Tuesday, July 06, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is very cynical about Julia stopping the boat people.

Mining tax controversy far from over

Funny numbers; smaller miners still furious. And Even the Greens don't like it!

THE Gillard government surrendered at least $4.5 billion in potential tax revenue to clinch its "breakthrough" deal with the mining industry. This is three times more than the government claimed last week.

As Resources Minister Martin Ferguson told furious mining bosses in Perth he would consider further changes to the deal, Treasury secretary Ken Henry confirmed a significant rise in commodity prices had been built into the new tax forecasts compared with the original resource super-profits tax.

Dr Henry said the three big miners that negotiated the deal with the government - BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata - had substantial input into the design of the "very generous" new mineral resources rent tax, with Treasury largely sidelined.

Testifying before a Senate committee yesterday, Dr Henry said the government's forecast that the MRRT would still bring in revenue of $10.5bn in its first two years - down from the initial forecast of $12bn - incorporated the big iron ore and coal price rises miners had won since the May budget.

Mining tax consultants say these higher prices would have raised revenue from the $12bn forecast in the super-profits tax by at least 25 per cent, generating more than $15bn. This meant the government had given up about $4.5bn in potential revenue when it renegotiated the tax....

On Friday, Julia Gillard, Mr Swan and Mr Ferguson said the government had reached a deal with BHP, Rio and Xstrata on a new tax package, involving significant cuts to the super-profits tax rate, that it would take to the wider industry for consultation.

The MRRT and a new form of the petroleum resource rent tax cover only iron ore, coal, oil and gas projects, with all other minerals now exempt. Companies earning less than $50m a year in profits would also be exempt.

But smaller iron ore miners told Mr Ferguson at a fiery meeting in Perth yesterday further changes were needed for a package negotiated with only three players. Mr Ferguson said he would consider changes to the package, including restoring the exploration rebate and exempting the fledgling magnetite sector from the tax....

Coalition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey attacked the revenue estimates for the new tax, describing them as a "conspiratorial deceit".

Mr Hockey noted that the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics updated its forecasts only once a year in March, and these provided the base for the May budget. "They don't have five-year forecasts of commodity prices other than from ABARE, but they've changed the formula to use spot prices," he said. "It goes to the heart of their credibility in claiming a $1bn surplus in three years."


Crean trying to stop school building waste

Better late than never. Julia has chosen the right guy in Simon. He is a true moderate and no fool. Pity he wasn't in charge from the get-go

AFTER 240 complaints about projects in the BER program, the new Education Minister has warned that funding could be withheld. So far, $75 million has been withheld from Building the Education Revolution projects in NSW.

New minister Simon Crean told The Australian 140 complaints had been received by the taskforce set up to investigate complaints about the BER. Another 100 complaints were made directly to the department, he said. Of the complaints, 150 were about projects in NSW, and in her last days as education minister Julia Gillard announced that she was withholding $75m from that state until problems were sorted out.

Mr Crean said 55 complaints were about projects in Victoria. There were fewer than 20 complaints about projects in Queensland. Problems in other states and territories were in single digits.

After months of complaints about waste in the program, the chairman of the BER implementation taskforce, Brad Orgill, wrote to Ms Gillard last month urging her not to make the $75m payment to NSW, which would have been the next tranche of BER funding to that state.

Mr Crean said he hoped that had sent a powerful message to other states. "The $75m is important . . . leverage to drive this argument of value for money," he said. "It sends an important message but it also completely rejects the notion that (we need to) freeze the totality of funds."

Mr Crean rejected opposition calls to halt spending on the program until the Orgill investigation was complete. "What do you say to the contractors and the workers that you put on hold, quite apart from breach of contract, which would open us up, I think, to a bit of litigation," he said.

After meeting with Mr Orgill, Mr Crean said he was confident that progress had been made and he did not need more powers. He said Mr Orgill did not ask for wider powers. "I think the powers are wide enough -- there's a catch-all there," Mr Crean said. "He can initiate inquiries. He has. I'm very impressed with the way he has gone out and done site visits."

Mr Crean said the BER program had been overwhelmingly effective and had provided value for money. He said there was absolutely no reason to hold up all the projects. "Why should you deny schools their entitlement where they've done the right thing?" Mr Crean asked. "I'm not saying those problems aren't of concern. They are, and we've got to try and address those concerns."


Coverup busted: NSW police thugs run riot with tasers

It would not have been nearly as bad if they had come clean about the abuses as they happened. Instead the abuses continued unchecked

A 12-MONTH trial of police Tasers, which was used to justify arming every frontline officer in the state with the controversial weapon, was characterised by a litany of misuses and abuses that were covered up by police and the government.

The proof comes in internal police documents relating to the trial in 2008-09, which the Herald obtained after a year-long freedom-of-information battle.

The documents reveal that police and the government used the trial as window dressing to affirm a decision they had already made - to give the weapon to all general duties police - and ignored worrying results. The many abuses the Herald uncovered include:

* Stunning a handcuffed child at a juvenile detention centre.

* Stunning two suicidal people covered in fuel, which can be ignited by a Taser blast.

* The repeated stunning of a compliant man who presented no threat and was surrounded by members of the riot squad. This is being investigated by the Ombudsman and police.

The secretary of the National Council for Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy, said: "It's outrageous that they've used the weapon this way, and it's even more outrageous that they haven't told us about it.

"They've been at best disingenuous, at worst they actively misled people about the trial."

The Taser was introduced in NSW in 2001 but was used only about 50 times by two specialist units until the start of the trial when sergeants and inspectors at each of the 80 police commands were given access. Today 8000 police officers are trained to use the weapon. Since its introduction, 26 officers have been disciplined for not following police operating procedures, and the NSW Ombudsman has had 14 complaints.

Police promised stringent oversight during the trial, including the use of a video camera attached to the weapon and a review of each use by the Deputy Commissioner, Dave Owens.

Even before the trial had ended the then premier, Nathan Rees, said it had been successful and all general duties police would be trained to use the weapon. In fact, the trial highlighted problems that critics had been warning of for years.

There were cases of people being hit by a Taser as many as six times, and others where police appeared to use the weapon to make argumentative but non-threatening people comply with directions.

In one case a sergeant drew his Taser when he encountered two young men spray painting. He drew the weapon, he later said, because one of the vandals was carrying an extendable paint roller and he was "unsure what their reaction would be to his presence". He did not fire the weapon.

A mother was accidentally hit when police fired at her son in one incident and a police officer was accidentally stunned in another.

Police also pointed Tasers at groups of people, including protesters inside the Villawood Detention Centre, despite Tasers being acknowledged as an "inappropriate" weapon for use against crowds.

Police also appeared habitually to misuse the weapon in its "drive-stun" mode, in which the Taser is held against the target's body and causes pain without incapacitation. According to the Australian distributor, that mode is designed to be used only when the initial discharge fails. But the trial showed numerous examples of police using only drive-stun mode to gain compliance.

Police do not believe these incidents indicated a troubled trial. Alan Clarke, an Assistant Police Commissioner involved in it, said: "I believe the overwhelming evidence is that Taser are being used appropriately by NSW Police." The trial showed numerous examples of the weapon's usefulness.


Can bureaucracies be trusted with ANYTHING?

Nobody's in charge and nobody gives a damn

It's supposed to be a guide for newcomers to WA about everything they need to know about living here, but a new government directory is instead more likely to cause confusion.

The Directory of Services for New Arrivals in Western Australia was launched recently by Multicultural Interests Minister John Castrilli.

He described the directory, in its third edition and available in hard copy as well as online, as the "most comprehensive ever produced" and one which provided "an essential road map" for newcomers to the state.

But the directory contains incorrect information, including details relating to Tax File Numbers, residency requirements for immigrants, wrong names for organisations, the omission of other significant organisations, and a host of grammatical errors.

The errors are repeated in the online version, which is meant to be "regularly updated" and more comprehensive, according to the guide.

Among the errors are stating the residency requirement for citizenship is two years - it is now four - and no mention of the citizenship test, including the requirement for a basic knowledge of English.

The Association for the Blind and Ethnic Disability Advocacy Centre have been incorrectly named, while the section on ethnic and religious schools omits to mention any.

Another section on ethnic groups mentions 10 out of the 100 or so active in WA. The list of hospitals in the metropolitan area omits the Armadale-Kelmscott Memorial Hospital.

The guide is littered with spelling and grammar errors, including mentioning that the Ethnic Communities council of WA has a "lieracy" and reading program to encourage people to learn English.

WAtoday.com.au asked Mr Castrilli's office if he considered the errors acceptable, what would be done about them, how many copies of the book were printed and at what cost. His office has not responded to the questions.


Australians are now buying more cars from Thailand than Australia

Pretty amazing. There's more to Thailand than "dancing" girls

Figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industry show that while sales of locally-manufactured cars are up by 7.9 per cent for the first six months of 2010 (74,199 compared to 68,759 in 2009), Thai-built cars have leapfrogged the locals, with 84,046 cars sold, taking advantage of a free trade agreement between the two countries.

The locally produced Holden Commodore/Statesman/Caprice, Ford Falcon/Territory and Toyota Camry/Aurion continue to post respectable sales, but they’re not growing as fast as imported rivals.

Thailand is one of the world’s main producers of utility vehicles such as the Toyota HiLux and Mitsubishi Triton, but is also becoming a hot-bed for passenger-car manufacturers, including most Hondas and, more recently, the popular Mazda2.

The trend is likely to continue, too, with Ford last week confirming its plans for a new manufacturing plant for its next-generation Focus, while the Ford Fiesta will also come from Thailand before the end of the year.

Australians are buying more Japanese- and Korean-built cars in 2010, too, with those two countries topping the list of importing nations, accounting for more than half of all cars sold. Add that to the booming Thai-built sector, and the figure jumps to 66.9 per cent of all new cars sold this year.

June was a record-breaking month for new car sales, with an increase of 5875 vehicles sold - up 5.7 per cent from 102,847 to 108,722 compared to this time last year. Year-to-date, 531,168 vehicles have been sold - an increase of 16.7 percent compared to the first six months of 2009 – putting the market on track to eclipse the 1 million mark for only the third time.

“The record June result is a clear demonstration of renewed confidence in the marketplace,” FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar said.


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