Monday, October 17, 2011


Conservatives would win an election in a landslide if it were held as voters oppose carbon tax

TONY Abbott would be handed an overwhelming mandate to abolish the carbon tax if the coalition won the next election and he became the prime minister. A clear majority of voters, 60 per cent, believe the Opposition Leader would have the electoral and moral authority to repeal the tax.

With the government's asylum seeker policy also in disarray, the Coalition's primary vote has now soared to a crushing 51 per cent, according to a Galaxy poll commissioned by The Daily Telegraph.

It is the largest primary vote the coalition has enjoyed in any poll since 1996 - when John Howard defeated Paul Keating - with Labor now stuck at a morale-sapping 29 per cent.

The devastating figures suggest the government's jubilation over the passage of its carbon tax through the lower house last week has backfired. And that its bungled handling of its proposed changes to the Migration Act to stop boat arrivals has stalled any recovery that Julia Gillard may have hoped for.

On a two party-preferred basis the Coalition now leads Labor 58 per cent to 42 per cent, due to the flow of Greens preferences back to Labor. But even this would mean half of the current lower house Labor MPs would be wiped out.

The only silver lining for Julia Gillard was that with the carbon tax legislation passed, there appeared a slight bounce in support for the tax. The number of voters now in favour has increased to 34 per cent from a low of 29 per cent in July. But almost double were still opposed to it.

Ms Gillard has also managed to peg back marginally, the lead held by Kevin Rudd as the preferred Labor leader. But Mr Rudd is still the person most voters would like to see take back the leadership of the Labor Party and take the government to an election, with 53 per cent support for him compared to 29 per cent for Ms Gillard.

All the electoral damage from the carbon tax and bungled asylum seeker policy, both issues on which the Greens have claimed victory, has come at Labor's expense and not the Greens. They have maintained a steady primary vote of 12 per cent.

"If Tony Abbott wins the next election he would have a mandate to abolish the tax," Mr Briggs said. "This is more than double the figure - 28 per cent in a Galaxy Poll conducted in July - that believed Julia Gillard had a mandate to introduce the carbon tax."

The Galaxy Poll was conducted exclusively for The Daily Telegraph on the weekend of October 14-16 and was based on a large national sample of 1009 voters.


New Gillard immigration policy means Australia gets Iranians and Burmese instead of Africans

Not such a bad deal after all. Iranians and Burmese will be a lot less trouble than Africans, given the African crime-rate. And both the Iranians and the Burmese are genuine refugees from totalitarian governments

As refugee advocates and others applauded the demise of offshore processing last week, they may have missed what was a big backhander delivered in the process.

As a result of last week's events, 4000 poor wretches languishing in refugee camps in Africa and elsewhere will continue to do so, rather than be afforded a new life in Australia.

Under the Malaysian plan, Australia was to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia. In return, Australia would take 4000 people, already classified as refugees, from Malaysia - at a rate of 1000 a year.

The annual humanitarian intake would rise by 1000 - from 13,750 to 14,750 - to accommodate this.

Australia will still take those 4000 refugees from Malaysia but the humanitarian intake will not be increased, meaning Australia will take 4000 fewer refugees from elsewhere.

The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, gave notice of this on August 31, straight after the High Court ruled the Malaysia plan unlawful. "Malaysia has had no impact on today's decision, therefore I would be inclined to continue to take the 4000.

"We wanted to increase the intake. We wanted to take more refugees, but we wanted to do so as we broke the people smugglers' business model through this arrangement," he said. "The government is entitled now to consider its position."

On Thursday night, after a tumultuous day of two cabinet meetings and a caucus, Bowen and the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, confirmed it.

Clearly, the victims in all of this are not just political. Putting aside the politics of the Malaysia plan, those who devised it felt it would work and be of net humanitarian benefit.

The opposition and other detractors made much of the fact that several hundred asylum seekers arrived in the months after the plan was announced, meaning it would not work.

But in the now much-publicised briefings to the Coalition and journalists, senior Immigration officials, including the departmental secretary, Andrew Metcalfe, argued that once a planeload of people was returned to Malaysia the influx would quickly change. They envisaged that only about 200 people would need to be returned before the message was clear.

Metcalfe called it "virtual tow-back", likening it to the dramatic effect on reducing people smuggling when the Howard government had about seven boats towed back to Indonesia.

It is a dangerous practice. Asylum seekers are loaded onto a navy or customs ship and their boat towed back to just outside Indonesian waters. They are then put back on their boat, with just enough fuel to make it to Indonesia.

Tony Abbott still reckons this will be a key element of Coalition policy, even though Indonesia is not a signatory to the United Nations' refugee convention that he claims is so important when ruling out Malaysia.

Metcalfe says the Indonesians will no longer accept tow-backs and, anyway, people smugglers learnt long ago to circumvent the prospect by sabotaging their boats.

He also said Nauru, in isolation, will not work because the uncertainty that once accompanied going there no longer exists. Asylum seekers know that once they are processed they will end up in Australia or New Zealand in any case. Nauru is no more a deterrent than Christmas Island.

When the cabinet canvassed Nauru last week, it was not proposed to be used in isolation but along with Malaysia and Manus Island - and in an effort to have Abbott change his mind and pass the legislation allowing Malaysia.

Gillard, understandably, was reluctant, given how strongly she and others had argued against Nauru.

The upshot of last week will be, as the department and the government acknowledges, a rise in boat numbers. Some people on these vessels will be genuine refugees, others will not.

The department talks about the Iranians who are arriving in increasing numbers as part of a racket that can enable someone to be transported from Tehran to Christmas Island in five days.

Iran does not take back anyone who leaves and the Iranians know it. They are "incredibly determined", one Australian official said.

"They tell us: 'We are Persian; we are strong. You are Australian; you are weak. We don't care. We are staying in your country.' That's the mindset we are trying to manage."

Inevitably, with a surge in the number of boats attempting to reach Australian shores people will die, and both sides of politics will blame the other. "Mr Abbott values his own political career more than human life," a Labor MP, Craig Emerson, warned on Friday.

There is a thin silver lining for Labor. One senior member said that as messy as last week was, the government resolved two vexed policy issues: a carbon price and asylum seekers.

A carbon policy is settled, and there will be no more damaging caucus debates on asylum. Should Abbott win the next election and meet legal resistance to sending asylum seekers to Nauru, he will get no help from Labor.


A very different white flight

In the USA, whites seeking safety for their children move away from areas heavily populated by blacks. In Australia whites avoid schools heavily populated by East Asians -- because the Asians are smarter and the whites don't want their kids to feel discouraged

A "WHITE flight" from elite selective high schools is entrenching ethnic segregation in Australia's education system, according to a social researcher.

In a study of student language backgrounds in schools, Dr Christina Ho, of the University of Technology Sydney, found a clear pattern of cultural polarisation, with few Anglo-Australians in high-achieving selective entry government schools. Students from migrant families — mostly from Chinese, Indian and other Asian backgrounds — dominate the enrolments of the schools.

In Melbourne, 93 per cent of students at Mac.Robertson Girls High School and 88 per cent of pupils at Melbourne High School and Nossal High School are from language backgrounds other than English (LBOTE), a category that also includes those from non-Asian backgrounds.

In Sydney, nine out of the top 10 highest performing selective schools have similar high percentages of LBOTE pupils, mainly from Asian backgrounds.

People who speak an Asian language at home make up 8 per cent of Australia's population, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Dr Ho said it was understandable why so many migrant families, put off by high fees in private secondary schools, flocked to public selective schools because of their outstanding academic results.

"Anglo-Australians' shunning of public selective schools is less explicable, particularly among those families with talented children who might achieve the required standard on the selective schools [entry] test," said Dr Ho, whose findings are published in the journal Australian Review of Public Affairs.

"The 'white flight' from these schools must partly reflect an unwillingness to send children to schools dominated by migrant-background children, which simply further entrenches this domination.

"If current trends continue, we risk creating highly unbalanced school communities that, rather than reflecting the full diversity of Australian society, instead constitute unhealthy and unnatural bubbles of segregation and isolation."

Dr Ho's study examined enrolment data given by all schools and education authorities to the My School website. The LBOTE data measures cultural diversity and, unlike birthplace, identifies second and subsequent migrant generations not born overseas but who are members of a cultural minority.

The principal of Melbourne High School, Jeremy Ludowyke, rejected suggestions that the school was not culturally diverse. "We don't see a white flight expressed in the pattern of applications to the school," Mr Ludowyke said.

About 60 per cent of his pupils have a parent born overseas. "Melbourne High and Mac.Rob have played a pivotal role in providing opportunities for newly arrived migrant communities. They're part of the success story of multiculturalism in Melbourne," he said.


Heartless NSW hospital bureaucracy

Sydney mother-to-be denied ultrasound pic

THE NSW government should order hospitals to give expectant mums ultrasound scan photos free-of-charge, the state opposition says.

Opposition leader John Robertson responded to reports the Royal Prince Alfred hospital refused to give out a baby scan picture because it was too expensive.

Staff at the hospital refused to give Ultimo woman Kirsty Trimboli an image of her unborn twins and she later paid for one at a private clinic, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

"This mum will never be able to recapture that first moment when she truly saw her twins on the screen at RPA," Mr Robertson said in a statement.

Ms Trimboli had brought a blank CD in case it was easier for the hospital to give her the image electronically but she was still refused, Mr Robertson said.

"Commonsense and compassion should prevail," he said, adding an ultrasound photo can benefit bonding between mother and baby.

"There are few moments in life more emotional and significant than those first glimpses of your unborn child in the womb. I still remember seeing my kids on the monitor for the first time.

"The government should immediately rule out forcing families to pay for photos of their unborn babies in public hospitals."


New Queensland laws include prison penalty for negligent dog owners

Long overdue. It is children who are the main victims of aggressive dogs

DOG owners will be sent to their own cage - with up to 10 years in jail - if their pet attacks or kills another person. Tough new state laws have been drafted that for the first time include a prison penalty for negligent dog owners.

Owners that fail to have a fence or an appropriate fence - or the guard dog they have is inappropriate - will face jail time if their dog attacks.

Attorney-General Paul Lucas said Queensland's proposed laws were sparked after this year's horrific death of Ayen Choi, a four-year-old Victorian girl mauled by a pit bull terrier.

The Sunday Mail revealed in July that more than 2500 dog attacks were being reported in Queensland each year - about 50 a week. Most of the victims are under five years.

Current laws allow authorities to fine dog owners up to $30,000 if their animal goes rogue.

But while there were provisions that may allow for convictions for manslaughter under the criminal code, Mr Lucas said he wanted a specific provision for irresponsible owners. "This kind of thing is similar to what occurred many years ago when a specific provision for dangerous driving was provided so courts did not need to rely on manslaughter," Mr Lucas said.

"If they're (owners) not properly controlling their pet and it maims or kills a child or an adult, then they could be criminally liable for their action."

The draft legislation, cited by The Sunday Mail, sets out that owners will have to manage their dogs and have regard to circumstances such as the past conduct of their dog, its training and its temperament; whether the restraint of the dog, if any, was appropriate in the circumstances, and whether the type of dog used to protect people or premises was appropriate.

Mr Lucas said that responsible dog owners would not be captured under the laws. "The amendment is not intended to cover situations where owners have taken all steps to ensure a dog is secure and safely managed," he said.

"But where a dog is left to roam the streets, and an owner has taken no steps to control the animal or ensure it is appropriately enclosed, then under this amendment the owner could be criminally liable if the dog attacks or kills someone and face up to 10 years in jail."

Consultation will be held with councils and the RSPCA. The amendments do not apply to law enforcement.


Leftist contempt for the voters is showing

WATCHING their federal government disintegrate over the past 18 months, most Australians have been more inclined to shake their heads than protest. Yet, as we await what must be an inevitable leadership change and contemplate the ramifications for left-of-centre politics, the reaction to the protests provides a window into Labor's malaise.

The response to anti-carbon tax protesters reveals the Left's hypocrisy and its fatal alienation from the people it seeks to represent.

A few dozen, largely middle-aged, protesters rudely interrupted parliament last week with their chant of "no mandate, democracy is dead". From the floor of the chamber, Parliamentary Secretary and Member for Eden-Monaro, Mike Kelly, tweeted: "Couldn't quite hear, thought it might have been something about dental plates and brain dead."

One of the nation's most senior union officials, Australian Workers Union National Secretary Paul Howes, also took to Twitter. "And yes Tony this is [what happens] when you start whipping up extremists and giving them a platform. A people's revolt often attracts revolting people."

It is a privilege for the public to watch parliamentary proceedings without being quarantined behind security glass. The protesters were wrong to abuse that opportunity. Still, they were hardly the first, the loudest or the most intimidating. As the protest continued outside, some abused the Prime Minister in unacceptable language, with one man denouncing her as a "scrag".

Kelly later used this disgraceful language to justify his Twitter abuse. Apart from the chronological problem, this overlooks the fact we have higher expectations of elected officials not to mock or abuse Australians, or taint all the protesters with the excesses of a few.

This vignette highlights crucial undercurrents in our national political debate. In denouncing a "lack of civility" the Left seems more intent on silencing criticism by denouncing its detractors as extreme and/or ignorant. In doing so it denigrates and fails to listen to the mainstream. This will only compound its political dilemma.

We saw this six months ago when a few ugly placards at an anti-carbon tax rally had Labor MPs and their fellow travellers denounce the protesters as extremists. Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said that for Tony Abbott to associate himself with the protesters was "unbefitting" of a political leader.

This is breathtaking hypocrisy. It is based on deliberate amnesia about the vicious and sometimes physical protests against the Howard government over Iraq, David Hicks and IR reforms.

In 1996, hundreds of protesters angry at the Howard government's budget cuts, indigenous policies and IR changes stormed Parliament House. They smashed glass doors, broke windows, wrestled police and security guards, ransacked the souvenir shop, caused injuries and hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage, leading to arrests and prosecutions.

The protest was arranged by the ACTU and then president, and later Labor MP, Jennie George, told journalists on the scene that she regretted "anything that occurred but I certainly don't bear the responsibility for it". Looking on was her colleague Combet.

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley also addressed a rally before the violence unfolded. "It said it would govern for all of us," he said of the Howard government, "but it hates workers, it hates students, it hates Aboriginal people, it hates women who want to be in the workforce." Given what transpired, it might have been better to quote Martin Luther King Jnr: "hate begets hate".

This is all recent history. Many Australians remember these events. They also recall Greens Leader Bob Brown addressing that 1996 rally, or being removed from the House of Representatives for heckling US President George Bush. They notice a lack of condemnation of the "occupy" anti-capitalism protest movement. So it is a bit rich for Labor and Greens MPs to denigrate comparatively well-behaved protesters who complain about the carbon tax.

The extremism charge is now a persistent Left attack against conservatives. ABC Sydney radio presenter Deborah Cameron last week went in one breath from discussing a Labor MP's claims she had received death threats over the carbon tax, to Abbott's rhetoric. "And you wonder whether or not Mr Abbott's florid language using words like 'pledge in blood' and so on, does raise again this question of whether there's a pandering to extremism here with some of this very florid language," she said.

Never mind that Abbott's rhetorical flourish came the day after the threats had been revealed. Never mind the poor judgment in going public with death threats, which many politicians receive but most have the good sense to quietly refer to authorities.

Hypocrisy aside, the real import is what this attitude says about Labor's disconnect from voters they should be cultivating. The disdain Kelly and Howes showed for disaffected Australians could not have happened 25 years ago. Bob Hawke would not have tolerated it. Part of the political genius that delivered such success for Hawke was his flattery of the public. There is every indication it was based on a genuine belief in the collective good sense of the mainstream.

When Hawke called a summit with state premiers in 1983 to tackle the recessionhe said: "If we at this conference dedicate ourselves to provide leadership to this great people, I have absolute confidence that they will respond with the united effort and renewed determination to beat this crisis and build an even better future for this great nation, Australia."

It was a theme he returned to repeatedly over his decade of consensus-based politics. It served Hawke, Labor and the nation well.

Inexperienced political operatives occasionally quote Henry Louis Mencken that: "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the [American] public."

Hawke's modus operandi could be summarised as: "No politician will lose their way harnessing the good sense of the Australian public." Abbott understands this. When all the leadership, factional and electoral conflagrations are over, respect for the mainstream is what Labor needs to rediscover.


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