Saturday, August 27, 2011

Leftist antisemites in Brisbane too

It may be a popular haven for chocolate lovers but the Max Brenner store at Brisbane’s South Bank will also attract anti-Israel protesters today.

A Queensland senator last night branded a planned rally outside the Israeli company-owned chocolate cafe as “absolutely ridiculous”.

The Socialist Alternative and the Justice for Palestine groups are among those urging protesters to march to the store at 1pm, highlighting the parent company’s support for the Israel military which campaigners accuse of human rights abuses.

The website of the Socialist Alternative promotes the Max Brenner protest with the title: “Boycott Apartheid Israel! Boycott Max Brenner!”

Queensland Liberal National Party Senator Ron Boswell said Max Brenner was a popular and “legitimate business” that should not be targeted in this way. “I think it’s absolutely outrageous,” he said. “I don’t mind if people don’t want to buy Max Brenner chocolates but there shouldn’t be pickets and intimidation and rallies to stop people [visiting freely]. “I think people that are trying to hit it with a boycott and picketing it, particularly a Jewish business, reminds me of some of the things that happened in the early 1930s.”

The Socialist Alternative could not be reached for comment yesterday. A phone number listed on the website was not working and an email to the Brisbane office went unanswered yesterday.

However, the Socialist Alternative website says protesters will target Max Brenner Chocolates because it is owned by the Israeli-based Strauss Group. It says the corporate responsibility section of Strauss Group’s website – since amended – pledged the company’s support to the Israeli army, including providing soldiers with food for training and missions.

Socialist Alternative says the company has supported a platoon “infamous for its involvement in the 2006 invasion of Lebanon and other atrocities”.

In a statement issued earlier this week, Justice for Palestine activist Kathy Newnam said the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement aimed to bring an end to occupation of Arab lands. “When people know the truth then they will support the BDS Movement, just as people in Australia supported the boycotts and sanctions against apartheid South Africa,” she said, backing the Max Brenner protest.

Senator Boswell, who spoke about the boycotts issue in Federal Parliament this week, said the protest was driven by the “super-left”. He said anyone wishing to protest on the issue should do so outside the Israeli embassy. “But don’t pick on someone that comes to a chocolate shop; seriously, that’s petty,” he said.

Max Brenner Australia’s media relations company was contacted for comment, but did not provide a response.

The Brisbane store opened late last year. It is understood a Brisbane conservative student leader is organising a counter-protest in support of Max Brenner today.

It is not the first time Max Brenner’s chocolate cafes have been targeted by protesters complaining about Israel’s human rights abuses. A protest outside a Max Brenner store in Melbourne last month reportedly led to up 19 arrests and three police officer injuries.

The Victorian Government asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to examine whether the protest breached federal laws, causing “substantial loss or damage” to the Max Brenner business.

Proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel say it is designed to make a legitimate political point about human rights.

But the issue has caused tensions within the Australian Greens. New NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon supports the campaign but Federal Greens leader Bob Brown says the federal party does not officially back it.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd last month sat down for a coffee at Max Brenner Melbourne to voice his opposition to the boycott. “As an individual citizen - that is me, K. Rudd - I am here because I object to the boycotting of Jewish businesses,” he said at the time.


Taxpayers fund $20 million court fees for asylum seekers

MORE than $20 million has been spent on legal fees for asylum seekers in the past year, with the cost expected to hit $26 million in 2012.

The taxpayer-funded service providing legal advice and help with visa applications spends about $175,000 on every boat that hits Australian waters.

But the border protection legal bills, released by the Department of Immigration, do not include money spent by the Government fighting court appeals by asylum seekers.

The department revealed $19.4 million was spent through the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme to provide 6523 illegal arrivals with free legal advice and help with visas in 2010-11.

The law firm run by David Manne, fighting the Government's Malaysia policy in the High Court, is also one of the Government's approved providers under the IAAAS - introduced by the Howard government in 1997.

The department expected the cost of legal advice to asylum seekers to be $26 million in 2012 because of "projected numbers of cases as a result of the High Court decision of November 11, 2010".

The High Court last year found two Sri-Lankan asylum seekers held on Christmas Island were denied procedural fairness.

The Government has been accused of running "air asylum" after spending $37.5 million on refugee transport in the past year while thousands throw away passports before boarding boats to Australia.

Figures show about 99 per cent of asylum seekers, who need passports to fly into Indonesia, arrive by boat without documents. In the past three years 4949 of 5003 who flew into Indonesia arrived in Australia without paperwork.


Review industrial relations laws to stop decline, says top official

RESERVE Bank governor Glenn Stevens has called for a review of Julia Gillard's industrial relations laws, warning that Australia's prosperity is making the country lazy about productivity reform.

Addressing the House of Representatives economics committee in Melbourne yesterday, Mr Stevens said he did not expect the world economy to enter a new downturn and added that the bank would hold interest rates steady until clear evidence emerged of the effect on consumer and business spending of recent turmoil on the markets.

However, he said persistent inflation at a time when much of the economy was slowing made the Reserve Bank's task more difficult. He laid the blame on rising business costs caused by weak productivity.

"We do tend when times are good not to press as hard on some of those reforms as we might," Mr Stevens said.

"I don't think there's any doubt that the period of maximum focus on productivity-enhancing reforms was in the period when the banana republic issues were debated," he added, referring to Paul Keating's years as treasurer in the 1980s.

"We felt we had to do it better and we did do it. It perhaps proves harder to do that when affluence has been better for a period of time."

Mr Stevens said the government had a ready source of advice on what to do from the Productivity Commission. Its agenda included the efficient pricing of utilities and infrastructure, improving competition, reducing inefficient regulation and reforming zoning and planning rules.

However, pressed by Coalition and government members on the committee, Mr Stevens said the business people he spoke to believed that the government's industrial relations reforms, imposed to replace the Howard government's Work Choices regime, had reduced the flexibility of the workforce.

"They might be wrong in their assessment of the system, but I think there are people who feel that," Mr Stevens said. "If they are wrong, then it would be good to get the heads together and show how the system is actually very flexible, because I think there are people whose instinct is that it has gone back the other way.

"While I do not have a silver-bullet policy to fix the problem, I can do no other than say as a public official that we should be giving careful consideration to these matters but, by all means, on as rigorous evidence as we can find."

The Prime Minister yesterday defended her record on productivity, including dumping Work Choices. She said that rather than compete with the world on low wages and conditions, "I put in place a plan to compete with the world on knowledge and skills . . . to unlock the real drivers of future productivity."

Delivering a speech in Canberra last night, Ms Gillard said Australia's economy was drawing strength from the rapid growth in Asia, while the turmoil in Europe and the US was making Australia a more attractive destination for foreign investment.

Although the resulting rise in the value of the Australian dollar was putting pressure on many export industries, she said, calls for protectionism must be resisted. "Our challenge, as exposure to the global market grows, is to build new capability which allows us to prosper."

She cited the National Broadband Network and national training programs as examples.

Mr Stevens said the best time to tackle productivity reform was a period such as now, when export prices were strong.

He said that, although the gap between the high- and low-performing parts of the economy was getting wider, the benefits of the resources boom were being spread broadly.

"I know that people say they do not feel the effects of the mining boom - not everybody feels it directly, that is quite clear - but these income flows do flow around the economy," he said. Reserve Bank estimates show that of every additional dollar of mining revenue, 10c goes on local wages, 25c is spent on buying domestic services, between 15c and 20c goes to the state and federal governments in royalties and company tax, and Australian shareholders get between 5c and 10c.

The Reserve Bank expected that China and the rest of Asia would continue to enjoy good growth, despite the economic problems in Europe and the US.

However, if Australia did encounter a new downturn the budget would automatically fall deeper into deficit and this would help to stabilise the economy. "Let us suppose you saw weaker than expected activity and the budget took longer to go to surplus, that would be the automatic stabilisers working," Mr Stevens said. "There is nothing particularly wrong with that, actually. "Most countries and most economists, I think, would accept that."

He rejected a suggestion from the Coalition's Steven Ciobo that this would lead to higher interest rates. "Are we going to go and jack up rates were that to occur? No, I do not think so," Mr Stevens said.

He said discretionary stimulus spending, such as that embarked on in 2008 and 2009, should only be used at times of extreme crisis.

He added it would be futile for the Reserve Bank to try to lower the value of the Australian dollar.


Labor Party sagging in Queensland too

CAMPBELL Newman is riding a growing wave of anger and discontent with the Bligh Government that threatens to wipe out Labor at the looming state election.

A new Galaxy Poll, conducted exclusively for The Courier-Mail, has revealed the Liberal National Party is cruising towards an election victory with Labor slipping back to the position it held before the summer's disasters.

Not even the Greens will be able to help Labor MPs over the line with the minor party's vote stagnant for the past 12 months.

The results will severely deflate Anna Bligh and her acolytes who have thrown everything at trying to damage Mr Newman and his unorthodox bid to become premier from outside of Parliament.

According to the poll of 800 Queenslanders this week, Labor's primary vote had slipped back to 28 per cent, a repeat of what it achieved in November which was a record low at the time.

The LNP remain on 52 per cent of the primary vote while the Greens hold 10 per cent.

Voters backing other parties and Independents rose to 10 per cent, an increase that could be linked to Bob Katter's new Australian Party.

On a two-party-preferred basis, the LNP holds the most dominant lead it has achieved all term against Ms Bligh's administration which has not recovered from the controversial asset sales.

The LNP's 63 per cent to 37 per cent lead would leave Labor with just 10 seats, less than what One Nation snared at the 1998 state election.

However, the poll shows neither side is considered appealing with more than half voting for a party because they dislike it least.

Sixty-four per cent of LNP voters favoured Mr Newman because they didn't like Labor, while 55 per cent of Ms Bligh's backers couldn't bring themselves to vote conservative.

The poll found Ms Bligh had suffered a rapid reversal of fortunes in the way voters had perceived her efforts since she was hailed as a hero for her handling of the summer's disasters. The number satisfied with her efforts had fallen to 40 per cent while the number dissatisfied rose to 56 per cent.

Mr Newman received an endorsement for his efforts from 55 per cent of voters while 28 per cent were unimpressed.

The former Brisbane lord mayor was also seen as a likely better premier with 55 per cent backing the LNP leader compared to Ms Bligh's 38 per cent.



Paul said...

On the subject of Israel, BDS etc., We shall cordially agree to disagree. I can't stand their constant barrage of eternal victimhood and never-ending me me me.

jonjayray said...

You don't think you would complain if you kept getting rockets fired at you?

Paul said...

chicken or egg