Saturday, August 01, 2009

PM Kevin Rudd admits 50,000 green jobs not new

KEVIN Rudd has conceded the vast bulk of the "50,000 new green jobs, traineeships and apprenticeships" he announced as the centrepiece of the opening of the ALP conference are not "new" or "jobs". Government ministers continued to be confused yesterday about the nature of the Prime Minister's announcement that there would be "50,000 new green jobs and training opportunities to build a stronger and greener Australian economy".

Mr Rudd and Julia Gillard also conceded that Employment Participation Minister, Mark Arbib, had made a mistake and not had "the best of days" when he did not have the detail of the Prime Minister's scheme, or know whether young people recruited to clear bushland would be paid full time or left on unemployment benefits as part of a work-for-the-dole scheme.

Linking the creation of new jobs and caring for the environment is part of the government's strategy to reassure people there will be "green jobs and training" -- such as cleaning parkland and training on installing insulation -- in Australia after the introduction of an emissions trading scheme.

Ms Gillard, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment, said yesterday it wasn't important where the money came from for the jobs and training. What was important was equipping young Australians for a "carbon-constrained economy".

But Malcolm Turnbull said the announcement of 50,000 new jobs and training places was "phoney". "The Prime Minister stood up and announced 50,000 new jobs -- it is simply not true," the Opposition Leader said. "There are 6000 jobs in the package and they're not new," he said.

Mr Rudd, speaking on Melbourne radio 3AW, conceded the 6000 jobs had been negotiated earlier but said the funding was "absolutely new". The government's $94 million package is to help train apprentices and young people, he said. A further 10,000 places will be available in a new national Greens Jobs Corps for six months, during which time eligible unemployed people under 25 will have a training allowance added to their Youth Allowance or Newstart payment.


The real cost of "Green" electricity is beginning to bite in Western Australia

The cost of renewable energy will rise significantly tomorrow with WA customers paying nearly twice what they paid six months ago. Government-run energy retailer Synergy has increased the price of every green power option they provide, outraging environmental groups and users of renewable energy. The move comes just weeks after Murdoch University energy economist Adam McHugh warned that if the state continued to favour “dirty” industry over renewable projects, consumers would pay.

Synergy says the price increase reflect the cost of supplying green energy to WA. “While the fuel sources of renewable energy are inexpensive, the other costs associated with it are not, including the initial infrastructure cost, network costs, back-up generation and the like which are factors in the full cost of renewable energy,” Synergy head of corporate affairs Andrew Gasper said.

Solar energy producer for Wise Earth - and Order of Australia recipient - Garry Baverstock said the unsubstantiated and unpublicised price hike was sending shock waves through the renewable energy sector and supporters of green energy initiatives. “While Synergy customers are still coming to terms with the recent 25 per cent price rise that took place on 1 April and 1 July respectively, people buying green energy are soon to be slugged with up to a further 20 per cent price hike,” Mr Baverstock said.

Synergy offered three main green options to residential consumers, including blocks of green energy called EasyGreen, NaturalPower where you pay extra for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) and Earth Friendly which allows you to offset carbon released by consuming coal or gas fired alternatives. Blocks of green power valued at $30 on an EasyGreen plan were worth 682kWh, but as of tomorrow customers will receive only 492kWh for the same money. “If you are on a NaturalPower plan you are currently paying an extra 4.4 cents per kilowatt hour and as tomorrow you will be paying 6.1 cents per kilowatt-hour,” Mr Baverstock said. “If anything, there should be no difference in whether a person wants to buy renewable or non-renewable power.”

WA is currently one of the dirtiest states in the nation. Just 3.8 per cent of WA's energy is generated from renewable sources.

Gary Warden, a NaturalPower consumer and Al Gore Ambassador, said the Synergy price hike will reinforce Western Australia's position as the worst in the country in regard to adapting to green power. “According to the Federal Government’s GreenPower program and Australian Bureau of Statistics data less than one per cent of Western Australians purchase green energy compared to 16 per cent in Victoria, between 12 and 13 per cent in Queensland and South Australia, between eight and nine per cent in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory,” Mr Warden said. “If anything, we Western Australians and our representative government enterprises need to take a long hard look at ourselves to see what we can do to catch up with the rest of Australia,” he said.

Synergy said it is committed to increasing generation from renewable sources in WA. "This is demonstrated by Synergy signing memoranda of understanding for the supply of new and emerging renewable energy technologies, namely with New World Energy supporting the development of geothermal energy and Carnegie Corporation, supporting the development of wave energy," Mr Gasper said. "By supporting these technologies, Synergy is not only facilitating investment in research and development in these new and emerging technologies, but will also increase the diversity of its renewable energy portfolio if and when the technologies are available on a commercial scale."


School wins battle with bureaucratic bullies over wasted "stimulus" money

Wow! They actually now get to do something useful with the money -- but only after big publicity

A DISSIDENT primary school principal who blew the whistle on bungling within the government's $14.7 billion Building the Education Revolution program has won his way. The school, in Melbourne's outer southeast, was originally offered a $3 million gym, even though it already had a gym. It was told to accept the gym or lose its share of money in the first funding round in March.

But now, after spilling the beans in The Australian, Berwick Lodge Primary School principal Henry Grossek says Victorian education authorities have caved in to his demands for a library and new classrooms instead. Mr Grossek has urged other schools to resist bureaucratic bullying. "In speaking out we haven't been penalised," he told The Weekend Australian yesterday. "It's a tick for the federal government. Some principals are now ruing the decision to keep quiet."

The veteran principal was pictured on the front page of The Australian last month after he wrote a scathing open letter detailing claims of bullying, incompetence and dubious accounting in his school's upgrade. When his school was allocated $3m to build a second gym it did not want or need, Mr Grossek obtained an independent valuation that put its cost at $1.65m. He then told state officials the school wanted a library and some classrooms to the full value of the grant.

"If you stand up and make a stand in a professional manner, and you are supported by the community, you give other people confidence in doing that," he said yesterday. "After I spoke out, other principals came out in our region and spoke out. "It had an impact on others who would have (otherwise) been a bit fearful to speak out. "We were also taking a stand against bullying and harassment. You don't stop bullying by pretending it is not there or giving in to that kind of behaviour."

Mr Grossek said Victorian officials had since been instructed that his school be given the library and six classrooms it had originally sought. And it could spend any leftover funds on a "companion project", up to the total value of $3m. The Victorian Department of Education confirmed yesterday that Berwick Lodge would be given the library and six classrooms, although it made no mention in its response to The Weekend Australian about a "companion project".

A spokesman said the department had worked closely with schools to "ensure that the best results for the school and local community" could be achieved within the BER guidelines. "In some cases this working relationship has resulted in solutions being negotiated and proposals being modified," he said. "In all cases the best interests of the school community and their future needs has been paramount." [Blah, blah, blah!]

The Queensland Education Department this week gagged its school principals from speaking to the media. "If your school is contacted by a journalist to request information held by the school ... it will have to be referred to the (department's) media manager," says a letter circulated to schools this week. The ban flies in the face of calls by federal Education Minister Julia Gillard this week for a "raging debate" about education, when she urged the media to interview teachers and school leaders.

"Let's fill the newspapers with a raging debate, a passionate debate about the future of our education system," she said in a speech on Wednesday. "I'd like to see our newspapers speak to every one of Australia's 9500 school principals and report every word they say. "I'd like to see our newspapers surveying teachers and parents on what is happening at their local school." [She knows how hopeless the bureaucrats are too]

The Queensland's Education Department's media unit yesterday refused to give a reason for the gag. [Reason? Who needs a reason? Secrecy is just a normal reflex for them. If people knew all that went on there would be no end of trouble]


Australia: A nation of immigrants

I imagine that Israel still tops the league by far when we look at the proportion of people living in a country who were not actually born in that country. Even apart from millions of Russians and a few Americans out of a total population of about 6 million, Israel has a couple of hundred thousand illegals from Islamic countries living there too -- surprising though that no doubt will be to most non-Israelis. And if you count illegals, America is once again a nation with a lot of immigrants too. But the figures below probably put Australia second to Israel in proportion of non-native-born. Not mentioned below is that the Australian population total is just over 20 million and about 10% of those are East Asian, mostly Han Chinese, in ancestry.

Although there is no doubt that Australians and Britons have proudly different cultures and traditions and are not slow to say so, the differences are in absolute terms quite small, particularly when we realize that there is a great deal of diversity within Britain itself. So that someone from the Home Counties (say) who visits Australia will experience a transition not unlike visiting Yorkshire, though with much better weather and greater prosperity, of course.

So the fact that over a million out of 20 million Australians were actually born on the other side of the world in Britain should be no surprise. They could almost be in just another region of England. Again something unmentioned below, however, is that the immigrant Brits in Australia are mostly from North of Watford. That information will mean nothing to most of the world but Brits sure know what it means. Putting it formally, it means that most British immigrants are from regional England rather than metropolitan England

Nearly 60 per cent of Australia's population growth is from migration, and the United Kingdom still remains the greatest source of new emigrants. New Australian immigration statistics have shown that Britons make up the greatest amount of migrants to Australia.

The latest Australian immigration figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows 5.5 million Australians, or around a quarter of the population, were born overseas.

Around 213,000 people migrated to Australia in 2007/08, that is 60 per cent of the nation's population growth, and the majority of the new arrivals (60 per cent) were aged between 15 and 34.

The United Kingdom is greatest source with 1.2 million people who were born in Britain now living in the country after emigrating to Australia.

The figures show people from more than 200 countries resettled in Australia in 2007/08 with New Zealand, China, India and Italy also high on the list as sources of migrants to Australia.

The most popular state destination for people arriving from overseas was NSW, although Queensland is the most popular choice in terms of domestic migration.

More than 360,000 Australians moved interstate in 2007/08 with people aged 20 to 34 representing about 40 per cent of that figure.


Rudd government firmly against "same-sex marriage"

THE Rudd government will consider the registration of gay and lesbian partnerships but will not budge on civil unions.

Advocates of same-sex marriage are holding rallies across the country to call for a change in Australian laws. In Sydney, rally organisers expect possibly thousands of people to march from Town Hall to the ALP national conference at Darling Harbour, where they will demand that gay and lesbian couples be allowed to marry. It is expected more than 60 couples will illegally wed outside the conference venue. Similar ceremonies are being held elsewhere. The issue is due to be debated on the floor of the conference on Saturday morning.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland indicated the government was firm in its position. "We are committed to marriage as being defined as between a man and a woman," Mr McClelland told reporters. "The bottom line is that any outcome must recognise that marriage is between a man and a woman; that won't change. "We have indicated we support a nationally consistent framework, consistent with Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT, and they don't support a civil union."

The ACT last year shelved plans to enshrine same-sex civil unions in law after pressure from the Rudd government. Same-sex partnerships can be registered in the ACT but it is believed the Stanhope government is considering if there are ways it can go further.

In its draft national platform, the ALP says it "will take action to ensure the development of nationally consistent, state-based relationship recognition legislation". But it notes the legislation will not "create schemes that mimic marriage or undermine existing laws that define marriage as being between a man and a woman".


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