Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Queer judge blames Christians for spreading AIDS!

How offensive and perverse! Article below by Michael Kirby, a retired Australian High Court judge who is openly homosexual. Christians are like Apartheid practitioners according to His Honour.

Instead of blaming Christians, might it not be a more productive strategy in the fight against AIDS to dissuade homosexual penises from entering homosexual anuses?

In 2010 Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa declared that the time had come, particularly for Africans, to stop the “wave of hate” and to stand up “against wrong”.

He was referring to the wrong to “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people” who are “part of the African family” and who “are living in fear.”

This news from Africa would be bad enough. But the same fear extends far beyond that continent. And in the struggle against HIV/AIDS, which has afflicted humanity since the 1980s, the vulnerable are not only gays but also sex workers, injecting drug users (IDUs) and women.

This fear exists in many countries where, despite the knowledge that science now affords us about human sexuality, irrational hatred of sexual minorities and sexual activities is encouraged and even sometimes promoted by religious leaders, in supposed reliance upon their understandings of religious texts.

They rely on their imperfect understanding of what was written in ancient books long before Dr. Alfred Kinsey, American biologist and founder of the Institute of Sex Research, demonstrated the realities of human sexual experience, the frequency and variety of its manifestations, and the dangers and injustice of punishing people for adult, private, consensual sexual conduct. [Relying on the perverted Kinsey and his discredited "research" shows the intellectual shallowness of Judge Kirby]

Most religious people are good and kind. Love for one another exists as a basic tenet in all religions and all cultures. I have myself been brought up in religious faith. I honour brothers and sisters in all religions who are struggling to make a charitable, informed and unbiased contribution to the global struggle against HIV/AIDS.

However, officially the Roman Catholic and Greek and Orthodox Christian churches are still in serious denial about the scientific evidence available about human sexuality. As they have often been in denial about science and its teachings in the past.

Just as they originally denied the opinions of Galileo and Copernicus that the earth circled the sun. And as they, and the Anglican Church, originally denied Darwin’s thesis of evolution of the species, expounded 150 years ago.

Clutching onto imperfect understandings of ancient scripture, leaders of most of the spiritual faiths, instead of re-examining their holy texts by reference to science (as they did in other instances in the past), have adopted a new, irrational approach.

In other parts of the world, the hate may not always be so intense. But the stigma over sexual conduct that is often taught by religious people cannot be accepted any longer. It is now a major cause of death in the AIDS epidemic.

It has to stop. Not only because it is immoral, conflicted, irrational and wrong. But also because it is now seriously impeding the global struggle against HIV and AIDS for the saving of lives. The magnitude of the suffering demands blunt speaking at this time.

As Bishop Tutu has said: “All of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services…Show me where Christ said ‘Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones’. Gay people too are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.

Rightly, Bishop Tutu has drawn a parallel between the earlier, successful, global struggle against racial apartheid and the present global struggle against sexual apartheid. To the moral struggle against sexual apartheid must now be added the urgent needs of the struggle against HIV and AIDS.


Australians want Julia Gillard and Labor gone, latest Newspoll reveals

It is often said that governments lose elections rather than oppositions winning them so this poll suggests a change of government

VOTERS don't approve of Julia Gillard and would kick Labor out of power if an election were held today, a new poll suggests. The latest Newspoll reveals that while there has been a bounce back in support for the Greens to 14 per cent, the ALP's primary vote remains stuck at 34 per cent.

Voters say they would elect the Coalition, but they do not approve of its leader, Tony Abbott.

The Newspoll, published today in The Australian newspaper, shows the Liberal Party turmoil of the past fortnight involving Mr Abbott and his frontbenchers Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey has not delivered a boost for Labor.

As Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott clashed in Parliament yesterday over the carbon tax, the PM took a blow from one of the independent MPs supporting her Government.

Tasmanian Andrew Wilkie said her plan to send asylum seekers to Malaysia was an abomination. Labor had lost its moral superiority and walked away from one of the reasons he backed her as PM after the hung Parliament.

Mr Wilkie yesterday voted for a Greens motion condemning Ms Gillard's plan to swap 800 asylum seekers for 4000 refugees from Malaysia.

Another 52 asylum seekers arrived yesterday, the fourth boat since the Government announced - but has not signed - the Malaysian plan. It leaves 150 people waiting in limbo.

The only ray of light for the Government in the Newspoll came via the Greens. The jump in support for the Bob Brown-led party to lift its primary vote from 10 to 14 per cent has given Labor its best two-party vote since March.

Newspoll has the Coalition leading 52-48. The August election had both parties at 50-50. The telephone survey of 1128 people at the weekend found the Coalition's primary vote dipped two points to 44 per cent and Labor edged up a point to 34. Both moves are within the poll's margin of error.

When Ms Gillard toppled Kevin Rudd as PM Labor's support was 35 per cent. Today's poll shows she is still considered the better PM and in the past fortnight increased her lead over Mr Abbott from a wafer-thin four points to seven. But the 44 to 37 per cent lead is a far cry from the 50-31 lead she had just two months ago.

One in five voters could not decide between either party leader. That is reflected by the approval ratings, which show voter satisfaction with Ms Gillard at 35 per cent dissatisfaction 54 per cent. It's just as bad for Mr Abbott. His satisfaction ranking is 37 per cent and dissatisfaction 53 per cent.



Are you a genuine skeptic or a climate denier?

So asks JOHN COOK, writing on a site of Australia's ABC. He has the amusing assertion that those who reject Warmism consider only the evidence that suits them. Talk about the pot calling the kettle Afro-American!

Cook does link to a large number of Warmist assertions by others but is critical of none of them. He just lists them as gospel and does not at all consider whether the phenomena mentioned are caused by human action.

As can be seen on the header of GREENIE WATCH, skeptics generally accept that there has been SOME warming but dispute both its likely future magnitude and its origin.

Mr. Cook quite ignores the fact that he is peddling prophecies. And they rely purely on supposition, not evidence. And as far as I can find, Greenie prophecies have a record of complete falsity so far. Prophecy really is a mug's game.

Since he is so keen on taking into account ALL the evidence, it would be amusing to get his response to the fact that the tidal gauge data do not show an acceleration of Sea Level rise; that the NOAA -NODC data do not show a significant rise in Ocean Heat Content between 1979 and 1997; that the warming of the last 150 years has been a perfectly comfortable total of less than one degree Celsius -- etc.

In the charged discussions about climate, the words skeptic and denier are often thrown around. But what do these words mean?

Consider the following definitions. Genuine skeptics consider all the evidence in their search for the truth. Deniers, on the other hand, refuse to accept any evidence that conflicts with their pre-determined views.

So here's one way to tell if you're a genuine skeptic or a climate denier.

When trying to understand what's happening to our climate, do you consider the full body of evidence? Or do you find the denial instinct kicking in when confronted with inconvenient evidence?

For example, let's look at the question of whether global warming is happening. Do you acknowledge sea level rise, a key indicator of a warming planet, tripling over the last century? Do you factor in the warming oceans, which since 1970 have been building up heat at a rate of two-and-a-half Hiroshima bombs every second? Glaciers are retreating all over the world, threatening the water supply of hundreds of millions of people. Ice sheets from Greenland in the north to Antarctica in the south are losing hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice every year. Seasons are shifting, flowers are opening earlier each year and animals are migrating towards the poles. The very structure of our atmosphere is changing.

We have tens of thousands of lines of evidence that global warming is happening. A genuine skeptic surveys the full body of evidence coming in from all over our planet and concludes that global warming is unequivocal. A climate denier, on the other hand, reacts to this array of evidence in several possible ways.

The most extreme form of climate denier won't even go near the evidence. They avoid the issue altogether by indulging in conspiracy theories. They'll pull a quote out of context from a stolen 'Climategate' email as proof that climate change is just a huge hoax. I have yet to hear how the ice sheets, glaciers and thousands of migrating animal species are in on the conspiracy, but I'm sure there's a creative explanation floating around on the Internet.

The hardcore denier, firmly entrenched in the "it's not happening" camp, denies each piece of evidence. When confronted by retreating glaciers, their thoughts flick to the handful of growing glaciers while blocking out the vast majority of glaciers that are retreating at an accelerating rate.

They ignore sea level rise by focusing on short periods where sea levels briefly drop before inevitably resuming the long-term upward trend. The key to this form of denial is cherry picking. If you stare long and hard enough at a tiny piece of the puzzle that gives you the answer you want, you find the rest of the picture conveniently fades from view.

Some climate deniers have found it impossible to ignore the overwhelming array of evidence that the planet is warming (cognitive bias does have its limits) and moved onto the next stage of denial: "it's happening but it's not us". After all, climate has changed throughout Earth's history. How can we tell it's us this time?

The answer, as always, is by surveying the full body of evidence. Warming from our carbon dioxide emissions should yield many tell tale patterns. We don't need to rely on guess work or theory to tell us humans are causing warming. We can measure it.

If carbon dioxide is causing warming, we should measure less heat escaping to space. Satellites have observed this, with heat being trapped at those very wavelengths that carbon dioxide absorb radiation. If less heat is escaping, we should see more heat returning to the Earth's surface. This has been measured. Greenhouse warming should cause the lower atmosphere to warm but simultaneously, the upper atmosphere to cool. That's indeed what we observe is happening.

As far back as the 1800s, scientists predicted greenhouse warming should cause nights to warm faster than days and winters to warm faster than summers. Both predictions have come true. Everything we expect to see from greenhouse warming, we do see.

So which camp do you fall in?

Do you look at the full body of evidence, considering the whole picture as you build your understanding of climate? Or do you gravitate towards those select pieces of data that, out of context, give a contrarian impression, while denying the rest of the evidence?

More HERE (See the original for links)

It's all hot air from the jet-setting eco brigade

Gerard Henderson

The Sunday Telegraph's "Carbon Cate" headline should have come as no surprise. Sure, it was a clever journalistic line in response to news that Cate Blanchett was heading the Australian Conservation Foundation's TV advertising campaign in support of a carbon tax. But Don Henry, the foundation's executive director, should have seen it - or something like it - coming.

On ABC radio on Sunday, Henry seemed unprepared for the criticism, which demonstrates just how out of touch some inner-city environmentalists are with predominant views in the suburbs and regions. Blanchett is an admirable and successful Australian. Even so, many Australians who struggle to pay their power bills each quarter do not want to be lectured to by a multimillionaire film star.

Some supporters of a carbon tax have declared that Blanchett has a right to say what she likes and said that the Academy Award winner should not be criticised on the grounds that she is rich. Both points are obvious. However, at issue is the double standard.

Irrespective of her wealth, if Blanchett lived like Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa, it is unlikely there would be any reaction to her telling Australians that it is time to do something about climate change. But those Australians who know who Blanchett is well understand that she has a very large carbon footprint. Not only does she live in a Hunters Hill mansion but she travels the world to practise her art.

Granted, at some cost, she has put solar panels on her family home. And she may offset her travel by arranging for someone to promise to plant trees somewhere. Yet the fact remains that she believes carbon emissions threaten the planet, and if everyone lived her life, carbon emissions would soar.

Australians in the suburbs and regions understand this. They also feel that many who live in the inner cities or wealthy suburbs close to the CBD look down on them. Blanchett and her husband, the director Andrew Upton, gave a talk to the City of Sydney in March. They looked back in happiness at the inner city of the 1980s but said that, at this time, "the suburbs could feel flat and dry and filled with sinister silence underneath the crickets and sprinklers". What snobbish bunk. (A personal declaration - I lived in the suburbs in the 1980s.)

One of the problems facing Julia Gillard is that so many of those who speak the loudest about the need to reduce carbon emissions have a personal carbon emissions footprint that would be the envy of most Australians.

Tim Flannery, head of the Climate Commission, travels the world calling for a reduction in carbon fuels. Tim Costello, World Vision Australia's chief executive, is another inveterate traveller. So is Dick Smith, who apparently feels the need to travel the world, sometimes flying his own aircraft, in order to save the world.

This is a common phenomenon. The Sydney lord mayor, Clover Moore, is a proselytiser for the environment. But she has been photographed travelling to work in a chauffeured car (even though she lives in the inner city) and owns a car with an off-street garage.

Shortly before Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, separated, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Gores had bought a mansion in Montecito with six fireplaces, five bedrooms, nine bathrooms and one pool. An eco-catastrophist such as the former United States vice-president should have been able to manage with, say, three fireplaces and a mere four bathrooms. Al Gore also claims to offset his emissions. But, again, who would offset what if everyone lived like Gore?

This year Sting made yet another visit to Australia as part of his Symphonicity tour. Interviewed by Julian Morrow on Radio National, he was asked whether he felt a tension between his "environmentalist beliefs and the lifestyle of an international entertainer". The answer was, well, yes - but not really. Sting acknowledged that carbon offsets did not really work and that the criticism was justified but concluded: "I'm not given an alternative to do this life without burning fuel." Morrow accepted this.

Support for the carbon tax is highest among well-educated Australians who enjoy relatively secure employment or comfortable retirement - many of whom live in the inner cities. Concern about a carbon tax is greatest among Australians whose jobs are not so secure or who live on retirement incomes where life is a daily struggle - many of these Australians live in the suburbs and regional areas.

Viewed from the perspective of the ABC studio in Ultimo, the top 1000 emitting companies tend to be regarded as the big polluters. Viewed from Wollongong and Campbelltown, they tend to be considered the big employers. Of all the members of the Gillard cabinet, the Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, understands this best.

Writing in her Open Salon blog last year, Ann Nichols put it this way: "It is very easy to preach about the value of the grass-fed, the solar, the phosphate-free and the organic when you are in a position to afford it all - or willing to decide for yourself that you can live without cars, meat or a washing machine." That is a question of affordability. Double standards add to this frustration.

It is true that the wealthy miners such as Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest publicly opposed the Rudd government's proposed mining tax. But they were urging others to do the same. It was a case of: "Do as I do." The problem with the Australian Conservation Foundation's advertisement is that the Blanchett line appears to be: "Do as I say but please don't do as I do, lest the planet burn." It's not a credible message.


Elitism doesn't sell

Leftist journalist David Penberthy, below, has some points of agreement with Gerard Henderson above

The decision of actors Cate Blanchett and Michael Caton to front advertisements supporting the Federal Government’s climate change policies has been denounced as a shocking act of impertinence by a pair of cashed-up lefties who have no right to enter the debate.

These advertisements are 100 per cent privately-funded and in a democracy such as ours people have every right to spend their money as they wish to make their point. That said, there’s a separate issue as to whether the advertisements are tactically smart. It’s more likely that rather than galvanising support for a carbon tax, they will have the opposite effect of alienating mainstream voters who simply want details about how much the carbon tax will cost them, and what type of compensation they will get in return.

The left of politics in Australia seems to be permanently afflicted by what could be described as the Don’s Party syndrome, whereby affluent and educated people think you can win debates by telling people what’s good for them.

Advertising executive Adam Ferrier wrote a good piece on The Australian yesterday fleshing out the point.

“One of the risks of any green campaign is that it appears like lefty, progressive, idealistic and elitist, detached from the struggles of everyday people,” Ferrier wrote. “At worst, Cate is at risk of making the cause elitist. For the millions this (ad campaign) cost, there are so many other ways to change behaviour than having an elitist talking head spruik a carbon tax as easily as spruiking x, y or z.”

The best example of this was the republican campaign, which culminated with a tragi-comic cocktail reception for the failed yes vote on the night of the ballot where Rachel Ward sobbed on husband Bryan Brown’s shoulder as Malcolm Turnbull declared that John Howard had “broken the nation’s heart”. What had really happened was that the republicans had completely stuffed their campaign by leaving much of the talking to celebrities while overlooking their first responsibility – to explain how a republic would work, why we needed one, and how life would change for the better under the new constitutional model.

The same mistakes are being made now by progressive people who believe in climate change. And the same mistakes are being made, spectacularly, by the Gillard Government. The PM looks like she is dancing to the tune of the Greens purely because of the disastrous quirk of democracy at last year’s election, where no-one actually won, and she decided to break her own promise of not introducing a carbon tax in order to form government. We are now moving headlong towards putting a price on carbon – ie, introducing a tax – and the Government is trying to win a debate when it is yet to provide people with any detail.

It’s a ludicrous manoeuvre, asking people to take you on trust when you have already breached their trust by changed the position you adopted in the election campaign. Until such a time as the Government releases details of how it will actually work, how much it will cost, how much compensation families will receive, they are sitting ducks.

The pro climate change lobby and actors such as Blanchett and Caton can say and do what it likes in an attempt to bolster its cause, and spend as much money as they wish in the process.

There is a separate issue though as to whether it will actually bolster the cause. In the absence of policy detail, and with the voters still smarting from being misled by the PM, you would have to say they’ve probably done their dough.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Poll finds Queenslanders fed up with state and federal governments wasting money

WASTED: The legacy of government programs for taxpayers is $20m for Fuel Watch; $2.45b with $190m in safety checks for the ceiling insulation scheme; $13m for Grocery Watch; $308m for the set-top box program; $275m with $45m help for operators with the Green Loans program; $500m blowout on the old solar panels program and $1b for its successor; and $40m on the solar hot water program. Source: The Courier-Mail

QUEENSLANDERS have lost faith in the ability of the state and federal governments to spend money wisely. A Galaxy Poll conducted exclusively for The Courier-Mail shows 70 per cent of Queenslanders believe governments are wasting money. But the politicians say they have got it wrong.

The Courier-Mail's Waste Watchers campaign will keep an eye on how governments are spending taxpayer money.

It comes after both federal and state governments have been dogged by a series of botched or complaint-riddled programs, ranging from the deadly $2.45 billion home insulation scheme at the federal level and the health payroll fiasco at the state level.

Others include the dumped $275 million Green Loans program and two school initiatives the multibillion-dollar Building the Education Revolution which was overwhelmed by complaints of cost blow-outs and shoddy workmanship and the $1.8 billion computers in schools program, which was stalled by cost blow-outs. Both relied on the state and federal governments to deliver.

Now, the Federal Government has turned its hand to yet another big service delivery program that's already shrouded in controversy: the commitment to install TV set-top boxes for pensioners at a cost almost 10 times the price for which the cheapest devices can be bought.

Treasurer Wayne Swan insists it is the Federal Government's economic record that has kept Australia out of recession. "(There have been) 700,000 jobs created since we came to office and another 500,000 in the recent budget," he told The Courier-Mail.

He said the Government had been "full and frank" about the home insulation problems but stood by the new set-top box scheme for pensioners.

Mr Swan backed the Government's spending record, saying it was returning the Budget to surplus "more rapidly than this country has ever seen before".

But the Galaxy Poll revealed even ALP supporters were unsure when asked whether federal and state governments spent money wisely, with 52 per cent of Labor voters disagreeing.

The Courier-Mail asked the Queensland Federal Labor MPs the same question but was met with silence, with only two backbenchers Member for Blair Shayne Neumann and Member for Moreton Graham Perrett and Treasurer Wayne Swan responding.

The same question was asked of 51 state Labor MPs, with 30 responding with examples of good government spending. Another 21 did not reply, including state Treasurer Andrew Fraser.

Better off with cash

EVERY Australian household could have been handed a cheque for about $560 but instead, they got a series of botched or complaint-riddled "assistance" programs from the Federal Government that were designed to help ease household pressure.

An analysis by The Courier-Mail of a selection of major Government household schemes reveals most Queensland homes would have been better off with a simple cash boost to combat soaring living costs.

The Rudd and Gillard Labor governments have been rocked by a series of costly high-profile service delivery program failures, resulting in billions spent on dumped plans.

But myriad smaller household assistance schemes have also been dogged by complaints, delays and allegations of shonky operators.

The Courier-Mail analysis totals the household programs to about $4.8 billion the equivalent of about $567 per Australian household.

Queensland Council of Social Services president Karyn Walsh said low-income families had struggled to make ends meet over the past five years and needed all the genuine assistance they could get.

"There's been a 63 per cent increase in the cost of electricity, gas and water over the past five years and families need a lot of help to get through that," she said.

Ms Walsh said the money would be better spent on initiatives to reduce household costs on a weekly basis, and noted that many of the programs like home insulation and solar power weren't accessible by low-income families.

The big blunders are headlined by the deadly $2.45 billion home insulation scheme which was dumped after dodgy work and major safety problems, with the Government then having to budget another $190 million for safety checks.

The $275 million Green Loan program designed to assist households use energy-saving technology was also scrapped, with another $45 million budgeted to help operators left in the lurch when the program was ditched.

Two other programs designed to ease hip pocket pain, GroceryWatch and FuelWatch, were dumped before they even got off the ground at a cost of at least $13 million.

Solar panel rebates saw taxpayers first hit with a $500 million blow-out when the Rudd Government cancelled the original program with less than 24 hours notice, before later launching a new scheme. The scheme that followed has cost $1 billion but is now being rolled back ahead of schedule amid concerns it is hiking up electricity prices.

At $40 million, the Government's solar hot water program has been criticised for massive delays.

Coalition MP Jamie Briggs, who runs the Opposition's "waste watch" committee, said the Labor Government was "unable to implement a government spending program without wasting billions of dollars in the process".

"Labor's latest spending initiative overpriced set-top boxes highlights Labor's addiction to spending and proves they haven't learnt from their first-term stuff ups."


Children's play equipment too safe for their own good, expert warns

PLAY equipment designed by "safety Nazis" shouldn't prevent children from taking risks and enjoying themselves, a child expert has warned. More kids aged two to seven were getting injured in playgrounds because they didn't know how to take calculated risks.

A speaker at the Early Childhood Education Conference in Melbourne this week, early childhood specialist Prue Walsh said modern "plastic fantastic" playgrounds were too safe.

"Often playgrounds are designed by engineers who have no knowledge of children," she said. "Children need to actively explore and discover the world around them and to do that they need to learn to take calculated risks," she said.

Playground injuries were often a result of children being poorly co-ordinated because they did not know how to negotiate risks, Ms Walsh said. "I worry about children who don't run up slippery slides," she said.

Ms Walsh said commercial pressures, such as insurance premiums, had influenced the design of today's playgrounds. "Parents are scared of their precious children getting injured and teachers are scared of getting sued," she said.

To improve playgrounds, Ms Walsh suggested longer and bigger slides built into embankments to eliminate falls. Also, smooth boulders for balancing, shallow ponds for exploring and plenty of vegetation to provide nooks and crannies for children to crawl around.

Triple P Parenting Program founder Professor Matt Sanders said children should be in a place safe where they can have accidents and falls. "You want equipment that are in parks and children using toys that we buy to be basically safe so that kids can't be easily injured on them or accidents that easily occur," he said.

"But at the same time we should be encouraged kids to be kids and to enjoy themselves. "Exploring, climbing and experimenting is part of childhood but when it's done when adequate supervision the risks are minimal."


Western Australian Premier holds whip hand in tax debate

Western Australia is grabbing the gravy (Royalties) from the mining boom, thus frustrating the Feds, who need it to prop up their profligate spending

WA Premier Colin Barnett is politically in a seemingly win-win position as he challenges the federal government to get back to work and forget the tax fight.

He can afford to take the moral high ground because in the west anyone who takes the fight to Canberra is a champion and, sadly, on tax matters federal Treasurer Wayne Swan's credibility is in tatters.

Barnett is also in the fortunate position of having guaranteed income flow even if Swan cuts federal funding.

Even local ALP politicians despair about Canberra's mishandling of the debate. They openly say it is hurting their chances of re-election and stress that the mishandling of the mining tax, carbon tax, and the latest row with Barnett over royalties, means Swan has lost forever the chance for any real tax reform.

At The Australian Deutsche Bank Business Leaders Forum yesterday in Perth, outgoing Woodside boss Don Voelte echoed the views of many in the industry when he praised Resources Minister Martin Ferguson but treated Swan with contempt, saying he had been taught only to say nice things about people, so would say nothing about Swan.

Voelte may be leaving the country, and a business leader has only one vote, but a treasurer needs some credibility to do his or her job and the reality is that Swan has little respect from the business community.

The level of business distrust of Canberra is damaging at a time when the reality is the economy is not nearly as strong as the official figures may indicate. This message was driven home loudly and clearly at yesterday's forum.

Barnett also has the luxury of a steady flow of royalty income from iron ore and liquefied natural gas exports, but he, like Canberra, has no real answers on just how to spread the benefits of the boom.

The economy is a lot weaker than most people think and certainly anyone in discretionary retail would quickly agree.

The issue is how to use the proceeds to develop other industries and revive manufacturing, which Barnett can happily offload to Canberra.

He has the likes of Shell's Ann Pickard able to spend money building a research capability in Perth for her new floating LNG plant, which will be designed partly in France and built in South Korea.

Yesterday's panel was united in calling for more immigration, even targeted project-specific immigration, to help mitigate cost pressures.

Woodside has US welders on the job already at its Pluto plant who will be headed home once their work is finished. While Perth and east coast workers happily fly in and out of the big projects, that is only a short-term solution and ironically some cite the fact that Australians are too comfortable to make a big call in moving their base up to the Pilbara. Some argue a special locational tax break could be used to encourage workers to move to the west.

Barnett wants a return to a workable Council of Australian Governments format, but of course he holds the economic whip hand if he loses faith in commonwealth-state relations. That is, until he needs some help on infrastructure funding, which didn't get a mention yesterday but is a key concern.


Global cooling hits Sydney

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) predicts up to 20mm of rain will fall in Sydney today, with warnings of dangerous surf conditions. The State Emergency Service has warned of storms and flash flooding on the northern beaches today.

There is also a strong wind warning for waters between Port Macquarie and Port Hacking, in Sydney's south, with a swell of up to three metres predicted. Since 9am yesterday, 30.6mm fell at Observatory Hill and 15.4mm at Sydney Airport.....

Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said it could be the coldest May in Sydney in more than 40 years. "A cloudy and wet end to the month will ensure this will be Sydney's coldest May since 1970," Mr Dutschke said.

According to Weatherzone, minimum overnight temperatures averaged less than 10.8 degrees, nearly 1 degree below the long-term average. The temperature dropped below 10 degrees on 11 nights, when usually there are only eight nights so cold in May.

A cold front dropped snow in Orange on May 12, a rare event so early in the year, Mr Dutschke said.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

An old propaganda lurk surfaces in Australia

The Leftist Australian government recently released a "report" designed to prop up its proposed carbon tax. Neither the report nor the tax has gained much traction, however.

To explain that lack of traction, the piece from the Left-run "Sydney Morning Herald" below claims that climate skeptics are psychological cripples, unable to face the evidence.

Demonizing your enemy is classical wartime propaganda and Leftists do it even in peacetime. The first big attempt at it in peacetime erupted in 1950. It is amusing that a 1954 revision of that attack is revived below: The old two-dimensional account of ideology. That account never worked then and it is equally shallow today.

Believe it or not, the author below claims that skeptics are "hierachical/authoritarian" yet it is skeptics who reject authority and Warmists who embrace it! I think it is clear who the mental cripple is! The poor soul writing below has totally lost touch with reality. Would a diagnosis of schizophrenia be too extreme?

And, needless to say, there is not one fact cited below in support of the author's assertions about either climatology or psychology. It is all just bald assertion

I've been thinking a bit about the sea hare this week while observing the fallout from the Climate Commission's report, The Critical Decade. Wondering, too, about primitive human biology, about what factors interfere with our survival instinct - fear, fun, greed, legacy, even good old distracting lust.

The report is a powerful enunciation of what science now knows about climate change and the risks it poses. That the atmosphere and the oceans are warming, ice is being lost from glaciers and ice caps, sea levels are rising and the biological world is changing. "We know beyond reasonable doubt that the world is warming and that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary causes."

In the nuanced language of science, it doesn't get much stronger. As the American scientist Naomi Oreskes [Calling Oreskes a scientist is a condemnation of science] has observed, "History shows us clearly that science does not provide certainty. It does not provide proof.

It only provides the consensus of experts, based on the organised accumulation and scrutiny of evidence." And here we have it.

So how do you respond to such confronting news? Do you weigh the credentials of the speakers, study the evidence? Or do you switch it off, turn the page, scream and shout? According to psychological research by the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale University, your reaction either way will have little to do with the strength of the arguments or the calibre of the science. It will have everything to do with whether it gels with, or offends, your deep-seated views about morality and how the world ought to work.

Yale law professor Dan Kahan's "cultural cognition of risk" theory attempts to explain public disagreement about the significance of empirical evidence by plotting individuals on two scales of cultural belief: individualists versus communitarians, based on the importance people attach to the public good when balanced against individual rights; and hierarchists versus egalitarians, based on their views of the stratification of society. Simply explaining the science to these audiences, he finds, will only serve to wedge the two sides.

The sliding scales are not unfamiliar. Think Tony Abbott as the archetypal suit-and-tie individual hierarchical - values clustered around free-market enterprise, personal achievement, industry, regard for authority (though not, it seems, scientific authority), traditional family, personal freedom; and Bob Brown is out there as your sandal-wearing communitarian egalitarian, protesting that pretty much everything Abbott cherishes damages all he holds dear.

Put a scientist in front of an audience of individual hierarchicals saying that global warming is high risk, and only 23 per cent of the audience will buy the speaker as trustworthy and knowledgeable. Same message, same scientist, and 88 per cent of egalitarian communitarians nod their heads.

Have the same author change tack to argue that warming is no great drama, and the Abbotts now lap it up (86 per cent), and the Browns wander off (46 per cent). The well-oiled machinery of manufactured denial knows how to push all these buttons.

Yale's audience testing finds the only factor likely to interfere with our psychological gatekeeping is if someone within our "camp" - someone we perceive as sharing our world view - says something unexpected. (Hence the reverberations in industry and markets when BHP chief Marius Kloppers last year urged rapid action to put a price on carbon emissions.) In short, evidence from someone you identify with will sway your view; science - facts - won't.

Same as it ever was, maybe. But new media helps us contrive a self-affirming information bubble, an echo chamber in which only our own beliefs are broadcast back to us. Debate in the US on the Yale findings prompted the reflection that our instincts in this regard mean - as one political scientist observed - "we are not well-adapted to our information age".

The findings also confirm that for all our modernity, tribal leaders remain critical. Leaders of all persuasions - political, religious, industrial, social - have immense power in influencing responses to the most diabolical of problems.

In the foreword to a new book debunking scepticism of science - Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand - Oreskes argues that fear is the major driver of denial. "Fear that our current way of life is unsustainable. Fear that addressing the issue will limit economic growth. Fear that if we accept government interventions in the market place . it will lead to a loss of personal freedom. Or maybe just plain old fear of change."

As economist John Kenneth Galbraith observed, all great leaders share one common characteristic - "the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time".


Gillard's "refugee" hypocrisy

THE past week has brought home that the Labor government can't claim a shred of principle on asylum policy any more. It has shamed itself repeatedly and in a most hypocritical way. Those who condemned the Pacific solution have embraced a Malaysian one. The people who said Nauru was unacceptable for offshore processing in part because it wasn't signed up to the UN convention on refugees aren't worried that Malaysia is also outside it.

If the government wasn't desperate, it would be embarrassed. If its backbench wasn't frightened of the electoral backlash over boat arrivals, it would be up in arms.

Last week the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, lashed out at the deal and Malaysian human rights activists attacked it. Pillay, visiting Australia, toned down her initial criticism after government briefings but still declared the bilateral agreement would need to be scrutinised carefully for its human rights guarantees.

Meanwhile, Malaysian activist Eric Paulsen from that country's Lawyers for Liberty wondered how Australia could achieve what others could not. "All of a sudden, without any changes to Malaysian immigration laws and policies, will asylum seekers suddenly become immune to their day-to-day reality of arbitrary arrest, detention, harassment, extortion, jailing and whipping? We doubt that very much."

Former federal human rights commissioner Sev Ozdowski reinforced a point the opposition has pushed, when he said at least in Nauru "we were able to control the conditions in the detention centre" - Malaysia would be a "much worse solution".

It does seem a leap of faith to believe Australia can be sure the asylum seekers we send there under the "swap" deal won't be badly treated, given the country's record. It will take some formidable monitoring.

The only way the government can get out of its imbroglio is if the deterrent - the fear of being sent to Malaysia and the back of that long "queue" - discourages the boats quickly. Then perhaps, the government hopes, it won't have to send too many people to Malaysia. Or, at least, if the boats slow dramatically, criticism of the nastier aspects of the deterrent will fade. The end will be regarded as justifying the means.

No wonder Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd are out spruiking the "don't come" message, as the government has been working frantically to bed down the formalities of the Malaysian deal, so implementation can start. On another front, negotiations with Papua New Guinea for a processing facility there crawl along.

If the boats keep coming, and the Malaysian 800 quota is filled, the government's border protection political disaster will continue. If the people smugglers are discouraged, on the other hand, Tony Abbott will find a potent issue rapidly subsiding


Just what Australia needs: A Green jobs fund

Never mind that Green jobs have proven a mirage everywhere else

JULIA Gillard is facing union pressure for a $1.5 billion fund from the carbon tax to compensate manufacturers for the impact of the high Australian dollar and the two-speed economy.

In a submission to the government on the carbon pricing policy, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union also calls for a $3.7bn low emissions industry and technology development fund to drive green jobs under a carbon pricing regime.

The call comes as the government is considering creating a multi-billion-dollar carbon bank to manage the development of low-emissions technologies in its negotiations with the Greens on the shape of the carbon pricing package.

AMWU national secretary Dave Oliver said the clean technology sector was worth $6 trillion and there was a trade war between the US and China on how to take advantage of that. "We have to exploit the opportunity putting a price on pollution provides us to position ourselves to be part of the action," he said.

Mr Oliver said manufacturing was under pressure at present, but he was hopeful the Australian dollar had peaked. Mr Oliver said the carbon pricing debate was getting to the "pointy end".

The AMWU argues that its plan, which totals $6.7bn, would "reduce carbon emissions, develop a clean technology industry in Australia and help Australian manufacturing cope with the high dollar".

Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme contained a 6 per cent buffer for the global financial crisis and the government has been under pressure to keep the buffer to alleviate pressure caused by the high dollar on emissions intensive trade exposed industries. The $1.5bn buffer fund would provide $1bn to energy-intensive firms with greenhouse gas emissions reporting obligations to assist them with electricity costs during the first two years of the carbon-pricing scheme.

The union calls for a further $500 million for accelerated depreciation for new low-emissions and energy efficient plant and equipment for firms requiring support to a low-pollution economy. The union has also called for a $1.5bn energy efficiency plan, adding its weight to advocates of action on climate change such as the Climate Institute.

The submission says the low emissions industry and technology development fund would provide grants and cost-sharing arrangements for researchers, entrepreneurs and start-up firms to trial, demonstrate and commercialise low emissions technologies.


Beware Trilby Misso lawyers

Now that crooked Keddies has crumbled, can we hope the same of Trilby Misso? They chased a client for $123,000 despite their 'no win, no fee' mantra

THEIR motto is "because we care" but law firm Trilby Misso has been slammed by a judge for the way they treated a client.

The high-profile "no win, no fee" firm was branded as dishonest after demanding more than $123,000 to release the man's legal file after dropping his case because they believed it could not be won. A Supreme Court judge last week referred Trilby Misso to the Legal Services Commissioner, calling for the firm to explain its "outrageous" costs bill.

"To insist on immediate payment of monies in circumstances where none were chargeable is dishonest," Justice Duncan McMeekin said, in a judgment delivered in Rockhampton.

Townsville church minister Colin Ireland, 57, who was injured in a boat ramp accident in 2006, hired Trilby Misso to represent him in a personal injury claim in 2009. But in August last year, Trilby Misso terminated Mr Ireland's retainer, after deciding it was too risky to proceed on a no win, no fee basis.

Mr Ireland then asked for his case file so he could retain another solicitor, but was shocked when Trilby Misso demanded "immediate payment" of $123,522 before it would release the file.

The firm later said it would accept $35,000. Mr Ireland took Trilby Misso to court and also complained to the Legal Services Commissioner.

His barrister, Graeme Crow SC, argued that Trilby Misso only had a right to be paid legal costs if it successfully obtained damages or costs for Mr Ireland.

Justice McMeekin said by terminating the retainer "without good cause", Trilby Misso had stalled Mr Ireland's claim and forced him to find other lawyers. He ordered the files be handed over.

"Absent some explanation, the impression is that an outrageous amount was demanded in an attempt to coerce (Mr Ireland) into accepting an obligation to pay the lesser amount of costs when offered," Justice McMeekin said in his decision.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Muslims try peaceful persuasion instead of bombing people

A big improvement

CHRISTIANS in Sydney will have their core beliefs challenged by provocative advertisements due to appear on billboards and buses in the next month.

The ads, paid for by an Islamic group called MyPeace, will carry slogans such as "Jesus: a prophet of Islam", "Holy Quran: the final testament" and "Muhammad: mercy to mankind". A phone number urges people to call to receive a free Koran and other Islamic literature.

The organiser of MyPeace, Diaa Mohamed, said the campaign was intended to educate non-Muslims about Islam. He said Jesus was a prophet of Islam, who was to come before Muhammad. "The only difference is we say he was a prophet of God, and they say he is God," Mr Mohamed said. "Is it thought-provoking? Yes, it is. We want to raise awareness that Islam believes in Jesus Christ," he said.

Mr Mohamed said he hoped the billboards would encourage Christians and Muslims to find common ground. They were not intended to downgrade the significance of Jesus. "We embrace him and say that he was one of the mightiest prophets of God."

MyPeace plans to extend the campaign, funded by private donations, to television.

The Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, Rob Forsyth, said it was "complete nonsense" to say Jesus was a prophet of Islam. "Jesus was not the prophet of a religion that came into being 600 years later."

But the billboard was not offensive, he said. "They've got a perfect right to say it, and I would defend their right to say it [but] … you couldn't run a Christian billboard in Saudi Arabia."

The bishop said he would pay for billboards to counter those of MyPeace if he could afford it, and "maybe the atheists should run their billboards as well".

A spokesman for the Australian Islamic Mission, Siddiq Buckley, said the campaign would increase awareness of the positive facts of Islam. "I would be looking at this as a good opportunity to explain what we mean."


Abortion doctor gives women Hep C

Evidence of the low moral standard needed in an abortionist

A MELBOURNE doctor has been charged over allegations he infected nearly 50 women who visited his clinic with hepatitis C.

Police say anaesthetist James Latham Peters, 61, of Hawthorn will face 162 separate counts, including 54 counts of conduct endangering life, 54 counts of recklessly causing injury and 54 counts of negligence causing serious injury.

Police formally laid charges just before noon at the St Kilda Rd police complex where he was being held.

Police said the investigation continues, and Dr Peters could face further charges. The expected charges against Dr Peters come after a lengthy and complex investigation by police Taskforce Clays, established in April last year to investigate how the disease was spread to patients at the Croydon Day Surgery. He was taken into custody before 10am and is believed to be being questioned at the St Kilda Rd police complex.

The women had gone to the clinic to have abortions before being infected. A further 19 women treated by the doctor showed signs of past infection but there was not enough virus present for a definitive ruling. At least 4000 women who used the centre, now known as the Maria Stopes centre, have already contacted in connection with potential exposure to the disease.

The Health Department says 241 further women treated at the clinic between 2008 and 2009 could not be contacted, but it continues to cooperate with the police inquiry. "We would urge them to contact the Department of Health at their earliest opportunity,’’ a police spokeswoman said.


Ambulance ramping at major Queensland Hospital is chaotic, claim paramedics

AMBULANCE ramping at one of Queensland's largest hospitals has reached "chaotic" levels despite a recent multimillion-dollar emergency department revamp.

Frustrated paramedics said the queue of ambulances outside the Princess Alexandra Hospital hit 22 on Monday, with several category two patients who should be seen within 10 minutes left waiting for hours. "This is on a scale that no one has ever seen before," a paramedic, who did not want to be named, said. "There were some very sick patients in there that should have been seen to. It's chaos, absolute chaos."

The spectacle of ambulances queueing, which lasted from noon into late evening, prompted numerous staff to take photographs, several of which have been obtained by The Courier-Mail.

PA's acting executive director, Liz Jordan, said it was "categorically untrue" that 22 ambulances were ramped outside the hospital. But she admitted 11 ambulances arrived "simultaneously" between 5pm and 6pm. "Even during this very busy time, the hospital emergency department coped well," Dr Jordan said.

It came just six months after the completion of a $134 million expansion of the hospital's emergency department, which increased treatment bays from 20 to 45.

Jeanette Temperley, of paramedics union United Voice, said ramping was not getting any better. "Ambulances are driving round and round the city trying to find a hospital to take their patients," she said.

Queensland Health's own website shows the Princess Alexandra Hospital has been on bypass at 10am on three days this week, accepting only the most critical patients.

While ambulances crowded the PA emergency department entrance on Monday, Logan Hospital was on bypass for 10 hours, the paramedic said. The worst he had seen was six southeast Queensland hospitals on bypass at once one day last summer, he said.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said the ramping situation at the PA was indicative of the crisis in Queensland's public hospital system. "Ramping delays treatment and it delays paramedics getting back out on the road to treat the sick and injured," he said.

Mr McArdle called for a "whole-of-hospital" approach to address the problem, including more beds and changes in discharge policies.


Politicians in rush to defend coal seam gas

POLITICIANS have rushed to defend the coal seam gas industry despite more controversy surrounding it this week.

In a show of support for an industry whose image was dented by another gas leak near Dalby on Monday, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, travelled to Gladstone yesterday to launch construction on Santos's Curtis Island LNG processing plant.

The $16 billion project is due to deliver its first gas in 2015. Ms Bligh said the environmental approvals had been the "most rigorous" in Australian history.

Environmental groups have complained that approvals for coal seam gas projects - most of which are in Queensland and NSW - have been progressing too quickly, and a moratorium should be placed on further approvals until more is known about the controversial fracking technique.

Fracking involves the pumping of high pressure water and chemicals underground to release gas stores.

As the Gladstone launch was under way, the Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, was also selling the case for the coal seam gas sector. "This isn't something that's happened in the last one or two years. This is not some wild experiment," Mr Fraser said.

Farming groups have expressed outrage that energy companies have the right to enter private property to explore for coal seam gas, but Mr Fraser said not all farmers were opposed.

"There's plenty of farmers who are quite happy they've got a second string to their income," he said.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour. Lots on the police lately

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fast-track teaching program gets green light for WA schools

A version of "Teach for America" -- but anything that exposes the usual ludicrous four-year "teacher training" courses is welcome. I was a successful High School teacher without one minute of teacher training

A program that launches top-ranking university graduates into teaching positions within months will be rolled out across WA next year, addressing shortages the state government has struggled to fill.

The Teach for Australia program is in its second year in Victoria and the ACT, with dozens of graduates placed in low socio-economic and disadvantaged schools across the states.

The program has previously drawn criticism from the State School Teachers Union of WA, which claimed the fast-tracked program was undermining those who had completed traditional teaching degrees, and would place the already-disadvantaged students into a further vulnerable position.

However, the founder of the program has defended the high quality graduates accepted into TFA, which only places its graduates in schools where teachers refuse to go.

It had previously been reported that the TFA graduates would not have the authority to teach in local schools, but the WA College of Teaching has confirmed that they can work in WA after being issued with a Limited Authority to Teach.

This permits the graduate to work in a particular area, only when there is no registered teacher for that position, and where no teaching graduates will go.

Successful applicants will be placed in schools in term one next year, after completing a six-week intensive course through the University of Melbourne. This will mark the start of a two-year degree at the school, through which they will continue to teach at an 80 per cent load, allowing one day per week for studies.

TFA chief executive officer Melodie Potts-Rosevear said that ideally there would be between 25 and 30 new graduates in the program next year who would be ready to be placed in a WA school.

With the aim of the program to put the graduates where no other teachers want to go, she said it is a balancing act ensuring the school was big enough to accommodate at least two graduates, and that there was adequate support in the form of a mentor based at the school.

"We'll recruit as many as we think that are suitable and can fill genuine vacancies," she said. "We just respond to what the school's needs are, and it just becomes a bit of a matching process. "The school really has to be big enough to have two vacancies that we can fill, along with a mentor that can support them on a day-to-day basis. "Schools where there's only two or three classrooms are probably not suitable to the program."

She said they tried to get a minimum of two graduates at a school, and that they tried to "cluster" the graduates among schools in a close vicinity so that they have a support network.

TFA has been a success in its short two-year history in Victoria, with dozens of graduates among the best in their field choosing to take up the program.


Malaysia treats illegals harshly

Australia's Leftist government intends to send middle-class illegals from Iraq and Afghanistan there. If that happens, most will stop coming

UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, who is visiting Australia, claimed yesterday the Gillard government risked breaching international laws with the proposed swap of 800 boat arrivals for 4000 refugees from Malaysia.

While Immigration Minister Chris Bowen insists the deal complies with the UN Refugee Convention, that document does not cover torture, cruel punishment or conditions in detention centres that are dealt with under other international covenants and UN guidelines.

His office could not guarantee covenants or guidelines would be part of the agreement, which Mr Bowen said would be signed within weeks. Pressed on whether canings and the caging of pregnant women or children would br prevented, Mr Bowen's spokesman said negotiations were ongoing.

Ms Pillay was critical of the government's proposal. "If checks and balances are not made there's a huge risk of violations," Ms Pillay said.

Amnesty International's Dr Graham Thom toured three Malaysian detention centres last year, hearing how detainees had died of leptospirosis contracted via rat urine.

He photographed women and a baby caged in squalid conditions at Lenggeng Immigration Depot, near Kuala Lumpur, and hundreds of men in a tennis court-sized enclosure.

"We went to three different centres and each was equally appalling," he said.

Refugee lawyer David Manne said he had assisted asylum seekers who had been in Malaysian detention camps which were overcrowded and rife with malnutrition. "There are very poor sanitary conditions, serious systematic abuse, beatings, whippings, canings," Mr Manne said.

A spokesman for the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, said "safeguards" were needed in the agreement to ensure any detention of asylum seekers was for a limited initial period.



Four articles below

The electronic Dick gets carried away

Dick Smith is rightly one of Australia's most popular people and I agree with his view that Australia should aim for a stable population rather than an expanding one. But he seems to have fallen under the influence of Greenie myths. The idea that a major food exporter like Australia could run out of food is absurd. To gain perspective, consider the case of another major food exporter -- post-Communist China

PLANS to massively boost Australia's population are a bad idea and must be stopped, entrepreneur Dick Smith says.

'The Federal Government favours a "big Australia" and wants to increase the country's headcount from 22 million to 35 million by 2050, largely by immigration.

But Mr Smith said this was ridiculous. "We need to do something about this incredible increase," he said at an Australian of the Year dinner in Parliament House today. "No one is allowed to talk about it ... I am."

Mr Smith said Australia did not have enough water or food to support millions more people. It was crazy that seawater was being desalinated for drinking water to supply a booming population. "I believe in 100 years time people in Australia will be starving to death."

The intake of skilled migrants should be slashed and women should be discouraged from having more than two babies, Mr Smith said. He believes nine out of 10 Australians do not want a population boom.

Mr Smith is working on a documentary on the issue.

The Government wants to increase the population because it means more young taxpayers to pay the rising health and pension costs of the ageing population.

But a recent poll showed most people did not like that plan and some green groups have voiced concerns about the environmental costs.


"Climate change" hits South Australia

ADELAIDE shivered through its longest May cold spell in 24 years, weatherzone.com.au says.

The city's temperature failed to reach 15C from Monday to Wednesday - the longest consecutive run since 1987 - before reaching a maximum of 15.5C yesterday.

This was still more than three degrees below the long-term average.

Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said southerly winds and low cloud had persisted since last weekend, with cold air lingering much longer than usual.

Mr Dutschke said while the remainder of the week would remain cold, temperatures would warm to near 20C next Tuesday or Wednesday in a brief spell of northerly winds.


Threat of carbon tax blackouts

THE security of electricity supplies would be at risk and power prices would be likely to rise under a carbon price if assistance measures failed to prevent the financial collapse of coal-fired generators, a report has warned.

A tax on carbon emissions could undermine investments in new low-emissions generation, if the viability of generators was undermined, according to a confidential report by investment bank Morgan Stanley.

The report warns that energy retailers could face higher costs and increased financial risks.

It found it was possible that the introduction of a carbon price - given that it was a radical change in the cost structure of the entire generation sector - could result in some unpredictable shifts in electricity prices, as it could alter the behaviour of electricity generators bidding into the national electricity market.

The Morgan Stanley review, which was conducted in 2009 as the government developed its compensation package for Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme, has never before been released because electricity generators threw open their books to the investment bank for the analysis.

A summary of the report, prepared by the Department of Climate Change and obtained by The Australian, was circulated to generators this week for the first time.

The generators had demanded the information as they continued their talks on an adjustment package for Julia Gillard's carbon pricing plan, which is being negotiated with the Greens and the rural independents.

The report is relevant to the current negotiations because the government has made clear the CPRS is being used as the foundation for the new negotiations.

The report will intensify calls from coal-fired power stations, particularly the brown coal-fired Victorian generators, for financial assistance. It underlines the difficulties facing the multi-party climate change committee as it negotiates the final details of the carbon package. The government will need a concession from the Greens, who have opposed providing financial assistance to coal-fired power stations, if it is to be able to offer a package to the coal-fired power stations.

The Morgan Stanley summary emerged as business groups continued to eye a campaign against the carbon tax.

The Australian Coal Association has been sounding out advertising agencies as it examines a potential advertising campaign against the carbon tax.

The Australian understands other business groups are also considering the move.

Electricity generators are due to meet the government again today before the Prime Minister's multi-party climate change committee's weekend of negotiations on the details of the package.

The Morgan Stanley report - which modelled the impact of a carbon price on the Victorian plants of Hazelwood, Yallourn, Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B, South Australia's Flinders and Millmerran in Queensland - identified three primary risks to the operation of energy markets under a carbon pricing regime.

It warned of "physical threats to system security", weakened investor confidence and disruptions to normal operations in energy-contracting markets.

On the threats to the electricity supply, the Morgan Stanley report said "physical supply reliability could be affected by unco-ordinated plans across the market for the withdrawal of large amounts of generation capacity potentially in advance of when new generation capacity might be available".

It said there was potential for a steady decline in reliability if financially distressed power stations reduced maintenance, either because they were in the hands of their lenders or faced with investment difficulties for assets with uncertain economic lives.

The report also warned that significant reductions in asset values in a concentrated sector of the generation market "may make investors less willing and able to invest in new low-emissions generation and dissuade other investors (particularly foreign investors) from providing capital to provide such new investments".

"Such an outcome could jeopardise Australia's medium- to long-term energy security by delaying critical investments," Morgan Stanley found.

The ability of power stations to pass on the carbon cost would depend on whether there was unutilised capacity in the market.

"If this spare capacity is able to be ramped up, then higher-emissions generators would have difficulty passing their full carbon costs through as lower-emissions generators will be able to profitably increase their output," Morgan Stanley found.

Generators might also be unable to pass on carbon costs if demand for power fell because of the higher electricity prices.

More rapid deployment of low-emissions technology would also lead to a lower carbon price pass-through.

And the closure of existing power plants could force up prices, the report said.

"As existing capacity is retired, the balance of supply and demand will tighten, which may lead to higher market prices and higher pass-through factors for the remaining plant for a period of time," it said.

The report said higher gas prices would require higher levels of carbon price to ensure the long-run marginal cost of new gas-fired generation was competitive with the short-run marginal cost of existing coal-fired generation.


Bid to stifle climate debate clouds history of scientific errors

The Climate Change Commission has released its long-awaited report saying the "jury is in" on the science behind man-made climate change. The verdict? "Humans are the problem."

So strong is the consensus, argues the climate ambassador Tim Flannery, that it is time for news media to cease giving space for debate over the science in view of the magnitude of the threat and the inability of non-experts to understand the issues.

With respect, that argument is not going to blow air into my balloon. Our system of government relies on non-experts making judgments. Our cabinet ministers are chosen from the ranks of elected members of Parliament, rather than external experts. Each year the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, has to decide how much the federal government spends on 50 different vaccines to combat the risk of a pandemic. Roxon is not an epidemiologist. Wayne Swan has never had a cent of his own money at risk in a business he was running, yet he makes the judgments as the Treasurer on monetary policy, securities regulation, tax rates and foreign investment. We know that relying on non-experts involves risk but we regard it as the least-worst system, in part because we know how often the experts have made catastrophic errors.

In Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841), Charles Mackay chronicled the human tendency to be swept up in herd behaviour completely at odds with our goal of dispassionate, individual thought. Mackay looks at the great Tulip Bubble, sharemarket frenzies, the burning of witches and failed doomsday prophesies.

The scientific community is not immune. Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) showed it behaving like any other group - with a dominant clique-building and defending their empires , while bullying and ostracising dissenters. Kuhn showed that in case after case, the orthodoxy defends the status quo long after the data shows its underlying thesis must be wrong.

We have seen how that bullying, data manipulation and discrediting of dissenters scandalised East Anglia's climate research unit, which put together the historical temperature data on which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based its warming scenarios. The most damning revelation was why the manipulation was necessary: because the earth is refusing to warm at the rates the models required.

Flannery trousers $180,000 a year from the Prime Minister to heighten community angst, and her re-election depends on his success. Panasonic, the producer of energy-intensive, carbon-rich electronic goods, sponsors his chair at Macquarie University. While that money does not go to him directly, he has boasted of "carrying the flag for Panasonic in everything . . . I do" before clarifying that "I have not advocated Panasonic as a company in my public engagements as chief commissioner, nor have I done so in my books or TV work." Clear as mud.

The criticism that "money talks" in policy debates about energy-intensive industries ought also to be directed at the academic and scientific establishment. If we were to remove all the scientists whose teaching and research programs derive taxpayer funds to pursue the anthropogenic thesis, I suspect the "consensus" would be weaker. It doesn't mean the thesis is wrong, but the transparency being practised by the scientists falls woefully short of that expected of journalists, politicians and company directors.

An eminent cereal biologist and board member of the then Co-operative Research Centre for Grain Food Products recently told me how he was called to Canberra in the 1970s to join a secret conclave of senior figures in the departments of agriculture and defence from the US, Australia and Britain. Their task was to consider how to ration food in the coming ice age. (In fact, the Earth has had no polar ice for 75 per cent of its 4.5 billion-year history and we are still in an ice age.)

The risks of making predictions about complex systems on the basis of computer models was graphically illustrated by the Club of Rome's famously discredited 1972 work The Limits of Growth, which argued that linear growth in food resources and exponential growth in population would lead to Malthusian famine and war. The model completely failed to account for the subsequent 400 per cent increase in agricultural productivity.

Remember Y2K? In 1999 governments spent millions enriching computer scientists for advice on how to manage the threats to our national security from the millennium bug.

When making decisions about our country's future, we ought not to be dismissive of the wisdom of the traveller on the Bondi tram. While public support for the man-made warming thesis is falling, it will not serve the cause of science to behave like a shock jock with a microphone for himself and a mute button for his callers.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fraser's unreliable memoirs rewrite history

Greg Sheridan

MALCOLM Fraser's memoirs, co-authored with Margaret Simons, are the most error-riddled, factually unreliable, tendentious, consistently nasty and overall disgraceful political memoirs I have ever read. Naturally they won the NSW Premier's Literary Award.

This infamous award demonstrates why the Premier's Literary Awards should be abolished. In their nonfiction section, at least, they are not about literature but promoting ideological conformity.

Fraser was prime minister from 1975 to 1983. In office, he had the reputation of being an arrogant, right-wing bully. Later, he decided to reshape himself as a grand man of the Left.

I don't doubt his motives, though it is noteworthy that you get a lot more comfort, certainly more awards, on the Left.

Fraser now has the attraction for the Left of any radical convert. Metaphorically, he has crossed the Berlin Wall, except he went from West to East. The Left is constantly surprised that it dominates the culture in Australia but is repeatedly rejected by voters.

In truth, it dominates the culture only because of its stranglehold on taxpayers' funds, such as these awards. John Howard's memoir - the bestselling political autobiography in our history - is truly popular. It will be fascinating to see if it wins any of these wretchedly compromised awards.

Fraser's visceral hatred of Howard and his relentless denigration of him, often with highly dubious stories, along with Fraser's support of free entry for the boatpeople, more than anything else endear him to the Left.

Fraser's book contains some astounding factual errors. Two among many that Gerard Henderson has pointed out are that Fraser cannot even remember how many elections he won, claiming four, when in fact he won three. Fraser also claims George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-Four was inspired by British society of the 1950s whereas it was a satire of East European communist dictatorships. Henderson might have pointed out further that as Orwell died in January 1950 and Nineteen Eighty-Four was published two years before that, he couldn't have been inspired by much in the 50s.

But even Henderson's splendid industry omits many of Fraser's howlers. Fraser claims the neo-conservatives wielded great influence in the Bush administration of the 90s. But George W. Bush was not even elected until November 2000.

But it is not really this sloppiness and inaccuracy that is the main problem. It is the tendentious misrepresentation of the past. Fraser wants to pretend - who knows, perhaps he even believes - he was always a man of the Left. Fraser has every right to change his mind on the big issues that defined his political life, but he should own up to being a Liberal rat, who has ratted on his previous views and his previous party, and not pretend that he was always a Patrick White fellow traveller.

Let me give you just a couple of central examples. Fraser claims that when he became prime minister on November 11, 1975, he was unable to change Gough Whitlam's policy towards Indonesia because he was in caretaker mode, and that this policy required accommodation of Indonesia in East Timor. He further claims that he watered down a letter to then president Suharto expressing understanding of Indonesia's position, that he was extremely reluctant to send this message and did so only because he was told it was vital to do so.

This is wrong on every count and its wrongness is documented in the memoir of Dick Woolcott, who was Australia's ambassador to Indonesia at the time. Whitlam's policy was to favour East Timorese incorporation into Indonesia but that this should be achieved peacefully and by East Timorese self-determination.

Whitlam's policy may well have been self-contradictory but it certainly allowed Fraser to emphasise self-determination if he wanted to. However, in opposition Fraser and his shadow cabinet colleagues had labelled the East Timorese independence party, Fretilin, communist and Fraser and gang at that time were comprehensively anti-communist.

Woolcott's memoir records surprise that the confidential letter Fraser sent to Suharto did not include, as Whitlam had included in all his communications, a statement that Australia opposed the use of force. Woolcott rang Canberra to try to get opposition to the use of force included in the letter and was told not to change or interpret Fraser's remarks.

In other words, Fraser watered down Whitlam's opposition to the use of force, exactly the opposite of what Fraser claims in his book.

An even more bizarre claim Fraser makes, in rationalising his support for the Vietnam War, is that he did not know until 1995 of the US involvement in the coup against South Vietnam's president Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963.

Fraser was Australia's defence minister at the end of the 60s. If he didn't know about the US involvement he was surely the worst informed defence minister in the history of this country or any other. The US involvement was absolutely common knowledge, a routine part of any discussion of Vietnam in those days. Morris West, Australia's bestselling author at that time, wrote a novel about the American role in the coup, The Ambassador, which sold more than a million copies.

The anti-communist B. A. Santamaria, whom Fraser much admired, broadcast numerous television commentaries about it. In one, in November 1968, Santamaria said the US "had organised the overthrow of president Diem five years ago, without even taking the precaution to see that he was not killed". American involvement in the coup was discussed routinely in classrooms and university lectures at this period.

Fraser is either misrepresenting his knowledge at the time to suit his ideology today or has forgotten about his knowledge at the time, or was indeed an astonishingly incompetent defence minister.

Fraser presents himself as a great hero on refugees, but Australia took in far more refugees under Howard than it did under Fraser. Fraser claims to have taken in 20,000 refugees a year in his last years in office, a claim completely untrue. Similarly in opposition he called for "a small number" of Vietnamese to be admitted.

His scabrous slanders of Howard, the worst based only on his memory and backed up by no corroborating testimony or documentation, reveal a nastiness of spirit remarkable even in the ego-mad world of Australian politics. This shameful book deserves no awards.


Warmist economist scorns his country

Ross Gittins is a prominent Australian economist. He criticizes the Australian character, as well he may, given his own defective character. His slavish acceptance of authority is very un-Australian. Australians are traditionally irreverent. No wonder he does not like his fellow Australians. He would have been wearing a brown uniform in Hitler's Germany

It's a sore test of faith when people put power bills before their children's future.

Like most people, I'm an instinctive optimist. In any case, I see no margin in pessimism. If you concluded the world was irredeemably wicked, or destined for certain destruction, what would be left but to curl up and die? Since we can never be certain the end is nigh, much better to keep living and keep plugging away for a better world.

I confess, however, I've needed all my optimistic instincts to avoid despair over the terrible hash we're making of the need to take effective action against global warming. We're showing everything that's unattractive about the Australian character.

We pride ourselves that Aussies are good in a crisis, but until the walls start falling in on us we couldn't reach agreement to shut the door against the cold.

This week's report from the Climate Commission - established to provide expert advice on the science of climate change and its effects on Australia - tells us nothing we didn't already know, but everything we've lost sight of in our efforts to advance our personal interests at the expense of the nation's.

Its 70 pages boil down to four propositions we'd rather not think about. First, there is no doubt the climate is changing. The evidence is clear. The atmosphere is warming, the ocean is warming, ice is being lost from glaciers and ice caps, and sea levels are rising. Global surface temperature is rising fast; the last decade was the hottest on record.

Second, we are already seeing the social, economic and environmental effects of a changing climate. In the past 50 years, the number of record hot days in Australia has more than doubled. This has increased the risk of heatwave-associated deaths, as well as extreme bushfires.

Sea level has risen by 20 centimetres globally since the late 1800s, affecting many coastal communities. Another 20-centimetre increase by 2050 is likely, on present projections, which would more than double the risk of coastal flooding.

Third, these changes are triggered by human activities - particularly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation - which are increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, with carbon dioxide the most important of these gases.

Fourth, this is the critical decade. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience. Without strong and rapid action, there is a significant risk that climate change will undermine society's prosperity, health, stability and way of life......

Australians are proud of their inbuilt bulldust detectors, but on this issue they seemed to have turned them off, happily believing whatever self-serving nonsense politicians, business people and media personalities serve up to them.


School discipline on agenda for Vic Libs

Discipline in Victoria's public schools, the rising cost of construction for major projects and federal Labor's carbon tax will be under the spotlight at the Liberal State Council meeting this weekend.

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will address the meeting at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Saturday, while Premier Ted Baillieu on Sunday will thank party members for their contribution to the coalition's state election victory.

There is likely to be an air of celebration at the event, the first official Victorian Liberal Party gathering since the coalition swept to office six months ago.

There is also optimism about the party's prospects federally, as opinion polls have consistently shown the coalition in an election-winning position and Mr Abbott closing in on Julia Gillard as preferred prime minister.

Motions on the agenda include setting up a tribunal to toughen up discipline at public schools. The Waverley North branch, which is moving the motion, says there is a discipline crisis in many state schools, with teachers under siege from unruly pupils.

It wants teachers to have the power to report serious breaches of discipline to the tribunal, including physical and verbal assaults and intimidation.

In its motion, the branch says almost 14,000 students were suspended in state schools last year and a lack of discipline in public education is the reason many parents send their children to private schools. "Parents want more confidence to choose a government school," the motion reads.

A call from the Geelong branch to have speed camera revenue directly invested in road safety initiatives is also on the agenda. "The loss of public confidence in the validity of speed cameras as a tool to reduce road trauma requires attention," the motion reads. "To not address these issues would mean the party risks the same voter backlash which the Labor Party received in the lead-up to the last election."

Auditor-General Des Pearson is investigating the state's speed camera system and is expected to report to government in about August.

Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Mary Bluett said it was wrong to suggest only government school students had behavioural issues. "I ... get offended by the notion that these issues are only issues for government schools," she told AAP. "In terms of bullying and physical altercations, it's hardly a government school issue only."

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Frank Sal said he welcomed more support from the Department of Education in dealing with abuse or violence from students and parents.

But he denied there was a lack of discipline in government schools. "The notion that there is a discipline crisis in government schools is a real furphy," Mr Sal said.


Failing Federal solar scheme

COMPLAINTS about shonky solar power companies are rising as homeowners cry foul over bad contracts and half-finished work. The Queensland Office of Fair Trading is receiving a complaint every business day from people who believe they have been ripped off, although there have been no prosecutions. There have been 75 complaints so far this year.

Most complaints relate to delays or failure to supply the product, incorrect installation, faulty components or misleading representations about the solar panel system's performance.

Thirty-five companies, mostly based in the state, had been the subject of complaints in relation to solar panel systems, the OFT said. Of these, 12 were the subject of multiple complaints. It said it had not needed to "initiate any prosecution", as the complaints had been "largely contractual disputes" between the trader and consumer. "The majority of these matters have been resolved through conciliation to the satisfaction of the complainant," the OFT said.

Following an $850 million solar spending blowout, the Commonwealth next month is reducing by $1500 the subsidy for a typical home solar system, prompting high-pressure sales tactics on the part of some solar retailers ahead of the deadline. Some solar contracts contain hidden charges, including extra hook-up and maintenance costs and warranties with questionable value.

The problems come after the Federal Government was forced to scrap the failed Green Loans and home insulation programs.

Industry insiders said some of the worst offenders in the solar industry were previously involved in the Commonwealth's failed Batts insulation scheme that resulted in widespread rorting as well as the deaths of some installers.

There has been an explosion in the number of solar installers, from 280 across Australia in 2007 to more than 3500 today, and a 17-fold jump in Queensland in the same period to 785.

Consumer body Choice this week warned customers to be wary of very cheap quotes and short warranty periods.

Reputable installers say they are frustrated by "cowboys" giving the industry a black eye, yet are reluctant to name and shame competitors.

AllSafe, a major solar franchiser, has helped victims of improperly installed work. Lorraine Biggin, a Toowoomba-based AllSafe franchisee, said a recent customer was dudded by an installer who didn't supply all the racking for his home solar system and left the job unfinished. "He paid for everything and they just left him twisting in the wind," she said.

Complaints about solar installers are commonplace on consumer websites. Homeowners have vented anger at the quality of some solar systems, delivering less electricity than predicted, unprofessonal installations, and installers who disappeared, making their 10-year warranties worthless.

Homeowners also are frustrated when state and federal governments change the rules for their solar schemes reducing the expectations for a return on investments.

The Queensland Government has stopped subsiding new large solar systems to keep people from profitting from its scheme, but that was precisely why some "solar farmers" invested heavily in solar systems.

Homeowners also have discovered that electicity providers are knocking back some solar systems or their systems don't pass inspection because they haven't been installed to standard.

Consumers have attempted to protect themselves by turning to websites such as solarquotes.com.au, where the work of solar installers is discussed.

Website spokesman Finn Peacock said it appeared from the discussions there were dodgy contractors involved previously in insulation work who jumped into solar when the federal money dried up. "Any time you have government throwing money around, you'll get all sorts," he said.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Labor rebuffs Greens on coalmines

RESOURCES Minister Martin Ferguson has slapped down a demand by the Greens for a ban on new coalmines, declaring the coal industry has a bright future as a driver of economic prosperity, despite moves to tackle climate change.

Mr Ferguson has also championed the emerging coal-seam methane industry, which the Greens also oppose. He noted that if Australia abandoned coal and coal-seam gas exports, its customers would be forced to use lower-quality coal from overseas that would cause greater global levels of carbon pollution.

And as the minister accused the Greens of trying to "undermine and destroy" jobs and export revenue, one of Julia Gillard's hand-picked climate change commissioners warned that a sudden phase-out of coalmining would spark economic and social chaos.

Economist Roger Beale, a member of the Prime Minister's Climate Commission, which is charged with promoting rational debate on climate change, told a forum in Canberra that coal would be a part of world energy production for decades.

"So coal is with us," Mr Beale told a Climate Commission forum. "We can produce coal close to the markets that are demanding it. And we can do it in an efficient way. And it is high thermal-efficiency coal and it's generally low-sulphur coal."

Mr Beale's comments came as senior Labor Party sources scoffed at the Greens' demands on coal and said no Labor government would be "silly enough" to embrace the end of an industry that provided tens of thousands of jobs, often in areas traditionally favourable to Labor.

The Greens have lately sharpened their anti-coal rhetoric as they continue their negotiations with the Prime Minister about the design of a carbon tax.

Ms Gillard agreed to work with the Greens on the issue after last year's election produced a hung parliament, forming a multi-party committee to give the minor party input in return for its support for her minority government.

On Monday, Greens deputy leader Christine Milne, who favours a swift switch to renewable energy sources and believes lost jobs would be replaced by clean energy jobs, made clear she had no patience for a long transition away from fossil fuels.

"The Greens have said very clearly: no new coalmines, no extension of existing coalmines; let's invest in renewables - the technology exists," Senator Milne said. She also attacked the emerging coal-seam gas industry as "a disaster for Australia", despite it creating thousands of jobs.

Mr Ferguson yesterday rejected the Greens' view, issuing an unambiguous vote of confidence in the resources sector. "Not only does the coal-seam methane export industry have a great potential for Australia over the next 10 to 20 years, but so has the coal sector, and I might say the iron ore sector," he said. "That's despite, I might say, when it comes to coal-seam methane, LNG and the coal industry, the best endeavours of the Greens to undermine and destroy that industry in Australia."

In a veiled attack on the Greens' contention that jobs lost could be replaced by new positions in the renewable sector, Mr Ferguson said coal and coal-seam gas would deliver "real jobs and training opportunities" and "real export earnings" that would strengthen the overall national economy. Later, Mr Ferguson told The Australian that Australian coal was relatively clean by international standards and, if its exports ceased, customers such as China would be forced to use coal that would discharge greater levels of carbon.

Earlier, Mr Beale, the executive director of economics and policy at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told the Climate Commission forum - staged to promote rational debate based on facts - Australia needed to accept "the hard fact" that coal would be an unavoidable part of the global energy mix for up to the next three decades.

Mr Beale, a former secretary of the Department of Environment and Heritage and a lead author for the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the answer to reducing carbon emissions was providing incentives for the market to drive change at a pace that was economically and socially sustainable.

"If we simply cut coal off, we would have economic and social chaos," Mr Beale said.

"These things shouldn't be planned, they should emerge through an efficient marketplace, and that will get you the best-paced, best adjustment, providing around the world we are given the right incentives to use coal in as clean a manner as is possible."

Mr Beale said the coal industry would continue to grow and remain an important power source for the world.

Shutting down the Australian industry, he said, would not necessarily "save the world" because its customers would simply take their business elsewhere.

Yesterday's forum came as several Labor Party MPs, asking not to be named, said that Labor was realistic enough to know that agreeing to the Greens' positions on coal would be politically unsustainable.

They said Labor had lost seats in mining areas in last year's federal election, such as the Queensland seats of Flynn and Dawson, and understood it wold not regain the seats if it shut down the industries that underpinned their local economies. "We want to do the right thing by the environment, but we're not silly enough to put people out of work, particularly when they are our supporters," said one Labor backbencher.

"Everything I am hearing from our leaders is that we want to put in place a process that will allow the market to drive the changes. So we are hardly going to tell people they can't build new coalmines." Another MP said it would be "political suicide" to embrace the Greens' position.

"At some point, the Greens will have to moderate their demands," the MP said. "I'm hoping they will be realistic enough to accept they can't have everything."

Australian Petroleum and Exploration Association chief executive Belinda Robinson said Senator Milne's attack on the coal-seam gas industry was a risk to the transition to a low-emissions economy. "Outright opposition to viable and sensible energy options . . . impedes the thoughtful and intelligent energy debate that we need to have," she said.


Leftist denial of immigration realities reaches new heights (or depths) in Australia

LABOR is so confident its refugee swap with Malaysia is going to slow the flow of boats that it has budgeted for the arrival of only 750 asylum-seekers next financial year, despite more than 6000 having arrived last year.

Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe said the figure was in line with arrivals in 2002 -- after the Howard government's introduction of the Pacific Solution.

Speaking in a Senate estimates hearing yesterday, Mr Metcalfe said the prediction of 750 boatpeople for 2011-12 had been made because "the government believes its policy will work". He was referring to the latest announcements by Labor that involves a five-for-one refugee swap with Malaysia and the possible reopening of an offshore processing centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

"As a result of policy measures put in place, the figure of 750 was decided," Mr Metcalfe said. "The government is confident policy changes made will have a significant impact on boat arrivals. "The figure is purely a figure identified for financial planning purposes . . . that was the same number as the people who came in 2002, which was also after a major policy change."

Mr Metcalfe said the 750 figure would include asylum-seekers sent to any offshore facility, but would not include "up to 800" to be sent to Malaysia as part of the planned deal.

Australia will take 4000 certified refugees from Malaysia even if fewer than 800 asylum-seekers are sent there.

The Immigration Department's chief accountant, Stephen Sheehan, said the budget measures included an average occupancy of about 6500 detainees. "We are budgeting for 750 arrivals as part of our modelling process and an average occupancy of 6556 -- including those IMAs (irregular maritime arrivals) who are sent offshore but spend a few days in Australian detention," Mr Sheehan said.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the 750 figure "proved" the government would indeed send all 800 asylum-seekers to Malaysia. "It just means back to business as usual," he said. "This is further evidence of why we need a parliamentary inquiry into the immigration detention network."

Mr Morrison on Sunday announced the Coalition's plan for a "warts and all" inquiry into immigration.


Desperate and hypocritical Labour Party grab for taxes

Western Australia is in the midst of what has been described as one of the biggest mining and resource booms in our nation's history.... This has greatly increased economic activity in Western Australia, but it has also brought significant pressures.

Population growth is one factors that has placed great demands on services provided by the State Government and local governments throughout the State.

The entire Australian economy benefits from this strong economic growth, and the Federal Government has an important role to play in ensuring the investment environment is attractive .

It must also provide sufficient support to the State Government as it battles with the large infrastructure demands.

This was the case until the Rudd/Gillard Labor Governments ran into budgetary strife due to its reckless and wasteful spending and turned their sights on the Western Australian mining sector.

In a desperate search for further sources of funding, then Prime Minister Rudd announced last year that he would introduce a Resources Super Profits Tax – a new federal tax on mining company profits.

This additional 40 per cent tax would have made Australia a far less competitive investment environment, and for the first time in living memory the issue of sovereign risk was raised among international investors.

As events transpired, this tax was the final straw for Kevin Rudd's leadership and it was scrapped by Julia Gillard after she toppled Rudd for the Labor leadership on June 24.

Julia Gillard then negotiated a Minerals Resource Rent Tax with three of the largest mining companies, excluding thousands of smaller miners from the negotiations.

These big 3 miners extracted a key concession in this pre-election "fix" that meant all existing and future State royalties would be credited against any MRRT liability – the Federal Government picks up the tab for State royalties, now and into the future.

It is an undeniable fact that Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett announced more than 12 months ago that he intended to gradually eliminate all existing discounts from the State's standard royalty rate of 7.5 per cent.

These discounts had existed for many years and were implemented decades ago so as not to discourage investment, particularly in the fledging Pilbara iron ore industry.

So when Premier Barnett announced in this year's State Budget that he was removing the discount for iron ore "fines" so that they were treated in the same way as iron ore "lumps" with all iron ore products having the same applicable royalty rate of 7.5 per cent, he was doing precisely what he said he would do.

Yet, astoundingly, his announcement came under hysterical attack from Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Mr Swan claimed not to have been given any prior warning, that Premier Barnett "did not communicate that he was going to do this..." and that the announcement came "suddenly out of the blue".

He has threatened retribution through the Commonwealth Grants Commission and to withdraw GST from WA. He has threatened to slash infrastructure funding from the State.

The Treasurer would have us believe that the Premier's announcement was a "black swan" event - unpredictable, unexpected, out of the blue.

This simply defies belief. There are numerous media articles over the past 12 months in which Premier Barnett has stated his intention to lift the royalty rate for iron ore fines from July 1 2011.

The Federal Treasury advised Mr Swan in a formal briefing document in May 2010 of the WA timetable for eliminating royalty discounts, with these documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws.

An official Federal Government fact sheet dated 2 July 2010 regarding the details of the MRRT stated "State royalties are assumed to be equal to 7.5 per cent of sales revenue and are credited against the MRRT liability to produce the net MRRT liability" .

In other words, Treasury were already factoring in to its calculations the fact that WA would lift all its royalty rates to 7.5 per cent. Even more damning is the fact that two days prior to Treasurer Swan's claims of total ignorance, Barnett's chief of staff personally informed Swan's chief of staff of the decision.

The question arises as to why Treasurer Swan had such a vociferous reaction to the WA Premier formally announcing something that has long been flagged.

It has all to do with the fragility of his Budget and the smoke and mirrors surrounding his claim that he will return the Budget to surplus in two years' time.

Having made the utterly unbelievable claim that he knew nothing about WA's intentions, Treasurer Swan must now explain the full implications for the federal Budget bottom line. His four Budgets to date have produced cumulative deficits of $150 billion and Treasurer Swan is yet to deliver a surplus.

Even during a period of strong economic growth and record terms of trade, a Swan surplus is a fast-fading mirage.


Commandos finally get justice

A soldier guides the lead convoy vehicle in Afghanistan.
Troops can again have confidence in the legality of their combat operations.

LAST week in Sydney, the military's chief judge advocate dismissed the charges against two Australian commandos over the deaths of Afghan civilians. I hope his decision is taken seriously and that we never see such charges again.

In October, when the charges of manslaughter by criminal negligence were laid against the army reservists, aspersions abounded. Many Australian media outlets were quick to allege that the incidental killing of civilians in Afghanistan was the inevitable consequence of a large proportion of reserve soldiers who were inadequately trained, gung ho and poorly led.

Those aspersions are all fallacious and have been extremely hurtful to the subjects of the charges, to their mates and to the 1st Commando Regiment, with its distinguished operational record.

What a profoundly disappointing contrast to the initial media scrum to see a solitary media representative in the courtroom on Friday for the duration of Brigadier Ian Westwood's decision to dismiss the charges against Sergeant J and Lance Corporal D.

Australian Defence Force legal officers have been taught for years that the law governing combat operations is international humanitarian law (or the law of armed conflict) implemented into Australian domestic law through Commonwealth legislation.

Rules of engagement are drafted in strict compliance with that body of law, ensuring troop confidence in the legality of combat operations.

Late last year, the Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, challenged that orthodoxy by laying charges without reference to an alleged violation of international humanitarian law.

Colonel Tom Berkeley, representing McDade in court-martial proceedings, repeatedly stated that the prosecution did not allege a war crime in the deaths in February 2009 of six Afghan civilians, including five children, in an Australian attack on a compound in Oruzgan province.

But the implication was that Australian criminal law apparently imposed a higher standard on ADF members, who could no longer assume that compliance with international humanitarian law would guarantee lawful conduct.

The chief judge advocate's decision to dismiss the charges in last week's pre-trial hearing restores the orthodoxy.

Negligence has never been an acceptable fault element for the perpetration of a war crime. At the International Criminal Court in The Hague, for example, the minimum requirements are intention or recklessness.

I spoke with senior military lawyers in the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand during the course of this case, and none of them could understand why these charges had been laid. They were uniformly emphatic that none of their soldiers would be charged with negligence in combat operations.

But our military prosecutor claimed that these two soldiers owed a duty of care to the civilians in the compound in Afghanistan. Despite the fact that the ADF contingent was subjected to sustained bursts of fire from an AK-47 from within the compound, the prosecutor insisted that the alleged duty of care was demonstrably breached by the two ADF members.

The chief judge advocate thought otherwise. In a meticulously reasoned decision, Westwood found that Australian law does not impose an enforceable duty of care on ADF members in the context of combat operations.

He did not suggest that combat is a law-free zone. International humanitarian law regulates the conduct of ADF members. Of course, if the ADF contingent that entered the compound in Oruzgan province on the night of February 12, 2009, had taken the civilian inhabitants out of their rooms, lined them up against the compound wall and shot them, multiple war crimes of murder would have been committed and Australian society would rightly demand that those responsible be brought to justice. Nothing of that sort happened.

I was encouraged by Westwood's closing exhortation - that the dismissal of the charges does not alter the tragedy of the deaths of civilians taking no part in the hostilities in Afghanistan.

International humanitarian law seeks to protect civilians from the scourge of war, even though the reality of some loss of civilian life is reluctantly accepted. The Australian Defence Force must continue to comply with that body of law in all its military operations. Members who violate the law should be held accountable.

But when our government sends ADF contingents into conflict, asking our young men and women to risk their lives in the conduct of military operations, compliance with international humanitarian law in the professional performance of their responsibilities is all that we should ask of them.