Saturday, January 14, 2012

Federal government aid to private schools to continue

Even under a Leftist government. With 39% of Australian teenagers going to non-government schools, anything else would consign the Left to years in the political wilderness. "Biffo" Latham's threat to private schools was a major factor in his undoing. His party lost that election and they have obviously not forgotten

PETER GARRETT has predicted a shake-up of school funding will not reignite class divisions, declaring the nation has moved on from debates about funding private schools.

The panel charged with reviewing funding, chaired by the businessman David Gonski, handed its report to Mr Garrett, the School Education Minister, shortly before Christmas.

Mr Garrett is developing the government's response, which will be released with the report early in the new school year.

The opposition's education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, has predicted the government will cut funding to private schools, forcing them to increase fees or sack staff.

But Mr Garrett said despite Mr Pyne's "mischievous" contributions, the debate on funding schools had been "mature."

"I would certainly caution against the opposition thinking that there is some window of opportunity once a report of this kind is released to reignite those stale old ideological warfare exercises," Mr Garrett said. "We're in a different place as a country now. We recognise that we have a government system and non-government systems of education and we need to have an approach that applies to all systems, and that's what we're aiming for."

Mr Pyne said the opposition was taking its cues from Mr Garrett's refusal to rule out cuts to school funding indexation.

"Millions of parents with children in non-government schools are waiting to see how much their school fees will be going up because of the Gillard government's changes to school funding," Mr Pyne said.

Labor went to the 2007 election promising to preserve the Howard government's system for four years, and in the 2010 campaign sought to neutralise the issue by promising to extend those arrangements until the end of next year. Mr Garrett said Labor had boosted funding while the Coalition had promised cuts.


Leftist attack on Australia's most promising industry

It's only the miners who keep Australia prosperous but this new slug amounts to an attack on new mines as well as a general disincentive to mining

THE Bligh government in Queensland has angered miners with a $370 million cash grab before the start to the federal government's mining tax. The new charges - including a radical cash-bidding system for coal permits - were announced by the Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, yesterday as part of efforts to bring the budget back to surplus before the state election.

Queensland Resources Council said the charges would hit junior miners most. The chief executive of the lobby group, Michael Roche, said the $370 million in new charges by 2014-15 was "predicated on a flawed assumption that minerals and energy companies are bottomless cash pits".

"Most small to medium explorers and developers operate on shoestring budgets because of the high-risk nature of their activities," Mr Roche said. "These are the people the state government has previously said it wants to encourage but again has shown no hesitation in loading them up with new charges, this time in the form of permit and tenure transfer charges."

Another lobby group, the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, expressed extreme disappointment with the new charges, particularly the game-changing introduction of a tender process on coal exploration permits.

"This process which is effective immediately is inequitable and discriminates against small and emerging exploration companies," said its regional manager, Ross Musgrove. "This process only adds to the complexity for small and emerging exploration companies accessing land in Queensland and we are very disappointed there has been no consultation … AMEC strongly discourages cash-bidding tender processes, as small and emerging companies will be disadvantaged."


Rudd in talks over Iran asylum surge

I must say that I am fairly sympathetic to people wishing to escape the Iranian theocracy -- JR

The Federal Government says it is concerned about a "new challenge" emerging in the international world of people smuggling. Recent figures on boat arrivals show the number of people from Iran has risen sharply in the past few months, with Iranian asylum seekers using Indonesia as a transit point to get to Australia.

Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd has raised the issue with his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa.

Indonesia's foreign ministry spokesman Michael Tene says they were told that Iranians now comprise almost 50 per cent of those seeking asylum in Australia.

It is understood that two years ago the number of Iranians on the Immigration Department's case load was 6 per cent. A year later it was 36 per cent, and now it is approaching 50 per cent, which means almost half the number of people arriving in Australia by boat are from one country.

In Indonesia's view the issue is not specifically about Iran, but more about the task of tackling a tricky regional subject; in this instance, with people coming in via Dubai.

"My understanding is from the information provided for Mr Rudd that the Iranians would be asylum seekers. They came through Dubai, then to Bali, then from there their effort is to get into Australia," Mr Tene said.

The two foreign ministers agreed to share more information about the flow of people and on finding ways to disrupt the so-called pipelines.

Meanwhile, Australia has decided not to pursue a people smuggling kingpin who has just stepped out of an Indonesian jail. Zamin Ali, also known as Haji Sakhi, had been in prison since May 2010 for offences related to people smuggling. Australia had been seeking to extradite the Pakistani national, but just a few days before his release withdrew the application.

The Attorney-General's department says authorities are no longer in a position to prosecute him for the alleged crimes.


Taking taxpayers for a ride

Last week, consultancy firm KPMG published its Global Auto Executive Survey for 2012, in which executives from the world’s leading car manufacturers were asked about the situation of their industry. One of their key concerns was global overcapacity, estimated at somewhere between 20% and 30%.

It is against this background that we have to evaluate the federal government’s decision to grant Ford new subsidies towards the production of its Falcon model; it is likely that new support to Holden will be announced shortly. While Ford will receive an additional $53 million from Australian taxpayers, GM Holden is seeking up to $200 million to continue its Commodore production in Adelaide.

By international standards, both Ford Australia and Holden have always been small. With the rise of new car manufacturers in Asia, they are looking even smaller. All Australian manufacturers have a combined annual production of roughly 240,000 vehicles. Even countries like Romania, Taiwan and Belgium produce more. Australia’s annual output is dwarfed by that of South Korea (4.3 million vehicles), Japan (9.6 million) and China (18 million).

Car manufacturing for the mass market is an industry in which size clearly matters because of scale effects. If Australia did not already have a legacy car industry, it clearly would not be established under the current conditions. This tiny industry almost exclusively catering for our tiny market is simply unable to compete with much more efficient car manufacturers abroad.

If a business proposition is no longer viable, then companies need to draw the right conclusions. Indeed, in the KPMG survey, car executives responded that the global overcapacity should be dealt with through cuts in production and industry consolidation. Presumably, that means the weakest car manufacturers should go.

The response of the government is the opposite. By pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars into an industry that will remain unviable for the indefinite future, government is keeping Australian car manufacturing alive for political reasons.

This is an act of cowardice. A courageous government would not give in to the extortionate demands of global car corporates General Motors and Ford, but rather would explain to the Australian public that there is no justification for a car industry that cannot survive without ongoing taxpayer support.

A car industry is only worth having if it is able to stand on its own feet. Keeping an industry alive for the sake of having an industry is economic folly and a waste of taxpayers’ resources.


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