Friday, April 22, 2011

A clergyman who should stick to themes he knows something about

"God's vision is threatened by climate change"? Is this guy a Christian at all? He doesn't seem to have much faith in his God. But the "Uniters" are very wishy washy these days. They had real faith when they were Methodists but their gospel these days appears to be a purely social and political one.

My old Presbyterian church stayed out of the "Uniters" and when Anne and I attended there this morning it was the Gospel of salvation only that I heard. To preach anything else on Good Friday is very peculiar Christianity indeed. And it was the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland that we had preaching

THE crippling of Japan, the devastation of Christchurch and the floods that ravaged Queensland were not the work of God, church leaders said. But the leader of one of Sydney's three main Christian denominations blamed man for some disasters that caused human suffering.

The Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT, the Reverend Niall Reid, said in his Easter message that climate change was the result of "unsustainable, unfettered and unthinking addiction to economic growth", and those who could not entertain a less destructive path were like those who sent Jesus to the Cross for expediency's sake.

Rising sea levels and more ferocious storms, floods and fires caused by climate change had the potential to threaten food security, exacerbate poverty and create an environment ripe for war, he said.

"God is found in the lives of those who seek remedies and work towards God's vision of a reconciled and renewed creation," he said. "Surely in our time [God's] vision is most threatened by climate change, which the science seems to be telling us is caused by human activity."


Carbon confusion

Adam Creighton

If you think Australia needs to ‘do something’ about climate change, a carbon trading scheme should be a long way down the ‘to do’ list.

Carbon trading schemes are designed to increase the ‘price on carbon.’ Yet the government maintains a set of policies that actually act to lower the price on carbon.

Before foisting a cumbersome and irreversible carbon trading scheme on us, the government should first remove some of these price depressants.

Fringe benefits tax for company cars is the most egregious example. The more you drive, the more congestion is created and carbon emitted – but the less tax you pay! Tax owed on a company car drops by almost half if driven more 25,000 kms a year, and by almost two-thirds once the odometer ticks over 40,000 kms. Many thousands of cars are driven purely to exceed these thresholds.

The latest national greenhouse accounts noted that carbon emissions from transport have been ‘one of the strongest sources of emissions growth in Australia.’ Indeed, since 1990, emissions from domestic air travel have grown faster than from any other type of transport. Yet aviation fuel continues to be taxed at a special low rate of 3.6 cents a litre, compared to the standard 38 cents for high-energy fuel.

The government forgoes about $2 billion a year maintaining these policies, money that could be used to cut taxes elsewhere.

Then there’s the Fuel Tax Credit (FTC) scheme, which gives tax rebates to businesses that use big trucks or fuel-intensive machinery. The government’s most recent budget notes that ‘expenses under the Fuel Tax Credits Scheme are also expected to increase progressively across the budget and forward years.’ That’s because the scheme has been expanding since it was introduced in 2006. The FTC scheme is set to cost about $6 billion a year by 2013, about $1 billion more than it does now.

These policies are overseen by the same government that now advocates a higher price on carbon.

Finally, the real excise on petrol has been falling by about 3% a year since 2001, when indexation to inflation ceased. The Henry tax review sensibly flagged its reintroduction, but the government ruled it out. It is hard to see how an ever lower petrol tax will help the government reach its carbon abatement goals.

Australia seems poised to have policies that try to raise and lower the price of carbon at the same time.

Only a government devoted to form over substance would tolerate such absurdities, and only a populace so bamboozled by the array and complexity of government interventions would overlook them.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 21 April. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Private choppers saviours during flood

LACK of air support has emerged as a key issue in the flood inquiry as a regional police officer revealed he relied on privately owned choppers on at least two occasions to do his job during the deluge.

The inquiry moved to Dalby yesterday to examine disaster management in the bush after thousands of residents suffered inundation on the Darling Downs in the dying days of 2010.

Blurred lines between police and emergency services boundaries were examined, along with problems with flood warning systems.

Farmer Glen Taylor, who lives outside the tiny town of Condamine, used the forum to blast bureaucracy which he believes has overburdened localised disaster management with petty rules. "Regulation is just about choking all these people," he said.

The rift between city and country was also evident in the inquiry, as one police officer noted flood information was available on a website. "We're not always on computers," declared a voice from the public gallery.

Police Sergeant Ben Wiltshire, officer in charge of the Miles police station, highlighted one of the most serious problems of regional flooding when he told of hitching rides on choppers to help out in the flood.

At 11am on December 30, he was phoned by a resident of Condamine who advised water was knee-deep in the pub and large parts of the town were in danger of inundation.

Sgt Wiltshire was told a chopper from M1 Helicopters in Roma had landed in Miles to refuel and asked if he could hitch a lift. "I spoke with the manager, Peter Clatworthy, who approved travel to Condamine without charge," he said.

Sgt Wiltshire said without the generosity of Mr Clatworthy, the subsequent evacuation of the entire town of Condamine, which he helped manage, would have been more difficult and dangerous. During the evacuation he relied exclusively on private or military owned choppers, and could not communicate directly with the pilots nor issue instructions.

On another occasion during the floods, Sgt Wiltshire said a privately owned chopper landed near him and the pilot walked over and advised him he had 20 minutes of fuel left if a chopper was needed for flood work. Sgt Wiltshire used the time to check on people in vulnerable areas.

"But it was just luck," he said. Sgt Wiltshire said dedicated police choppers were needed to address the issue.


Rioting illegal immigrants face prosecution after fires at Sydney detention centre

TWENTY-TWO detainees at Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre have been removed and are being questioned by police over this week's riot. The Villawood centre erupted in a riot on Wednesday night involving up to 100 detainees, leaving nine buildings gutted by fire.

A Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) spokeswoman said while a small number of detainees remained on a rooftop at the centre, there were no further reports of disturbances last night. "We can report that the centre has been calm throughout the night," she said.

She said that early today, 22 people of interest had been removed from Villawood and taken to Silverwater Correctional Centre in an operation by DIAC, NSW Police, Australian Federal Police and the centre manager Serco. She said they would be questioned in relation to the events of Wednesday and yesterday at the detention centre. No one had been arrested or charged at this stage, she said.

Social Justice Network member Jamal Daoud said detainees had told him overnight that Federal Police in full gear had entered Villawood, searched rooms, removed some detainees - mainly Kurdish and Afghani - and taken them away in a bus. He described the actions as insensitive and said they added tension to an already intense situation. "The detainees are demanding to know the destination their fellow detainees were taken to and on which basis they were identified," he said.

The protest was triggered after two men climbed onto the roof of the main centre early on Wednesday. They were soon joined by 11 others and, by midnight, up to 100 people were involved, vandalising and setting fire to buildings. An oxygen cylinder was torched, leading to an explosion shortly after 2am yesterday.

By yesterday afternoon, six protesters were left on the roof of one building.

The asylum seekers involved in the violent rampage at the Villawood Detention Centre face criminal charges and deportation to their country of origin.

An angry and hard-line Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, yesterday said while he understood the frustration, there was "no justification at all" for setting fire to nine buildings and hurling roof tiles at firefighters.

Mr Bowen said the group of men who took to the roof of the detention centre in Sydney's southwest, sparking the protest, had already had their refugee claims knocked back. Some of them were being readied for deportation to their country of origin.

"These are people in many instances who are not happy with that outcome but ... if they think they will change their visa outcome, if they think they will be accepted as refugees because of this sort of protest action, they've chosen the wrong government and the wrong minister, because that won't be happening."

With the damage bill to run into millions of dollars, Mr Bowen said protesters could potentially face criminal charges following an investigation by the Australian Federal Police.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Julia Gillard also took a tough stance, sending a message to those involved in the riot. "Violence is wrong and it doesn't help your claim," she said.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the Government should immediately suspend processing of refugee claims of people who were involved in the violent fracas. "If you're not a refugee then you shouldn't be here, and you should be returned," he said.

Mr Bowen said he would "vigorously" apply the character test to asylum seekers who had visa applications pending.

Reports that police were delayed from entering the burning detention centre compound on Wednesday night because of jurisdictional issues were vigorously denied by the Government.

However The Daily Telegraph understands police were called out at 11.20pm but it was 1am before they entered the compound. It is believed it took some time for the riot squad to be assembled.

Because only minor damage was done to accommodation blocks, detainees were able to remain at Villawood last night but Mr Bowen said that may change over the coming days. A temporary kitchen was last night being flown in from Melbourne.

The Villawood Immigration Detention Centre is due to undergo a $187 million redevelopment.

Mr Bowen said the violence would be investigated as part of an existing independent review into the protests that occurred at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre last month.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

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