge about any subject or matter and therefore they will always be deficient in performance in all aspects of their life," he said.


Lord mayors, Rudd to talk binge drinking

Hey! I've got a great idea: Why not try prohibition>?

Binge drinking will be a key topic for discussion when Australia's capital city lord mayors meet Prime Minister Kevin Rudd this afternoon. Adelaide Lord Mayor Michael Harbison will lead the group, which will also consider issues such as traffic congestion, climate change and broadband. Mr Harbison says cities are a typical environment for binge drinking. "The Prime Minister is very concerned about the issue of binge drinking," he said. "There's no doubt that this is an issue that principally takes place in cities, but this is an issue that we can work together to manage and we welcome the Prime Minister's interest in the issue."

Mr Harbison says the meeting will also need to concentrate on the need for affordable housing that brings residents closer to essential services. "In a way that offers much better access to social services, to health services, educational services and indeed quality of life to people that are occupying affordable housing, rather than an approach which is the continuous extension of urban boundaries," he said.


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