Friday, June 11, 2010

A deadbeat Federal government?

It's probably just the usual bureaucratic lethargy. Supplying any Australian government with goods or services is to risk difficulty in getting your money, sad to say.

ELECTRICIANS who have inspected 23,000 homes with foil insulation for potentially deadly problems have not been paid by the Rudd government. They say Kevin Rudd has broken an election promise for the government to settle all small business bills in 30 days.

In October 2008, the Prime Minister said if any contract worth less than $1m was not paid within that time, businesses could charge the government penalty interest rates.

The inspection of less than half of the 50,300 homes fitted with foil insulation has so far revealed that about 3 per cent - or 690 roofs - had electrical safety problems that were caused by inept installers.

Electrician Stephen McCracken, from Sandgate in Brisbane's north, said he was owed $26,000 and had been forced to renegotiate his mortgage. "It has been absolutely disastrous for us," Mr McCracken said yesterday. "We've got at least half-a-dozen debt collectors chasing us for money owed to wholesalers, for the telephone, internet, credit cards, even the dog registration."

Mr McCracken said his situation was complicated by the fact his jobs were invoiced through a middle man, so government officials had refused to discuss the late payments with him.

Electrician Martin Miller, from Redcliffe, north of Brisbane, said he was owed $30,000 by the government for invoices dating back more than 90 days. Only one invoice worth $312 had been paid.

His wife, Janelle, who does the books for Mr Miller, said the delay had caused them financial stress. "Whatever reserves we had, we've had to draw on that and live on credit," she said. "It means late repayments back to our suppliers."

Mr Miller said he was furious the government was rolling out a new foil inspection program that involved rechecking all of the homes already inspected and would waste tens of millions of dollars on consultant fees.

Instead of contracting the electricians directly, the government has hired consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers, who have sub-contracted to major contractor United Group, which is engaging 760 electricians to do the work. "I'm angry my taxpayer dollars are being wasted by another two layers of bureaucracy," Mr Miller said yesterday.

The government has said its 30-day payment rule does not apply to the electricians because there are no formal contracts for the inspections. But Assistant Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said he wanted the payments made as soon as possible. He said the department aimed to pay all $9m worth of payments by June 30, and was paying 85 per cent of valid invoices within 30 business days.

The government was checking all claims to ensure they were legitimate, and there had been some delays due to the strong demand and large number of incomplete invoices.


Only the fatcats thriving on aid meant for blacks

An old, old story. See also here

INDIGENOUS housing in the Northern Territory is a bigger scandal than the Building the Education Revolution rorts. But because it is located in remote Aboriginal communities, almost no one (apart from readers of The Australian) is aware of what is going on.

For many months, Nicolas Rothwell and Natasha Robinson have reported on this scandal. There have been shocking cost overruns; in one case, $183 million of taxpayer money has gone missing. And despite the billions being spent, the only people with proper housing are bureaucrats. This is a truly sorry business.

In August 2006, the Northern Territory government appointed a Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse. Its report had dramatic consequences. On June 25, 2007, then prime minister John Howard intervened. He said the report "documents in sickening detail the human misery and dysfunction in many remote Aboriginal communities" and noted his emergency response was "radical, comprehensive and highly interventionist".

So, three years on, let me revisit the chapter on housing, which reads in part: The shortage of indigenous housing in remote, regional and urban parts of the Territory is nothing short of disastrous and desperate. The present level of overcrowding in houses has a direct impact on family and sexual violence, substance abuse and chronic illness.

The report estimated that the Territory needed "a further 4000 dwellings to adequately house its present population. Into the future, more than 400 houses will be needed each year for 20 years."

The response included emergency housing initiatives to try to ensure that every child in the Territory would have a safe place to sleep: "The Australian government is investing $813m in remote indigenous housing and infrastructure in the NT, including $793m over the next four years as part of a joint agreement with the NT government."

How this has changed. It was rolled back to $672m by the federal Labor government and the program was outsourced to the Territory government. The latter's record has been disastrous: cost overruns, missing funds, administrative chaos, ministerial resignations, minority government.

Read carefully: 11 houses have been built and 160 repaired in two years for more than $200m. But at the government's valuation of $450,000 for a new house (no land costs) and $75,000 for a refurbishment, the sum spent should be only $16.85m. The location of the missing $183m is not known.

New announcements have since been made to fund infrastructure and tenancy management separately from the National Partnership Agreement, a kind of informal top-up of the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program.

The five-year, $672m program has blown out to an estimated $1.67 billion, to be funded from the 10-year $1.7bn National Partnership Agreement. Indigenous employment should increase but most indigenous workers have switched jobs or are working for the dole with no salary, no holiday pay, no superannuation, no future.

Most of us understand the correlation between unemployment, boredom and substance abuse. It was an emergency in 2007 but now it is a normal situation for many indigenous Territorians.

The story doesn't end there. The Territory government recently admitted that it has plans between now and 2013 for only 480 dwellings, to be constructed in the Maningrida, Wadeye, Galiwin'ku, Gunbalanya, Angurugu/Umbakumba and Nguiu communities, plus 85 in Alice Springs town camps.

Note the change of language. They are not building houses any more but dwellings, including one-bedroom units and pensioners' apartments; only half will be as big as three bedrooms.

Although there are hundreds of indigenous communities, only six to 15 will get new dwellings. Many will get no housing services at all. Most communities in the Territory will not have any semblance of a housing solution for the protection of children.

One wonders how the Territory could get things so wrong. In most of the larger communities, Territory government employees account for more than 20 per cent of the homes.

No new homes will be built in Papunya, although it suffers widespread overcrowding, and the proportion of houses for government employees is 27 per cent; that doesn't include federal employees in federal accommodation.

How can it be that two tiers of Labor governments can spend billions on the intervention, yet the only people enjoying proper housing are bureaucrats?

The Territory's Indigenous Affairs Department is almost a government in terms of its health, housing, education, law and order and children's services.

Territorians have a deep-seated and passionate desire to help indigenous Territorians. There is support for spending taxpayers' dollars to protect the most vulnerable, especially children. But there is no support for corrupted or mismanaged programs that cost a lot and deliver nothing.

Ten years after the first Bridge Walk for Reconciliation, the intervention is long gone, taxpayer dollars are being wasted, structural reform is not occurring, there are no economies being built (if anything they are being extinguished) and, most worryingly, the increased protection of children through improvements of their homes is still a fantasy in all but a few communities.

Kevin Rudd said sorry when the world was watching. Who will say sorry now to those men, women and particularly children of the Territory who have seen no change and are sliding backwards; or to the old lady who lives in a humpy just off the Stuart Highway 200km north of Alice Springs?


Another death rattle from the NSW Labor government

They're clueless

A PLAN to to slash the rising costs of running NSW prisons by allowing offenders sentenced to less than two years to do their time at hom has drawn fire from victims, but advocates say it is a responsible approach.

Under the proposal every criminal sentenced in the Local Court to two years or less in jail, except for sex offenders, will be eligible to serve their sentences at home. The cost to the the Government is $46 a day for home supervision instead of $194 a day to keep them in jail.

Victims groups say they are outraged at Premier Kristina Keneally's proposed solution to the high cost of keeping prisoners in overcrowded jails reported The Daily Telegraph. "It doesn't make any sense, it takes the punishment aspect of the sentence away," victims advocate Peter Rolfe said. "It is appalling. "They are going to be able to spend their time in the comfort of their own home."

Peter and Tammy Matten's home near Newcastle was robbed earlier this year and Mrs Matten chased the robber while she was heavily pregnant with their daughter. Mr Matten said it wasn't a punishment to send people home to serve jail sentences. "It wouldn't deter them at all, they're still hanging out with their friends," he said.

"If you get someone that is a drug dealer, they can still sell drugs at home. I think if you do a crime and you're arrested you are supposed to be in jail. "The guys that robbed us had done it before, a lot of people in the area have been robbed in exactly the same circumstances."

The Government claims that it was still a "prison sentence", just administered differently. But it admitted some of the state's jails were 100 inmates over capacity and there were only 300 empty cells left.

Criminals who committed offences including drug related crimes, riot and affray, assault, fraud, vandalism and break and enter would be eligible for home detention. There would be just one corrective services officer for every 20 criminals at home and only a fraction would be electronically monitored or subject to curfews. The rest would be free to travel around NSW and their only conditions would be eight hours of community service a week and a rehabilitation or education program.

They would only be sent to jail if they committed another offence or breached their "intensive correction orders".

Ms Keneally said the legislation was "tough" while her spokesman admitted rehabilitation programs in jail or periodic detention were non-existent or had failed. "It will provide the judiciary with a new option," she said. "This is about helping offenders get themselves back on the straight and narrow but those who fail to comply with the program risk spending the duration of their order in jail."

Victims of Crimes Assistance League spokesman Howard Brown told the ABC the idea would help some offenders and was an improvement on weekend or periodic dentention. "We thought it was somewhat of a perversity that we would be supervising people for two days a week, and then for the rest of the time they could basically go and do whatever they wanted," he said. "One of the beauties of these intensive direction orders is that these people would be subject to supervision seven days a week."


Warmist can't take the heat

by Andrew Bolt

HMM. So how has Alarmist of the Year Tim Flannery got away with it for so long? Answer: because he seems nice.

Oh, and because journalists just won't hold our leading global warming spruiker to account for his litany of dud predictions, exaggerations, falsehoods and bizarre conflicts of interest.

But on Wednesday - and give him credit - he wandered into our studio at MTR 1377 for some reason best known to himself. Was it a false confidence, born of years of near unquestioned adulation? Was it that being named Australian of the Year in 2007 made him feel above any pesky but-but-butting from the few media sceptics?

Or was it - as the following transcript suggests - that Flannery, now head of the Rudd Government's Coast and Climate Change Council, has an eerie ability to forget inconvenient truths about his past finger-wagging?

Whatever. What we do know is that our chat this week was the first time I can recall that Flannery, the highly influential author of The Weather Makers and chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council, has been confronted at length.

Read on, to see how even this giant of warming alarmism dealt with it. You may well then wonder if the great warming scare of the past decade would ever have taken off had more journalists fact-checked the wilder claims and predictions of not just Flannery, but other professional scaremongers such as Al Gore, David Suzuki, Peter Garrett, Rob Gell and Bob Brown.

Flannery started our interview by paying out on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for walking away from what he'd sold as "the great moral and economic challenge of our time".
Flannery: I'm unlikely to vote for him because my trust has been eroded away. He promised to deliver an emissions trading scheme and he's then withdrawn that with very little justification.

Bolt: He said he wouldn't move now until the rest of the world did something, which is a direct repudiation of what he said before. But, Tim, part of the reason that he's backed down is that there's been a great swing in sentiment against this kind of thing. There's a rising tide of scepticism. How much are you to blame for some of that?

Flannery: There is some swing in sentiment. And I think it's very hard to maintain any issue with that sort of very high level of support for a long time ...

Bolt: But, Tim ... I'm wondering to what extent are you to blame for rising scepticism about some of the more alarming claims about global warming.

Flannery: Well, many of the things that scientists highlight may happen are very alarming. They're not alarmist but they are worrisome. Rises in sea level for instance are a significant issue.

Bolt: Well, let's go through some of your own claims. You said, for example, that Adelaide may run out of water by early 2009. Their reservoirs are half full now. You said Brisbane would probably run out of water by 2009. They are now 97 per cent full. And (you said) Sydney could be dry as early as 2007. Their reservoirs are also more than half full. How can you get away with all these claims?

Flannery: What I have said is that there is a water problem. They may run out of water.

Bolt: 100 per cent full, nearly!

Flannery: And thankfully, Andrew, governments have taken that to heart and been building some desalination capacity such as in Perth.

Bolt: Only in Perth.

Flannery: No, there's plans in every capital city ...

Bolt: No, no. You said Brisbane would run out of water possibly by as early as 2009. There's no desalination plant, there's no dam. It's now 100 per full.

Flannery: That's a lie, Andrew. I didn't say it would run out of water. I don't have a crystal ball in front of me. I said Brisbane has a water problem.

Bolt: I'll quote your own words (from the New Scientist June 16, 2007): "Water supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months." That was, on the timeline you gave, by the beginning of 2009. Their reservoirs are now 97 per cent full.

Flannery: Yeah, sure. There's variability in rainfall. They still need a desal plant.

Bolt: You also warned that Perth would be the 21 century's first ghost metropolis.

Flannery: May ... Right? Because at that stage there had been no flows into that water catchment for a year and the water engineers were terrified.

Bolt: Have you seen the water catchment levels? Here, see, they're tracking above the five-year level ...

Flannery: You want to paint me as an alarmist.

Bolt: You are an alarmist.

Flannery: I'm a very practical person.

Bolt: You said (in The Guardian, August 9, 2008) the Arctic could be ice-free two years ago.

Flannery: No, I didn't ...

Bolt: I'm asking ... whether (you) repent from all these allegations about cities running out of water, cities turning into ghost cities, sea level rises up to an eight-storey-high building. Don't you think that is in part why people have got more sceptical?

Flannery: I don't, actually, because some of those things are possibilities in the future if we continue polluting as we do. And we've already seen impacts in southern Australia on all of those cities. Everyone remembers the water restrictions and so forth ...

Bolt: You warn about sea level rises up to an eight-storey building. How soon will that happen? Thousands of years?

Flannery: Could be thousands of years.

Bolt: Tens of thousands of years?

Flannery: Could be hundreds of years ... The thermodynamics of ice sheets are very, very difficult to predict.

Bolt: Should we ... have nuclear power plants (to cut our warming emissions)?

Flannery: In Australia, I don't think so. We've got such a great load of assets in the renewable area that I don't think there's an argument here that they are ever going to be economic.

Bolt: Four years ago you did. What changed your mind?

Flannery: No, I never did. I've always had the same argument.

Bolt: No, no, no. Here's your quote: "Over the next two decades Australians could use nuclear power to replace all our coal-fired power plants. We would then have a power infrastructure like France and in doing so we would have done something great for the world." That was your quote.

Flannery: I don't recall saying that at all.

Bolt: You wrote it. You wrote it in The Age (on May 30, 2006). There it is, highlighted.

Flannery: Well, very good.

Bolt: That's the point, you know, you make these claims and when people confront you, you walk away from them.

Flannery: But that was about "may" ... Australia may be able to do that. It's not what I recommend and I never have recommended it ... We are going to see a whole lot of other technologies and innovations which are now well under way which we could use instead of nuclear power.

Bolt: Such as?

Flannery: Such as concentrated PV technology, geothermal technology, wave power, wind power ...

Bolt: You're an investor in geothermal technology, aren't you?

Flannery: Yeah, I am. Indeed.

Bolt: How come you don't declare that (in most media interviews promoting geothermal power)?

Flannery: Well, I've just done it.

Bolt: You've invested in a (Geodynamics geothermal) plant in Innamincka and you said the technology was really easy. How come that plant ...

Flannery: Not really that easy.

Bolt: Well, yes. It's actually had technological difficulties and it's been delayed two years because it's not that easy, after all, is it?

And we could have gone on - to discuss the $90 million grant the Rudd Government last year gave to Flannery's Geodynamics.

Or to ask about the preferential treatment the Government also gave to Field Force, a "green loans" company Flannery spruiked for.

Or to ask how much Flannery profits from preaching doom.

Or to wonder how this green crusader could lend his name to Sir Richard Brazen's planned joy rides in space.

Or to ask him to explain his concession last year that, despite his great scares of rising heat, "there hasn't been a continuation of that warming trend" and "the computer modelling and the real world data disagrees".

Yes, you may think I'm just picking on details. But details are like pixels - put enough together and they form a picture.

Flannery's details, unquestioned, form a terrifying picture that has helped to panic millions of people into believing their gases could kill our world.

But, once challenged, those same details of Flannery form a very different picture - of self-serving scaremongering with not much more than hot air to sustain it.


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