Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tony Abbott says Julia Gillard's flood levy is to cover her overspending

OPPOSITION leader Tony Abbott is urging rural independent MPs to ditch their support for Prime Minister Julia Gillard, accusing her of using the floods to mask her government's spending addiction.

In a speech to the Young Liberals convention on the Gold Coast today, Mr Abbott ramped up his criticism of the federal government's flood levy to rebuild Queensland's infrastructure.

Also today, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally continued to push for changes to the national flood levy due to the high cost of living in Sydney, despite Ms Gillard ruling out any special treatment, and Treasurer Wayne Swan said he felt sickened Mr Abbott was putting his own political ambitions ahead of rebuilding the shattered lives of Queensland flood victims.

Ms Gillard, on Thursday, announced the government would impose a one-off, modest flood levy on taxpayers earning more than $50,000.

"A prime minister who's unconvincing when responding to a natural disaster is unlikely to solve the much more politically and administratively complex problems that she had previously set herself to fix," Mr Abbott told the audience. "Like the global financial crisis under Kevin Rudd, the government could use the floods as a justification for its spending addiction and as a licensed distraction from actually delivering on its promises.

"At some point, the independent MPs who returned the government to office could start to reconsider their decision."

Mr Abbott said Ms Gillard will face a voter backlash. "The Prime Minister is pitching it as a mateship tax even though mateship is about helping people, not taxing them," he said. "Mates choose to help; they're not coerced. Mateship comes from people, not from government. People resent being ordered to pay what they'd gladly give of their own volition especially by a government so reckless with taxpayers' money.

"Invoking a disaster to justify a tax, compounds the allegedly wooden demeanour that Julia Gillard showed during the floods with a tin ear afterwards."

He conceded the federal government will have to cover the lion's share of the repair bill for damaged infrastructure but said money could be found elsewhere.

"Flood victims simply can't be without the roads and the railways which are necessary for modern life," he said. "(The bill) will run into billions of dollars but that's no excuse for the flood tax ... there's about $2 billion uncommitted in various funds."

Mr Abbott urged Ms Gillard to drop the tax for the "spirit of national unity". "She apparently can't grasp the rip-off involved in taxing people in order to be generous to them," he said. "Two years ago, the government sent out $900 cheques to almost nine million people. Now, it's effectively taking the money back."

More here

Nanny-staters think that people read labels

The few who do are probably careful about what they eat and drink anyway. The New York experience shows that the sort of labelling advocated below will achieve nothing. Do the brainiacs below think Australians are more sophisticated than New Yorkers? Good luck with that assumption

FOOD police would enforce labels showing nutritional value on packaging and cigarette-style health warnings on alcohol under changes recommended for national laws.

A report released yesterday to improve food labelling laws in Australia and New Zealand contains 61 recommendations, including dropping mandatory "per serve" columns while explicitly stating the inclusion of trans-fats and salt content.

The report, Labelling Logic, was commissioned by the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council in October 2009 and compiled by a panel of independent experts, led by former federal health minister Dr Neal Blewett.

Information about food safety would be of primary importance followed by preventative health, new technologies such as genetic modification and lastly consumer values like "free range".

"The crux of the review was to address the tensions between competing interests that drive food labelling policy and seek to resolve them," Dr Blewett said.

Some of the recommendations call for food manufacturers to voluntarily adopt proposals such as a traffic light front-of-pack labelling system before they are legislated.

Food manufacturers attacked the traffic light recommendation, arguing there was a lack of consensus on the best way to label food. "The industry rejects traffic light labelling on the basis that it's badly understood by consumers and the system has been rejected by countries around the world," Australian Food and Grocery Council CEO Kate Carnell said.

The Federal Government has until December to respond to the recommendations.

The State Government has welcomed the review, which recommends fast food chains and vending machines declare energy (kilojoule) content - a move introduced in New South Wales last November which takes effect from February 1.

Under the recommendations, country-of-origin labelling would be tightened along with mandatory identification of any food prepared or treated with new technologies.

Alcoholic beverages would have generic health warnings including specific messages about the risks of drinking while pregnant. Alcoholic drink labels would also have to reveal their energy content.


Get tough on Victoria's bad school teachers, say parents

VICTORIAN parents want bad teachers sacked and schools with poor results to be named and shamed. A national schools survey found most of the state's parents feared their children would fall victim to physical or cyber bullying and believed alcohol and drug abuse among students was getting worse.

Nearly 5000 Australians responded to the Sunday Herald Sun online survey, revealing parents wanted schools and teachers to be more accountable for their children's performance at school.

Responses from the 1646 Victorians surveyed showed parents and teachers were often at loggerheads about what was best for students. At the heart of the great divide was parents' demands for more information about their children's schools and for teachers who don't make the grade to be sacked.

Of 794 Victorian parents surveyed, 63 per cent believed the worst-performing teachers needed to be expelled from the education system. On the flip side, teachers achieving good academic results should be paid more than their colleagues, according to 79 per cent of parents.

Schools were also in the firing line, with 67 per cent of parents calling for a rating system for schools, and more than half saying under-performing schools should be publicly named and shamed.

Mordialloc mother Jenny Power, who has two school-age children, called on the Department of Education to provide more information on schools' academic performances. "Most parents are limited for choice when it comes to schools, but it would be nice to know how your own kid's school stacks up against the others," Ms Power said. "If teachers aren't achieving what they should in the classroom, they shouldn't be there, just like any other profession."

But Australian Education Union president Mary Bluett said ranking schools and sacking low-performing teachers was a simplistic approach to fixing a complex system. "Education does suffer from the fact that everyone has been to school and everyone thinks they are an expert," Ms Bluett said. "Certainly, nobody wants incompetent teachers, but having said that, I'm happy to say the overwhelming majority of teachers are very competent."

Ms Bluett said existing ways to measure schools' performances - including NAPLAN tests - didn't give an accurate picture of teaching standards.

Up to 76 per cent of teachers were against ranking schools and only 13 per cent supported naming and shaming schools that under-perform in numeracy and literacy.

More here

Victorian Labor government ignored flood advice

They probably believed Greenie prophecies of drought

THE Brumby government knew for three years that Victoria was ill-equipped to deal with flood disasters but ignored recommendations to introduce a warning system that had the backing of the state's top emergency services and weather experts.

A report prepared for the Brumby government in 2007 said the Google Maps-style, web-based system would reduce losses, damage and injury, and save $16.5 million from Victoria's average annual flood bill, estimated at $350 million.

The report, released by the Baillieu government yesterday as northern Victoria continued to battle a massive inland sea, said such a system would greatly improve the co-ordination and response of emergency services that were relying on "skeletal information" to predict how and when flood waters would hit communities.

The Baillieu government yesterday vowed to explore the sort of state-of-the-art flood management system Labor had ignored.

A government spokesman slammed the previous government, accusing it of neglectfully ignoring funding requests for a system that would allow the public, emergency services and the media to predict and analyse floodwaters more accurately.

In the October 2007 report, Labor was told by its public service that it could "vastly improve" flood management by investing in an $11 million system called FloodZoom, which would use weather forecasts, satellite observations, river gauges and hydraulic modelling to simulate the depth and spread of flood waters.

The system was backed at the time by the State Emergency Service, Melbourne Water, the Bureau of Meteorology, the State Flood Policy Committee and the then emergency services commissioner, Bruce Esplin, who saw the need for better communication and warning systems after the Gippsland floods of 2007.

Speaking to The Sunday Age yesterday, Mr Esplin, who recently resigned after a decade as the state's top emergency manager, said the system "would provide a way for the community and the media to understand what floodwaters are doing" and limit the need for people to call Triple 0 for information.

A Baillieu government spokesman said it was committed to implementing a better statewide flood warning and management system. "The Brumby government had ignored at least three years of strong recommendations to implement better flood management and warning systems in Victoria. The neglect … is appalling," the spokesman said.

But Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the Premier was playing cheap politics when he should be "spending all his time supporting flood victims". "While thousands of Victorians are still devastated by these floods, it is disgraceful that Ted Baillieu is playing politics with this issue," Mr Andrews said.

Labor sources said the bid for a better flood management system had been one of many proposals fighting for limited funds as part of the state innovation strategy. Also, they said, in 2007 Victoria was in drought, and the government would have been criticised for diverting money to flood management.

The Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development report warned:

* The state had "significant deficiency" in its emergency response to flood, and emergency workers had few tools to issue accurate flood warnings, leading to most major floods being "characterised by confusion and uncertainty".

* It was difficult to provide a clear depiction of the extent, severity and movement of a live flood situation or to answer questions about likely developments over hours and days under different weather conditions.

Residents in Wickliffe, in the state's west, called for a better warning system after they were forced to make hasty evacuations from floodwaters in the early hours of January 15. They said there had been no warnings that the town was at risk of flood.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Yes, but will the teachers be entitled to see the bad parents sacked? Will they be allowed to discipline the unreared children of the welfare skanks? Will security guards be posted to deal with the African and Pacific Island children of our great multi-cultural cornucopia?