Saturday, June 19, 2010

Migration lessons from the soccer pitch

By Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich, a German-born economist

After Germany had convincingly demolished the Socceroos at the World Cup, I was not sure what to expect in the office, with me being German and all that. Quips about Per Mertesacker’s hand-ball in the German penalty box? Discussions about the harsh red card for Tim Cahill? Speculations that the new Adidas ball gave the Germans an unfair advantage?

As it turned out, I got none of that. Australians, or at least my dear colleagues, are far too nice for such unsportsmanlike conduct. Instead, they congratulated me on the German win. ‘You must be so happy,’ one of them said.

Well, actually, I wasn’t. My preferred result had been a draw as I feel an emotional attachment to both my native country and my new home. When the national anthems were played before the match, it was Advance Australia Fair that gave me goose bumps, not the German anthem. Although it’s quite a challenge to feel patriotic for any country at 4.30 am.

The match made me realise how easy it is to develop an emotional bond with Australia.

Perhaps it is even stronger for migrants like me than for the natives. When CIS received a Socceroos’ fan scarf as a promotional gift this week, I quickly volunteered to hang it up in my office. Nobody else had wanted it. Possibly that was a reaction to the 4-0 defeat, or maybe they just didn’t care about soccer?

Maybe there is a lesson in this for our current discussion about migration and population growth.

Many commentators assume that Australia’s character will change beyond recognition as more and more people arrive on these shores. They seem to believe implicitly that there is not much about Australia these migrants could love.

My own experience points to the very opposite. Australia is such a friendly, fascinating country that its emotional appeal to new arrivals couldn’t be greater. It’s a country you want to call home even before the ink on your visa has dried.

The social result of migration could be counter-intuitive: it may very well strengthen Australian patriotism, not undermine it. It may reinforce social cohesion, not destroy it.

The key to such integration are not strict limits on the number of migrants but finding the right migrants: migrants who not only bring their skills to this country but are also willing to become a part of it. This aspect is often missing in our population debate, which almost exclusively focuses on the number of migrants.

As for myself, I’ll try my best to become more Australian. Supporting the Socceroos is a start, but please allow me a few decades to understand cricket.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 18 June. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Teen arrested over stabbing murder of Indian student

When the thug is white, we are told. See below. But there is never any mention if the thug is black. But that is information in its own way, of course. We don't normally find out that the thug is black until he is sentenced and his name is reported. African names are usually distinctive. In the case of younger offenders, however, even the name is usually suppressed

A HOUSEMATE of an Indian student whose fatal stabbing in January caused a diplomatic row between Australia and India has congratulated police for charging a 15-year-old boy with his friend's murder. Sandeep Sandeep lived with accounting graduate Nitin Garg, who was stabbed on his way to work at the Yarraville Hungry Jack's on a Saturday night, and described him as ''like a younger brother to me''.

Mr Garg was stabbed in Cruickshank Park, then staggered 300 metres to the restaurant. An ambulance was called but he died shortly after arriving at hospital. Mr Sandeep, who had spoken to Mr Garg's family in India, told The Age last night it was helpful someone had been charged.

Mr Sandeep and police said they did not believe the attack - widely described as racist by the Indian media and politicians - was racially motivated.

Mr Sandeep said it was upsetting to hear of the age of the boy accused of the murder. ''He's just a kid …'' The 15-year-old Yarraville boy, whose age prevents his name being released, appeared at a Melbourne Children's Court in a school uniform.

The boy, who is Caucasian, clutched a sheet of paper and looked around the courtroom and at his parents, seated in the front row. He did not attempt to communicate with them and replied ''OK'' when the magistrate explained the schedule of court dates for his case. His mother clutched a tissue, which she held close to her eyes.

Mr Sandeep criticised the immediate reaction of the Indian media and authorities to Mr Garg's death. Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna described it as a ''heinous crime on humanity'' that was an ''uncivilised brutal attack on innocent Indians''.

Premier John Brumby and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith both visited India after Mr Garg's killing, where they attempted to reassure the country that it was a safe place for Indians.

Mr Sandeep said Melbourne was safe for Indian students and it was impossible for politicians to know of their experiences in the city. ''That can happen anywhere in the world. It's not like it was a racial attack. We are safe here in Melbourne.''

Before yesterday's court appearance, Detective Inspector Bernie Edwards said ''at this stage, we don't believe it was racially motivated''. He would not reveal what police believed the motive was. Police are yet to find the weapon used to kill Mr Garg.

''Victoria Police are trying to get knives off the street and this may be one of those occasions where people can learn a lesson why they shouldn't be armed with knives,'' Detective Inspector Edwards said.

The investigation continues, and police are still to speak to other people, but they do not believe it to be gang-related.


Tax tactics an insulting and destructive judgment on mining

By Leon Davis (Leon Davis AO was Rio Tinto's chief executive from 1997 to 2000 and Westpac chairman from 2000 to 2006)

NO company executive would dispute that their primary responsibility is to safeguard the interests of shareholders. But it is long-outmoded thinking to suppose that this inevitably sets up a conflict with the public interest. This should be kept in mind in the debate about the government's proposed mining tax.

Mining companies have long recognised the importance of maintaining the goodwill of the communities in which they operate. This is not just because it is the proper thing to do -- which it is -- but because it makes good business sense. The two are not mutually exclusive.

During my five decades in the minerals sector, Australia and the world confronted a number of serious policy challenges. The industry's engagement was deep, serious and directed at securing an outcome that had proper regard for the interests of all....

The government maintains that resource taxation is in urgent need of overhaul. Few would quibble with this -- the industry itself has been making this point for some time.

When, however, this argument is extended to the assertion that the industry has not been paying its fair share of tax and this claim is supported by some highly questionable statistics, rational debate becomes far more difficult. Further, the sole focus on tax ignores the wider contribution that mining makes to Australia.

If the system of revenue raising is not functioning well, the primary responsibility for initiating change lies with government.

That said, we have seen time and again in Australia that both policy design and the quality of the outcomes can be substantially improved by discussion with all stakeholders before the direction of change is finalised.

Those who remember the volatility in the Australian oil industry in the 1980s, the introduction of export parity pricing and the proliferation of a confusing array of excises will also remember how a significant policy innovation, the petroleum resource rent tax, was ultimately welcomed by the major players in the industry.

This occurred, in large part, because they had participated in an extended and comprehensive consultative process.

Perhaps the most egregious part of the government's proposal is that the new tax will apply to the large investments already made in Australia. Little wonder that the world is passing judgment on a country that changes the rules of the game after many billions of dollars of investment have been made. Students trying to find a definition of sovereign risk need to look no further than here.

Deeply worrying as all this is, there is nothing in the proposal that cannot be remedied. Unfortunately, the major mechanism and the best chance of securing a solution seems to have been rejected by the government's assertion that the industry is not worth talking to, only ever pursues its vested interest and is always crying wolf.

It appears to me that there is no desire on the part of the government to advance the debate or improve the policy.

It is distressing to see the level to which debate has sunk. The characterisation of the industry as dominated by vested interest and incapable of contributing to great national debates is one I find deeply and personally offensive.

What is at stake here is the future prosperity of Australia. Surely it deserves better than the name calling, misinformation, personal attacks and time wasting we have seen in recent weeks.

For the sake of our common future, let us stop belittling the contribution the Australian minerals sector makes to national life and offer it the opportunity to participate in finding practical and workable means of improving the system of resource taxation.


Big Victoria police operation relied on a lying, murdering criminal

This was of course while Victora police were under the "leadership" of the politically correct but incompetent Christine Nixon. Affirmative action has a lot to answer for

ONE of the most expensive police investigations in Victorian history was founded on the word of a discredited killer and notorious liar. The criminal's own veteran lawyer also emphatically rejected one of his central allegations about police involvement in a murder.

The Weekend Australian can reveal that Operation Briars, which was strongly promoted from 2007 by the then deputy commissioner Simon Overland as a "show-stopper" to expose the leaks between corrupt police and Melbourne's gangland wars, relied heavily on the testimony of third-generation criminal "Jack Price".

This was despite Price's lawyer, Bernie Balmer, telling police that a key aspect of the convicted murder's story was nonsense. "He is a very charismatic fellow, he has the ability to get people loyal to him," said Mr Balmer, who has represented some of Australia's most notorious criminals.

"It is sad where we have reached a period of time where prosecuting persons believe what people are saying -- which affects good people's lives -- when they are saying it to obtain an advantage."

Two former police who were targets of Operation Briars, which was run by the Victorian Office of Police Integrity, spoke out yesterday, telling The Weekend Australian they had been victims of a murder investigation that had morphed into a political witch-hunt.

Peter Lalor, a long-serving detective sergeant when Briars detectives accused him of colluding with Price over the 2003 murder of male prostitute Shane Chartres-Abbott, said he was the victim of a political campaign to discredit Paul Mullett, the former secretary of the police association.

"Once Jack Price's first lie was exposed, they should have had grave concerns about the veracity of his account," Mr Lalor said. "Everything that Price has said, they have tried to corroborate. Every person who could have corroborated it has discredited the story. Give him the facts and he will give you a story."

Mr Lalor's co-accused, David Waters, was more blunt. "What they have done is a $20 million taxpayer exploration on the lies of Jack Price," he said.

Briars documents reveal that on September 12, 2007, Mr Overland, the current Chief Commissioner, was eager to lay charges against Mr Lalor and Mr Waters, despite the lead investigator warning there was not yet enough evidence.

Affidavits filed to the OPI show that Detective Sergeant Ron Iddles was not convinced there was as yet a solid case against Mr Lalor, a policeman for 32 years, and Mr Waters, a former cop who had faced and was cleared of criminal allegations.

Mr Overland's affidavits reveal he was eager to press for an earlier resolution, and made his feelings known at a meeting with the Briars team on September 12. "My expectation was that things were going to move a little bit quicker and I wanted to clarify that," he said. Mr Overland declined to comment yesterday.

Mr Waters told The Weekend Australian he was convinced Mr Overland was gunning for him and Mr Lalor in a bid to advance his prospects.

Despite Mr Overland's eagerness to press early charges in relation to Operation Briars, a three-year probe has failed to secure a conviction. Mr Lalor and Mr Waters have never been charged or cleared. According to Victoria Police, the investigation remains ongoing.

The tension between Mr Overland and Briars investigators about the strength of the case against Mr Lalor and Mr Waters follows revelations by The Australian that Mr Overland, by passing on covert information from telephone taps to his then media adviser, Stephen Linnell, in August 2007, may have started the chain of events that compromised the investigation.

The Victorian opposition has seized on further revelations that information about the police association's enterprise bargaining strategy might have been passed to the state government through non-permissible uses of telephone intercepts. "There is no doubt that an independent judicial investigation is urgently required into allegations the law was broken by leaks of intelligence information during the course of operations Diana and Briars," said opposition legal affairs spokesman Robert Clark.


Tugun desalination facility closed again

Lucky we no longer need the stupid thing. It was built in reponse to Warmist drought scares but it has been raining continually ever since so all the dams are pretty full. Does a Leftist government ever get anything right?

THE trouble-plagued Gold Coast desalination plant has again been shut down for repairs - this time for at least three months. What was supposed to be the showpiece of the State Government's $9 billion southeast Queensland water grid has been beset with problems including rusting pipes, cracking concrete and faulty valves, and has been shut down at least twice since being completed in 2008.

The Government has refused to accept handover of the $1.2 billion facility, designed to help drought-proof the state's southeast, until faults are fixed. They were due to be repaired by this month but the construction consortium, which includes contractors John Holland and French water giant Veolia, has failed to reach the deadline.

Now, a huge offshore barge which was used to build the desalination plant is being brought back to try to overcome the defects.

The $6 million barge, which resembles an offshore drilling platform, will be moored 1.2km off Tugun until August. "This is a massive piece of infrastructure and this (the repairs) is a normal part [What incredible rubbish!] of the commissioning period to get it right," a spokeswoman for Infrastructure Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said. "No breakdown of repair costs has been prepared as all works remain within budget at this time."

The repairs will include replacing more than 100m of rusting pipe with higher-grade stainless steel and repairs to cracks in the plant's huge saltwater intake shaft. There were fears that contaminants from the rubbish dump on which the plant was built could be leaching into the shaft.

However, Mr Hinchliffe's spokeswoman said ongoing monitoring had found no evidence of groundwater seepage.

In April, a former desalination plant contractor told The Courier-Mail that the two giant stainless steel tanks used to store desalinated water would probably have to be replaced because of corrosion, having already undergone more than $6 million in repairs. However, the Government said only a small permeate tank, used in the desalination process, was being replaced.

As well as the defects, the desalination plant has been blamed for serious subsidence around Tugun and its brine output has sparked environmental concerns.

LNP member for Currumbin and Opposition Public Works spokeswoman Jann Stuckey said the plant had been a lemon and there were "ominous signs" it would be an expensive burden on taxpayers when it was "rushed into" by Labor.


My Queensland Cops blog has had quite a few posts recently.

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