Friday, July 23, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that the liaison between Bob Brown and Julia is pretty disgusting

Julia Gillard wants climate change action linked to summit of 'ordinary Aussies'

This is probably just a delaying tactic but the more delay the better

ABOUT 150 ordinary Australians would be randomly chosen to develop the nation's response to climate change under a re-elected Gillard Government.

Julia Gillard will today pledge to set up a Citizens' Assembly to spend 12 months examining the evidence on climate change, the case for action and the consequences of putting a price on emissions. In a speech in Brisbane, the Prime Minister will try to convince voters that she has learnt from Kevin Rudd's mistakes. She will say she will lead the debate and Labor is committed to revisiting a price on carbon pollution but not until at least 2012.

First she wants to take the community along and build a nationwide agreement ``like the kind of consensus we have about Medicare".

In an important development designed to give business certainty over future investment decisions, big pollutors would be encouraged to start cutting their emissions now.

About 150 community representatives from a range of ages and backgrounds would be randomly chosen to take part in the panel which appears similar to Mr Rudd's 2020 summit talkfest, where he invited movers and shakers from across the nation to discuss ideas for the future.

Critics of that process said it produced little beyond opportunities for Mr Rudd to be photographed with invited celebrities and business leaders.

``They would be voluntary participants, but selected through the census/electoral roll by an independent authority," Ms Gillard says. ``If I am wrong, and that group of Australians is not persuaded of the case for change, then that should be a clear warning bell that our community has not been persuaded as deeply as required about the need for transformational change."

But she says she will not allow the nation ``to be held to ransom by a few people with extreme views that will never be changed".

An independent expert panel, a Climate Change Commission, would be set up to review the science of climate change.

The electorate's love affair with Mr Rudd began souring in April when he shelved the Emissions Trading Scheme after it twice failed to pass the Senate, and domestic and global support crumbled.

Businesses would also be rewarded for taking early action on reducing pollution. Industry would be marked against their 2006-07 emissions levels, so those reducing pollution between now and when a carbon price is introduced would receive more industry assistance.


Secretive web-snooping plan by Australia's Leftist Federal government

The federal government has censored approximately 90 per cent of a secret document outlining its controversial plans to snoop on Australians' web surfing, obtained under freedom of information (FoI) laws, out of fear it could cause "premature unnecessary debate".

The government has been consulting with the internet industry over the proposal, which would require ISPs to store certain internet activities of all Australians - regardless of whether they have been suspected of wrongdoing - for law enforcement agencies to access. All parties to the consultations have been sworn to secrecy.

Industry sources have claimed that the controversial regime could go as far as collecting the individual web browsing history of every Australian internet user, a claim denied by the Attorney-General Robert McClelland's spokesman.

The exact details of the web browsing data the government wants ISPs to collect are contained in the document released to this website under FoI, which was handed out to industry during a secret briefing it held with them in March.

But from the censored document released, it is impossible to know how far the government is planning to take the policy.

The government is hiding the plans from the public and it appears to want to move quickly on industry consultation, asking for participants to respond within only one month after it had held the briefings.

The Attorney-General's Department legal officer, FoI and Privacy Section, Claudia Hernandez, wrote in her decision in releasing the highly-censored document that the release of some sections of it “... may lead to premature unnecessary debate and could potentially prejudice and impede government decision making”.

Hernandez said that the material in question related to information the department was "currently weighing up and evaluating in relation to competing considerations that may have a bearing on a particular course of action or decision".

"More specifically, it is information concerning the development of government policy which has not been finalised, and there is a strong possibility that the policy will be amended prior to public consultation," she wrote.

Further, she said that although she had acknowledged the public's right to "participate in and influence the processes of government decision making and policy formulation ... the premature release of the proposal could, more than likely, create a confusing and misleading impression".

"In addition, as the matters are not settled and proposed recommendations may not necessarily be adopted, release of such documents would not make a valuable contribution to public debate.”

Hernandez went further to say that she considered disclosure of the document uncensored "could be misleading to the public and cause confusion and premature and unnecessary debate”.

“In my opinion, the public interest factors in favour of release are outweighed by those against," Hernandez said.

The "data retention regime" the government is proposing to implement is similar to that adopted by the European Union after terrorist attacks several years ago.

Greens Communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said the excuse not to release the proposal in full was “extraordinary”. Since finding out about the scheme, he has launched a senate inquiry into it and other issues.

“The idea that its release could cause 'premature' or 'unnecessary' debate is not going to go down well with the thousands of people who have been alarmed by the direction that government is taking,” he said in a telephone interview.

“I would really like to know what the government is hiding in this proposal,” he said, adding that he hoped that the Attorney-General's Department would be “more forthcoming” about the proposal in the senate inquiry into privacy he pushed for in June.

Online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia spokesman Colin Jacobs said what was released was "a joke". "We have to assume the worse," he said. "And that is that the government has been badgering the telcos with very aggressive demands that should worry everybody.”

Jacobs said that the onus was now on government to “explain what data they need, what problem it solves, and just as importantly, why it can’t be done in an open process”.

“The more sensitive the process and the data they want, the more transparent the government needs to be about why it wants that data,” he said. “Nobody could argue that public consultation ... would somehow help criminals,” he added.

“We have to turn the age old question back on the government: if you don’t have anything to hide, then you shouldn’t be worried about people having insight into the consultation.

“This is a very sensitive and important issue. It raises huge questions about privacy, data security, and the burden of increased costs to smaller internet service providers. What really needs to be debated is what particular information they want, because that’s where the privacy issue rears its ugly head,” he said.

According to one internet industry source, the release of the highly-censored document was “illustrative of government's approach to things where they don’t want people to know what they’re thinking in advance of them getting it ready to package for public consumption,” the source said. “And that’s worrying.”

The Attorney General Robert McClelland's spokesman declined to comment, referring comment to the department. The department said it had "nothing to add" to the FOI letter it provided.


Libs promise simple way to dismiss unsatisfactory workers

THE Coalition has promised to make it easier for small businesses to sack employees by changing Labor's existing unfair dismissal laws.

Opposition small business spokesman Bruce Billson yesterday departed from the most recent position put by Tony Abbott about changing workplace laws, telling The Australian the Coalition would talk to employers and the public about how the industrial relations regime was operating and would be prepared to make changes.

"If any changes are needed, we will seek a mandate for them at the 2013 election," Mr Billson said. "But the Coalition will never make changes that reflect Work Choices."

When pressed this week whether he would seek a mandate for workplace changes at the next election, the Opposition Leader steered clear, repeating his "never, ever" mantra about reintroducing elements of the Howard government's Work Choices regime.

Both business and trade unions believe unfair dismissal processes for small business could be altered with changes to regulations and not have to be done by changing the new workplace laws.

Mr Billson said the government's Small Business Fair Dismissal Code was not working and needed to be changed to help business.

Under the government's Small Business Fair Dismissal Code, employers are advised to follow a checklist to ensure the dismissal of an employee is not unfair.

Mr Billson said the government had promised small business it would have a streamlined, simple, fair dismissal process that would not expose small businesses unreasonably to claims for unfair dismissal. But he had concerns about the expense involved in cases brought forward with little merit.

"The code that the government put in place, that's overseen by Fair Work Australia, has been condemned by Fair Work Australia itself of being of dubious value," Mr Billson said.

He said the code needed to be changed so that small business could have certainty about sacking employees "without the threat of being hauled before the commission at great expense and being forced to pay 'go away' money".

"Whoever is in government after the election will be faced with having to fix the code," Mr Billson said.

"When a small business employer is faced with a difficult decision to discontinue someone's employment, there needs to be a clear, simple and reliable process for them to follow for such action to be deemed to be fair."

Employment Minister Simon Crean recently changed the checklist governing fair dismissal by small business.

It is believed the Coalition will seek to have a special provision created through Fair Work Australia that lifts restrictions on the working hours of students younger than 18.


Young should get research grants priority

I can see some point in this. Scientists are at their most original and open-minded in their youth. After about 30 they tend to ossify mentally

AFFIRMATIVE action for young research-grant applicants is among the recommendations of a report on ways to drive international collaborative research. The report, Australia's International Research Collaboration, also calls for action to streamline the processing of visa applications from overseas academics sponsored to work here.

The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation, which wrote the report, was told that it could take up to a year for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to process visa applications, and some applications had been rejected. But the department defended its performance.

The report comes as Australia, which produces less than 3 per cent of the world's knowledge, moves to embed itself more deeply in the international scientific community in an increasingly globalised world.

The committee considered written submissions and evidence given in public hearings by government, academe, industry and embassies. The report identified problems facing early career scientists as some of the biggest obstacles to international collaboration.

Young scientists, up against researchers with proven track records, had trouble getting their projects funded. "Research funding has been found to have the tendency to invite further funding," the report says. "As research continues, and publication and citations increase, researchers are more likely to be successful in funding rounds, but many younger early-career researchers have found it difficult to break into the funding regime."

The report recommends allocating 10 per cent of Australian Research Council and National Health and Medical Research Council grants to early-career researchers who are first-time award winners.

Meanwhile, some "non-scientists viewed overseas travel . . . as an indulgence", the committee heard. Many scientists, especially those at the start of their careers, could not fund travel to forge links with colleagues overseas and use offshore facilities. The committee called for a small-grants scheme to support the travel expenses of early-career scientists who had won time on foreign instruments.

It also expressed concern about delays in the processing of visa applications. "The witnesses were upset that . . . dependable academics, who were coming to Australia only to work on research projects and were no risk of overstaying, had their applications rejected," the report says. Some eminent researchers and academics have refused to come back to Australia after experiencing difficulties in getting to the country in the first instance, it found.

But the Department of Immigration and Citizenship told the inquiry that cases of long delays were rare and many universities had been using the wrong visa sub-class.

The report also expresses concern about uncertainty surrounding the international science linkages program. The program, which supports scientists who have joined forces with colleagues overseas on projects, is under review, and due to wind up at the end of the financial year, the report says.

The committee recommended that the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research announce a successor program as soon as possible.

The Australian Academy of Science, which spearheaded a campaign on international collaboration, welcomed the report. The government is due to respond to the report in September.


No comments: