Monday, May 24, 2010

Tens of millions in foreign aid wasted on salaries and commissions

The welfare "industry" again. As Peter Bauer said long ago, foreign aid is a scheme for transferring money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. These days, it looks like rich people in rich countries are getting a big slice of it too

AUSTRALIA'S foreign aid program is under siege after revelations tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on huge salaries for consultants and rich contracts for private firms. An extensive investigation has uncovered a lucrative foreign aid "industry", raising questions about the Rudd Government's decision to double annual spending to more than $8 billion.

And a high-level review has slammed the $414 million program in Papua New Guinea, claiming $100 million is being paid to a handful of firms – but delivering little.

Aid experts also have questioned the size of contracts paid to "briefcase" advisers who fly in to poor countries, including East Timor, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga. The Courier-Mail's extensive investigation can reveal:

• A small clutch of five firms have secured $1 billion in contracts.

• More than a dozen aid consultants are earning more than Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, flying around the Pacific to advise on everything from "gender integration" to sport, transport, energy and justice.

• Millions of dollars are being diverted to aid programs including $12 million to research the giant panda in China and $13 million to redevelop a single school in Nauru.

• AusAID, the agency in charge of foreign aid, is investigating allegations of fraud – and is about to undergo a significant restructuring.

• And millions of dollars are being spent by the AFL, Girl Guides, ACTU and other community groups "selling" a pro-aid message to the public.

The review is embarrassing for the Government – and raises serious questions about the value of pumping billions of dollars into fragile states.


Retreat on tax row as Rudd appeases miners

The Queensland Labor government want the threshhold for the tax to rise from 6% to 11%. Everybody could live with that

WOUNDED by criticism, the Federal Government said yesterday it was open to negotiation on a key component of its proposed super profits tax on miners.

While adamant a 40 per cent tax rate was non-negotiable, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said a panel was investigating issues such as raising the profit threshold rate at which the tax would cut in, which is currently set at 6 per cent.

"There will be a profit-based tax in Australia, the headline rate is going to be 40 per cent, but there are refinements that can be made to make the tax appropriate and balanced from a mining industry point of view while getting an appropriate cut," he said.

The sudden softening of its approach yesterday came as the Government's hand-picked mining tax consultation panel was expected to urge the Government to reconsider a key selling point of its new resource super-profits tax -- the promised 40 per cent tax refundability for failed projects, The Australian reports.

The tax consultation panel, headed by the Treasury's David Parker, has listened to the arguments of mining companies that they place little value on the 40 per cent tax write-off, and will finalise its report this week before delivering its findings to the Treasurer by the close of business on Friday.

The write-off is a key feature of the proposed tax -- the government plans to take 40 per cent of the super profits in the industry but also bear 40 per cent of the cost of all mining projects that fail.

Any move to wind back the tax break on losses would save the government hundreds of millions of dollars, delivering flexibility to address one of the key complaints about the tax -- the 6 per cent profit threshold after which the super-profits tax applies.


Israeli diplomat expelled. Any friends left for Rudd to attack?

By Andrew Bolt

Brilliant. After offending Japan over whaling, India over uranium sales, Indonesia over boat people, Singapore over Kevin Rudd’s “Asia forum”, and China over general dithering, the Rudd Government now drives a greater wedge with our most reliable friend in the Middle East by expelling an Israeli diplomat:
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has told Parliament Israel was responsible for faking four Australian passports used in the killing of a senior Hamas official.

“Investigations and advice have left the Government in no doubt Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports,” he said today.

Mr Smith has asked that a member of the Israeli Embassy in Canberra be withdrawn from Australia within the week, as a result of the scandal.

How much was this decision - or at least the timing of the retaliation - abother typical piece of Rudd spin, designed this time to distract attention from his mining tax disaster?


One wonders how the good minister figured out that the passports were faked in Israel? Was he there at the time? This is just guesswork. Is guesswork a good foundation for government policy?

Catholics reach back to church tradition

With extensive input from Australian Prelates. Cardinal Pell is Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney

A NEW translation of the mass soon to be celebrated by more than 100 million English-speaking Catholics reaches back to church tradition, replacing the more colloquial and dumbed-down liturgy that was adopted by the Vatican 40 years ago.

The Weekend Australian today provides an exclusive and comprehensive preview of the changes, which are the biggest revision since Pope Paul VI approved the current Roman Missal in 1969 after the Second Vatican Council. In style, the new translation of the mass is reverential and traditional, restoring emphasis on the transcendent and the sacred, and replacing words such as "happy" with "blessed" and phrases such as "this is" with "behold".

It revives a classical style of liturgical language rarely heard for 40 years, using such words and phrases as: oblation, implore, consubstantial, serene and kindly countenance, spotless victim, divine majesty, holy and venerable, and "command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high".

Cardinal George Pell said the new mass had a "different cadence" to the translation of the Roman Missal that two generations of Australian Catholics grew up with, and which was a "bit dumbed-down".

"The previous translators seemed a bit embarrassed to refer to angels, sacrifice and perpetual virginity," Australia's senior Catholic cleric said. "They went softly on sin and redemption."

The new translation places a heavier emphasis on Christ's sacrifice and underlines the dependence of individuals on God. In one of the most controversial changes, the words of the consecration in the mass specify that Christ shed his blood "for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins", rather than "for all" as the present translation puts it.

Cardinal Pell said the change reflected the official Latin version of the Roman Missal, and although Christ died for everybody, this would remind worshippers of the need for personal repentance.

In the creed, the faithful will now say "I believe" rather than "we believe", emphasising the importance of personal belief.

Most of the changes are in the parts of the mass said by priests, with changes in the laity's responses deliberately kept to a minimum to avoid confusion.

A new Latin edition of the missal was published under Pope John Paul II in 2002, and the next step was to produce authentic vernacular translations.

After a major education program that will start later this year and is already under way for priests in some dioceses, the new translation is likely to be introduced from Pentecost Sunday in June next year. Several DVDs have already been produced to explain the changes across the English-speaking Catholic world.

The translation, which has taken more than eight years to prepare, was written by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, which is chaired by Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds in northern England.

The project was guided and overseen by the Vox Clara (clear voice) committee of cardinals and bishops from the US, Canada, Britain, Ireland, India, Africa and the Caribbean. Vox Clara was chaired by Cardinal Pell.

Canberra's Archbishop Mark Coleridge also played an important role in the translation, chairing the editorial committee of the commission.

In secular terms, the new mass is a triumph of tradition and intellectual rigour over post-modernism. Leading Australian theologian Tracey Rowland, of Melbourne's John Paul II Institute, said that after 40 years of "liturgy wars", it would put paid to what Pope Benedict refers to as "parish tea-party liturgy".

Professor Rowland, author of Ratzinger's Faith: the Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, said the new translation was "theo-centric liturgy", focused on the worship of God, rather than "self-centric liturgy", focused on community celebration of the parish, the Year 7 class, or the netball team.

She said the new translation of the mass was close to Pope Benedict's heart. "He has complained about 'sacro-pop' and 'emotional primitivism' in liturgy, and said everything associated with the Eucharist must be marked by beauty."

Professor Rowland said the new translation was in accord with the Church's 1963 text Constitution on the Scared Liturgy. That instruction called for the rites of the mass, which dated back to the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century, to be simplified with "due care being taken to preserve their substance" so that "devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved".

Professor Rowland said the Second Vatican Council's call for renewal was widely misinterpreted in the 1960s, with pushes from some for outlandish changes that were never envisaged at the council. In 1966, for example, an article in a prominent Jesuit magazine in the US called for Catholic worship to employ "the language of the Beatles".

"The new translation of the missal settles the issue," Professor Rowland said. "I'm not surprised it has taken almost nine years. They had to get it right, and they have."


1 comment:

Paul said...

In the case of the British passports used in MOSSAD's slightly overmanned operation, I've seen claims that the passports were not faked, but were in fact real, originating in Britain with the passport office. I of course have no way of verifying this, but MI6 has done crazier things. I have no doubt that Rudd and the Israelis have already sat down and negotiated the politics of this, and I doubt much sleep is being lost in Tel Aviv.