Friday, July 09, 2010


She's beginning to sound even madder than Kevvy. Five relevant reports below

Julia's really lost it: Now it seems that she aims to ban big fridges and other appliances

Got a big family and need a big fridge? No problems! Just buy two small ones. It will hit your pocket and will do nothing for the environment but it will keep Julia happy! Tony Abbott must be a happy boy today

JULIA Gillard will try to put her tarnished asylum seeker plan behind her by nailing down her final election plank - a new climate change policy. Ms Gillard, who failed to get the backing of East Timor's Parliament to build an asylum seeker detention centre in the impoverished country, will take her climate plan to Cabinet within days.

Key measures are being finalised, including plans for a national "energy savings initiative". The mandatory scheme will replace a patchwork of existing state-based schemes by about 2012. However, the policy could be bad news for the family hip pockets, with tighter restrictions expected on energy-sapping appliances such as clothes dryers and refrigerators, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Australia allows a number of appliances that are banned from the more greenhouse-conscious places such as Europe and Japan.

Power companies will go to the homes of customers to give energy efficiency advice, with Ms Gillard pledging to reduce "our carbon footprint as a country" by starting with co-operation between households and energy companies.

The plan is designed to provide a so-called "step-change" in national energy usage as a key aspect of the Government's international commitment to greenhouse gas reductions, which was signed at Copenhagen. Corporations are also likely to receive financial support to "retro-fit" old buildings with state-of-the-art technology.

Ms Gillard will want to refresh Labor's stance on the environment, especially in light of three damning reports into the Government's $275 million Green Loans scheme, and her predecessor, Kevin Rudd's decision to push back an emissions trading scheme to at least 2012.


Gillard under pressure over her proposed East Timor asylum-seeker centre

Her earlier idea of sending bogus refugees back seems to have vanished

JULIA Gillard is under pressure to nominate a location for a refugee processing centre after she denied saying it would be established in East Timor.

The opposition has seized on the apparent retreat, with Tony Abbott accusing the Prime Minister of “spin” and suggesting Nauru, the core of the Howard government's Pacific Solution, as an option. “If Julia Gillard is serious about third country offshore processing she probably should put in a phone call to Nauru because Nauru stands ready willing and able, it seems, to accept a facility,” Mr Abbott told ABC radio.

And opposition foreign affairs spokesman Julie Bishop urged Ms Gillard to nominate another location for the proposed centre. “Ms Gillard specifically picked out East Timor because she said it was a signatory to the United Nations convention on refugees,” she said. “If East Timor won't sign up to her plans, where else will she go? There's only a handful of countries in our region that are signatories to that convention. So Ms Gillard must reveal which other countries are now in her sights.”

But The Australian reported this morning that fallback options for the new asylum-seeker processing centre are melting away.

Last night, Ms Gillard refused to rule out the Lombrum naval base on Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, as a possible alternative site. About 350 asylum-seekers were processed there under the previous Pacific Solution.

In a speech to the Lowy Institute on Tuesday Ms Gillard revealed she had discussed the concept of a regional processing centre with East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta. But yesterday, as the tiny nation's parliament condemned the idea as unworkable, Ms Gillard insisted she never said the centre should be located in East Timor.

Mr Abbott accused Ms Gillard of poor judgment and of committing a serious diplomatic gaffe. “She's desperately trying to spin her way out of a problem,” he said.

Mr Abbott said the Prime Minister should not have made her announcement without an agreement with the East Timorese government and consultation with its Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. “It seems that unlike Kevin Rudd, who at least understood who was who in East Timor, the new Prime Minister doesn't understand the distinction between a head of government and a head of state,” Mr Abbott said.

“Julia Gillard should have got this deal done before she made a public announcement.”


She is however postponing internet filtering until after the election

A big contrast to her keen support just yesterday! Another policy that lasted only one day. She's worse than Kevvy

The Gillard government has succumbed to pressure and delayed the introduction of its mandatory internet filtering scheme. The government will wait until a review of refused classification requirements is done.

If Labor wins the upcoming election -- poised in the coming months -- this could see a 2012 start date for the controversial plan, which was introduced by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd prior to the 2007 federal election.

The review into transparency and accountability measures into RC categories will take one year to be completed. Legislation will then be introduced to require all ISPs to filter the RC content list. Once the legislation has passed implementing the web filter plan would take another 12 months.

The Greens yesterday urged Prime Minister Julia Gillard to put the filtering plan on hold or risk affecting Labor's election chances. Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said the friendless net filter proposal is one policy that Labor will probably regret taking into the 2010 election.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy today clarified that the purpose of the review is to ensure that material included in the RC category "correctly reflects current community standards". "As the government's mandatory ISP filtering policy is underpinned by the strength of our classification system, the legal obligation to commence mandatory ISP filtering will not be imposed until the review is completed," Senator Conroy said.

The Australian Online understands the review will be headed by an independent expert in the field who will be supported by a number community assessment panels. In conjunction with the review three of Australia's largest ISPs -- Telstra, Optus and Primus -- have agreed to block a list of child abuse URLs compiled by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

"I welcome the socially responsible approach taken by some of Australia's largest ISPs. Between them they account for around 70 per cent of internet users in Australia," Senator Conroy said. "I encourage other Australian ISPs to follow the example of these ISPs, as well as the large number of ISPs in other western democracies, who already block this abhorrent content."

Ms Gillard had backed the filtering plan. She made her support known to ABC radio this week, saying she understood public concerns over the scheme but that Senator Conroy was working to find a resolution that would be in the "right shape".

When asked if Ms Gillard had set a deadline for the filtering legislation to be introduced, Senator Conroy said: "We are prepared to spend as much time as necessary to make sure we get it right." "The discussions we're having behind the scenes with various players are more interested in getting the implementation and the actual policy right rather than saying it's got to be done by some artificial deadline."

The filter had been opposed by US Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich who urged the government to ditch the plan, saying child pornographers could be captured and prosecuted without using mandatory internet filters.

RC broadly consists of illegal content but Google and various internet experts believe the list could potentially contain legitimate material.


Even the big miners are still concerned about Julia's new watered-down tax

JULIA Gillard's mining tax removes a "great uncertainty" that saw projects shelved, but Rio Tinto is cautious about the PM's proposal. Speaking in London to 500-plus mining executives at an event organised by the Melbourne Mining Club today, Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese said the government’s new proposal, as it stands, would still leave Australia at the high end of the global taxation scale for commodities such as coal and iron ore.

Newly appointed Prime Minister Julia Gillard killed the resources super-profits tax last week in her first official role in the top job, and replaced it with the minerals resources rent tax.

The move was applauded by the major miners who had negotiated the new tax with the government, but it has been opposed by the smaller players.

Mr Albanese said the global miner had been encouraged by the government’s constructive engagement over the last couple of weeks. He added that the MRRT was an improvement on the super tax, but he remained cautious. “There is still much work to be done to finalise the details, and this will remain high on my personal agenda,” he said.

Following the announcement of the new proposal, Mr Albanese instructed his Australian team to review projects that had been placed on hold amid the uncertainty that had surrounded the previous tax plan. “I do want to invest in Australia and recent events remove the great uncertainty which had been holding us back,” he said. “But, of course, our Australian projects will always have to compete for capital with our other investment opportunities across the globe.”

The mining giant’s chief also used his speech to warn other countries about Australia’s mistakes in its attempt to introduce a new tax. “Policy-makers around the world can learn a lesson when considering a new tax to plug a revenue gap, or play to local politics,” he said. “Such decisions must be made taking in a wide range of views, in a spirit of consultation and engagement.”

Had it not been for the Rudd government’s tax plan, Mr Albanese said, the mining major could have more news on growth prospects.

While there were global concerns about China and doubts over continued demand for the metals imported by the economic powerhouse, demand had kept prices well above historical averages. “While we remain cautious on the outlook, 2010 is shaping up well from Rio Tinto’s perspective,” he said.

“Growth is firmly back on the agenda in 2010, and if it hadn’t been for the resource tax, we would have had more to talk about on that front. Inevitably, some of our projects got caught up in the uncertainty.”


Green Loans latest example of climate waste

Julia was deputy PM while this was going on but she still hasn't learned. She is now proposing a new scheme that is just a small variation on the disastrous one

A MYRIAD of problems has forced the government to axe another of its environmental programs - the $275 million Green Loans scheme.

COMPLIANCE breaches, budget blowouts, poor management and possible staff kickbacks have forced the government to axe another of its environmental programs - the $275 million Green Loans scheme.

As Julia Gillard prepares to unveil a new climate change policy to take to the election, she is dealing with the fallout from three damning reports into the troubled Green Loans scheme.

The reports, released yesterday, further damage the government's environmental credentials after the shelving of its emissions trading scheme.

They uncovered a litany of problems with the Green Loans scheme, including deliberate and systemic breaches of the government's procurement guidelines and weak budget control that led to cost blowouts. This included a logistics contract that blew out by 19 times its original estimated cost from $77,000 to $1.476m.

The opposition immediately seized on the reports last night to say voters could have no confidence in the government's ability to deliver environmental programs, pointing to its bungled $2.45 billion home insulation and axed solar rebate scheme.

The reports also sparked fresh calls from the opposition for the Prime Minister to sack Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett, who was in charge of both the Green Loans program and the insulation scheme until earlier this year.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong yesterday announced a new $130m Green Start program to replace the Green Loans scheme.

The Green Loans scheme, which began in July last year, allowed householders to obtain a free environmental assessment of their home and an interest-free loan of up to $10,000 to purchase energy-saving devices.

But it was plagued by problems: assessors had trouble accessing the government's call centre to book audits; there were long delays in the government sending out reports; and allegations of rorting and shoddy service by assessors.

In February, the government dumped the loans component of the program, but in the May budget, an extra $100m was announced to pay for an extra 600,000 home audits. Any Green Loans money left over will be rolled into the new Green Start program. The new grants-based Green Start scheme will also enable householders to obtain environmental audits. Details of the new scheme were still sketchy last night, including whether the audits would be free or subsidised for householders.

In addition to the three reports released yesterday, the government is waiting for a further three into the scheme - a $4m investigation into alleged rorting by assessors, a report by the National Audit Office and another by independent consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Among the problems identified in the Green Loans scheme yesterday were failures of staff supervision, proper planning and communication of issues from the department to the minister and his office. One of the reports, by former Victorian public servant Patricia Faulkner and consultants KPMG, revealed 36 breaches of financial management regulations.

Problems included the splitting of large contracts into smaller ones to avoid scrutiny.

The report also raised the possibility that staff received kickbacks from suppliers, which is being investigated by the department. The original program contemplated assessors being paid $150 a job, but they were ultimately paid $200, and five contracts were cancelled even though the department had already made 50 per cent of contract payments to suppliers.

Defending the government's environmental record, Senator Wong told The Australian: "I think what today shows is that as problems are identified, steps are taken to address them. The announcement I'm making today follows the advice we've received."

Senator Wong said as soon as she took over the management of the Green Loans program in February, she announced interim measures to address its problems, and now that she had received the independent reports, she had redesigned the scheme.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the reports were "a damning indictment of government incompetence and mismanagement".

"There can be no confidence in any environmental program under this government," he said.

"Peter Garrett has completed a hat-trick of failures - the solar program, the disastrous home insulation program and now the systemically rorted and potentially corrupt Green Loans program. Mr Garrett must go, and he must go before the election.

The review uncovered no evidence of kickbacks and all staff interviewed denied they had received gifts, benefits or hospitality from suppliers. But it stated: "During the interviews conducted, representations were made which would indicate that inappropriate relationships with suppliers may have existed and the personal benefit of individual staff or contractors may have been a factor driving procurement behaviour."


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