Monday, December 05, 2011

Victory to Julia Gillard as Labor national conference agrees to uranium exports to India

Good for the miners and Australia generally -- but usually a big Leftist boogeyman

LABOR has committed to a controversial plan to export uranium to India after a fiery debate at the national conference.

The move was one of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's personal policy plans, and she opened debate this morning, telling the conference: "We are at the right time in the history of the world to seize a new era of opportunity in this, the Asian century."

Ms Gillard announced the plan to overturn Australia's ban on uranium sales to India just weeks ago, with the issue sparking questions of whether Queensland will begin uranium mining.

The amendment to Labor's platform was carried, 206 votes to 185, but was one of the most heated and divisive of the conference.

Labor ministers Anthony Albanese, Stephen Conroy and Peter Garrett spoke passionately against the plan, to cheers from the public gallery.

Mr Conroy became visibly emotional over the issue, speaking about his family's experiences living near a nuclear plant in the UK, which he said had "leaked everywhere" in 1957.

Mr Conroy appeared close to tears when he told how his uncle had used a geiger scale to measure for radiation from the Windscale fire. "I've never voted for it, and I'm not going to vote for it today," he said.

Left firebrand Doug Cameron had led the charge against the proposed sale, saying, "Prime Minister you are wrong." "Forget all the arguments about jobs, it's a sideshow."

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill seconded the Prime Minister's proposal on uranium, and was supported by Labor ministers Martin Ferguson and Stephen Smith.

Anti-uranium protesters gathered in Darling Harbour with cries of "shame".

In Brisbane, Premier Anna Bligh backed exports to India and said Mining Minster Stirling Hinchliffe had exercised her proxy at the national conference to support the move.

"But that has no bearing whatsoever on what we decided here in Queensland," she said. "We've made a decision, we won't be mining uranium and nothing that happens at federal conference will change that."

Ms Bligh denied she was being contradictory in supporting uranium exports but banning its mining in Queensland. "We've been very clear, in Queensland there's no place for uranium mining," she said.

"This is a very big product that is exported out of South Australia the question of where it is exported to is one for the Federal Government."

However, the Labor Party's Left faction won a consolation prize on the day it lost the fight to stop Australia selling uranium to India. At the ALP national conference on Sunday, delegates endorsed establishing a southern hemisphere nuclear weapons free zone treaty.

Labor senator Louise Pratt told the conference the decision to overturn the ban on uranium sales to India was disappointing and not enough had been done to eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.

"I certainly don't want my home state of Western Australia being part of this trade," Senator Pratt said. "But we must do everything we can to rid the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons."


Labor Party still supporting live animal export trade

Farmers win; Greens lose

THE Labor party has reaffirmed its support for the controversial live animal export industry but has rejected calls to make stunning compulsory.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig spoke out in support of the industry at the ALP national conference on Sunday, moving a motion that Labor recognise the importance of the industry to jobs in northern Australia.

The motion acknowledged the need for supply chain assurance and expanding the use of stunning techniques.

The federal government suspended live cattle exports to Indonesia earlier this year after a public backlash following ABC's Four Corners program in June exposing mistreatment of the animals.

The minister said Australia should not have to choose between live exporting or the domestic frozen meat processing industry.

"The once in a generational reforms Labor has put in place has put animal welfare at the heart of this trade," Mr Ludwig said, adding he didn't want to see the live export industry torpedoed.

Labor Left faction member Melissa Parke moved a separate motion calling for mandatory stunning to be a minimum requirement for international animal live exports.

"If we are going to send animals on long journeys across overseas the least we can do is accord them with the mercy of stunning before slaughter," she said.

There is reluctance to use stunning in Indonesia because it goes against Islamic slaughtering customs.

Labor MP Mike Kelly dismissed the animal welfare concerns. "It's time to move on from this issue, we've spent a lot of time on it," he said adding that Mr Ludwig had addressed the problem. "It's time for us to move on to more important issues like the situation of our fellow human beings in East Africa in Syria, Libya, Egypt, North Korea and Iran that's the stuff we should be talking about," he said.

Labor voted in favour of the minister's motion but rejected Ms Parkes' call for stunning to be mandatory.


Labor faces pulpit-led backlash on gay marriage

LABOR'S approval of gay marriage has sparked a pulpit-led revolt and accusations that Julia Gillard has breached an election promise to protect the Marriage Act.

Factional warlords engineered a political fix at the ALP national conference to save the Prime Minister's credibility, with the party backing her motion to give Labor MPs a conscience vote on the issue, but the decision to amend the platform to include same-sex marriage has set off a firestorm.

Interfaith religious leaders yesterday warned that Labor faced the loss of seats - which would turf it out of power - echoing warnings from the Australian Christian Lobby that the marginal electorates of Corangamite and Deakin in Victoria, Greenway and Reid in western Sydney, and Brisbane's Moreton were in danger.

Speaking from Rome, the leader of the Catholic Church in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, said Labor's move was "a temporary win for the political class".

"Marriage is about man, woman and children, as it has always been. Any Australia-wide political party which repudiates this does not want to govern, and rejects both tradition and the working class," Cardinal Pell said.

Anglican Church Primate Phillip Aspinall said his church had discussed the issue of gay marriage at its general synod and consistently supported marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, based on scripture.

And Isse Musse, imam of the Virgin Mary Mosque in the Melbourne suburb of Werribee, and the spiritual leader of Melbourne's Horn of Africa Muslim community, urged federal MPs to "look at the next 100 years and consider where families would be as they make this decision". "This is going to have some bearing on how people vote when elections come," he said.

"If a person is a true Muslim - and these days there are bogus Muslims, as there are bogus Christians as well - and understands Islam, then a conscience vote would lead him or her to vote against same-sex marriage."

On Saturday, Labor's national conference in Sydney amended the party's platform to recognise gay marriage, putting itself at odds with Ms Gillard, who insists that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The chief executive officer of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff, said: "Jewish tradition dictates that marriage should be between a man and a woman." He added: "However, the progressive and conservative movements in Australia have endorsed officiating at same-sex commitment ceremonies."

The Grand Mufti of Australia, His Eminence Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, told The Australian he was "deeply disappointed with the result of this vote". "We see in this a serious incursion on the nature of families as created by God and as known by humanity. I believe that this will reduce the support for the Labor Party," he said.

"Australian society prides itself in, and highly respects, its value system. What has occurred with this vote threatens the family unit and the natural order of matrimony, being a natural union between a male and a female."

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh warned that political extremists and Christians could rally to defeat the Labor reform and bolster right-wing political causes.

Ms Bligh, who faces an election next year, has vowed to fight for the reform and expressed her desire that federal parliament legalise same-sex marriage before the next federal election, due in 2013. "Is it possible that we will see some of the large Christian churches mobilise in this election?" Ms Bligh said. "Yes. But I don't think this will be the only issue that motivates them."

The president of the Islamic Friendship Society, Keysar Trad, noted that at the NSW election in March the NSW Council of Imams had urged its followers vote against any candidate who supported gay marriage, and predicted that such a direct instruction would be forthcoming at the next federal election.

Such a move would create the prospect of forcing individual Labor candidates to state their position on the question. "This is an issue which will deliver a lot of people towards the Liberals and Nationals and some of the minor parties," Mr Trad said.

If the predictions prove correct, it could greatly increase the chances of Labor losing those seats in western Sydney that survived the Liberal onslaught at the last federal election.

With ethnic voters from a variety of faiths often the strongest adherents to organised religion, any electoral impact of Labor's change in platform could be most pronounced in seats such as Reid, held by Labor's John Murphy by a margin of 2.5 per cent. The seat has a proportion of overseas-born residents of nearly 40 per cent.

Deborah O'Neill, who represents the marginal seat of Robertson, told the conference she thought the community support for gay marriage was "overstated". "Perhaps time will change and broader community views on the Marriage Act will change. But at this time, I believe it is an issue that continues to divide us."

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce warned that the government was sending a loud message to blue-collar voters that it had been completely captured by the left-wing causes of the Greens and activist group GetUp! and had lost sight of the concerns of mainstream voters.

Labor backbencher Stephen Jones said he would move a private member's bill early next year to amend the Marriage Act in competition with the Greens.

ACL managing director Jim Wallace yesterday insisted that Ms Gillard had promised before last year's election that under her leadership the Marriage Act would continue to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. "Labor's granting of a conscience vote on this issue does not change the statement this policy change makes on its values as a party, and the degree to which we can trust its election promises," Mr Wallace said.

He said there was now a clear differentiation between the Coalition and the ALP on marriage and that his organisation would continue to back Labor MPs who stuck to their promise and rejected change.

Saturday's debate on same-sex marriage was a torrid affair, with about 3000 pro-reform activists marching on the conference. Speakers opposing the change jeered from the floor as they warned that the issue put Labor out of step with the mainstream.

Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association national secretary Joe de Bruyn told delegates that Labor had "a fighting chance" to win the next election, but "If the platform is changed, then rather than win seats in Queensland, as we need to do, we may very well lose more seats. In suburban Sydney or Melbourne, again, we are likely to lose more seats."

Tony Abbott accused Labor of "navel gazing". But despite previously indicating that the Coalition would not change its united position of opposing same-sex marriage, the Opposition Leader refused to give a clear answer. "There's a sense in which every vote in the Liberal Party is a conscience vote because we don't expel people for exercising their judgment, unlike the Labor Party," Mr Abbott said.

Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek called on Mr Abbott to give Liberal MPs a conscience vote on the issue, noting that Victorian Liberal Russell Broadbent had recently made clear he favoured gay marriage.

It is clear that some Coalition MPs support marriage equality, including former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, whose Sydney seat of Wentworth is home to a large gay community.

Mr Turnbull was unavailable yesterday, but in a recent email to a constituent he made clear that he believed the Liberal Party should have a conscience vote.


Queensland Government plan for fast-food calorie counts to beat obesity

The evidence that this has zero effect on what people eat doesn't bother anyone, of course

FAST-FOOD chains will be forced to display the calorie count of every burger, fries and soft drink in the latest attack in the war against obesity.

New rules to be announced today will give customers the chance to weigh up the nutritional value of meals before ordering their meal over the counter - and whether their waistlines can handle the super-sized option.

The legislation being drafted by the Bligh Government means fast-food outlets must display the energy content of all items on their menus. The scheme has targeted super-sized servings that can almost chew up the recommended daily energy intake in one meal.

Customers will be confronted with the daunting kilojoule content - the energy value of food - of items under new-look menu boards in a bid to drive them towards healthier meal choices.

Some meal deals contain more than half the average adult daily limit of 8700 kilojoules. Kilojoule counts would be listed beside every item of sale, including meal deals. The average daily kilojoule limit must also be displayed on menus.

The recommended average energy intake for a six-year-old is about 6700 kilojoules a day, and about 7600 kilojoules a day for a 10-year-old. A Happy Meal at McDonald's can contain up to 2800kj.

It is expected the law will apply to fast-food and snack food chains with more than 20 outlets in the state, or 50 outlets nationally.

Health Minister Geoff Wilson said it was about helping people eat healthier, with obesity rates now as high as one in five Queenslanders. "If current trends continue, it is expected that about two- thirds of Queensland adults will be overweight or obese by 2020," he said.

Heart Foundation chief executive Cameron Prout said the move would help people make more informed choices. "It is not just the usual suspects in terms of offering unhealthy meals," he said. "There are a lot of meals that people think are healthier but might be surprised when they see how many kilojoules are in them."

The laws will be introduced early next year, but the Heart Foundation hopes the plan would gain support from both main parties in the case of an early election.

More than four million Australians buy from fast food outlets each day and many already feature some nutritional information.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Richard Kidd urged lawmakers to go even further by forcing fast-food chains to list items such as fat content on menu boards. "The AMA along with a lot of other health groups is very concerned at the epidemic of obesity, particularly in our children, and we are now seeing Type 2 diabetes appearing in our children, which is just dreadful," he said.

"It doesn't matter what age you are, by the time you develop diabetes your risk of having a heart attack is the same as someone who has already had a heart attack and we are inflicting this on our children now."

Childhood obesity expert Professor Geoff Cleghorn, from the University of Queensland, said the plan was a positive step forward in the battle of the bulge.


Global cooling hits Sydney

Sydney's coldest start to summer in 50 years

It's shaping up to be the coldest start to summer in more than 50 years.

If forecasts prove accurate - and Sydney stays below 23 degrees until Wednesday - it will be the coldest first week of summer since 1960. It's already the coldest in 44 years, Josh Fisher, a senior meteorologist at Weatherzone, said. In the summer of 1960, each of the first 10 days was cooler than 22 degrees.

Meteorologists blame cold winds, sweeping up from near Tasmania, for the unseasonable weather.

Today's forecast temperature of 18 degrees is seven below the average for this time of year. The additional chill brought by projected 30-40km/h winds will make the city feel like 11 degrees, Mr Fisher said.

Sydney should warm to the mid-20s on Friday and next weekend, the eight, ninth and 10th days of the month, Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said.

But it won't be a sunny reprieve. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting rain and cloud.

The city's long-term average maximum for this time of year is 25 degrees, Mr Dutschke said.

Mr Fisher also said summer would be cooler than average because of the influence of the La Nina weather cycle, which brings with it greater chance of clouds, rain and humidity.

"Looking further ahead, the summer as a whole is likely to be close to or cooler than average, regarding maximum temperatures. We will still get our hot days but La Nina will increase the chances of extra cloud, humidity and rainfall, hence cooler daytime temperatures," Mr Dutschke said.

Thunderstorms rolled across the city late yesterday morning and early afternoon, cooling most suburbs below 17 degrees, well below average for this time of year. The storms also brought brief rain and hail to some western and northern suburbs. Picnickers and beachgoers were sent scurrying.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Carbon tax, Uranium to India, but everywhere you look its a Gay Marriage-a-thon.

Distraction issue? I rest my case. She will make like she's been forced to put it to the Parliament or something, the Liberals will vote it down, she (or someone near her) will then milk the politics of declaring the Liberals heartless and cruel or something, and the issue will stay alive to be used again another day.