Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Canberra 'paralysed' on border control

Greg Sheridan

THE opposition is right to seek a stronger regime of enforcement for detention centres. Under measures proposed by the opposition's immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, detainees who engage in violent or unruly conduct could face a range of penalties below criminal sanctions.

This is sensible policy and in accordance with the public's expectations. It also highlights the growing weakness of the Gillard government on border-control issues.

But Morrison made a much more devastating point on Sky-TV's Australian Agenda program yesterday. The key question, he said, is the government's resolve. The illegal immigration industry recognises resolve and it also recognises a lack of it.

The Gillard government exudes weakness from every pore on border control. At every point, the illegal immigration industry has broken the will of the government. The government's policies in this area are like a shattered pane of glass -- ragged, injurious and impossible to repair.

The government is now paralysed on border control. It can merely react, increasingly ineffectively, to the growing aggression and self-confidence of the illegal immigration industry.

Every announcement of tough measures is shown soon enough to lack credibility.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen threatens to use the character test to deny visas to those guilty of violence or unruly behaviour in detention centres. Then it turns out that Bowen does not make such determinations and detention-centre inmates have acquired criminal convictions and then gone on to acquire permanent resident visas.

The illegal immigration industry has got the government completely sussed. Now it is in the process of making the detention-centre network completely unworkable.

In order to defuse tensions in the detention centres, processing times will be cut and people will be released as permanent residents sooner than ever.

They will win the prize of permanent residency and they will confirm the product the people-smugglers have to sell.

For Morrison also underlined the other key reality that highlights the government's weakness: virtually none of the asylum-seekers are ever sent home against their will.

So criminal convictions are no bar, no one gets sent back, the detention centres are unmanageable and the flow of boats is ever increasing. This represents comprehensive failure by Labor.

The other important policy lead from Morrison yesterday was that the Coalition will neither embrace nor contest the government's new enthusiasm for multiculturalism.At the same time, the Liberal Party would champion Australian diversity.

It's a good combination if the opposition can stick to it.


Australia's official climate experts: Clueless

Climate commissioner Will Steffen said the following at a meeting of the commission chaired by the ABC's Tony Eastley at Port Macquarie April 28. (Video available HERE)

At 16:09 WILL STEFFEN: "Great Barrier Reef: about 15 years ago there were no bleaching events. The sea surface temperatures is risen, we've had 7 or 8 severe bleaching events in the last 15 years in the Great Barrier Reef"

The Facts

15 years from 2011 that would be 1996. Let's see what the record says:

According to the IPCC AR4 WGII (p.512) "Eight mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef since 1979"

According to wikipedia "The Great Barrier Reef along the coast of Australia experienced bleaching events in 1980, 1982, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006.[24

A question from the audience about 0:27:05:

At the time of the dinosaurs what would you imagine the temperature would have been?

WILL STEFFEN: Good question. That would have been about 65 million years ago. Much Much warmer than today, probably on the order of 5 or 6 degrees warmer. CO2 was much much higher than today as well, probably 900 to 1000ppm.

The Facts

1. Dinosaurs actually extinct 65 million years ago. They dominated life on earth for 160 million years between the Triassic and Cretaceous, living through a wide range of climates. FAIL

2. For the Cretaceous temperatures about 4 degrees warmer, CO2 about 1700ppm. For the Jurassic temperatures about 3 degrees warmer, CO2 about 1950ppm. For the Triassic temperatures about 3 degrees warmer, CO2 about 1750ppm. FAIL

Clearly Will Steffen is getting his facts mixed up and is misinforming and misleading the audience. Will ABC's embedded reporter cover the lies, or let it slip? (or are they just mistakes-what from an expert, surely not).

We expect experts paid good money out of our taxes to get things right. It is news when they get things wrong.

(Note that the the main reason for an absence in bleaching being noted prior to 1980 has more to do with a lack of observers than events-but more on that later)


Welfare clampdown warning

THE extent of "middle-class welfare" has been greatly exaggerated and any move to clamp down on payments would cause considerable financial pain to Australian families, forcing some out of the workforce altogether, an analysis has warned.

As Labor prepares for the May 10 release of what it admits will be a "tough" federal budget, a new report cautions against slashing middle-class families' access to tax rebates and benefits.

The research, to be published later this year by the University of NSW's Social Policy Research Centre, warns that imposing tougher means tests for payments including the baby bonus, the childcare rebate and family tax benefits could reduce incentives for people to work by punishing families when they started earning more money.

It concludes that while there has been an increase in "middle-class welfare" over the past three decades, the rise in payments has mainly focused on families with lower incomes.

The study found that in 2008, 26 per cent of welfare payments went to the poorest 10 per cent of Australian families with at least one parent of working age, and almost 87 per cent went to the poorest 50 per cent.

Just 4.6 per cent of benefits were paid to the richest 40 per cent of families.

Gerry Redmond, a senior research fellow at the University of NSW and one of the paper's authors, said that Australia's welfare system was "very tightly targeted" to those in most need, especially when compared to other OECD countries.

"You can very easily argue that the increase in family tax benefits to better-off families has been politically motivated," he said.

"But, at the same time, what it has done is greatly increased the living standards of lower-income families with kids, and maintained their incentives to take on work."

The research comes in the wake of calls from prominent economists and the Australian Council of Social Service for the government to crack down on assistance to middle and high-income families as it battles to meet a promised return to a budget surplus by 2012-13.

It also comes after speculation - since hosed down - that the budget will include plans to means test the childcare rebate for families earning more than $150,000, and confirmation that Labor will again try to impose a means test on the private health insurance rebate for families on incomes over $160,000.

Treasurer Wayne Swan last week reiterated that he was a "strong supporter" of family payments.

"Some people run around the country railing against family payments, claiming they're all middle-class welfare. That is not my view," he told ABC radio. "I'm a strong supporter of a social safety net which supports people in work and which provides payments … to assist them with raising their children."

When pressed, Mr Swan would not say whether his comments meant parental payments and payments to single families would avoid the budget axe.

The Australian Council of Social Service has called for "bold action" by the government to curb "poorly targeted" payments that benefit high-income earners, including the childcare and private health insurance rebates.

ACOSS says governments are using such payments "as a balm for the concerns of middle and upper income earners about their living standards".

Economist Saul Eslake, of the Grattan Institute, agrees, saying there is "little good done by giving people who are perfectly capable of looking after themselves and their dependents money raised by higher taxes on other people".

Since coming to office in 2007, Labor has imposed means tests on "middle class welfare" payments including Family Tax Benefit B - paid to families with one breadwinner - and the baby bonus, but has also boosted payments to low and middle-income earners with its means-tested paid parental leave scheme.

At the same time, though, it has targeted middle and high-income earners with its flood levy and its plans to curb the private health insurance rebate, a change forecast to save $2 billion over four years.

In the case of Family Tax Benefit B and the baby bonus, it imposed a "sudden death" cut-off point of $150,000, rather than a sliding scale of gradually reducing benefits.

The new research warns that such sudden cut-offs for benefits create high effective marginal tax rates, potentially punishing people for boosting their incomes.


Australia's best teachers to be financially rewarded with bonus payments - Gillard

The country's best teachers will be offered bonus pay under a budget plan announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

"The forthcoming budget will deliver on our promise to invest in rewarding great teachers around the country," Ms Gillard told reporters at a Canberra primary school this morning.

"We will design a system where teachers who are performing well can get additional pay and additional reward to recognise that great performance."

The bonus pay will cost the commonwealth $425 million over the next four years and a total of $1.3 billion to 2018, the government says.

The first bonuses will be based on the 2013 school year and be paid in early 2014.

Bonuses will range from $5400 to $8100, depending on the teacher's experience.

Ms Gillard says an estimated 25,000 teachers, or around one in 10, will receive incentives under the scheme.


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