Sunday, July 31, 2011

Light soon on Labor party coverup?

New light shed on Heiner Affair with 'Shreddergate' inquiry set to open. Could it be Kevvy who is being protected?

Annette McIntosh, 37, is one of the living victims of Shreddergate - a 20-year controversy involving politicians, shredded documents and "hush money".

For the first time, she has revealed her full identity in her fight for justice. Mrs McIntosh alleges that at 14 years old, as a ward of the state at Brisbane's John Oxley Detention Centre, she was pack-raped.

A year ago, the State Government paid Mrs McIntosh $140,000 in compensation for a crime that never led to charges, let alone an investigation.

She signed a confidentiality agreement. But that is about to be broken. Mrs McIntosh will head to Canberra when Federal Parliament resumes next month, and with Independent Senator Nick Xenophon will fight to open a new inquiry into what has been referred to as the Heiner Affair.

"I cannot wait. I have been waiting for this ... just to tell them straight out I'm still alive," Mrs McIntosh told The Sunday Mail.

"It feels good to speak because I've been told to shut my mouth for over 20 years."

Several probes have been held into the Heiner inquiry's investigation into alleged crimes at the detention centre.

Documents were shredded by the then Goss Government because of fears of legal problems relating to the inquiry, which was also disbanded. Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd was chief-of-staff to then premier Wayne Goss at the time of the shredding.

But an inquiry has never been held into why Mrs McIntosh, who works with indigenous youth, was paid compensation.

Moves for an inquiry were put on ice last month when former Family First senator Steve Fielding shocked Senator Xenophon and the Coalition by pulling his support.


1989: Former magistrate Noel Heiner appointed by the then National Party to inquire into alleged abuse at the John Oxley Detention Centre

1990: Incoming Labor Goss government shreds documents over fears the inquiry was not properly constituted

1995: The Criminal Justice Commission cleared of allegations it had lied to a federal Senate inquiry about a whistleblower who provided information to the Heiner inquiry

1996: Barristers Tony Morris, QC, and Edward Hoard appointed by the Borbidge government to hold an investigation into the shredding

2004: Federal Senate select committee holds hearings into the shredding but they lead to no charges

2010: Alleged victim Annette McIntosh receives compensation from the Bligh Government


New $800 'green tax' mooted on homes - you must pay before you can sell

As if houses were not dear enough already!

EMBATTLED homeowners could be slugged more than $800 to give their houses a compulsory "green rating" before they are sold or leased, under a new federal government scheme.

Mandatory "green ratings" for apartments and houses similar to those on new washing machines and fridges are to be introduced in the initiative to encourage more energy efficient homes.

The ratings are part of the requirement for each state to introduce legislation requiring homeowners to disclose their home's energy, greenhouse and water efficiency when they advertise it for sale or lease.

A national report has posed four different options for energy audits which in NSW would range in price from about $200 to $820.

Public consultations on compulsory testing will be held for the first time around the country starting in Sydney on Tuesday.

The most expensive option detailed in the report estimates a charge to an individual home owner of $774 for an assessor with an added $50 cost for the inconvenience of having to arrange to be present during the assessment.

The most intensive of the options, it involves a thermal building assessment which gauges a property's heating and cooling efficiency and other components.

But homeowners would not benefit from this option, which is estimated to cost homeowners a total of $1.9 billion, Real Estate Institute of NSW president Wayne Stewart said. "We agree there needs to be a change of thought and attitude towards energy efficiency," Mr Stewart said. "But the government needs to work with consumers to bring about change rather than slap them with what looks like being another tax of up to $800."

A less expensive option involves a simpler thermal assessment, involving a cost of $172.50 for an assessor and a $25 cost to a householder.

The third model would be an online version of the thermal performance assessment at a cost of $68 if done by the householder or $165 if done by an assessor with an associated $18 "householder waiting cost".

The fourth option is similar to that already adopted in Queensland whereby a homeowner fills out a checklist of building information.

This option is estimated to cost $41 if done by the property owner and $150 if done by an assessor.

Mandatory energy ratings were being introduced to establish a credible and uniform system, a spokesperson for Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency said.

Rating a property's green performance could also boost its value. "Assessing the energy and water efficiency characteristics of a home can help people chose a property that is potentially more comfortable and cheaper to run," the spokesperson said.


Your regulators will protect you -- NOT

Dodgy Victorian doctors exposed

A Beaumaris doctor, who smoked ice and shot up pethidine with his patient and lover, is among dozens of disgraced doctors still registered to practise in Victoria. Supplied

BEAUMARIS doctor Sotirios Giokas, who smoked ice and shot up pethidine with his patient and lover, is among dozens of disgraced doctors still registered to practise in Victoria.

Thirty-three Victorian doctors - disciplined for sexual harassment of patients and staff, botching operations, feeding patients' drug habits, or performing procedures such as liposuction although untrained - are still registered to practise.

The Sunday Herald Sun has, for the first time, searched the biographies of each of the 6860 Victorian registered doctors in the AHPRA database, and the results of the "doctor audit" are disturbing.

The national medical registration body - the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - says doctors are allowed to continue practising only if the board is satisfied patient safety is not at risk.

But the Australian Patients Association is calling for a "three strikes and you're out" policy.

Some of the doctors banned from prescribing drugs of dependence have been unable to refuse desperate medication-seeking patients.

Other doctors were allowed to work in the state only if they got their English up to scratch and some were reprimanded for taking inadequate patient notes.

At least another 15 Victorian doctors have conditions on their registration - such as reduced working hours and being able to work only in a group setting - because of addictions and mental health issues.

Medical Board of Australia chairwoman Dr Joanna Flynn said national regulation of doctors aimed to ensure community safety. "It's not a punishment jurisdiction, it's about protection of the public," Dr Flynn said.

She said while some doctors would never practise again, the board had to "balance the potential good that person might do to the patient community - including what alternatives there are if that doctor is not there - against the prospect the doctor will engage in harm".

A medical board panel hears less serious complaints, received from patients or a doctor's colleagues. They can reprimand or caution the doctor, order further training or enter a voluntary agreement with the doctor to restrict their practice in some way.

Under national legislation enacted last year, more serious cases are now referred to VCAT, which has the power to suspend or cancel registrations, or impose restrictions on practice. The medical board can also restrict practice or suspend doctors while the VCAT hearing is under way if there are risks to the public.

Australian Patients Association chief executive Stephen Mason said stricter and more transparent controls were required to crack down on reoffenders. "Where there have been complaints for professional misconduct, it needs to be like the AFL drug code: three strikes and you're out," Mr Mason said. "Some complaint-prone doctors are past their use-by date . . . but there's no compulsory retirement date.

"When reviews are by peers there's always a tendency to be lenient . . . so all these review panels need to have some outsiders on them and all the charges and findings should be public."


Queensland doctors not too good either

QUEENSLAND doctors are facing hundreds of complaints of inadequate care, including claims of working under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Others have been caught ripping off taxpayers and giving patients drugs or treatment they do not need.

Three Queensland medicos are under investigation by Medicare for over-prescribing, while a separate blowtorch has been applied to 408 Queensland doctors for inadequate care.

More than 1100 health professionals and medical practices Australia-wide have been identified as incorrectly claiming from Medicare amounts totalling $28.24 million.

Queensland's Health Quality and Complaints Commission, which has the 408 "open" complaints on its books, has referred 162 of the grievances to the Medical Board of Australia.

A spokeswoman for the Commission said the public complained mostly about treatment and communication issues, but some also accused doctors of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

"We may forward matters that we consider appropriate to the relevant registration board or if the matter is outside our jurisdiction, forward it to another agency with the authority to deal with (it), which may include the Director of Professional Services Review (DPSR)." The DPSR determines what action should be taken.

Fifty-six health professionals have been referred to the DPSR for suspected inappropriate practice and one doctor has been referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for criminal charges.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said doctors who did the wrong thing would never be supported but said they were innocent until proven guilty.

Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek said the vast majority of medical practitioners acted professionally but "the few who prescribe these drugs to people who don't need them are not acting appropriately".


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Stepping in for the PM

President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus visits the CIS, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard couldn’t find the time to welcome the head of the country to Australia. On Monday, The Centre for Independent Studies did something that the Australian government did not deem necessary: We provided a very warm welcome to Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic.

Klaus is a true friend of Australia. One of his first international trips after the fall of the Iron Curtain was to Australia in 1991, when he delivered the John Bonython lecture to the Centre.

Ten years later, he returned to participate in a CIS conference; he also has close relatives here.

Despite all this, the Prime Minister’s Office found no way to accommodate a meeting between the President Klaus and her. Maybe she was genuinely too busy. Or maybe Klaus’ views were too unpalatable for her.

President Klaus is a rare bird: He is an economics professor, a former finance minister and prime minister, and now a head of state. But despite this impressive career, he has maintained an outspokenness and independence of mind rare in politicians these days.

Maybe Klaus does not hold back his views because he had to do so for too long under communist rule. He does not conform to modern standards of so-called ‘political correctness,’ which he thinks is ‘a misnomer for officially sanctioned hypocrisy.’

So he speaks out where other politicians rather bite their tongues. Whether it is against the intrusive regulations coming out of the European Union, against the drive towards supranationalism, or indeed against programs to impose draconian measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Our exchange of views with the President was most informative and refreshing. It’s a pity the Prime Minister missed the opportunity to experience the same.

Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies. Click here to watch a conversation between President Klaus and Dr Hartwich.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 29 July. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Crackdown on welfare claimants who are "too sick" to work

APPLICANTS for the disability support pension will no longer be able to claim they are too fat to work or are unable due to other ailments that would previously have led them to claim benefits.

Instead, 815,000 people on the pension will be assessed using new impairment tables on what work they could potentially do based on their disability, The Daily Telegraph reported.

A Centrelink study of claims in the first half of this year showed 38 per cent of applicants would have been ineligible.

If their claims were lodged after the reforms are introduced in January they would have been rejected and would be able to apply for the Newstart allowance.

The government tailored Newstart assistance to guide people with mild disabilities to suitable work.

"The new tool will make sure people applying for the disability support pension will be assessed based on what they can do and not what they can't do," Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin said. "I want to see people who have some capacity to work doing so. Work provides purpose and dignity and a greater sense of achievement and pride."

Disability support groups and medical professionals consulted with the government on the tables, which comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

They also reflect improvements in rehabilitation and medical treatment since the tables were last revised in 1993.

The government found current impairment tables were inconsistent, including assessing people with a hearing problem while they were not wearing their hearing aids. People with cardiovascular and respiratory problems can also self report but will now have to provide evidence from their doctor.

Back complaints had been assessed based on loss of movement but new tables will determine what the condition prevents a person from doing, such as sitting down for a period of time.

A miscellaneous table from which people made claims for obesity and pain will be abolished so people will instead be assessed on how it affects their capacity to function at work.

A table covering mental health, among the fastest-growing reasons people apply for the pension, will also be tightened after people with minor psychiatric impairments were classified the same as those severely incapacitated.

A total of 30 points, down from 40, will be allocated for mental health issues.


Empty-headed slogans won't help Aborigines

Noel Pearson

Borrowing straight from Tony Blair's New Labour play book, the prevailing policy paradigm in our country is called social inclusion, and, as deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard established a Social Inclusion Board to advise government. It is now astounding to think about Australian perceptions of the social policy revolutions taking place under Blair. Young policy wonks would wax lyrically about the work of the Social Inclusion Unit, and the rhetoric of New Labour was so compelling.

I would look askance when east London social entrepreneur Andrew Mawson visited us in Cape York every few years and gave the thumbs-down on Blair and Brown. Mawson's view was that social change agents who have only a plane-seat view of the problems can produce great visions, but his advice rang true: "The devil is in the detail."

Politicians and public servants who have never built anything from the ground up in such communities never really get it. Most people in social policy live in a world of programs and plans, bearing scant relation to realities.

Goods and services in the marketplace respond to the daily realities of human lives, their needs and desires. When the people and organisations producing and selling these products fail to understand and respond to demands of the public, they soon lose custom and disappear. Government goods and services are different: they can fail to understand and respond to what the public needs and demands, and they never go out of business. The production line of useless or half-useless programs and services built by erstwhile social policy designers in government keeps producing because there is no nexus between stratosphere-level policy design and ground-level demands of people who need opportunity.

Not surprisingly, the government services system ends up, in the words of US senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "feeding the sparrows by feeding the horses".

This week I met former British Conservative leader and present Minister for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, who was in Australia as a guest of the Menzies Research Centre and delivered the John Howard Oration. He is the first politician, and first senior public servant, who has struck me as having a profound understanding of social disadvantage at the ground level. Through the think tank he founded, the Centre for Social Justice, Duncan Smith has accumulated a vast and detailed understanding of the many facets of social disadvantage in Britain. He used his long years in opposition to start to design a policy and political program aimed at putting his revolution into effect.

The striking thing is Duncan Smith claimed social justice for the Conservatives. In his Sydney speech he said: "For too long Conservatives had left this area to the Left, only occasionally making forays to attack spending on welfare, and everything was viewed through the lens of saving money or catching scroungers . . . it remained a wholly negative message and allowed the Left to characterise Conservatives as simply interested in cutting benefits."

Duncan Smith's claiming of social justice may cause some discomfiture to his antipodean counterparts, but his view is that "these terminology arguments were utterly detached from the British people, and they marginalised Conservatives even further in the eyes of the electorate". They conducted polls on the public's understanding and found that "they rejected the notion that it meant a bigger state or increased spending on welfare. Instead they felt it meant support for people in real need and support for those who are helping them."

In my view Duncan Smith aims to give real meaning to social justice. It is not about the failed welfarism of the Left but social policy aiming to transform the lives of the disadvantaged. As he says, "income matters, but the root causes of poverty and the source of income matter more".

In our work in Cape York Peninsula we have focused on three dimensions to our staircase of social progress where passive welfarism has created problems.

First, there is the crumbling effect that unconditional welfare and long-term disengagement from the economy has had on social foundations.

Second, governments invariably distribute resources from the state to citizens in ways that create dependency and fail to enliven them to engage in society and the economy. Instead of distributing opportunity, the state ends up delivering passive services that are ineffective in addressing needs and problems, and create new needs and problems.

Third, there is, at the bottom of the staircase, a pedestal that is priced higher than the first step on the staircase. The disincentive effect of the welfare pedestal on individuals moving from welfare to work, or avoiding welfare in the first place, remains a fundamental reform challenge in Australia as throughout the Western world.

We have developed innovative approaches to the first and second dimensions of the welfare reform challenge. It is in relation to the welfare pedestal that we are still bereft of solution. It requires a response that moves from the basis that it must pay to work. Then there is the requirement that jobseekers take available jobs.

Australian welfare reforms have still not counteracted the effect of the pedestal.

This is where the solution hammered out by Duncan Smith to simplify the benefits scheme into a single "universal credit" most interests me.


Live cattle shipments to resume

THE first shipment of live cattle is expected to leave Australia for Indonesia in a week's time after the federal government signed off late yesterday on the final impediment to resuming the suspended trade.

The Secretary of the federal Agriculture Department, Conall O'Connell, approved a notice of intent to export cattle to Indonesia for Elders, the country's largest live exporter, accounting for 60 per cent of the market.

Receipt of the final export permit is contingent on Elders having the first shipment of cattle undergo routine quarantine and health inspections, and then loading the beasts. "These steps are nothing new and are expected to follow quickly," a source said.

Elders has a ship anchored off China, which could be here and ready to load by the end of next week. "We're bloody happy for the trade, all the cattle producers in the Northern Territory and our customers in Indonesia," Elders chief executive Malcolm Jackman told the Herald yesterday. "Northern Australia is desperately awaiting recovery in the trade and it is vital that the volumes can be increased as rapidly as a sustainable solution will permit," he said.

Not a single beast has been shipped to Indonesia since July 6 when the Agriculture Minister, Joe Ludwig, announced the lifting of the month-long suspension.

The suspension, prompted by public and caucus outrage about the mistreatment of cattle in Indonesian abattoirs, stranded about 275,000 cattle that were ready for export.

Mr Jackman said the first ship could take about 3000 cattle from Darwin but it would only take "two or three phone calls" for him to have another 20,000 ready to go.

The president of the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association, Rohan Sullivan, said it could take two years before the negative impacts of the backlog have been dealt with.

Elders was given approval to resume shipping to Indonesia after satisfying the department that new humane conditions governing live exports would be met. This meant, primarily, that Elders could guarantee supply-chain assurance, meaning the fate of each beast could be accounted for, from the point of departure to slaughter. This is designed to ensure that Australian cattle do not "leak" from Indonesian feedlots to substandard abattoirs.

The company has also arranged for an independent audit of the entire process - another requirement before exports could resume.

A survey of affected cattle-growers by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) released this week says the suspension had cost 326 jobs. This comprised workers who had either been laid off, or those who would otherwise have been hired.

Of the 597,000 cattle that the industry expected to sell to Indonesia this year, 375,000 were unsold at the time of the export suspension.

ABARES forecasts that about 278,000 beasts could be available for export by the end of the year if trade resumes by the end of this month.

Another cattle exporter, the Wellard group, is in the process of applying for an export permit.


What Bravery! Flannery Lectures on Looming Sea level Disaster from Waterfront Home!

Tim Flannery head of the Climate Commission and major doom-sayer in Australia recorded an interview with WWF saying that "James Hansen - who is the world's leading thinker in this area with the Goddard Institute of NASA - believes we're on the brink of triggering a 25m rise in sea level. So anyone with a coastal view from their bedroom window or kitchen window is likely to lose their house as a result of that change. So any coastal cities, coastal areas are in grave danger."

From Andrew Bolt it is reported that Mr Flannery has a waterfront home at Coba Point showing what he thinks of his own predictions . Greg Combet the Climate Change Minister also does not seem too worried with his luxury waterfront home.

It brings to mind Animal Farm with the "four legs good two legs bad" brainwashing being fed to the common animals while the ruling pigs walked around the farm house on two legs! Methinks Orwell was very clever with his choice of animals.

Maybe Flannery just checked the Envisat satellite data and found that current sea levels were the same as 2004, a fact that he failed to point out to the general public!


Friday, July 29, 2011


Dam operators followed the rulebook so that's OK -- even if they caused billions of property damage. Were they hired to be human robots or were they supposed to think? What were they paid for?

DAM operators accused of flooding parts of the southeast are set to be cleared of wrongdoing when a report into January's disaster is released next week.

SEQWater yesterday received a glowing report for its handling of the massive releases from Wivenhoe Dam, which contributed to the flooding that affected 22,000 properties in Brisbane and Ipswich.

Mark Babister, an independent hydrologist whose second report to the floods commission of inquiry was yesterday published, said SEQWater followed the dam manual when releasing water from Wivenhoe. Mr Babister's findings are expected to form a key part of the flood inquiry's interim report next Monday, denting prospects of a class action against the dam operators.

Debate has raged since the January floods over whether authorities contributed to the disaster amid suggestions the operators were hoarding drinking water in the dam.

Mr Babister, head of WMAwater, backed Seqwater engineers for releasing water into the Brisbane River at the height of the floods. "With the information available during their operations, and using the strategies defined by the manual, WMAwater believe the flood engineers achieved close to the best possible mitigation result for the January 2011 flood event," he wrote.

Seqwater nearly tripled releases from Wivenhoe Dam in the days before the flood. Releases were escalated from 240,000 megalitres a day on the night of January 10 when the dam was at 158 per cent to 645,000 megalitres the following night when the dam hit 183 per cent. The floods inundated 22,000 homes and businesses during January 12 and 13.

But Mr Babister highlighted the potential benefits of reducing Wivenhoe's normal capacity and changes to the manual to better protect the city from a repeat of the disaster. He said lowering Wivenhoe's level to 75 per cent before the wet season would allow it to "swallow" more water.


When animal activists attack!

Sometimes, you wonder who the real animals are, and what kind of condition they keep themselves in.

On the weekend, I dropped my daughter at a friend’s birthday party at Lennon Brothers Circus. Lennon Brothers is one of the few remaining Australian circuses with animals, and a group of protestors had set up shop out the front.

Never in my life have I encountered such an unruly, rude rabble of misfits, thugs and foaming-at-the-mouth ideologues. Not content to peacefully pursue their aims, they actively victimised the poor helpless children attending the circus with some of the most vile slurs imaginable.

In one instance, one of the protestors yelled through the megaphone “keeping lions in cages is like your mummy and daddy keeping you in jail”. Can you imagine how my eight year old daughter felt? Or any of the other kids walking in? How on earth does victimising children legitimise any grown-up cause – worthy or unworthy?

After dropping my daughter, I calmly approached some of the protestors to express my indignation. Part of that conversation involved me identifying myself as a journalist and pointing out that I have previously written pieces supporting animal welfare.

“Liar!” a woman wearing a lion mask screamed. A man with a spotted bow tie was even worse. Pointing at my four year old son under my arm, then pointing at the lion’s enclosure, he screamed “mammal, mammal!” as though to indicate that both my son and the lions deserved the same humane treatment.

I don’t necessarily disagree with his sentiment. But his tone was another thing entirely. It was the wild, manic tone of someone with severe anger management issues. And it was right in the face of my frightened son.

Now, it just so happens that I’m not such a big fan of circuses with animals, for two simple reasons.

Firstly, I believe the most exciting circus acts are always the ones involving people. Indeed, my daughter came home raving about the contortionist but had little to say about the lions.

Secondly, I don’t believe that performing animals send a good message to kids. It suggests that animals are there for our amusement, which I most firmly believe they are not.

That, by the way, is an entirely different issue from the issue of animal cruelty, which is the main issue the protestors were banging on about in their vicious, mean-spirited way.

So are circuses with animals cruel? Not according to fifth generation circus man and lion tamer Warren Lennon. “The lions have exercise yards available to them from 7 am to 9 or 10 o’clock at night,” he told The Punch yesterday.

“The tricks they do are similar to the movements they make in the wild. They jump, they walk along a plank. We don’t make them jump through fire or anything like that, we don’t use whips and although we use sticks, they are used for direction, not to hit the animals.

The Punch contacted Animal Liberation, who organised the protest. They said their immediate goal is to lobby local councils to outlaw animal circuses, while their long term goal is to shift all circus animals to free range zoos. This is what happened with the elephant Arna from Stardust Circus, who trampled and killed a handler.

Animal Liberation believe the animal “snapped”, although there was some suggestion the animal was only trying to nudge its handler awake after he suffered a heart attack, and inadvertently crushed him.

Whatever the truth in the case of Arna the elephant, Warren Lennon believes free range zoos would be a death warrant for circus-raised lions. “These lions they would die in a free range zoo. They were born in the circus and they are used to the companionship of the trainers. I’d like to see these animal libbers save some species from dying over in Africa. Lions are on the endangered species list, you know.”

Lennon believes that Australia leads the world on regulations for animals in circuses and zoos. But Animal Liberation Communications Manager Lynda Stoner doesn’t see it that way. “Animals were never intended to be objects of entertainment,” she says. “At Taronga Zoo in Sydney, there are signs explaining the dysfunctional behaviour of former circus elephants, who spend much of the day swaying back and forth.”

Stoner and her colleague Emma Hurst, who helped organise the protest, were both shocked when I told them of the behaviour of many of the protestors. That’s shocked as in disgusted, not shocked as in surprised, because this was not the first report of shonky misbehaviour that had filtered back to head office.

Hurst suggested that the news of the protest went out via Facebook, and that some of the protestors might have been blow-ins who were not members of Animal Liberation. “I stand by our right to be there and hand out flyers, but Animal Liberation is a completely non-violent organisation, and we do not support any sort of abuse towards people or anything like that,” she said.

That’s good to hear. Most animal rights groups these days are reasonably level-headed. Well, maybe not PETA, but most. But those lunatic protestors out the front of Lennon Brothers circus were anything but level-headed, that’s for sure.

And with their inexcusable behaviour, they completely invalidated their cause.


Tony Abbott says 'draconian' carbon cop force will chase 'invisible' substance

TONY Abbott has attacked the sweeping powers of a new carbon tax regulator, questioning how it can effectively monitor invisible gas emissions.

The Opposition Leader this morning lashed the powers of the Clean Energy Regulator, set out in a draft legislative package, likening the body to a “carbon cop”.

The new regulator will be able to enter workplaces and compel individuals to hand over self-incriminating evidence and sensitive records.

“I mean this is a draconian new police force chasing an invisible, odourless, weightless, tasteless substance,” Mr Abbott told Nine's Today Show. “Not only is the carbon tax going to be with you every time you turn on the TV or open the fridge or get into bed with the electric blanket on, there's now going to be a carbon cop. “The carbon cop could hit you with 10 years in jail (and) million dollar plus fines.”

But Treasurer Wayne Swan laughed off the criticism, saying tough enforcement powers were needed to prevent rorting of the carbon scheme. "If people break the law and if people commit fraud, they commit a crime and they are punished for it under any law of the nation," he said. "I think the reports today are pretty ridiculous to be frank."

Under the draft legislation, attempts to subvert the scheme would be punishable by 10-year jail terms and fines of up to $1.1 million.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the tough approach followed instances of fraud in the European Union's emissions trading scheme. “In Europe the emissions trading scheme has experienced some problems with the scheme's integrity and the government has had a look at what those issues have been and we've designed our proposed legislation here on the basis of what we believe to be world's best practice,” he told ABC radio.

Mr Combet denied the government was rushing to introduce the carbon tax legislation into parliament, despite only allowing three weeks of consultation on the exposure draft. “There won't be too many surprises for businesses in what the government has put forward,” he said.

The carbon tax package will consist of 14 bills, the majority of which were released in draft form yesterday for public feedback. The package will establish the $23-a-tonne carbon price, mechanisms to pay household compensation and a new Climate Change Authority and Clean Energy Regulator.

Inspectors working for the regulator would be able to obtain warrants to search work places, monitor activity and copy documents. The enforcement provisions will be further strengthened by an extra $12.8 million over four years for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.


The usual Greenie unrealism in estimates of carbon tax effects

Henry Ergas

EARLIER this week, Wayne Swan said the results of updated Treasury modelling of the government's proposed carbon tax would not differ much from those already released.

If our Defence planners told us it didn't matter to their modelling whether our next war was with China or with Vanuatu, we would worry about the quality of their planning.

So it is not reassuring that increasing the starting carbon price by more than 10 per cent, closing the Hazelwood generator early, slashing the number of permits that can be purchased overseas, precluding the borrowing of permits from the future and using realistic assumptions about what other countries are doing would have little impact on the policy's estimated costs. That said, many adjustments that should be made will likely not be made. The modelling will therefore remain an exercise in the economics of nirvana: easily assumed, less easily attained. But even were significant adjustments made, there is a technical reason why the model's estimate of costs might change little.

That reason is a quirk in Treasury's modelling. Called the "marginal abatement cost curve" or MAC, it provides abatement like manna from heaven, that is, at no cost. But it is even better: for the more the price of bread rises, the more manna showers from the skies. Or in this case, the higher the permit price, the more abatement we get for free.

The mechanics of this device can be explained as follows. As the carbon price rises producers replace more emissions-intensive processes with less emissions-intensive alternatives. This typically involves some investment costs. For example, a firm might spend an additional $100 on scrubbers to reduce emissions. As the scrubbers must be paid for, the firm's costs and prices would rise, causing, among other things, changes in demand.

But here comes the interesting bit. As the carbon price rises, the MAC kicks in, and provides further reductions in emissions, but without requiring new investment. And the higher the permit price, the more of those reductions it generates. It is as if the scrubber, without needing to be replaced, suddenly eliminated more emissions simply because the carbon price had increased.

And the savings generated by the MAC are not trivial. Indeed, thanks to a parameter in the model, in principle up to 90 per cent of emissions affected by the MAC could be eliminated at no cost. In practice, the reductions are unlikely to approach that ceiling. In the modelling for Australia, for example, the MAC does not apply to some sectors that are large emitters of carbon. But it does apply to other important activities, including mining.

And because the quantity of free emissions reductions increases as the carbon price rises, the model reduces the estimated cost of toughening the policy, as the government has done by (for instance) limiting purchases of permits from overseas.

How can such a mechanism be justified? The best gloss that can be put on it is that higher carbon prices would induce emissions-savings innovation beyond that assumed in the base case. And that could indeed happen. But if that is what the MAC is assumed to be doing, there are at least three problems with the way it does it.

First, induced innovation is highly uncertain and involves long delays: there can be many years between a price change and the successful technical advances it has encouraged. And even once innovations are available, their spread is typically slow. But the modelling assumes a virtually immediate and predictable response.

Second, once emissions are substantially reduced, finding innovations that can reduce them further becomes ever more difficult. But in Treasury's MAC curve, the opposite occurs.

Third and last, the best things in life may be free, but new technologies are not. Innovations are costly and must be paid for. Indeed, it is the prospect of reaping those rewards that ensures innovations occur. That Treasury, of all places, would instead assume a free lunch is truly remarkable.

How big is the resulting error? Without access to the model, no one can tell. It is therefore not surprising that the government refuses to disclose it. But this refusal hardly flatters Treasury's hard work and the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on the model. Has Swan so little confidence in his department that he cannot face the risk of criticism?

Nor is that refusal consistent with a loudly proclaimed commitment to science. For science grows by disclosure and refutation, not secrecy and manipulation.

And it is even less consistent with the pledge of openness on which Labor was elected. But few governments have shown as flexible an attitude to the relationship between principles and practice as that of Julia Gillard. It professes a belief in informed argument but works on the basis that what others don't know can't hurt it. Little wonder it is reduced to selling its policies like bars of soap. And its credibility lies in tatters. A modest step it could take to restore confidence would be to release the Treasury model. Until that is done, Swan's assurances will be little more than wasteful emissions of carbon dioxide.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Radio host "investigated" for dismissing Warmism

THE Australian Communications and Media Authority is investigating a complaint about alleged inaccuracies in statements on climate change by broadcaster Alan Jones.

GetUp! had made a complaint, which it believed was not being pursued by the broadcasting regulator, but the Herald has learned ACMA is investigating the GetUp! complaint, and some others, concerning Mr Jones. If the complaint is upheld, Mr Jones may be asked to acknowledge the statement was wrong and promise not to repeat it.

The complaint says the 2GB broadcaster was wrong when he stated human beings produce only 0.001 per cent of carbon dioxide in the air.

Several climate scientists have insisted the claim is inaccurate, and the proportion of carbon dioxide in the air today for which human beings are responsible is closer to 28 per cent. They base this on the difference between the pre-industrial concentration of CO2 (about 280 parts per million) and the current concentration of about 390 parts per million.

Climate commissioner and executive director of the ANU Climate Institute Will Steffen said another calculation was the amount of additional carbon, contained in carbon dioxide, that humans contributed to the atmosphere each year. "Every year the earth - land and ocean combined - takes a net five billion tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere, but humans put around nine billion tonnes in, meaning we are accumulating an additional four billion tonnes of carbon in the atmosphere each year," he said.

Under the commercial broadcasting code of conduct, broadcasters are required to make reasonable efforts to ensure that factual material is accurate, and are given 30 days to make a correction after they receive an initial complaint.

GetUp! has also alleged Mr Jones contravenes another section of the code of conduct which requires broadcasters to give "reasonable opportunities" to "significant viewpoints" on "controversial issues of public importance".

An ACMA spokeswoman said the organisation did not comment on specific matters it might be investigating. ACMA usually provides a preliminary report to the broadcaster for comment before a final report is written. Investigations often take several months.

A spokesman for 2GB did not return calls yesterday but, speaking to the Mumbrella website this week, Mr Jones distinguished between being a journalist and being a broadcaster. "Much of my stuff is opinion … I am a broadcaster, I don't pretend to be a journalist, I don't know what that means anyway - they've got a certificate or something," he said.

"… if those opinions lack validity, or if those opinions are extreme, or if they are overly provocative, people won't listen, I've stood the test of time."


Greenie secretiveness

It seems to be in their DNA

THE Greens have been accused of hypocrisy for demanding a right to privacy while keeping their own party forums hidden behind a shroud of secrecy.

"Parties that talk about open government should practise open governance of their own," Scott Prasser, the executive director of the Public Policy Institute at the Australian Catholic University, said yesterday.

Unlike the major parties, the Greens bar the media from their conferences. They do not provide briefings on meetings of the parliamentary party.

News of the challenge to deputy leader Christine Milne after last year's election emerged only when it was reported in The Australian weeks later. "The practices followed by other parties should be followed by the Greens," Professor Prasser said. "If the Greens want to be a grown-up party, they've got to act in grown-up ways."

Greens leader Bob Brown has claimed his parliamentarians back greater openness. "The Greens' conferences are subject to the vote of the membership, who feel sometimes shy about speaking up," he said earlier this month.

"The Green MPs are all in favour of it but if ordinary members of the party vote to say we want to discuss some policy issues in private, that is up to them."

Professor Prasser said the other major parties had opened up their forums. He pointed to Labor's embarrassment in 1963 when it was claimed the party was run by an unaccountable executive of "36 faceless men".

Professor Prasser described the issue of openness as a test of Senator Brown's leadership. "He has set the scene for the Greens for so long," he said. "He shouldn't baulk at this new challenge."


Gillard and friends move from GetUp to shut up

The Green/Left push for media censorship

By James Allan, Garrick professor of law at the University of Queensland.

LATELY the Gillard government has been clothing itself in GetUp! attire, but last week it flirted with adding some ShutUp accessories.

The problems started when the political agenda of this government started to sound remarkably like the agenda of the far left special interest group GetUp!

It's a world view that allows you to believe democracy is a sufficiently malleable principle that you can barefacedly lie to the voters and not pay a big price. (How many billboards have you seen GetUp!, that self-styled protector of democratic values, pay for condemning Julia Gillard for lying to the voters? That would be zero, right?)

I suspect I'm not revealing any state secret when I say the political policy positions of GetUp! -- reeking of po-faced pieties and "We are the World" platitudes -- are distinctly minority ones. If this becomes your core support group as a government then you are in big, big trouble. Which is when Gillard moved from GetUp! to ShutUp. Apparently the thinking is that we have too much free speech here in Australia. Maybe we ought to pick up on the great democrat Bob Brown's musings and go back a few centuries so we can regulate what the press says.

You really can't be against ensuring that only proper, acceptable views get disseminated, can you? I mean, it works in Cuba and Iran and Venezuela, doesn't it? Or if you decide to display your independence from Brown, to show voters who really is boss, you may just opt to bring in new privacy laws that allow new ways to sue other people.

But putting all the siren song supporters of privacy laws to one side (and we can all await with eager anticipation the next GetUp! billboard in support of this latest thought-bubble policy creation), here is what is at stake.

Any new privacy law regime will make inroads on what people can say. It will take some speech off the table.

There is an inevitable trade-off between free speech concerns and privacy concerns. If you shift the goalposts in favour of more privacy, then by definition you place more limits on free speech.

And I think that's a terrible idea. First off, our laws are already easily sufficient to handle phone hacking situations of the sort engulfing Britain at present. So that's a red herring, plain and simple.

Second, more aggressive privacy laws work not simply by allowing people actually to sue. They work also by creating an atmosphere where people censor themselves because they are afraid of being sued, precisely in the same way that our terrible hate speech laws at present over-reach.

Just look at France, which has strong privacy laws. You had an atmosphere there, no doubt also culturally influenced, where the past exploits of Dominique Strauss-Kahn came as a surprise to most people, save reporters. Do you think those exploits, and I explicitly assume that the New York City charges against him will collapse, but do you think his behaviour might influence whether some people voted for him?

Tony Abbott should have no part in this ShutUp agenda. In any contest between free speech and privacy I think long-term best consequences favour the former much more often. Certainly our present status quo needs no rebalancing in favour of more speech restrictions, and that's true even if it's sold under the banner of some human right to privacy, with a few perfunctory references to international treaties.

Amazingly, however, our present GetUp!/Gillard government seems to think a new ShutUp agenda may help it out with the voters. You have to wonder what planet it inhabits.

We can all only watch this train wreck of incompetence with incredulity. From GetUp to ShutUp, the whole thing has been one giant F . . kUp.


A confident secularist society would tolerate school religion

Can a half-hour chat about God really warp children's minds? Listening to Australia's increasingly irate secularists, you could be forgiven for thinking so.

They have upped the ante in their war against "special religious instruction" in public schools, depicting it as the modern-day equivalent of a Christian crusade arriving on horseback to convert young Aussies to a lifetime of Bible-bashing.

It's worth reminding ourselves that special religious instruction, where church volunteers teach children about religion, doesn't take place in all public primary schools. And in those schools where it does, it only takes up half an hour a week - far less time than the average kid spends pretending to kill people in video games or being preached to by SpongeBob SquarePants.

Even the most fervent nun or red-eyed pastor would struggle to indoctrinate children in such time-restricted weekly hook-ups.

That is the word most commonly used by secularists opposed to special religious instruction: indoctrination. They believe, as a Sunday Age report summed it up, that these lessons are "designed to convert, not educate".

The Commonwealth Ombudsman demanded this week that the federal government clarify when a chaplain crosses the line, from teaching kids about Christianity to trying to convert them to it.

There is a ban on proselytising in schools, but the Ombudsman says it isn't clear what counts as proselytising. For example, what if a chaplain says to a schoolchild "God loves you" - is that attempted conversion?

I say calm down. Secularists' panic reveals what really lies behind their disdain for these harmless half-hour lessons: a lack of faith in their own creed, in their own ability to win over the next generation to the grounded, rational, Enlightened outlook.

The notion that children can easily be indoctrinated seriously underestimates their robustness. Even before they have reached intellectual maturity, kids have a healthy inner demon telling them not to believe everything they're told.

I attended convent schools in London from the ages of three to 18. The Dominican sisters charged with turning me from a grubby-knee'd son of Irish immigrants into something approximating a civilised man gave us far more than weekly half-hour doses of religious instruction.

But were we "indoctrinated", turned into Catholic drones? Were we hell. A friend and I beheaded a statue of St Vincent de Paul. The school Bibles were awash with the most obscene and blasphemous graffiti, including the scrawling of bodily appendages on to pictures of Christ and the insertion of speech bubbles above disciples' heads saying things like "I AM GAY".

As to the warnings against masturbation when we got to secondary school, we responded to those by writing on the walls of the boys' toilet: "Masturbation is evil/Evil is a sin/Sins are forgiven/So get stuck in."

In my experience, those subjected to more than their fair share of religious instruction during their school years now tend to be, if anything, more healthily sceptical than what we might call "normal people". Everyone I went to school with is now either an atheist (like me) or an agnostic. Perhaps years of being religiously instructed boosted our BS-detection skills. Certainly no one I know from my school days went on to embrace any other religions or New Age nonsense or end-of-days environmentalism.

"The world is coming to an end and we will all be judged for our carbon-use, you say? Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all before."

A far more confident secular society, one that trusted in its rationalist public institutions, would have no problem whatsoever with occasional church-run classes. It would be able to cope with having Christians briefly converse with children, secure in the knowledge that there is a better secular alternative out there which will one day surely win the loyalty of the majority of these children.

Today, however, in our downbeat, misanthropic times, when man is more likely to be branded a polluter and a problem than a rational being capable of profound thought, humanists are on the backfoot. And they find it easier to have a pop at the religious, to mock and harry faith-based institutions, than they do to get their own humanist house in order.

In essence, when secularists call on state bodies to expel church volunteers from public schools, they are admitting defeat in the battle of ideas. Lacking the moral cojones to lay out their secularist views and to stand by them through thick and thin, they instead run to the authorities and plead with them to rap the knuckles of those alleged Christian bully boys invading their classrooms.

It is unbecoming of the great tradition of secularism for its adherents to behave like overgrown school snitches.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Charge of deadly provocation is false

By Keith Windschuttle -- who is the editor of Quadrant, an Australian conservative magazine

IT took just two days after Australians awoke on Saturday morning to the terrible news of the mass murder in Norway for the left-wing commentariat to start exploiting the event for political capital.

On Monday, July 25, Aron Paul in New Matilda said the massacre was not only a manifestation of one man's troubled psyche but of "an increasingly toxic political culture plagued by incivility and extremist rhetoric". Anders Breivik should not be dismissed as a lone madman, Paul wrote. Breivik's statement that he killed because "we must do our duty by decimating cultural Marxism" revealed the alleged source of his motivation. These words did not originate in the terrorist's own mind, Paul argued, "but were planted there with the help of poisonous political discourses which have enthusiastic proponents here in Australia".

Among the ideological culprits Paul listed was Herald Sun journalist Andrew Bolt. Pundits such as Bolt were "masters of sowing fear and indignation among their followers -- and then threatening to unleash that anger". Our greatest living historian was also implicated: "It is the old Geoffrey Blainey argument: if you dare to dismantle White Australia, then White Australians will riot in the streets." The magazine I edit, Quadrant, was more culpable than most because of "the deliberately provocative language with which Quadrant and other right-wing forums are awash".

The next day the Crikey website joined the fray. According to Guy Rundle, Breivik was not alone but represented "the armed wing of hysterical Right commentary". Rundle advised conservative writers to reflect on "the role that a decade-long discourse of hysterical commentary on immigration and culture in Europe played in forming the thinking of killer Breivik".

The first thing to note is that most of this commentary is completely false. I read Bolt regularly and, while he spends a lot of time and provides much amusement exposing the hypocrisy and sloppy thinking of left-wing politicians and intellectuals, I have yet to see him conjuring up fear and indignation. The charge against Blainey is pure invention. In his critique of the continuation of high immigration during the recession of the early 1980s he never discussed the long-defunct White Australia policy, let alone predicted race riots in its defence.

However, yesterday morning an ABC journalist informed me some of my own writings had been quoted in Breivik's 1500-page manifesto, "2083: A European Declaration of Independence". Since then, this fact has apparently been repeated on several online sites and innumerable times over Twitter, accompanied in many cases by quite gleeful comments celebrating some kind of victory over the forces of conservative darkness.

Since learning of this, I have certainly been reflecting on whether I or my magazine can really be held responsible for the events of last Friday. Have I ever used "deliberately provocative language" that might have caused Breivik to take up a rifle and shoot more than 80 unarmed teenagers in cold blood? It is a very disturbing accusation.

Breivik quotes several statements I made in a paper to a conference in New Zealand in February 2006, titled The Adversary Culture: The Perverse Anti-Westernism of the Cultural Elite. This is his version of what I said:
"For the past three decades and more, many of the leading opinion makers in our universities, the media and the arts have regarded Western culture as, at best, something to be ashamed of, or at worst, something to be opposed. The scientific knowledge that the West has produced is simply one of many 'ways of knowing' . . . Cultural relativism claims there are no absolute standards for assessing human culture. Hence all cultures should be regarded as equal, though different . . .

The plea for acceptance and open-mindedness does not extend to Western culture itself, whose history is regarded as little more than a crime against the rest of humanity. The West cannot judge other cultures but must condemn its own . . .

The concepts of free [inquiry] and free expression and the right to criticise entrenched beliefs are things we take so much for granted they are almost part of the air we breathe. We need to recognise them as distinctly Western phenomena. They were never produced by Confucian or Hindu culture . . . But without this concept, the world would not be as it is today. There would have been no Copernicus, Galileo, Newton or Darwin."

This is a truncated version that leaves out a great deal of context but it is not inaccurate or misleading. I made every one of these statements and I still stand by them. In this and similar papers I have provided numerous examples to establish the case.

Having read them several times again, I am still at a complete loss to find any connection between them and the disgusting and cowardly actions of Breivik. The charge that any of this is a provocation to murder is unsustainable.

Anyone who goes through the rest of the killer's manifesto will find him quoting several other Australians approvingly, including John Howard, Peter Costello and George Pell.

Nothing they say in defence of Christianity or about the problems of integrating Muslims into Australian society could be read by anyone as a provocation to murder.

Perhaps I should qualify that last statement since several left-wing intellectuals, including journalists David Marr and Marian Wilkinson in their book Dark Victory and playwright Hannie Rayson in Two Brothers, actually accused members of the Howard government of having the blood of boatpeople on their hands.

In contrast, the quality that stands out in the work of most conservative writers today is restraint. Even though the stakes in the present conflict over multiculturalism in the West are very high -- with the concepts of free speech, the rule of law, equality of women and freedom of religion all open to debate -- most conservatives have respected the rules of evidence and the avoidance of ad hominem abuse.

Their left-wing opponents, however, as the Norwegian tragedy has demonstrated yet again, will resort to the lowest tactics to shut down debate they do not like and to kill off arguments they cannot refute by any other means.


Warmists not telling the whole truth about Margaret Thatcher either

COULD Julia Gillard and Malcolm Turnbull please stop mischievously misquoting Margaret Thatcher?

Both Gillard and Turnbull like to refer to the views of the former British conservative prime minister to convince us that their views are the only worthy, moral views, that man-made global warming is real and that action must be taken. Perhaps they should read Thatcher's memoirs. The Labor Prime Minister has an army of staff to help her. And what about the Liberal MP? In fact, both know full well that Thatcher said much more about global warming than either of them reveal. Selectively quoting Thatcher does nothing to bolster Gillard or Turnbull's positions. On the contrary, the misleading way they use Thatcher's words suggests some shaky foundations of their own. Unfortunately, Gillard and Turnbull have revealed a willingness to engage in selectively quoting, the same ploy they ridicule their opponents for.

Apart from anything else, it is not good form to effectively verbal a former prime minister who is unable to respond. Thatcher, 85, has suffered a series of strokes and is too frail for public appearances. It's bad enough that political desperation is driving the Labor Prime Minister to misrepresent Thatcher's view on global warming by failing to mention Thatcher's rethinking of the issue years later. It's worse that the Liberal MP chooses to do the same, effectively legitimising Gillard's misleading efforts. Neither deserves to win arguments by selectively quoting Thatcher.

By all means, retell Thatcher's message about global warming. Not just the fact that in September 1988 the former British prime minister told the Royal Society that enormous changes to population, agricultural use and the burning of fossils fuels might have started a "massive experiment with the system of the planet". Not just that, in November 1989, Thatcher told the UN General Assembly that global climate change affected us all and "action will only be effective if it is taken at the international level". Or that Thatcher warned of the dangers of global warming at the second World Climate Conference in 1990. All of that is true.

But there is also much more to Thatcher's views about global warming. The reticence from Gillard and Turnbull to complete the Thatcher picture suggests an intellectual dishonesty from them that, ironically and hypocritically, they claim is missing from those on the other side of the debate.

In the first volume of her memoirs, The Downing Street Years, published in 1993, Thatcher records her belief that Britain was too beholden to coal and the then power of the coalminers unions. She lamented that more money had not been spent on nuclear power to provide cheaper electricity and to ensure more secure supplies. And she made the rational observation that nuclear power was a cleaner source of power than coal as it did not produce carbon dioxide.

In the second volume of her memoirs, Statecraft, published in 2002, Thatcher titles a chapter Hot Air and Global Warming, in which she talks about climate change as the "doomster's favourite subject" and records that she was "sceptical about the arguments about global warming" even though she said they should be taken seriously. In other words, Thatcher's mind was open to new developments in the science. And she said that the science was "much less certain" than many politicians and global warming alarmists such as Al Gore would have us believe. She records that at that time "there was, in fact, very little scientific advice available to political leaders from experts who were doubtful of the global warming thesis".

What would Thatcher think now? You won't hear that question asked by those who selectively quote her. In fact, there are plenty of reputable scientists who reject the notion that man-made climate change is responsible for wrecking the environment.

For Gillard and Turnbull, the science is settled. Public debate is no longer required. At the inaugural Virginia Chadwick Memorial Foundation lecture last week, Turnbull rejected other views as "less reliable". By contrast, Thatcher embraced public debate. In The Downing Street Years, she wrote that economic progress, scientific advance and public debate "which occur in free societies themselves offered the means to overcome" the threats. She wrote that since her time in Downing Street, the science had moved on. "As is always the way with scientific advance, the picture looks more rather than less complex."

Turnbull said "if Margaret Thatcher took climate change seriously, then taking action and supporting and accepting the science can hardly be the mark of incipient Bolshevism". In fact, the former British prime minister also had plenty sensible to say about socialists too. She warned: "For the socialist, each new discovery revealed a 'problem' for which the repression of human activity by the state was the only 'solution'." She said global warming provided a "marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism". Have Gillard or Turnbull mentioned that?

Most importantly, Thatcher was willing to expose the anti-capitalism agenda of "campaigners against global warming". She wrote: "There is now, as always, nothing the liberal intelligentsia liked to believe more than 'we are guilty'. But are we?" she asked. "The facts are unclear," she concluded, citing the fact that less than 5 per cent of carbon moving through the atmosphere stemmed from human behaviour and the fact that we have seen periods of warming before, during the Dark Ages and the early medieval period.

If Gillard and Turnbull want to tell the Thatcher message, they would reveal she said: "The evidence [the world is facing a climate catastrophe] does not so far exist." They would tell us Thatcher said that "the world climate is always changing and man and nature are always, by one means or another, finding means to adapt to it".

When deriding those opposed to taking action to cut emissions, last week, Turnbull said "many [do so] because it does not suit their financial interests". Australians on an average wage aren't likely to be won over by that argument. But they may be interested to learn Thatcher refused to deride the economic concerns of countries, companies or individuals when she talked about finding solutions to environmental problems. She unashamedly believed economic growth and industry inventiveness were crucial to the equation.

Thatcher's early views about global warming were intrinsically linked to her rational pursuit of nuclear power to prevent the coalminers unions holding the nation to ransom.

And, as she acknowledges in her memoirs, when the facts about global warming became less certain, so did her own views. But you may not have heard that from Gillard or Turnbull either.


Archbishop Bathersby was right

"Father" Kennedy is not even a Christian, let alone a Catholic. Background here

REBEL Brisbane priest Peter Kennedy has further distanced himself from the Catholic Church, saying he no longer believes in worshipping God or the power of prayer. He also has questioned why God would allow the terror attack to happen in Norway.

The priest who was directed to leave St Mary's Church in South Brisbane in 2009 for unorthodox practices, also revealed that he had doubts that Jesus existed.

His views were expressed in an interview with the ABC, which airs tonight, and with The Courier-Mail yesterday when he questioned why God would allow tragic events to unfold, including the terror attacks in Norway. "I do not believe in worshipping God. Whatever God is . . . that God does not need to be worshipped," he said. "To be asking God to intervene in our lives, why didn't he intervene in Norway the other day?"

Though he still leads his congregation in prayer, Father Kennedy said his own praying was more like "meditation". "I think my way of prayer is to stand in wonder at the beauty of people and the wonder of life," he said.

Asked whether he still considered himself a Catholic, Fr Kennedy said he was, but not in the "literalist" sense. "The reality is you are culturally a Catholic but so many of us disagree with the literalist understanding of Christianity the Catholic Church preaches," he said. "I think we (the St Mary's Church-in-exile) are truly catholic because we are truly inclusive. To put it simply, I think the institution of the Catholic Church is exclusive."

He also repeated his previous statements that there was "very little corroborating evidence" for the existence of Jesus.

Nearly two-and-a-half years after leaving the church where he had preached for 28 years, Fr Kennedy said the St Mary's Church-in-exile attracted more than 400 to the three weekend masses. The congregation knew his views well, he said. "We've lost about 20 per cent but we have gained people," he said. "They know how I feel. I am very honest with them."

Fr Kennedy told comedian Judith Lucy in the debut episode of her six-part series Judith Lucy's Spiritual Journey that for years he had not believed in the value of prayer. Lucy visited the priest at a Sunday service where he now leads his congregation. The 73-year-old Kennedy was asked whether he thought there was any point in praying.

Kennedy: No. For years I've never believed in the value of prayer in the sense of asking.

Lucy: But that does make up part of the service here?

Kennedy: Yes it does, because they like it. If I had my way we wouldn't have it.

The interview then cuts to a clip of Fr Kennedy leading his congregation in the Lord's Prayer. "Let us pray," he begins.


Libraries no longer a place for reading??

You need peace and quiet to concentrate on reading -- but some "innovative" a**hole thinks otherwise

Think libraries should be quiet sanctuaries of solitude and study? Then plans for the State Library of NSW will come as a surprise.

As architect Paulo Macchia rests against an open staircase and explains his plans for the renovation of the State Library of NSW, two young women studying in the reading room below look up from their laptops with annoyed expressions.

They don't actually say "Quiet please!" but that's what they are thinking. After all, most of us have been indoctrinated with the notion that silence is sacred inside a library. If words are necessary, use them sparingly and only whispered.

So they might be surprised to hear what Macchia, from the NSW government Architect's Office, is describing. Over the next few months, workmen will transform the State Library for the first time since it was opened by the Queen on May 4, 1988, as a Bicentennial-year extension to the historic Mitchell Library.

The $4.2 million, two-stage renovation, which begins on Monday, will create, according to the NSW Arts Minister, George Souris, "a contemporary 21st-century cultural destination for NSW residents and visitors".

In real terms, that means more computer screens, better Wi-Fi access, more desk space, designated, bookable study rooms, more newspapers and general-interest magazines to browse, a larger cafe, a more prominent bookshop and improved access to the two public meeting spaces, the Metcalfe auditorium and the McDonald's room. Plus, far better use of natural light.

All laudable. But the renovation's biggest aim is to fundamentally change the library's public image, to show that a place of learning can also be a fun palace.

They're even building zones where library users are encouraged to talk to each other.

"As you look into the library now from Macquarie Street, you see an empty foyer," the acting state librarian, Noelle Nelson, says. "Then, as you look down, you see people working away, very studiously. That will change.

"There will be a buzz in the foyer, with the cafe and the bookshop much more to the forefront. People will be able to see the library as an accessible space and picture themselves in it.

"They'll feel encouraged to come in, sit on the casual lounges, read the newspapers, hook up their laptop, pick up the Wi-Fi, meet friends for a coffee …"

The makeover is a recognition that libraries have changed in the age of the worldwide web. It's an international phenomenon, Nelson says. "New technologies mean we have even more opportunities to make our collections and expertise available. Libraries are becoming centres of lifelong learning, cultural destinations, welcoming social spaces."

The first stage has to be completed before the end of September, in time for the annual HSC crush. It concentrates on the two lower floors of reference reading rooms. Stage two, beginning early next year, focuses on the ground-floor foyer area.

Market research, Nelson says, showed the library's interior layout and facilities were outdated. "Our clients' needs have changed since 1988. The current layout had passed its use-by date. We were overcrowded during peak periods, like the HSC. We didn't have enough computers. People were having to share desks."

After long consultation with the librarians, Macchia's redesign has ditched the conventional long library tables in favour of smaller and less formal desk configurations. Gone are the traditionally towering book shelves, to be replaced by lower, less visually intimidating cabinets.

Nelson says no books will be harmed, though more will be kept in storage in the library's massive subterranean stacks, available on request: "These days, people can go online with their requests so the books are available for them by the time they get to the library."

More dramatically, soundproof glass walls will divide the reference floors into a number of separate "rooms" with different requirements - and varying levels of acceptable noise. Essentially, the deeper you descend into the library, the more traditionally studious the surroundings will be.

"Study has changed," Nelson says. Today's students often like to work together in informal groups around their computers, exchanging information. The new layout allows them to do that while creating an inner sanctum where people who prefer to work in silence can do so undisturbed.

So, deep down, there will still be a cone of silence? A kind of "hush area"? "We're trying to get away from words like shush and hush," Nelson says. "They give the wrong image. We're creating zones so clients have a choice, positioning themselves according to their need to do so … And they may change spaces throughout the course of the day as they meet a friend for coffee, check their emails or go and see one of our exhibitions."


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Malaysian deal too cushy to be a deterrent to boat people

THE next 800 asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia will be fingerprinted before being flown to Malaysia, where the federal government will pay for a month in a hotel plus a living allowance, under the controversial Malaysian refugee swap agreement signed yesterday.

New transit centres in Kuala Lumpur, where asylum seekers will be processed within 45 days, are expected to be ready in weeks for the first arrivals. Malaysia will have the right to reject any asylum seekers if they are on terrorism lists or have serious criminal convictions. Australia will also screen the 4000 refugees it accepts from Malaysia in return as part of the deal.

Yesterday the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said asylum seekers would have the right to work in Malaysia, a breakthrough in a country where 95,000 refugees cannot work legally.

Yet he rejected suggestions that the special treatment asylum seekers would receive would encourage refugees to take boats to Australia. "Critics may say asylum seekers transferred from Australia to Malaysia are getting too good a deal," he said. "On the other side, people may say the arrangements aren't strong enough. We've struck a good balance that ensures appropriate protections."

After facing heavy public criticism of his country's treatment of refugees, Malaysia's Home Affairs Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said Malaysia would be judged by the results of the scheme, and was committed to treating refugees with dignity. "The UNHCR will be there to monitor and safeguard the standards that we have set," he said.

Malaysian police officials and representatives of the International Organisation for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were present at the signing, while a small group of activists and opposition politicians protested outside the hotel.

The UNHCR said in a statement it was not a signatory to the deal and would prefer to see boat arrivals to Australia processed in Australia, but both governments had consulted the organisation. Mr Bowen said there would be no blanket exemption for unaccompanied children but the UNHCR's feedback had shaped the document and the agency would be involved in processing both groups of asylum seekers - unlike the Howard government's so-called Pacific solution.

The deal commits Australia to funding schooling for children, and health costs. But these will be the basic facilities used by refugees in Malaysia.

The Greens condemned the deal.

The opposition spokesman on immigration, Scott Morrison, said the swap sought to counteract the "pull" factors of Labor's previous border protection policy, as a result of which 230 boats had arrived since Labor formed government.

The government also announced a reversal of its position on the 567 asylum seekers who had arrived by boat since the in-principle agreement was announced 11 weeks ago, saying they would now be processed in Australia.

Originally the government said they would be held pending removal to another country, either Malaysia or Papua New Guinea. The government is working to seal a deal with PNG.

To ensure asylum seekers knew of the deal, Ms Gillard said the government would embark on an information campaign in Indonesia and other departure points to raise awareness of the folly of boarding a boat. "Do not do that in the false hope that you will be able to have your claim processed in Australia," she said.


Lawsuits no way to defend privacy or free speech

JULIA Gillard's retribution over her perceived enemies in the press has latched on to an extremist rights agenda that would reregulate free speech and encourage a more litigious society.

Her Justice Minister Brendan O'Connor has been directed to respond to the News of the World phone hacking scandal by making it easier for Australians to sue media companies for invasions of privacy. Such journalistic practice already is illegal in Britain and Australia. And there is no evidence of such Fleet Street "red top" outrages here.

But O'Connor claims that "mass breaches" here highlight that Australia has "no general right to privacy" and thus "no certainty for anyone wanting to sue for a breach of privacy".

So the left-wing junior minister from Victoria has dusted off a 2008 Australian Law Reform Commission privacy report which, from page 2535 of its third volume, argues for an extremist "tort of invasion of privacy".

Yet, as the ALRC has argued previously, the concept of a general tort of privacy is vague and nebulous, a concern repeated a decade ago by then High Court chief justice Murray Gleeson. The Law Council of Australia more recently has backed the existing "appropriate and adequate recourse to individuals who consider that a media organisation has interfered with their privacy".

But to understand the issue, it first has to be removed from the grip of the lawyers, particularly those with a rights agenda or a political grudge. For the economic issue is that digital technology has slashed the cost of gathering, analysing and distributing information, including about people.

This has raised a host of issues from ensuring that banks and hospitals keep personal financial and health records confidential, to closed circuit cameras following people's every move, to alarm that sex partners could post explicit video clips on YouTube.

But it still has been an overwhelmingly good thing, providing cheaper access to services and allowing people to bypass traditional media to communicate directly among themselves.

The new digital technology also reduces the gatekeeper role of the traditional media: anything seems to go in social media. Yet, exploiting the NOTW scandal, Labor's privacy tort is aimed at traditional media companies because they are a political target and because they still have deeper pockets than some random blogger or hacker.

The legal trick is to conflate the various digital concerns into a new form of property right: a general tort against invasion of personal privacy akin to someone breaking into your property or a home invasion. Conventional private property rights are a foundation of a democratic market economy. But a property right over individual privacy necessarily intrudes into a more basic foundation of an open society: free speech.

O'Connor fudges around this. And sensible people, such as my old mate Barrie Cassidy on the ABC's Insiders on Sunday, find it hard to understand why anyone could caution against protecting people's privacy.

The objection is that elevating privacy to a fundamental human right is designed to get around the problem that protecting it is not costless. It aims to avoid having to measure the extent of the actual problem and to figure out the most effective ways to deal with it.

Hence, the Victorian lawyers' guild argues against "any selective analysis of the costs and benefits" of the state's charter of human rights now being reviewed by the Baillieu government.

Yet getting a handle on who actually benefits, by how much and at what cost to others is central to good regulation.

There is ample evidence of the costs of allowing such open-ended rights to take root in the legal system. Before being reined in over the past decade, allowing people to sue for injury to their reputation or even honour became an Australian legal absurdity that transferred money from deep-pocketed media companies to politicians and defamation lawyers.

Even judicial officers began to exploit this legal protection racket. Without any proof of actual injury to reputation, damages for mere slights ballooned to way beyond payouts for serious workplace accidents or for common assault.

Like privacy, people's reputations are more than their own business. People rely on the reputations of those from whom they buy food, trust with their savings, take medical advice or leave their children to care for. Protecting both reputations and privacy restricts others from being properly informed by the marketplace of free speech.

Again like protecting privacy, it similarly sounds only just that those whose negligence causes injury to others should be made to pay. But not when the lawyer-controlled courts stretch the concept so far that the public liability premiums for a local fete, a surf club sausage sizzle or a local playground become prohibitive or if insurance companies refuse to cover the risks of medical surgery.

Just as defamation and negligence torts have been reformed, however, the privacy tort push has gathered momentum with the European human rights agenda, been transmitted to Britain (where it mostly has enriched celebrities) and then transported to Australia via a few activist lower court judges. This has created such uncertainty, argues the ALRC, that a whole new privacy tort needs to be legislated.

The absurdities already extend to defining as private what happens in public spaces. On the weekend, my 77-year-old father went back to the historic North Sydney pool underneath Sydney Harbour Bridge where he swam in schoolboy competitions. He was told he could not photograph the public pool because of privacy concerns of those swimming in it.

Languishing in the polls, the Prime Minister demands that News Corporation's Australian arm answer unspecified "hard questions" over the NOTW phone hacking scandal. The Greens leader who props up her government, Bob Brown, calls The Australian the "hate media" and pushes for an inquiry into breaking up News Limited.

Communications Minister and Labor factional warlord Stephen Conroy complains that another Murdoch paper, Sydney's The Daily Telegraph, is inciting "regime change", inviting the probity concern that media regulation could be influenced by politics.

Yet Gillard's privacy tort threatens all the media, not just those Labor seeks to intimidate. Putting the whole media offside is a bizarre strategy for a Prime Minister languishing in the polls and trying to sell a tax she promised never to introduce.


More government waste

TAXPAYERS are paying up to $8.32 per prescription to supply paracetamol to pensioners under the nation's drug subsidy scheme, when the same medicine can be bought for just $1.89 at any discount chemist.

The waste is occurring as the government comes under fire from 60 health consumer groups, doctors, academics and drug companies for delaying subsidies for new drugs to treat schizophrenia, lung disease, pain and blood clots in a bid to save money.

The cost to taxpayers of a doctor prescribing paracetamol to a pensioner under the drug subsidy scheme comes to $43.22 per visit. This includes the $34.90 cost to Medicare of the doctor's visit to get the script, plus the $8.32 in fees paid to pharmacists under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for a pack of 100 tablets.

Medicare Australia's website shows that more than 467,000 scripts for paracetamol were dispensed under the PBS in the 12 months to June, costing taxpayers $2.26 million.

Normally pensioners pay a $5.60 co-payment towards the $8.32 cost of paracetamol under the PBS, and the government pays the $2.72 balance.

In this case, pensioners would be better off buying the medicine at a discount chemist or a supermarket because it costs them nearly three times more under the PBS than a pack of the same 100 tablets does over the counter at a discount chemist.

However, once a pensioner has spent more than $336 a year on PBS medicines they qualify for the PBS Safety Net and receive medicines free. Then the government pays the full $8.32 cost of paracetamol under the PBS.

Paracetamol is just one of a number of examples of the government paying much more for medicines under the PBS than they cost in a supermarket.

Selsun Blue anti-dandruff shampoo, supplied to veterans under the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, costs taxpayers $14.14 but can be bought for $6.34 at a supermarket. Metamucil costs $21.67 under the scheme but just $12.99 at a discount chemist and $13.77 at a supermarket. Laxatives for veterans cost $13.86 under the subsidy scheme but just $6.99 at a discount chemist.

The cost of paracetamol to the government is inflated because it has to pay chemists a dispensing fee of $6.42 for each script, a pharmacy mark-up of 15 per cent, a wholesale mark-up of 7.52 per cent and an incentive fee of $1.53 if a generic version is dispensed.

The waste over paracetamol comes amid claims by Sydney University academic Philip Clarke that $1.66 billion could be saved if Australia paid the same price as Britain for generic anti-cholesterol lowering drugs.

The Australian reported this month that the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin cost $3 a month in Britain and an average of $6.42 internationally but Australians pay $31.18 for it under the PBS.

Professor Clarke said the paracetamol example raised the economic question of why these sorts of medicines were not dropped from the PBS so new medicines could be funded.

Consumer's Health Forum chief Carol Bennett said the high cost of paracetamol under the PBS showed the government could improve efforts to save money. A spokeswoman for Acting Health Minister Mark Butler said that when paracetamol was previously removed from the PBS, it resulted in higher cost, less appropriate and less safe painkillers being prescribed, which actually increased the overall cost of the PBS. It was therefore quickly relisted because of these unintended consequences.

"Given the low PBS spend on paracetamol, and the high likelihood of cost increases if it's delisted, removing it from the PBS would not assist government to offset the cost of proposed new listings," the spokeswoman said.

Patients in chronic pain were unlikely to visit doctors just to access paracetamol on the PBS but would alsoseek advice for other health problems, she said.



Cuddle your dog to beat global warming?

Primitive tribes do this -- and have very short lifespans. But that suits the Greenies, obviously

WANT to save money on power bills this winter? Despite a 2009 study finding the average dog has an environmental footprint twice that of a large 4WD, the government's Living Greener website claims you will save money and feel "chuffed" by following its pet-friendly advice.

With power bills expected to jump by 10 per cent when the carbon tax begins next July, other tips include using leftovers in soups and casseroles, ditching the second family car, playing board games or going to the library to get warm.

Even having a hot shower is a no-no, with the government urging you to get out sooner and stand under a heat lamp or warm a bathrobe.

But if you do use electricity and watch TV, hugging a pet or family member to keep warm is recommended. "To reduce the energy you use watching TV, take another tip from grandma and share the warmth," the site says. "Snuggle up under a rug, snuggle with your family or cuddle your favourite pet. You could avoid the TV and snuggle up in bed with a good book or with someone who's read one lately."

A photograph of children cuddling a dog and cat accompanies the advice on the site.

The recommendations come after New Zealand architects Robert and Brenda Vale calculated a medium-sized dog had twice the emissions of a 4WD once the amount of land required to feed the pet was taken into account.

"Families are already doing all they can to save electricity but these suggestions are making a joke of a very serious issue for families and pensioners," opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt said.


Another hit on the taxpayers by the Green bureaucracy

$20m green house for federal climate change bureaucrats

THE Federal Government is spending more than $20 million fitting out a brand new Canberra high-rise to house bureaucrats tackling climate change.

The Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Department will move 750 of its bureaucrats into offices in the new building. Due for completion next year, the NewActon Nishi building includes "electric car charging facilities". This comes as the Government is also spending $12 million on an advertising campaign for its carbon tax.

Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham yesterday said the Government seemed to have a "repetitive disregard for the value of taxpayers' hard-earned money".

But the department argues its current building is inadequate for accommodating staff and the new building will have the highest energy efficiency rating and reduce costs.

A spokesman for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said bureaucrats moved into new accommodation under the Coalition government and "there is nothing different here".

Meanwhile, a Deloitte Access Economics quarterly report released today says the impact of the carbon tax will be more muted than has been claimed. "Although the eventual structural change in Australia's economy will be large, the initial impact is unlikely to come with a bang," the report says.


No coal compo for Queensland

JULIA Gillard has rejected pleas from Premier Anna Bligh for extra compensation for state-owned power stations that will be hit by the carbon tax.

The Prime Minister said Ms Bligh had not taken into account how much the state's green energy power assets would increase in value when the state sought $1.7 billion for expected losses to its coal-fired generators.

Ms Gillard said the state was welcome to propose minor changes to details in the carbon tax legislation, but ruled out any major overhaul to compensation.

"The package we announced is the package we'll deliver," Ms Gillard said. She said the Queensland Government would gain a windfall from "the asset appreciation that their clean energy generation assets will experience as a result of our package to put a price on carbon pollution."

"I don't see the Queensland Government volunteering to send that asset appreciation back to the Federal Government and nor would I expect them to," she said.

Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser's spokesman said the state was still assessing the impact of the tax on renewable energy.

Ms Gillard also rejected reports that she had proposed a climate change policy that did not include a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme before she became prime minister in a bid to secure a bipartisan deal with Tony Abbott.

The comments came as industry warned of billion-dollar losses to the Queensland Government, farms and businesses from a carbon tax but admitted that it would not kill economic growth in the state.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche told a Senate inquiry in Brisbane that the premature closure of mines and the scrapping of planned coal mines would mean $1 billion loss in royalties for the State Government by 2020. "I don't understand why our State Government is not highlighting this impact on the state's finances," Mr Roche said.

There would be further losses to the State Government because the electricity generators, which face the biggest cost impact, were unlikely to ever pay another dividend to the Government, Mr Roche said.

The industry would lose another $100 million a year through changes in the fuel excise while some mines face a tax of $50 a tonne, compared with the $2 a tonne average.

Under questioning from Labor's Senator Doug Cameron, Mr Roche said there would still be growth in the Queensland coal industry but it would also be handing over some of its growth to overseas competitors.


Union joins business to savage ALP

ONE of the nation's biggest trade unions has turned on the Gillard government, savaging Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans as incompetent and unworthy of his office.

Days after strident criticism of the government by business leaders, Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon yesterday likened Senator Evans to a corpse, accusing him of failing to implement Labor policy and endangering the lives of truck drivers.

The condemnation, rejected by Senator Evans, came as a trio of senior ministers dismissed a claim by Suncorp chairman-elect Ziggy Switkowski that there was " a whiff of illegitimacy" about the government.

Wayne Swan, Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet accused business critics of acting out of self interest, vowing the government would stick to its guns on the carbon tax and govern in the national interest.

Labor has suffered a series of poor results in opinion polls, including a weekend poll suggesting Julia Gillard was losing support in her Melbourne electorate.

Despite a rise from record lows in today's Newspoll, Labor has its back to the wall as it campaigns to win public support for the $23-a-tonne tax to be introduced next July.

While the government has anticipated attacks from businesses affected by the tax, it was blind sided by Mr Sheldon's assault, based on the fact the impost -- which he on Friday called a "death tax" -- will apply to the heavy transport industry from 2014.

Mr Sheldon, whose 90,000- member union represents truck drivers, wants the government to prevent trucking companies from passing the cost impact to drivers and owner-drivers. The TWU argues that passing on the costs to drivers will lift stress and drive up accident and fatality rates on roads, not just for truck drivers, but also for all motorists.

Speaking on the Sky News Australian Agenda program yesterday, Mr Sheldon said Labor had contested the past two elections promising to act on driver safety, but that Senator Evans had failed to act. "I have no confidence in Chris Evans's capacity to deal with the fundamental industrial relations issues in this country and the undertakings it will make working life in the trucking industry better and safer for all road users," Mr Sheldon said.

"If he cannot carry out his duties he should not be in the portfolio. There's a broad feeling that the minister has real deficiencies in carrying out his responsibilities as minister. He has not been able to implement government policy."

Mr Sheldon likened the minister to a corpse in the movie Weekend at Bernie's -- "the dead guy that stands in the middle", unable to act or perform his duties.

Senator Evans said the government had investigated the TWU's Safe Rates campaign, released a discussion paper, sought public submissions and was finalising a response.

"There's never any shortage of robust advice for industrial relations ministers, but it's unfortunate that Mr Sheldon has chosen to express his frustrations in the form of a personal attack," Senator Evans said. The Prime Minister backed Senator Evans. "Minister Evans is doing an outstanding job in an important portfolio," Ms Gillard said.

The exchange came as the government counterattacked in the face of business criticism fanned by the carbon tax. On Friday, Dr Switkowski, former Telstra chief and Suncorp chairman-elect, told a conference in Melbourne there was " a whiff of illegitimacy" surrounding the government while Westpac Bank chairman-elect Lindsay Maxsted said it was focused on short-term political gain ahead of the national interest.

Mr Shorten said it was not surprising some business people would criticise a government that was making decisions which did not promote their own interests.

"People are entitled to promote their sectional interests, but our Prime Minister and our government govern for all Australians and some of these business leaders won't be there in their positions in 10 years," Mr Shorten told the Sky News Australian Agenda program. "This country is doing better than some of the news reportage of it would indicate and some of the comments from some of these business leaders." Mr Shorten said Australia had rates of unemployment and debt that "the Yanks and the Europeans would give their eye teeth for".

And, while he noted Mr Maxsted had criticisms, he said Westpac was supportive of another government reform -- lifting compulsory superannuation contributions from 9 to 12 per cent. He said Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford, who on Friday was critical of industrial relations laws, had "quite a background in industrial relations".

"These guys have also got other agendas -- legitimate business agendas . . . but you sort of expect them to do that," he said.

Mr Combet said the carbon tax had been well-received by business as he rejected an ad campaign funded by an alliance of business groups as "Liberal Party ads".

It was important, Mr Combet said, not to assume that "one or two business people" critical of the government spoke for the entire business community. He told the Ten Network's Meet the Press program that since the carbon tax details were revealed a fortnight ago many business leaders had described it as workable.

"They are concerned about international conditions and the high value of the Australian dollar, for example, but generally I think the carbon pricing package has been pretty well received in the business community," he said.

Mr Swan also said businesses were continuing to invest in mining and that industrial cities like Gladstone were "powering ahead".

"Despite the reality on the ground, the well-funded vested interests are still out there trying to talk down the future of our economy, of our great industries like coal and LNG and of great towns like Gladstone," the Treasurer wrote in his weekly Economic Note.