Monday, October 31, 2011

More incompetent decision-making from Julia Gillard

QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce would have abandoned his decision to ground the airline had Prime Minister Julia Gillard returned his call and promised to intervene directly in the union standoff.

Qantas sources confirmed yesterday Mr Joyce waited until five minutes before his decision to ground the fleet to hear from Ms Gillard, after attempting to contact her three hours earlier.

It is understood that all it would have taken for Qantas to cancel the grounding was for Ms Gillard to declare all future industrial action illegal.

Sources said Qantas group executive Olivia Wirth called Ms Gillard's chief of staff at 2pm on Saturday and told him that Mr Joyce was standing by to talk to the Prime Minister.

Mr Joyce had intended to give Ms Gillard advance warning of his intention to announce that he was grounding the airline's entire fleet and leaving almost 70,000 passengers a day stranded.

Ms Gillard would then have had three hours to declare industrial action illegal, a move that would have resulted in Mr Joyce keeping Qantas flying.

But not only did Ms Gillard not take Mr Joyce's call, she did not return it and still had not spoken to him as of yesterday afternoon.

"We just wanted to force it to a head," a Qantas source said. "Everything would be fine right now if the PM made a declaration."

Qantas management have been pilloried for the decision but it was considered to be the only way to force the Government to act.

Ms Gillard was in an executive session of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and was not available by phone. She was however informed of Qantas's decision.

It has also been revealed that Mr Joyce went to the Marrickville electorate office of Transport Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday, October 21, to warn of the crisis looming. He opened the books to Mr Albanese to demonstrate the urgency of the company's financial position if the unions continued their industrial campaign.

Mr Joyce's office was then in almost twice-daily contact with senior ministers' offices providing updates until the annual general meeting last Friday.

With the engineers' union warning of extending their industrial action into next year, Mr Joyce called an meeting of executives to consider options for negotiating with the unions. On Saturday morning, Mr Joyce convened another meeting with key executives to discuss lock-out options and a risk assessment for grounding the airline.

At 10.30am the Qantas board gave unanimous approval for his plan to give 72 hours notice of a lock-out of striking unions and to ground the airline at 5pm.

At 2pm Mr Joyce called Mr Albanese, followed by Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson and Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans. Mr Albanese was reported to have told Mr Joyce the move was "aggressive".

At 3pm, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority was notified.

After the announcement Mr Albanese and Mr Evans, Ms Gillard and three other ministers called a crisis cabinet phone hook-up where it was decided that instead of calling an immediate termination of the dispute, as allowed under the Fair Work Act, a request for termination or suspension would be taken to Fair Work Australia.


Qantas costs are too high

At the very pointy end of those huge Qantas flagships, the Airbus A380s, the senior captain has a lot of training, experience and responsibility. He is also earning a lot of money - up to just under $540,000 a year - a healthy 40 per cent premium over Prime Minister Julia Gillard's $386,000 salary and allowances.

This is one reason why Qantas International is losing $200 million a year and will never, ever, make a profit again under its present cost structure. The international operations are being subsidised by the domestic carrier Jetstar, the frequent flyer program and freight operations.

Why bother keeping Qantas International going when it is no longer a viable business? The international airline is burdened by rigid, outdated industrial relations practices and imperial legacies it can no longer afford. It is not built to survive long-term.

I'm not going to defend the blunderbuss tactics deployed by management, but the big question - why should Qantas run a loss-making international operation indefinitely? - needs to be addressed by the long-haul pilots and their representatives at the Australian International Pilots Association.

This question also needs to be addressed by Tony Sheldon, one of the architects of the union strategy of bleeding Qantas into submission with erratic work stoppages spread over months. Sheldon is national secretary of the Transport Workers Union and, as pointed out a week ago, is running for the presidency of the Labor Party.

It says a great deal that Sheldon thinks bringing the national flag-carrier to its knees is a credential he can use to become president of the ALP. This is not a cynical observation given the numerous deals made by a union-dominated federal government.

The context for the Qantas dispute is the Gillard government's transformation of industrial relations. Passing the Fair Work Act 2009 and setting up Fair Work Australia to replace the Industrial Relations Commission has re-empowered the unions. As well, of the 11 Fair Work Australia commissioners appointed by the Gillard government, nine are former union officials or union advocates. The other two are career bureaucrats.

Another big problem for Qantas is its main competitor, Virgin. A myth has developed that Virgin is a low-cost carrier and less unionised. Not true. It is just as unionised, but has more flexible workplace practices. The real gap between the carriers is international services, where Qantas is vastly bigger and has heavier costs.

Virgin's domestic pilots are paid only 4 per cent less than Qantas pilots. Its ground staff are paid only $1 an hour less than Qantas staff. Virgin has made job-security agreements Qantas is refusing to grant its workers. Virgin even pays its engineers more than Qantas does. It is committed to building a heavy maintenance centre in Australia. It has been around for only 11 years and is very much an underdog.

Without having access to the internal workings of this Qantas dispute, there had to be a more subtle way for Qantas management to end the intolerable process of attrition by the unions. The more prudent play would appear to have been to allow the operational losses to build until the unions appeared reckless and deviant and the government complicit.


Afghan soldiers disarmed after shooting diggers

HUNDREDS of Afghan army soldiers have been disarmed after a "rogue" comrade went on the rampage. Two of the three Diggers killed died instantly; the third was pronounced dead on being flown to a field hospital at Tarin Kowt. It is believed that because they were inside the base, in Kandahar province, they were not wearing helmets or body armour.

A critically wounded Digger will be flown to Germany for treatment.

Diggers reacted with anger and dismay at the second killing by an Afghan soldier of their Australian comrades: on May 31, army cook Lance-Corporal Andrew Jones was killed in the Chora Valley.

"This is it for me - I'm done," one soldier said. "We are over here risking our lives to help them (the Afghans)."

Families of the dead men yesterday declined to release names and photographs, because some relatives had not yet been notified.

The Afghan commander at the base, Brig Mohammed Zafar Khan, disarmed all 200 ANA soldiers there and confined them to barracks.

Mentoring Task Force 3 commander Lt-Col Chris Smith urged his soldiers not to let one ANA soldier's act detract from the mission.

"They will deal with a whole range of demons. They will struggle to trust them, they will lose confidence as a consequence of this," he said. "But I appeal to their sense of duty that at the end of the day the only true way to honour the memory of the three who died is to get back out as soon as possible and do the very job they died doing."

Australian Defence Force Chief David Hurley said: "It is difficult to find the words to express our profound sorrow and sense of loss at this time." He said it was too early to speculate. "Let's not jump to conclusions here.".


Darwin named among the world's best cities to visit in 2012 in Lonely Planet list

This is not as odd as it sounds. About 20 years ago, an American tourist was taken and eaten by a croc near Darwin. The result was an upsurge in American tourist arrivals. Excitement even of a dangerous kind is a valued commodity

DARWIN has been named as one of the best cities in the world to visit in 2012 by Lonely Planet.

Famous for its monster crocodiles, the Northern Territory capital has a lot more to offer, the travel guide says.

Darwin wasn’t the only surprise entry on the list. While London came in at number one, other lesser-known cities such as Muscat in Oman, Bengaluru in India, Cadiz in Spain and Guimaraes in Portugal also made the cut.

Described as “multicultural, free-wheeling and vibrant”, Darwin received a glowing review.

"With a pumping nocturnal scene, magical markets and restaurants, and world-class wilderness areas just down the road, today Darwin is the triumph of Australia's Top End," the book says. "It's now a hip city to visit rather than just the end of the road for lost souls."

Cities in the top ten list were chosen by Lonely Planet's in-house travel experts, based on topicality, excitement, value and that special X-factor.

Lonely Planet’s Charles Rawlings-Way, one of the authors of the book, admitted that Darwin was an unlikely entry. But he said that Darwin has a lot to offer.

“It is a bit of a surprise for Australians in particular to see Darwin shaping up as a vibrant tourist destination,” Mr Rawlings-Way said.

The city has had a major face-lift in recent times, growing from a town full of fisherman, hippies and “redneck truckers” to a very young and energetic city, he said.

“In the 80s and even 90s it was pretty grim up there and its appeal was limited. Cyclone Tracey levelled the place and taken long time for Darwin to rebuild from that," he said.

"Darwin is gathering pace, it's not somewhere Aussies think of going for a holiday but its position is really interesting in the world."

As well as the famous Mindil Beach Markets, Darwin is close to a host of national parks including Kakadu, and is the closest major Australian city to Asia.

While Lonely Planet recommends a trip to the waterfront precinct and buying indigenous art, it warns travellers about dorms without air-conditioning, monsoonal rain and “over-boozed backpackers”.

If you’re after a bizarre sight then check out the 5m-long, 780kg stuffed saltwater crocodile called Sweetheart” at the NT’s Museum & Art Gallery.

Visitor numbers to the Northern Territory have dropped in recent times, with figures showing tourist arrivals falling by 9.5 per cent during the 12 months to June 2011.

NT Tourism Minister Malarndirri McCarthy said she was pleasantly surprised to see Darwin on the list, but she wasn't surprised people were impressed by the incredible sunsets, the markets, the nature and the historical sites.

"It puts Darwin certainly on the map as one of the best cities," Ms McCarthy said.

Last year Lonely Planet created quite a stir by putting Newcastle in the list, urging travellers to check out its beaches, night-life and art. Sydney and Melbourne have never made the list before as they are "too dull".


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bloody-minded unions set to make Qantas another Ansett

Ansett was once a major Australian airline but it went broke because its management failed to stand up to insatiable union demands. Alan Joyce was one of the executives at Ansett at that time. He is doing his best not to repeat the Ansett experience. His press conference speech yesterday below

ALAN JOYCE: A crisis is unfolding within Qantas.

Industrial action directed by the leadership of three unions the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) representing the licensed engineers, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) representing ramp, baggage and catering staff, and the Australia and International Pilots Association (AIPA) representing the long-haul pilots is aimed at applying so much pressure on Australian business, that we will give in to their demands.

In the 15 months Qantas has reached agreement with more than 10,000 employees represented by four unions on five Enterprise Agreements or one-third of the Qantas workforce.

Over the same period we have been doing all we can to reach agreement with the ALAEA and AIPA and more recently with the TWU. What makes these union negotiations different? Two things.

First, these three unions are sticking by impossible claims that are not just to do with pay, but also to do with unions trying to dictate how we run our business.

The pilots' union wants to force us to pay Jestar pilots on codeshare flights the same high rates that they get at Qantas.

This would set a wages precedent that would soon put an end to Jetstar and slash low-cost travel in Australia.

Our only alternative would be to remove Qantas codesharing for Jetstar which would have the effect of making some key Qantas routes uneconomic.

The licensed engineers want to bind Qantas maintenance to the past; to thumb their nose at world's best-practice regulations, including those endorsed by Australian's Civil Aviation Safety Authority; and continue with outdated work practices on the new generation craft.

The TWU was offered an exceptional deal but is sticking to its completely unrealistic claim that would prevent us from the sensible use of contractors.

These are impossible demands. We cannot agree to them because they could ultimately put the Qantas Group at risk.

The second thing that makes these unions difference is that they are running utterly destructive industrial campaigns against Qantas and our customers, hurting all our employees and undermining Australian business. The situation is unsustainable.

70,000 affected passengers

Over 600 flights cancelled

7 grounded aircraft

Nearly $70 million in damage

And $15 million in damage for every week that goes by

The unions' industrial campaigns are designed to scare away customers.

It has become impossible for Qantas to serve our third-party maintenance clients. They are trashing our strategy and our brand. They are deliberately destabilising the company. And there is no end in sight.

Yesterday two unions declared their intention to escalate industrial action further and over an extended period. As one said earlier they want: ``to back Qantas slowly''.

The pilots' union has also said they are considering escalating their industrial campaign. They talk about job security, but the unions are on a path that would diminish the job security of their own members.

Customers are now fleeing from us.

Key high value domestic booking on east coast routes are down by 25 per cent on the same period last year.

That's the most lucrative part of our flying business and it is bleeding badly.

International bookings have also fallen, with November bookings nearly 10 per cent down on where we expected them to be when Qantas International is already making significant losses.

Our customer research shows an alarming increase in people who intend NOT to fly with Qantas. In our domestic business that number has surged from a normal 5 per cent to 20 per cent. The intention not to fly with Qantas internationally has surged to nearly 30 per cent.

Virgin Australia is the main beneficiary of this campaign and has announced capacity increases. The great irony is that is pays less, is less unionised and does its heavy maintenance offshore.

Yet there is no union pressure on Virgin.

This is a crisis for Qantas.

If this action continues as the unions have promised, we will have no choice but to close down Qantas part by part. It goes without saying that this would have very grave consequences for jobs.

Killing Qantas slowly would be a tragedy for Qantas and our employees. But it would also have a terrible domino effect right across Australia, affecting businesses large and small, tourism, freight and families.

We have got to achieve a resolution to this crisis. We have got to bring this to an end. So I have no option but to force the issue.

I have to activate the one form of protected industrial action that is available to me and bring home to the unions the seriousness of their actions, and to get them to force sensible deals with us.

I am using the only effective avenue at my disposal to bring about peace and certainty.

In response to the unions' industrial action, I announce that under the provisions of the Fair Work Act Qantas will lock out all those employees who will be covered by the agreements currently being negotiated with the ALAEA, the TWU and AIPA. I have informed the government of this.

The only exception to this is that no employee working overseas will be locked out and all staff overseas will continue to be paid.

The lock-out will commence from 8pm on Monday night Sydney local time and will continue until further notice.

Because the pilots, ramp, baggage and catering staff and licensed engineers are essential to the running of the airline, the lock-out makes it necessary for us to ground the fleet.

However, I cannot wait until Monday to do so. This is a very tense environment. Individual reactions to this lock-out decision may be unpredictable. We are always conservative in our approach.

For this reason, as a precautionary measure, we have decided to ground the Qantas international and domestic fleet immediately.

I repeat, we are grounding the Qantas fleet now.

Obviously, those flights that are currently in the air will complete their scheduled sectors.

However as from now there will be no further Qantas domestic or international departures anywhere around the world.

Jetstar and QantasLink will continue to operate. Express Freighters Australia and Atlas Freighters will continue flying. JetConnect will also continue to operate Qantas services across the Tasman.

We are locking out until the unions withdraw their extreme claims and reach an agreement with us.

The great majority of our staff have played no part in this damaging industrial campaign. On the contrary they have stepped up magnificently to try and minimise the union-inflicted damage.

- Until the lock-out commences at 8pm on Monday, all employees and required at work and will be paid.

- Once the lock-out commences:

1) Those employees who are locked out will not be required at work and will not be paid; and

2) All other employees are required at work and will be paid.

We will be talking to those employees, their managers and their union representatives about how we best manage the impacts of this situation.

I urge the members of the ALAEA, TWU and AIPA to consider their own interests and tell their leaders they want to reach reasonable and fair agreements that will be good for them and for Qantas.

I want to say how sorry I am that this course of action has become necessary.

We will be doing all we can to care for our customers. For those who are mid-journey, we will assist with accommodation and endeavour to help with alternate flights, and any other support we are able to give.

We will provide a full refund to any customer who chooses to cancel their trip because their flight has been directly affected by the grounding of our fleet, and extend full rebooking flexibility for anyone wishing to defer their travel.

Our customer service staff will have my full support to assist our customers in any way they can.

We will have continuous updates on and that will be the best source of information. We will also be using our Facebook and Twitter feeds to keep customers updated.

This course of action has been forced upon us by the extreme and damaging course chosen by the leaders of three unions. It is now over to them. The ball is in their court.

They must decide just how badly they want to hurt Qantas, their members, our other employees, and the travelling public of Australia in pursuit of their destructive aims.


Every dark cloud has a silver lining

Parasites stranded too

Visiting prime ministers face being stranded in Perth because of the snap grounding of the Qantas fleet.

Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting media director Daniel Gleeson confirmed 17 heads of delegations had been booked to fly with Qantas and and that many had already been forced to make other travel arrangements.

Mr Gleeson would not confirm where the delegates were from but it has been reported Solomon Islands Prime Minister Danny Philip was among them.

CHOGM participants are expected to start leaving Perth this afternoon.

As well as the delegates, media representatives and police officers could be affected by the cancellation of all Qantas flights. About 700 of the 1200 accredited media personnel covering the event are from interstate or overseas.

Police officers from across Australia and New Zealand were flown to Perth to assist with security for the event.

Visiting prime ministers face being stranded in Perth because of the snap grounding of the Qantas fleet.


More overpaid and under-worked unionists determined to bleed the taxpayer even more

And I am a former teacher so I know all about teaching work -- JR

MOST of the state's 50,000 full-time teachers are expected to walk out of their jobs on Wednesday to attend stop-work meetings.

NSW Teachers Federation deputy president Gary Zadkovich said the stop-work meetings would force most of the 2230 public schools across NSW to close from 9am to 11am on Wednesday.

It's expected that 270 separate stop-work meetings will be held across NSW and that teachers would return to work in the afternoon and classes would continue as normal.

Mr Zadkovich said salary negotiations typically took many months, but the state government was yet to table an offer for teachers with two months left on the current awards agreement.

"If we get to the end of the year and there's no award negotiated and in place the government will be saving millions of dollars every week the process is delayed," Mr Zadkovich said, warning that further industrial action was on the cards before the end of the school year.

But Justice Frank Marks in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission told the federation the stop-work meeting was without justification.

Justice Marks said on Friday the stop-work meeting would disrupt many students for far longer than two hours and questioned why students needed to have their education interrupted when the government had offered to start wage negotiations this week.

"My best guess is ... that this strike action is not going to endear this government to this federation and it will only create even greater resolution to do what it can to win the ultimate war," he said.

Mr Zadkovich said they are calling for a fair and reasonable offer from the government.


Melbourne public hospital in cancer bungle

A HOSPITAL has been accused of failing to tell a man he had prostate cancer for three years - and now it is too late. The great-grandfather regularly attended the hospital and saw other medicos who were aware his records showed he had cancer, but no one told him or offered him treatment.

When a doctor finally mentioned it in passing, it was too late because further tests showed the disease had spread to his bones.

Jordan Ristovski, 80, of Eltham North, had attended the Northern Hospital with prostate problems for two years before prostate tissue was removed in March, 2007, and it was confirmed he had prostate cancer.

But he was not told, according to a statement of claim lodged with the Supreme Court. His lawyers, Maurice Blackburn, allege he attended the hospital several times without being told he had cancer.

The hospital wrote to Mr Ristovski's GP in June 2010, advising that he be referred to a private urologist but failed to mention he had cancer, it was alleged.

It was only in August, 2010 - more than three years after he was diagnosed with cancer - that the hospital told him his urinary problems were probably caused by his cancer.

Mr Ristovski said he was devastated because, had he been told of the cancer in 2007, he would have sought immediate treatment. "I feel angry and let down. I have lost faith in doctors and hospitals," he said.

"I have learnt that sadly you just can't rely on what you are being told because it isn't always right and even though you are going to hospital and telling them about your symptoms and pain, they might not look after you."

Maurice Blackburn principal Dimitra Dubrow said despite the test showing cancer, Mr Ristovski was "given the all-clear". The hospital declined to comment.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vertically-challenged pornos seized in (short) customs raid

David Penberthy

One of the interesting features of modern public debate is the emergence of a small army of thin-skinned souls on permanent stand-by to be offended by pretty much everything.

And they call that entertainment.And they call that entertainment.

The way we talk, the jokes we crack, the way we describe each other, all these things are subject to such an increasingly prohibitive set of strictures that it is easier to keep your mouth shut for fear of upsetting someone.

While the scourge of mental illness is not to be taken lightly, and is something which has touched us all, it still puzzles me that one of Australia’s leading mental health organisations is spending its time vetting newspaper articles and sending letters to journalists asking that they excise certain figurative expressions from their writing.

My colleague Tory Maguire wrote a piece last year where she used the term “policy schizophrenia” to describe the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s inconsistency on border protection. She received a letter saying the term was an insult to schizophrenics everywhere and that she should not use it again.

If we take this approach we will end up with a language where ideas are never stillborn and pauses never pregnant, where movement can be impeded but not retarded, where we rewrite all of Shakespeare’s plays, and receive letters from the haemophiliacs association if we write a column stating the bleeding obvious.

One of the weirder examples of the new squeamishness came from an unusual source this week, those supposedly libertarian sensualists at the Eros Foundation, who issued a press release under the cracking headline “Customs seizes dwarf porn.” The press release was interesting not so much for the news that the films Midget Mania (Volumes 7 and 8) have been refused classification – well, that’s my weekend buggered – but more for the politically correct gymnastics the Eros Foundation used to tip-toe around the word “midget”.

The intro was pure gold: “The Australian Customs Service has set a new benchmark for the importation of adult films into Australia by confiscating two of the latest release US titles featuring vertically challenged people.” Eros CEO Fiona Patton said the ruling was “discriminatory to short-statured people and quite possibly offended the Federal Discrimination Act.” It will be interesting to see if it stands up in court.

It is in the area of racism where the trend is most pronounced. I received a yawn-inducing string of outrage this week after writing the most limp-wristed pro-republican column, which was barely republican at all, more a pathetic form of surrender at the fact that we all seem to like the royals so much and can’t agree on an alternative model that we’re stuck as a constitutional monarchy. In passing I noted that this was all a bit disappointing for republican ultra-minimalists who simply wanted an Australian head of state, and would also be happier if the Pommy flag no longer sullied our national ensign.

The use of the word Pommy sent several readers into apoplexy, no doubt because they were, you know, Poms.

From one reader: “Pommy flag? That’s a racist slur. Lucky it’s a racial attack against the white majority, otherwise, you’d be before the courts like Andrew Bolt was.” From another: “Getting the pommy bit off our flag are downright pathetic comments in fact they border on racist.” And another: “I have no interest in anything you have to say, it’s rude, tactless and uncivil…to talk about the pommy flag is just so rude I can’t believe you actually printed it.”

And so the whinge-fest continued. Another recent column, about the Andrew Bolt vilification case, was highly critical of his writing but said the judgment posed a threat to free expression as it put the onus on anybody to prove they were not racist should somebody take offence at their sentiments. Examples included declaring that the Serbs who disrupted the Australian Open should maybe bugger off to Serbia, the opinion that female circumcision by some African communities is barbaric and inhumane, the belief that Israel is a pariah state whose businesses should be the subject of a formal boycott. Several censorious folks wrote in saying that each of these opinions were potentially racist and should also be the subject of legal action under the Racial Discrimination Act. See you all in court, along with the people of short stature.

The stink over the performance of the Haka by the All Blacks in Sunday’s final was a double treat for those who enjoy being offended. First, there was there were claims that one of the Kiwis had made an apparently offensive throat-slitting gesture while performing the chant. So what if he had? This ain’t the chicken dance or the bus stop. The haka in its origins was a war dance performed by pumped-up Maori warriors shortly before they killed their enemies. The idea that it should be rendered more genteel is absurd.

After this kerfuffle it emerged that the French had not shown due deference to the haka by stepping forwards towards the All Blacks as it was being performed. This was also offensive and the team was fined, in keeping with the view that, out of respect for Maori tradition, opposing teams should stand there and do nothing. This too seems kind of absurd. If a bunch of blokes are sticking their tongues out and threatening to murder you, it seems only fair that opposing teams can respond, perhaps in a manner which is culturally appropriate –some mooning from the Wallabies, Morris dancing from the Poms, the French standing around waiting to be saved by another nation, in keeping with their historical traditions.

Meanwhile the Adelaide Zoo has cancelled its Free Rangas Day after complaints from redheads. Turn it up. Even Julia Gillard could crack a quality gag about her state of ranga-ness when she spoke to fellow blood nut Cameron Ling at the AFL Grand Final breakfast. Someone was probably offended by that too. Still what would you expect from a Prime Minister who wouldn’t curtsy before the Queen. Even though protocol says she didn’t have to, and did nothing wrong.

The whole thing is just offensive.


I'm an Australian, PM tells UK reporter

A reasonable response to a trick question, not that I agree her about the eventual demise of the monarchy

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has showcased her accent as proof she's a dinkum Aussie, when asked whether the Queen will be Australia's last unelected head of state.

At a press conference in Perth on Friday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Ms Gillard was asked how she felt on the republican question, given she was "born as a subject of her majesty in the United Kingdom".

Ms Gillard has made it known she believes Australia should become a republic but that it would be appropriate only after Queen Elizabeth II's reign ends.

In response to Friday's question from a British reporter, she said she was the daughter of a man from a Welsh mining village and a woman whose maiden name was McKenzie, but she had lived in Australia since she was four years old.

"So I am an Australian, so any of the perspectives that I bring on questions about our constitutional arrangements, I bring through the eyes of being an Australian.

"You don't get an accent like this from being anything else," she said to laughter from the press corps attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Ms Gillard said ultimately the Australian people would work their way through changes to the country's constitutional arrangements.

"But there is not a great deal of focus on this in our current national discourse," she said, noting there was more focus during the last referendum on the issue.

Ms Gillard said the Queen had been received with a great degree of affection on her current visit to Australia, with thousands turning out to see her.

"So there is a sense of personal connection with the Queen which has been very on display, and I would have to say a sense of excitement about the young royals as well," she said.


Farmers in green protesters' sights next as fight against mining escalates

FRUSTRATION: Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the industry was frustrated with the contradictions of the State Government over mining exploration. Picture: Nathan Richter Source: The Courier-Mail

THE Federal Government has told environmental activists to get out of the way of mining and warned farmers are likely to be the next target of green protests.

But the State Government has also felt the wrath of the mining industry, with a survey showing that the worst thing about doing business in Queensland was dealing with the Bligh Government.

All those who stood in the way of mining faced a fierce attack yesterday, as more than 400 mining delegates gathered for the launch of the industry's scorecard in Brisbane.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson told the function he accepted legitimate concerns about coal seam gas but environmental activists had to get out of the way of legitimate mining activity.

"Fundamentally, many of these groups are against economic development in all its forms and once they have moved on from protesting against CSG, they could very well have farmers in their sights as their next target over water access," Mr Ferguson said yesterday.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the industry was frustrated with the contradictions of the State Government.

He said they wanted the Government to become a leader in exploration but then it "turns around and declares more than 23,000sq km of southeast Queensland off-limits to exploration".

Mr Roche also took on the anti-mining lobby, claiming that the public was being fed a constant diet of inaccurate information about mining exploration.


Time for conservatives to do the right thing

By Mark Textor

Is this guy joking or is he just off his brain? The stuff he talks about below was all fixed in the 1967 constitutional referendum, which 90% of Australians supported

Australians, including conservatives like me, are perhaps about to face the most important referendum most of us have never heard of.

The government's expert panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples will soon recommend options that formally recognise indigenous Australians in our constitution, with a referendum on the issue possible by the next federal election.

Now is the time for fellow conservatives to get behind this constitutional change not only because it aligns with the principles of their main party, the Liberal Party, but also because it's the right thing to do.

Liberals believe in the freedom of self-expression, including the freedom in our strong democracy to vote and express oneself.

A core part of the Liberal platform is the belief in "equal opportunity, with all Australians having the opportunity to reach their full potential in a tolerant national community".

How can we say we have achieved this equality, when Section 25 of our constitution specifically references the ability of the states to prevent people from voting in state elections on the basis of their race?

Most people would be shocked by this, and all true Liberals would also be shocked to know that Section 51 of our constitution gives Parliament the power to make special laws for people based on race.

Far from suggesting that Parliament should pay no attention to individual differences and diversity, it should eschew a constitution which makes laws based on race and instead make them on the basis of such things as culture and need.

Some people think a commitment to these issues belongs only to the left of politics, but that ignores the proud tradition of conservative politics when it comes to Aboriginal affairs: the first Aboriginal member of any State or Territory Parliament was Hyacinth Tungutalum, of the CLP in the Northern Territory; the National Party's Eric Deeral was the first Aborigine elected to the Queensland Parliament.

The Liberal Party gave us the first Aboriginal senator, Neville Bonner, and the first Aboriginal member of the House of Representatives, Ken Wyatt.

It was a Liberal federal government that introduced the Northern Territory Land Rights Act and a Liberal prime minister, John Howard, who put constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people back on the agenda before the 2007 federal election.

These Conservative achievements do not diminish the contribution of other political parties - this issue is not about left and right; it's about supporting equality of opportunity and recognition in our constitution regardless of your political persuasion.

Many Liberals respect tradition and the preservation of "Australian culture". One of the amendments being considered is to recognise the English language as the foundation stone of the Australian culture, and to acknowledge the importance of Aboriginal languages.

The Liberal platform recognises: "The Europeans who began to settle Australia more than 200 years ago did not come to an empty land. For tens of thousands of years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had lived on this continent. Their contribution to Australia's identity has been, and will continue to be, a vital and enriching one."

So should our constitution.

Also at the core of Australian Liberal philosophy is a belief in the freedom to achieve success and contribute to society. My belief is that it's hard to be so aspirational if the constitution allows a person to be discriminated against on the basis of their race.

One of my Darwin school friends, Johnny Daylight-Lacey, is an Aboriginal street artist based around Mullumbimby. A talented and passionate musician and painter, he wants to share his culture with other Australians, but he is not always allowed to practise his art because of council restrictions. While the considered amendments to the constitution may not give him carte blanche they would give him much-needed encouragement not only to share his culture but also to make a living.

Conservatives are rightly fond of supporting "a hand up, instead of a handout". If one is true to this value then one must get behind a constitution that truly enables all Australians to achieve their desires.

Conservatives can be at the forefront of a debate to recognise the contribution of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, and to abolish discrimination on the basis on race.

It's time to step up, my friends. For all of us.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Be prudent with climate claims

Cardinal George Pell, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney appeals to scientific facts, not religion, in his climate skepticism -- and notes religious fanaticism in Warmism:

SCIENCE and technology have already achieved considerable mastery over nature, and massive local achievements. But where is the borderline separating us from what is beyond human power?

Where does scientific striving become uneconomic, immoral or ineffectual and so lapse into hubris? Have scientists been co-opted on to a bigger, better-advertised and more expensive bandwagon than the millennium bug fiasco?

We can only attempt to identify the causes of climate change through science and these causes need to be clearly established after full debates, validated comprehensively, before expensive remedies are imposed on industries and communities.

I first became interested in the question in the 1990s when studying the anti-human claims of the "deep greens". Mine is not an appeal to the authority of any religious truth in the face of contrary scientific evidence. Neither is it even remotely tinged by a postmodernist hostility to rationality.

My appeal is to reason and evidence, and in my view the evidence is insufficient to achieve practical certainty on many of these scientific issues.

Recently Robert Manne, following fashionable opinion, wrote that "the science is truly settled" on the fundamental theory of climate change: global warming is happening; it is primarily caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide; and it is certain to have profound effects in the future.

His appeal is to the "consensual view among qualified scientists". This is a category error, scientifically and philosophically. In fact, it is also a cop-out, a way of avoiding the basic issues.

The basic issue is not whether the science is settled but whether the evidence and explanations are adequate in that paradigm.

I fear, too, that many politicians have never investigated the primary evidence.

Much is opaque to non-specialists, but persistent inquiry and study can produce useful clarifications, similar to the nine errors identified by the British High Court in Al Gore's propaganda film, An Inconvenient Truth.

The complacent appeal to scientific consensus is simply one more appeal to authority, quite inappropriate in science or philosophy.

It is not generally realised that in 2001 at least, one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report's workinggroups agreed: "In climate research and modelling, we are dealing with a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible."

Claims of atmospheric warming often appear to conflict and depend upon the period of time under consideration.

* The earth has cooled during the past 10,000 years since the Holocene climate optimum.

* The earth has cooled since 1000 years ago, not yet achieving the temperatures of the Medieval Warm Period.

* The earth has warmed since 400 years ago after the Little Ice Age three centuries ago.

* The earth warmed between 1979 and 1998 and has cooled slightly since 2001.

The following facts are additional reasons for scepticism.

* In many places, most of the 11,700 years since the end of the last ice age were warmer than the present by up to 2C.

* Between 1695 and 1730, the temperature in England rose by 2.2C. That rapid warming, unparalleled since, occurred long before the Industrial Revolution.

* From 1976 to 2001, "the global warming rate was 0.16C per decade", as it was from 1860 to 1880 and again from 1910 to 1940.

My suspicions have been deepened through the years by the climate movement's totalitarian approach to opposing views. Those secure in their explanations do not need to be abusive.

The term "climate change denier", however expedient as an insult or propaganda weapon, with its deliberate overtones of comparison with Holocaust denial, is not a useful description of any significant participant in the discussion. I was not surprised to learn that the IPCC used some of the world's best advertising agencies to generate maximum effect among the public .

The rewards for proper environmental behaviour are uncertain, unlike the grim scenarios for the future as a result of human irresponsibility which have a dash of the apocalyptic about them.

The immense financial costs true believers would impose on economies can be compared with the sacrifices offered traditionally in religion, and the sale of carbon credits with the pre-Reformation practice of selling indulgences.

Some of those campaigning to save the planet are not merely zealous but zealots. To the religionless and spiritually rootless, mythology - whether comforting or discomforting - can be magnetically, even pathologically, attractive.

Whatever our political masters might decide at this high tide of Western indebtedness, they are increasingly unlikely, because of popular pressure, to impose new financial burdens on their populations in the hope of curbing the rise of global temperatures, except perhaps in Australia, which has 2 per cent of the world's industrial capacity and only 1.2 per cent of its CO2 emissions, while continuing to sell coal and iron worth billions of dollars to Asia.

Extreme weather events are to be expected. This is why I support the views of Bjorn Lomborg and Bob Carter that money should be used to raise living standards and reduce vulnerability to catastrophes.

The cost of attempts to make global warming go away will be very heavy. They may be levied initially on "the big polluters" but they will eventually trickle down to the end-users. Efforts to offset the effects on the vulnerable are well intentioned but history tells us they can only be partially successful.

Sometimes the very learned and clever can be brilliantly foolish, especially when seized by an apparently good cause. My request is for common sense and what the medievals, following Aristotle, called prudence.

The appeal must be to the evidence. First of all we need adequate scientific explanations as a basis for our economic estimates. We also need history, philosophy, even theology and many will use, perhaps create, mythologies. But most importantly we need to distinguish which is which.


Qld. govt. wastes another $116m on controversial ZeroGen clean-coal debacle

SAYONARA, Premier. Anna Bligh's claims her bungled clean-coal dream would live on have collapsed, with the company at the centre put into liquidation at a loss to taxpayers of almost $160 million.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the controversial ZeroGen operation was shut down a fortnight ago, despite the Premier promising the ailing firm would be given to - and run by - the coal industry to ensure its work did not go to waste.

Documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission this month show the company is under external administration after a liquidator was appointed on October 11.

ZeroGen was set up to be owned by the Government to develop carbon capture technology. Its key project was to be a $4.3 billion clean coal power plant in central Queensland, running by 2015, with the power to capture 90 per cent of coal emissions.

The confirmation of the financial losses come as photos have emerged showing former ZeroGen chiefs living it up in Japan and Singapore as they tried to secure backing of business giant Mitsubishi Corp.

Former ZeroGen chief Tony Tarr and the company's corporate affairs manager Heather Brodie were snapped partying in kimonos and horseplaying in Singapore.

After scrapping the key "world-first" $4 billion central Queensland plant, the Bligh Government claimed ZeroGen would be given to the Australian Coal Association to ensure the knowledge it gained lived on.

Ms Bligh, who had insisted the money was not wasted, had said it would become "an independent entity, owned and run by industry and dedicated to the accelerated development and deployment of carbon capture storage".

But ACA chairman John Pegler yesterday said the group knew nothing of its supposed involvement. "We have never, ever, ever been in negotiations to take over ZeroGen," he said.

Contradiction also emerged in the office of Treasurer Andrew Fraser yesterday, who insisted the intellectual property still belonged to the state and would be used in future.

"The Federal Government was an equity partner in the venture and has been actively involved in the wind-up process," he said. The wind-up began in June.

But federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said the Commonwealth became aware only "in early October that the board may voluntarily liquidate the company".

Queensland has pumped $116 million into the project, the Commonwealth about $43 million and the coal industry about $50 million.

Federal Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt yesterday called for an inquiry, saying the loss of so much money was scandalous.

"There should be an immediate, independent inquiry as to how this money has been lost and where it has gone," he said.

ZeroGen garnered attention across Asia and the US and was touted by Ms Bligh and former premier Peter Beattie as a ground-breaking world-first as far back as 2006.

But now the ZeroGen website has been closed. "The ZeroGen Project has concluded," the site states. "Arrangements are ongoing for final knowledge capture and dissemination with the assistance of the Global CCS Institute."

State Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney said ZeroGen epitomised the waste and mismanagement of a tired Labor Government. "Anna Bligh has still never fully explained why the warnings about ZeroGen were ignored for so long and why they were so gung ho to roll the dice with taxpayers' money," he said.


Axe begins to fall in Qld. public service

As many as 3500 public servants are expected to accept payouts over the next two financial years

Nearly 2000 public servants have been offered big payouts to leave the Queensland government under plans to rein in wages bills. But it’s unclear how many employees have accepted the offers, made as part of government plans to farewell 3500 workers in a "voluntary separation" program.

The public sector union claims about half the people offered a package decide not to leave and this could pressure the government to soften its pledge to only remove non-frontline public servants.

As reported in April, public servants whose positions are not deemed necessary are being offered a payout of 30 weeks’ salary plus three weeks’ pay for each year of service.

Figures released to last night show the government has so far received 6626 expressions of interest from workers in a range of departments and agencies.

From this pool of willing employees, the government has made a formal offer to 1958 of them. The number of people who have accepted those offers is yet to be released.

The body with the highest number of expressions of interest was the Department of Education and Training, with 1635 employees registering their curiosity as of October 10.

However, only 109 workers from this department have been offered payouts so far. The government has offered payouts to 682 employees within the Department of Transport and Main Roads, following expressions of interest from 1360.

Deputy Premier and Treasurer Andrew Fraser said different agencies were in various stages of implementing the program.

Mr Fraser said the government had not changed its cost and savings projections, with the program set to cost about $250 million this financial year and then save $175 million annually from 2012/13.

Together union secretary Alex Scott, who represents public servants, said there were real questions over potential impacts on workloads and therefore some community services once the workforce was trimmed.

Mr Scott said while many employees wanted to keep their options open and lodged expressions of interest, the attractive offer did not necessarily persuade them to give up their job security.

The take-up rate was running at roughly 50 per cent, he said. This figure could not be officially confirmed last night.

Mr Scott said he was worried the government would struggle to get to the 3500 target and would have to relax its non-frontline pledge. "We’re gravely concerned; while it [the program] still remains voluntary we think the ambition to get to the 3500 will mean they will have to move away from the original commitment,” he said.

Mr Fraser’s spokesman could not be reached for a response last night, but Mr Fraser has previously said the 3500 departures target is over a two-year period ending in 2012/13.

The government's plan to save money by trimming the public service over two years was announced in its post-floods budget update in February.

It was one of the whole-of-government savings measures announced to pay for the $209 million cost of fixing the trouble-plagued Queensland Health payroll system. The bill to fix and improve the system has since surged even higher.

The release of the figures yesterday came as the government faced opposition attacks over plans to cut 250 civilian positions from within the Queensland Police Service.

Police Minister Neil Roberts linked the plans to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission's decision in August to grant police a pay rise of 11.1 per cent over three years, arguing part of the extra wages cost would be met through savings delivered through the voluntary separation program.

Figures supplied by Mr Fraser's office showed 57 police service employees had been offered a package under the separation program as of October 10, while a total of 136 had registered their interest.

Mr Fraser said other governments were also undertaking similar public sector redundancy programs. “The NSW Liberal government recently unveiled its plans for 5000 redundancies across the NSW public sector,” he said. “The Brisbane City Council also has a similar program underway.”

The issue of public service jobs was a dominant issue in the March 2009 state election campaign, with the government accusing the opposition of planning to massively slash jobs. The next election is due early next year.


The enduring appeal of the Monarchy in Australia

As in Britain, it has deep emotional roots that the politically correct brigaqde will never even begin to understand

The papers have now given up billing this as the ‘farewell tour’. Anyone watching the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh steadfastly working their way through the multitude and boarding a tram in Melbourne yesterday could understand why.

No one was saying: ‘Goodbye.’ So what if they are, respectively, 85 and 90? The question on Australian lips now is: ‘When are they coming back?’

Even the most ardent monarchists Down Under have been surprised by the euphoria for the Queen in recent days as she has travelled coast-to-coast across her colossal realm.

Monday saw 45,000 people crammed 30-deep on the riverbank in Brisbane just to see her step off a boat. Many required first aid for heatstroke after waiting since before dawn.

Yesterday’s scheduled 15-minute walkabout in Melbourne’s Federation Square stretched on for more than half an hour after tens of thousands turned out for a glimpse. There were so many flowers for the Queen the royal party ran out of hands.

Even more remarkable, perhaps, has been the behaviour of Melbourne’s ‘Occupy’ protesters.

This is the same anti-capitalist movement currently camping outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London. But whereas the ‘Occupy London’ crowd won’t budge for anyone, the ‘Occupy Melbourne’ brigade yesterday agreed to suspend their protest in the city centre. Organisers decided it would be counter-productive and ‘belligerent’ to spoil the Queen’s day. So they called a truce.

Extraordinary stuff.

As for the royal couple, they have not betrayed a flicker of fatigue from the moment they landed in Canberra last week and embarked on a full schedule without so much as a rest day. One might say that she hit the ground reigning.

All those around the Queen — her staff and footsore veterans of the royal press pack — have noticed she is positively relishing the pace and atmosphere of this tour, happily letting the schedule slip when the crowds show no sign of letting up.

This may be her 16th tour of Australia but there is seldom a dull moment. Today she visits Clontarf Aboriginal College where pupils have devised an unusual royal menu: scones and kangaroo stew. As for the Duke, one royal official observes: ‘People keep asking us what he’s on. He’s in cracking form.’

Indeed, as the royal launch came into dock in Brisbane on Monday, Prince Philip could not stop his old nautical self and started helping to moor the thing. Now the world’s most hyperactive nonagenarian, he is off to Italy next week for a multi-faith environment conference.

Aside from one Brisbane construction worker arrested for ‘mooning’ at the monarch (it turned out to be a wager rather than a statement), this has, thus far, been a glitch-free tour.

So what on earth happened to the republicans? Is this the same feisty, self-confident nation which, just 12 years back, was the cheerleader for replacing the Sovereign? Of all the Queen’s 16 realms, which cover a large part of the planet, Australia was the one which seemed most likely to seek a new constitutional settlement.

And then came that referendum in 1999. With the liberal establishment and most of the media batting for a republic, metropolitan Australia put on its party clothes and prepared to celebrate.

But the public, as they so often do in these matters, had other ideas. In the end, 55 per cent of them preferred the Queen to the republican model of a president chosen by the politicians. [It was nearly two thirds in favour of the monarchy in my home State of Queensland -- JR]

Received wisdom, at the time, was that support for the monarchy would gradually wither away and that the republicans would waltz like Matilda through the next referendum. Except it did not work out like that.

The Royal Family continued to visit on a regular basis and Australia turned its attention to more pressing world issues.

And as royal fortunes have improved in Britain, so the mood has changed in Oz. Few countries could match Australia’s enthusiasm for this year’s Royal Wedding.

It came just weeks after Prince William had made an emergency visit Down Under, on behalf of the Queen, to meet those afflicted by a series of natural disasters — a visit which had a profound impact on the victims.

And now we have this week’s scenes. Opinion polls show that supporters of a presidential system have dwindled to 34 per cent. The activists have all but given up. Not so long ago, the Australian Republican Movement was a multi-million-pound organisation drawing the cream of the chattering classes to its champagne-fuelled soirees. Today, it is so hard-up that it can run only to a single part-time employee.

The reason? It certainly helps that the Queen and the Duke are so conspicuously happy to be in Australia. But it goes much deeper than that. We are witnessing, as one royal official put it to me this week, a ‘revival’. And much of it, surely, is down to the age-old attraction of a constitutional monarchy.

In times of uncertainty and trouble, there is something reassuring in an institution which stands for permanence and stability. And there is no greater symbol of continuity than a monarch who has been on her throne for longer than half of the countries on Earth have existed in their present form.

At the time of Australia’s referendum, republicans made much of the fact that one in four modern Australians was born overseas and, therefore, lacked a link with the ‘mother country’.

What social commentators are now discovering, however, is that support for the monarchy is just as strong among the immigrant community because newcomers feel a 1,000-year-old Crown offers greater protection of their freedoms than a fledgling president.

But there is something else here. Having spent the last two years with privileged access to the Queen and her staff for my new book, Our Queen, I have seen the way in which the aura around her has changed.

People who may seldom have given her much thought suddenly find themselves overawed by the most famous — and some would say respected — public figure on the planet. The sentiment was epitomised by one man in the Melbourne crowd yesterday. Dick Johnson told ABC Australia that he was surprised at how emotional he had suddenly become. ‘I’m not a terribly strong monarchist and I’m not a republican, but it just seems there’s something special about it,’ he said.

To which republicans say that the mood will be very different come a change of reign. But the Prince of Wales, part-educated in Australia, has a deep attachment to the place which does not go unreciprocated.

The new Duke of Cambridge can expect Queen-sized crowds when he brings his new Duchess Down Under. And, in any case, these are enduring bonds which go far beyond a mere popularity contest. Back in 1954, when she was the first reigning monarch to visit Australia, the Queen drew unprecedented crowds.

Millions of people — up to three-quarters of the population it was suggested — turned out to see her. Inevitably, her subsequent tours could not compete; comparisons would always invite a sense of anti-climax. Hence, the sense of monarchy in decline.

Well, now there is a sense of things going the other way. It may not be for ever. Australia will, doubtless, one day seek a new constitutional arrangement. For now, though, we are seeing the way in which historic symbols of kinship and shared values are sometimes more appealing than hard, rational modernity.

It is a fact worth remembering in a week when brutal European realities are set against the warmth of old Commonwealth friendships.


The Queen in Melbourne

The above report is by a British writer. Below is an Australian news report which conveys a similar impression

The Duke of Edinburgh was every inch the exasperated commuter today when he took a tram ride through Melbourne with the Queen.

As soon as the royal couple stepped aboard Royal Tram, he waved his hand and ordered driver Joyleen Smith to set off as they were running late.

It is the first time the monarch has travelled by tram since she boarded one during the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002. In honour of the royal passengers the white Z3-Class vehicle had been transformed with a red, white and blue exterior colour scheme and inside it had been refurbished and restored.

A dot-matrix screen at its front displayed the worlds Royal Tram while a smaller one was lit-up with the monarch's official initials "ER"

Ms Smith, a tram driver for almost seven years, described todays event as an honour. She added: "When they got on I said hello to the Queen, and Philip said 'Come on driver let's go, were running late', so I thought we better go. "He said it with a smile on his face and I know he's got a wicked sense of humour."

The Queen and Prince Philip boarded the tram at Stop 13 at Federation Square and travelled along St Kilda Road to a reception and lunch with local politicians at Government House.

They had been held up during a walk through the square as well-wishers hand flowers and presents to the royals while tens of thousands looked on.

The royal couple sat facing each other, with the Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, and his wife Robyn sat side by side close by.

The monarch may be more used to travelling in a chauffeur driven state Bentley or Rolls Royce but she appeared at home on public transport.

And like any other passenger the Queen had to pay her way, although her Australian equerry, Commander Andrew Willis, had the job of buying her ticket.

They used a myki - a pre-paid travel card - but it is not known if they chose the two-hour zone-one fare costing $3.80 or opted for the cheaper $2.80 dollar pensioner discount ticket.

Four mounted officers from Victoria Police escorted the royal tram which travelled at walking pace, during the eight minute journey.

Among the two horses that led the way was Super Impressive, a former racehorse that earned about $1.5 million during its former career.

The royal couple waved at the thousands who lined their route and the crowds cheered and screamed in response.

Their journey took them along part of the route of the No.8 tram that runs from Brunswick to the wealthy Melbourne suburb of Toorak.

Ms Smith, who drives trams along the inner-city routes 1, 8 and 19, said she had taken commuters along the stretch of track used by the royals hundreds of times.

She added: "A couple of times I got a little overwhelmed and thought I was going to cry - all the people were waving at her. At one point I even waved at someone I recognised. "But despite being nervous at first it was overwhelming, what an honour to drive the Queen."


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Contempt for ordinary Australians among the self-selected arts and media elite

I SUPPOSE it takes a special form of moral courage and artistic sensibility to mount a comedy television series that "satirises people living in public housing" (The Diary, Monday). It promises to be a hoot. The individual responsible, one Paul Fenech, has uncovered "a whole bunch of people in Australia who spend so much effort not working that it would be easier to get a job". I cannot wait. Such clever japes have not been heard since the Murdoch family comedy troupe were at their peak.

It is comforting to know that Fenech is not on his own in the creative community in teaching us about the debased lower orders. Only last week, the Herald's Spectrum pages ("Career on track" October 15-16) marked the arrival of "an artist with promise", a Mr Nigel Milsom, a latter-day resident of Glebe. This chap likes to draw dogs, apparently as "metaphors for our own nature".

However, Milsom has had a nasty surprise of late. As he tells it, "it seems that every Friday and Saturday there's an influx of weirdos into the area". These freaks are the people who attend the Wentworth Park greyhounds and who do so in order to "change their lot in life" and gain a "golden ticket out of their situation". Mr Milsom knows all this because he took his crayons to the course one night and observed these worse-than-senseless things in the flesh.

In times past, these "weirdos" were actually known in and around the inner city as "residents" before the whole area was much improved by the land clearing occasioned by the arrival of sensitive and creative people who are good at colouring-in and such. Over the decades many thousands of families have been forced out, some even to public housing in the city's outskirts where Fenech can now expose to the world their essential worthlessness.

Such developments are sadly consistent with some other trends in the creative and performing arts. The television series Kath & Kim consistently depicted its subjects as crass, materialistic and emotionally stunted. There was a form of characterisation in it that provided a superior and condescending perspective for the viewer. We laugh at them; not with them.

Worse still is the work of Chris Lilley, who moves well beyond gentle mockery. His work sneers at the ordinary people with everyday lives he focuses on.

There was a time when satire was directed at exposing the follies of the privileged, the powerful and the self-important. Apparently, modern Australia has rulers who are doing a cracking job. Our rich are beyond reproach. Marie Antoinette would approve.


Thousands of students failed the Australian visa test

FOREIGN students caught skipping class or flunking courses are being deported in record numbers, courtesy of a federal government crackdown on student visas.

The Immigration Department has already cancelled 15,066 foreign student visas in the past year, a 37 per cent spike from the previous year, The Daily Telegraph reported.

About 3624 students are facing deportation for flunking subjects or missing classes.

A further 2235 visas were cancelled on students who quit their original courses and were either working illegally - in some cases in brothels.

The crackdown, coming after the number of cancellations was steady for four years, has targeted lax students who had won visas to study at a vocational training level, such as cooking or hairdressing.

Indian students have been hit the hardest, while the biggest foreign contingent - Chinese - fare much better because they are less likely to be studying for a trade. Trade students are not only under the spotlight but a change in policy preferencing university students has now made entry to Australian courses harder.

University graduates will have the right to work here for two years after they graduate, leaving vocational training students to wait on a second tranche of changes, due next year, to find out where they stand.

Of the 332,709 international students in Australia in June, more than half were studying at university, while a third were on vocational training visas studying diploma courses.

One in every five international students is Chinese, while one in every six is Indian. Courses are also popular with South Korean, Brazilian and Malaysian students. The majority of international students study in NSW and Victoria.

To receive a visa they must be enrolled in a course and show they can pay tuition and living costs and meet health and English language tests.

Of the 15,066 cancellations by DIMIA in the past year, 3624 students lost their visas because they flunked some or all subjects or were no-shows to class. A further 2235 visas were cancelled for students who quit their courses and 212 were from students who finished their courses early.

The Immigration Department offers eight kinds of student visas - including vocational training, university, English language courses or school education visas.

Despite oversight by the department, some students end up as illegal immigrants after failing to return home.

The department's annual report said that 8309 student visa holders became "unlawful" in the past year because their student visa expired and they did not apply for a new one, such as a bridging visa.

In some cases, foreigners were not genuine students and use the work rights of a student visa as a back door to higher wages and working conditions in Australia.

Some women have come to Australia on student visas to work in illegal brothels.


Religious education counters religious prejudice

Probably true in general but maybe not if Islam is taught honestly

Religions must be properly taught in state schools as part of the curriculum because people who never come across religion are far more likely to be prejudiced against it.

I came across that interesting and plausible assertion this week because teaching religion in state schools was back in the news when the Anglican church in Melbourne voted down a call for a multi-faith-based general religious education (GRE).

The church's synod (parliament) rejected it (204-167) not because they think it is a bad idea but to support and encourage the existing system of special religious instruction (SRI), taught by volunteers.

I blogged on religion in schools earlier this year, when it became a fresh issue in April. The reason I am revisiting it is because I was interested in the claim in my first sentence, above.

John Baldock, the minister at East Malvern, made it in moving the call for GRE that was eventually defeated. He said the reason a secular version teaching all faiths (though endorsing none), taught as part of the curriculum by trained teachers, is so necessary is that it promotes tolerance and understanding.

He said: “This is important. British and European studies show that children with some education about religion are more tolerant than those without it. Studying religion helps develop inclusive attitudes and promotes a climate of respect. Starkly put, without education about different faiths, conflict and disharmony are more likely.”

Therefore, paradoxically, the less religious Australian society becomes, the more important religious education will be.

Baldock told the synod: “The recent Mapping Social Cohesion report alerts us to how those who know least stereotype most; how those who know little about religion hold the most negative views towards groups other than their own.”

(I add an important qualification: such education would help prevent not only anti-religion bigotry, but bigotry by adherents of one religion against those of another or none.)

And of course, religion is not disappearing any time soon, despite the predictions and hopes of many over the past few decades. Around the world, its numbers and influence are rising. Surely it is better to know something of what other people believe than not.

GRE in the state curriculum would mean every student getting a basic grasp of the history, beliefs and practices of the major world religions, including Christianity. Now, only half the students get SRI.

Baldock also noted the role of religion in influencing people’s attitudes to ethics and philosophy, law and politics, gender relations, plus its impact on health and social services, and the challenge of religiously motivated violence and terrorism.

He said: “While I reject many of the criticisms levelled at SRI, I agree that religion is too important to leave to optional classes taught to students by volunteer teachers.”

SRI is almost entirely Christian, though Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and Baha’is also teach in state schools. The reason the Anglicans rejected Baldock’s proposal was to support Access Ministries, which provides 96 per cent of SRI and has come under strong attack.

Access chairman Bishop Stephen Hale says there has been a campaign against Access in which The Age and The Sunday Age have played a part, and that the debate has sometimes been quite personal and unpleasant.

Yet even though state and federal inquiries found no evidence of volunteers proselytising children, I am certain some have abused their role. There is too much anecdotal evidence of some seeking to convert children and, worse, suggesting their families will go to hell if they don’t go to church.

The Anglicans favouring GRE - which only became possible via a change to the state Education Act in 2006 – argue it should operate alongside the voluntary SRI. That should remain, along with better provision for those who take no part.

This is simple common sense, unarguably right - though as far as the adverb is concerned, I am sure I will be proved wrong. But I will say this: my experience on this blog and elsewhere leads me to give that opening sentence serious credence.


An amusing -- but revealing -- defeat for the Queensland wallopers

On Sept. 15 I reported on the case of Eaves v. Donnelly in which Renee Eaves was awarded the sum of $93,000 against ex-cop Barry John Donnelly and the State of Queensland.

One would have thought that the Queensland Police Service would have been deeply embarrassed to find that a private prosecution was needed to establish the culpability of one of their officers after they had proclaimed that he had no case to answer.

Had there been any decency at the top one would have thought that prompt payment of the award accompanied by profuse apologies to Ms Eaves would be the order of the day.

Their actual response however established what low types run the Qld. cops. They say that fish rot from the head and it seems that the Qld cops are still in that category. The Fitzgerald enquiry put the Qld. police chief in jail so rottenness at the top is a reasonable expectation in Qld.

And that expectation would seem to be borne out in the Eaves vs. Donnelly matter. Instead of showing any contrition, the police decided to appeal the verdict. The scathing comments about them from Judge Samios were apparently like water off a duck's back. And that decision to appeal can only have come from somewhere close to the top if not the top itself.

But here's the amusing part: Their grounds for appeal were so weak that they had to back out of the appeal. They went to the Court of Appeal (a division of the Qld Supreme Court) but the court either point blank refused to hear them or they were quietly advised that they had no case.

What scum!

Needless to say, Renee is feeling in a very good mood at the moment after the failure of the appeal (though she still hasn't got the money) so she sent me some pix:

Renee's comment on the Pic above: "The boy's club army all to sort out one lil blonde single mum....... Chickens ... but expensive ones for the taxpayers. Sherman Oh is the Asian one and Mark Hinson the senior counsel is front right"

Renee in a place she now rather likes

A meditation

The amount the cops must have spent on legal services in the matter rather boggles the mind. It would have been MUCH cheaper for the taxpayer if they had settled out of court. But to do that would have required at least an implicit admission of fault and they were clearly not adult enough for that.

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gillard good on free trade

JULIA GILLARD has declared that the decade-old push for global free trade has failed and unless a new, more realistic approach is adopted, the world could lurch back towards protectionism - and developing nations would suffer.

In a speech to more than 1200 business figures from around the world in Perth last night, the Prime Minister said that while a new approach was being pursued, Australia would continue to encourage other developed nations to embrace free trade by continuing to accept all imports from about 50 developing nations without tariffs or quotas. "I believe this is a path other developed economies should pursue - and it is one they could pursue now," she said.

"To encourage global action, Australia is prepared to keep leading the way in opening doors for developing nations."

Ms Gillard said the all-or-nothing Doha free trade push for a global free-trade agreement had to be abandoned because after 10 years there was no sign of a breakthrough.

Instead, a global free-trade agreement should be pursued sector by sector, such as in agriculture, manufacturing and services. "It is time to consider breaking the Doha round into more manageable parts and bringing them to successful conclusion as negotiations are completed," she said.

"We know that some issues are very close to resolution. It makes sense to conclude and implement these."

Ms Gillard said there were disturbing early signs that the world was retreating towards closed-door policies.

When trade ministers next met in Geneva in December, Australia would pledge to receive imports from the poorest countries free of tariffs and quotas, and not to adopt any protectionist measures while the free-trade pursuit continued.

The Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, who conceived the new approach, told the Herald the pledges would apply a gold standard. "We would ask other countries to meet that standard or go as close as they can."


Teaching in schools with a criminal record

TEACHERS are being allowed to work despite being found guilty of assault, drink driving and drug possession.

The information, obtained through a Freedom of Information request from Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire, also showed two approved applicants were dismissed following allegations of unprofessional conduct.

The Teachers Registration Board response revealed that between August 12, 2010, and September 5, 2011, 42 applicants made a declaration relating to questions about fitness and propriety.

The teacher with the longest list of charges was found guilty of property offences and minor drug offences in the late 1970s and early 1980s, followed by social security fraud/overpayment (1997), minor possession of cannabis (1998) and theft (2004).

Mr Brokenshire said the Government had to ensure "very careful analysis" of teachers to ensure high standards.

"There especially needs to be proper scrutiny and analysis when they come from interstate because if they have had a problem that could be the reason for the move," he said.

Teachers Registration Board of South Australia registrar Wendy Hastings said when an applicant indicated they had to make a declaration about fitness and propriety further inquiries were conducted.

"We're not talking about major robberies, serious assault or sexual abuse and in some cases they happened five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago," she said.

The information provided by the board stated one applicant was dismissed following allegations of unprofessional conduct and that with another teacher "regulatory authority is currently assessing the matter".

Ms Hastings said at the time of lodgement, the applicant was registered in another state.

"Appropriate checks were made ... with that state, which responded indicating there were no matters currently before the regulatory authority," she said.

In the other case, the applicant had successfully appealed his dismissal and was reinstated by his employer. After reinstatement the board granted provisional registration and a serious reprimand was issued. [A serious reprimand! Wow! That must have hurt!]


Court rules serial child rapist's identity to remain a secret

ONE of our worst paedophiles will keep his anonymity as he makes regular community outings, despite still being dangerous to children.

The serial child rapist is going shopping, socializing and visiting friends and there are plans for him to return to live in the community.

The Department of Justice urged Judge Wendy Wilmoth to let the man be named, saying those living in the places he visited should know the notorious figure was "in their midst".

David Grace QC had argued that the public should also know that the man was being kept under the watch of authorities.

The man is still considered such a risk that the County Court has ordered that he stay on a supervision order instead of being allowed total freedom.

That means he must live where he is told and obey other restrictions designed to protect the community.

But Judge Wilmoth refused to lift a secrecy order she made on the man's identity. This morning she continued the order, but her reasons are yet to be published.

The court earlier heard the serial child molester had been given approval for unescorted visits to Melbourne to see friends, and regularly visiting Ballarat for shopping and social activities.

There are plans to increase his liberty so he can eventually be allowed to live back in the community.

His lawyers had argued that more community outings would be difficult if the man's identity were known.


Greens organiser assisted "occupiers" in Melbourne

A GREENS Party organiser on the public payroll is in hot water after it was found he was helping the City Square protesters.

The Greens have been forced to defend staff member Jake Wishart after it emerged he helped the protest with media relations while on annual leave.

Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt's office denied Mr Wishart had helped organise the protests or that he had used any government resources on behalf of the protesters.

A spokesman told the Herald Sun Mr Wishart, who works as a part-time community engagement officer for Mr Bandt and has previously worked for Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, was at the protests but had not camped there and acted only as a media contact point.

"He's been on leave since last Wednesday and we understand while he's been on leave - particularly after what happened with the police - he was assisting some of the protesters with contacting the media," he said. "He's not an organiser of the protests and he's not intending to have any more engagement with the protests."

Police have revealed some of the troublemakers who refused to leave City Square when requested are known to police as serial protesters. The protests involved people from groups including Boycott Israeli Apartheid, Friends of the Earth, Anarchy, Latin Solidarity Movement, Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance.

Protest leaders will meet tonight to determine their next step - including possible disruption to the Queen's visit tomorrow.

The meeting, to be held at 6pm, will also go over plans to camp out in Treasury Gardens on Saturday.

Wurundjeri tribal elders said they were angry protesters claimed to have approval from them to camp in Treasury Gardens. "We most certainly have not given our approval," elder Wilma Xiberras said. "They have not got permission from the elders. "To get approval they should be coming to a full elders committee meeting. I spoke to a few of our elders and they haven't heard about it and they're very upset about it. "Whoever they've spoken to has done the wrong thing. Just not one person can do this."

Occupy Melbourne's Tal Slome said on Sunday approval had been sought and given by Wurundjeri elders. Occupy Melbourne's Indigenous committee contact declined to respond to questions yesterday.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Government trying to hand over a legitimate business to loan sharks

The demand for easy loans to poor people will always be there and will always require high interest rates to offset the costs and risks. So criminals will move in if such loans are banned or made unviable to legitimate business. And the crims will be MUCH worse to deal with than the present legit guys. Government regulation has already worsened the situation with their restrictions and they think more restrictions are going to make things better?

QUEENSLANDERS are losing their cars and their homes to payday lenders who exploit loopholes despite a State Government crackdown three years ago.

National Legal Aid has told the Federal Government that despite Queensland capping short-term loan costs at 48 per cent, lenders still find ways around the limit, including the use of high brokerage fees.

The Courier-Mail revealed the practice of writing loans in formats that don't attract the cap just after the law changed in 2008, prompting a fair trade investigation.

The Federal Government has been warned loophole schemes are still being used as it is on the cusp of introducing a new national cap of 2 per cent per month on loans under $2000.

"There are some (lenders) who have business models that are far more complex and no doubt there will eventually be litigation," Legal Aid consumer advocate Catherine Uhr said.

In one instance, a 25-year-old man on a disability pension and living with his mother had up to 35 loans with a series of providers using "anti-avoidance" techniques to get around the 48 per cent cap.

Ms Uhr said that in Queensland, many loans were secured over cars and property. "We see loans escalate. And the reason they've come to get legal advice is because they're losing their car or losing their home," she said. "There's nothing stopping you charging up to 48 per cent and taking security over the house in Queensland."

It comes as the industry yesterday tried to ramp up its opposition to the national cap on small loans, arguing the limits would make loans unviable and leave a hole in the lending market.

The Federal Government inquiry into the new legislation heard how most people took the loans out to cover spiralling utility bills, before finding themselves in a disastrous debt crisis.

Payday lenders attempted to defend themselves in the inquiry yesterday, with Money 3 chief Robert Bryant saying: "We don't sell money, we sell self esteem."

Cash Converters, the biggest provider of short-term loans in the country, told the inquiry the Bill would force them out of business.

Its submission to the inquiry, kept secret until yesterday, admitted that the company had turned to brokerage fees in Queensland in order to get around the cap.


"Independents" who betrayed their electorates find that their voters won't be bought

THEY'RE Parliament's billion-dollar men - between them securing almost $1 billion in new funding for their electorates in just over a year. But despite it all, they are in dire danger of losing their jobs.

Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott - two of the three independents who supported Julia Gillard to form government - have won a list of projects for their regional NSW electorates, already totalling more than $820 million by The Sydney Morning Herald's calculation and with announcements on another $1.1 billion in regional spending still to come.

Their agreement to form government guaranteed the pair - and their fellow independent Andrew Wilkie - three grants worth $456 million, more than a third of the total $1.3 billion handed out in a special "regional priority" round of the Health and Hospitals Infrastructure Fund, once the projects met certain criteria.

The other 111 grant proposals from around the country that also met the criteria, together requesting more than $2 billion, had to fight it out for the remaining $840 million.

But according to the latest Newspoll, despite the largesse and special treatment, Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott have suffered a dramatic decline in support, with voters in their electorates overwhelmingly opposing their decision to vote for the carbon pricing scheme.

Mr Windsor, the member for New England, said he hoped his constituents would eventually look at the bigger picture. "If you said you weren't bothered, you could be accused of taking your people for granted," he said. "But there's no election today and when there is an election, people will make a decision on the totality of my representation, rather than on the basis of myths about a carbon tax."

Mr Oakeshott said he hoped voters would reassess by looking at "fact over fiction and reality over rhetoric".

But the Coalition leader, Tony Abbott, said he would be standing "good candidates" in both electorates.

The grants for the Port Macquarie, Tamworth and Royal Hobart hospitals were three of the four biggest in the 62 awarded in the round. Only one other - to the Bega Valley Health Service in the marginal Labor seat of Eden-Monaro - exceeded $100 million.

The grants were selected by the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, and the cabinet from 114 proposals worth $2.4 billion that met the funding criteria, freedom-of-information documents supplied to the Herald show. Another 123 proposals did not meet the criteria.

A spokesman for Ms Roxon said that once the advisory board had confirmed the three projects in the independents' electorates met the criteria, they were "guaranteed funding because they had been part of the agreement to form government".

It is accepted practice that governments give preference to election spending promises provided they meet bureaucratic assessments.

But it is unclear whether the promises to the independents fall into this category considering they were made after the election, during the negotiation to form government. The funding guidelines and criteria did not indicate that the three grants would be preferred.


Sydney "occupiers" unimpressive too

Gerard Henderson

Visiting the Occupy Sydney demonstration outside the Reserve Bank in Martin Place on Friday was something of a surreal experience. Despite the placard quoting Marxist Che Guevara ("a true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love"), the demonstration was not about revolution. Rather, the prevailing mood was one of entitlement, as is the case in some 900 similar protests now occurring throughout the world.

While taking notes, I was approached by a young woman who wanted to tell me her story. It turned out she was an unemployed law graduate who had been looking for work for the past three months. Her problem? Well, she wanted to work in a relatively low-paying community law job but the only positions available for law graduates were in relatively high-paying CBD firms. Some injustice, don't you think?

When I asked why the number of demonstrators seemed small, the response was that many went to work during the day in the IT and other industries and returned to the protest site each evening. The group assembled that morning appeared to be students, unemployed young men and women and a few pensioners, all of whom would probably have been receiving some government-funded payment or subsidy.

This seemed at odds with the signs calling for the end of capitalism in general and taxation in particular. When I asked how the handouts could be funded if taxation was abandoned for the 99 per cent of Australians whom the protesters said they were representing, the young woman said she did not agree with all the placards. She also claimed to have no problem with the Reserve Bank or indeed capitalism. It turned out her real interest was climate change and she wanted huge increases in government subsidies for alternative energy projects. Now.

It seemed that the Occupy Sydney protesters had a sense of entitlement that extended far beyond jobs and policy. Their demands included Wi-Fi, toilets and the right to construct tents. City of Sydney councillor Shayne Mallard was reported as saying that he was supportive of legal protests but opposed "a protest of the anarchist left designed to provoke the authorities and businesses of the city". On Sunday, NSW Police broke up the camp. The move was backed by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, but criticised by the lord mayor, Clover Moore.

The Victoria Police had taken similar action in Melbourne on Friday. The Occupy Melbourne protests had turned parts of the Melbourne CBD into a moveable slum and disrupted numerous small businesses in the vicinity. The Sunday Age supported the demonstration, editorialising that "grassroots demonstrators do not threaten civic life, but in many ways enhance it". Needless to say, businesses losing serious money each day have a different conception of grassroots democracy.

On Saturday I walked past Melbourne's City Square. There was a heavy police and security presence. It seems the Victorian authorities have junked the hand-holding approach to civil disorder evident when Christine Nixon was police commissioner. The decision to clear the City Square was initiated by the Melbourne lord mayor, Robert Doyle, with the support of the Liberal premier, Ted Baillieu, Labor Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews and Gillard government minister Bill Shorten. The only prominent politician to support the demonstrators was the Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt.

Historically, the left in Australia has derided the influence of American culture. Yet the Occupy Sydney and Melbourne movements are a copy of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has taken over Zuccotti Park. The American protest is very much a production of the white middle class and it has also created a moveable slum among New York businesses and neighbourhoods.

However, there is, or should be, one essential difference between the protests. The crowd in Zuccotti Park should be directing its anger at the government in Washington presiding over near-record spending and debt accompanied by high levels of unemployment - a special worry among the young and African Americans.

Australia, on the other hand, has one of the strongest economies in the Western world with relatively low unemployment, primarily due to the economic reforms undertaken between 1983 and 2007 by the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments. Also, the Australian financial system was well-regulated. Here the reforms initiated by Peter Costello, to ensure the independence of the Reserve Bank and to establish the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, had a most beneficial effect when the global financial crisis occurred in 2008. Yet the Occupy Sydney movement saw fit to demonstrate outside the Reserve Bank.

Western democracies offer numerous opportunities for protests. The likes of Bandt and Moore take a soft attitude to this occupation of public places, but would be most unlikely to adopt a similar approach if the protesters constituted Tea Party imitators opposing a carbon tax or militant Christians opposing abortion or homosexuality.

One of the Occupy Melbourne organisers acknowledged that the demonstration did not have a point. Narcissism, however, is a very contemporary attitude.


This is the city that was going to die of drought, according to prominent Warmist Tim Flannery

Perth could receive a month's worth of rain this week alone - and more downfalls could be on the way to spoil the weekend Commonwealth Heads Of Government meeting.

Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke reported 28mm of rain in Perth since about 10pm last night and the the gauge is expected to get to 30mm before the showers clear later today.

Rain is then expected to return tomorrow and Thursday and, with a forecast for 10 to 20mm, the weekly rainfall could be pushing the October average of 52mm. "It's the biggest October rainfall in 12 years," Mr Dutschke said.

"Perth has had more than half its monthly rainfall overnight and, if the rain returns tomorrow and Thursday as we expect, it could be up around the month's average by week's end."

CHOGM will get underway on Friday with much fanfare but, by Sunday, participants and on-lookers could be again reaching for their umbrellas.

"There is a chance of the showers and storms returning on the weekend - probably moreso Sunday than Saturday," Mr Dutschke said.

"At the moment most of that weather looks like being to the north but there is some chance it will be seen in Perth as well." Several areas of the wheatbelt also received strong overnight falls.