Friday, November 11, 2011

Sir Lunchalot was corrupt

More background on Sir Lunchalot here

AN INDEPENDENT report on the granting of a lucrative coal exploration licence to a former union boss by the disgraced mineral resources minister Ian Macdonald has found there was "a circumstantial case of wrongdoing and breach of public trust".

The Clayton Utz report, obtained by the Herald, recommends the government establish a special commission of inquiry into the decision.

Mr Macdonald, who resigned from Parliament last year over an expenses scandal, announced approval of the exploration licence to Doyles Creek Mining, chaired by John Maitland, who had an 11 per cent stake, by media release on Christmas Eve 2008.
Advertisement: Story continues below

The licence was not put to tender, ignoring departmental advice and sparking accusations that it was a favour for Mr Maitland, a former national secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

The government argued there was a community benefit as the department specified that Doyles Creek must be a "training mine" to improve worker safety. In February last year NuCoal Resources bought Doyles Creek Mining and listed on the stock exchange with a market value of $100 million, eventually inflating the value of Mr Maitland's stake to about $10 million.

The report says Doyles Creek, in the upper Hunter, is classified as a "major stand-alone area", meaning it contains sufficient coal to support a new mine. Under departmental guidelines, licences for such areas must be subject to a competitive tender or expressions-of-interest process.

It rebuts claims by Mr Macdonald that he invited Mr Maitland to apply for a licence at the advice of the department. "The evidence suggests the invitation of 21 August 2008 by the minister was written without the department's knowledge or encouragement," it says.

The report highlights an email on December 23 from Mr Macdonald's then chief-of-staff, Jamie Gibson, to the department requesting information about "how good it will be".

"Upstairs have seen it and are having a bit of a panic," it says. The report presumes "upstairs" refers to the premier's office.

The Clayton Utz report finds a report commissioned by the former Labor government that cleared Mr Macdonald was flawed. It also finds key documents are missing from the department's files and concludes a special commission of inquiry should be established.

"We consider that, in light of the facts … (as presently known) there is a circumstantial case of wrongdoing and breach of public trust," it says. A government source said that while such an inquiry had not been ruled out the government was likely to refer the matter to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.


The "disabled": Many could work

Fewer than half of all Australians with a disability are employed and more than 800,000 disabled people are on the Disability Support Pension.

Only 1% of this group leave the pension to take up employment each year. Around two-thirds say they have a mild or ‘less than mild’ impairment but continue to take advantage of the full pension.

Our income support system channels people with a disability onto the pension and away from work even if they have worked before and think they can work again. Once they are on the pension, there is little incentive – and certainly no compulsion – to look for a job.

Yet we know that given the right help, many people with very serious disabilities can work.

Organisations such as JobSupport say getting people with disabilities into jobs is realistic.

JobSupport puts 50 to 60 school leavers with moderate intellectual disabilities through their ‘Transitions to Work’ program every year. Around 70% go on to work in jobs in the open employment market.

The Cerebral Palsy Alliance in NSW takes high school kids with cerebral palsy on ski trips to show them they can be independent and take risks. They place young disabled adults in mentoring programs with some of Australia’s biggest corporations.

The work of these organisations proves that with the right attitude and the right support, almost anyone can be employed in paid work.

We should stop telling people with disabilities that they can’t work and can’t become self-sufficient.

A life on welfare is not the best they can do or we can do for them.

In a wealthy, fully employed country of opportunity like Australia, the most damaging kind of poverty is not lack of income but lack of aspiration.


Fatal ambulance delays in Victoria still

TWO children watched as their father lay dying after paramedics took almost half an hour to come to his aid after he collapsed.

The widow of young father Tim Knowles, Candice, told yesterday of the agonising 24-minute wait for an ambulance, the Herald Sun reported. He collapsed on Saturday while working with his father and children, Kowan, 8, and Haley, 7, on a bee farm in Talbot, central Victoria.

Just hours earlier, in neighbouring town Maryborough, a 48-year-old mum died on her way to hospital after she waited 35 minutes for help to arrive. Ambulance Victoria has launched an investigation into both deaths.

The double tragedy, the latest in a string of ambulance problems in the area, has sparked calls for immediate action to fix the crippled service.

Senior paramedics yesterday warned that thousands of Victorian lives were being put at risk amid fears of more deaths because of the worsening crisis. It comes less than a fortnight after figures revealed paramedics failed to reach more than one in five critical emergencies within the 15-minute target response time.

Ms Knowles said Tim was just 14km from an ambulance branch when he collapsed for no known reason. He died in hospital the next day and she believes if professional help had reached him sooner he could have lived.

In a cruel twist, Ms Knowles said, that like her children with their dad, she, aged 9, had watched her mother die 18 years ago after an ambulance took 30 minutes to arrive. "Those images never leave you. My kids shouldn't have had to watch that and it will haunt them forever," she said.

"If my kids needed to get to hospital, I would drive them myself. "You just can't take the risk here because you don't know when they'll arrive."

Ambulance Victoria general manager of regional services, Tony Walker, denied claims the controversial dispatch service ETSA was to blame. "These cases highlight the challenge we face in regional areas, in that once the local ambulance is on a case there are bigger distances to cover to the next closest ambulance," he said.

"The single statewide dispatch system on the whole has provided huge benefits to regional communities."


Superannuation changes are unnecessary paternalism

The Gillard government last week introduced legislation to lift the superannuation guarantee to 12% by 1 July 2019. ‘Around 8.4 million Australians will have their superannuation savings boosted,’ it claims, presenting, as usual, the benefits as manna from heaven. It neglects to say who is going to pay for the increased savings.

In fact, businesses will be lumbered with extra costs until they can defray them by reining in their employees’ wage growth. Ultimately, superannuation funds will commandeer more of workers’ wages.

In today’s dollars, if the 12% increase eventuates, workers on median incomes of $47,000 a year will be eventually forced to contribute an extra $1,410 a year to their superannuation accounts. Their total annual contribution will jump by 33% to $5,640 a year.

That means less take-home pay. After tax, it’s a reduction of almost $19 a week. That might mean renting instead of buying a home and certainly lower utility during workers’ more active years.

As the Henry review into Australia’s tax system pointed out, workers on lower incomes, especially those living in the pricey state capitals, cannot easily offset the compulsory increase in saving by reducing any voluntary saving.

So it’s hard to see how increasing superannuation is a win for ‘adequacy and fairness,’ as the government claims.

In fact, increasing the superannuation guarantee deliberately curtails the range of choices Australian workers can make. A higher compulsory rate might lift retirement incomes in the future, but nothing is stopping workers from making an additional 3% superannuation contribution now if they wish.

Some people might not save ‘enough,’ others will save ‘too much.’ In a free society that is natural. The old age pension still provides a safety net to all those who make the ‘wrong’ choices while working.

Increasing the compulsory rate might be warranted if it meant smaller government, lower taxes, and a more responsible citizenry. But the cost of the tax concessions provided to superannuation contributions far outweighs the reduction in Age Pension outlays, even in the long run. That means other taxes will have to be raised to balance the budget.

Increasing the superannuation is wholly paternalistic. That it nevertheless garners so much support is testament to the wide range of vested interest groups who benefit from it and the tendentious way it is presented to voters.



Paul said...

I will say that a disability pension (no doubt this now has a PC, non-stigmatizing name) can be obtained just by claiming one is a little upset.

Matt Hartley. said...

A disability pension is called a disability pension. Grow up. I've been on one. As a quadriplegic. And you should be well aware shunting people onto disability pensions was Howards way to "reduce unemployment." So his corruption of statistics was inherited by the dropkicks of the ALP. Who will have the guts to fix it?