Thursday, March 08, 2012

Former student radical to be appointed ABC chairman

They don't mention below that he was a student radical but he was. I was there at the time

The former chief justice of the Supreme Court of NSW, Jim Spigelman, is to be appointed chairman of the ABC. An announcement is expected to be made by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, today or tomorrow, sources say.

Cabinet approval was given on Monday for Mr Spigelman to take up the part-time $151,000-a-year post.

Mr Spigelman, who retired from the bench last May, replaces the former stockbroker Maurice Newman, who stepped down at the end of last year.

Mr Newman's tenure at times was marked by controversy. He said journalists had succumbed to groupthink because they failed to predict the global financial crisis and his parting shot was a suggestion to merge the ABC and SBS to save money.

Facing Mr Spigelman will be a long list of issues, the top of which is how the ABC remains relevant in a changing media landscape and its response to the government's review on convergence in the media.

He will also have to negotiate another round of triennial funding and ask for more money as the corporation expands its reach with new channels and appears on more digital devices.

The appointment completes a circle in a career that began with the then nascent area of communications in the Whitlam government.

Mr Spigelman's long association with Labor - he was an adviser to Gough Whitlam and in 1975 was appointed secretary to the first department of the media - will inevitably attract some accusations that he is a political appointee, a charge often levelled at his predecessor, who was a close friend of John Howard.

Mr Spigelman dropped a heavy hint that he was heading for the role at a breakfast talk a fortnight ago. He was asked what he thought about the corporation moving into new genres. "That's also something I don't have an informed opinion about but I'm looking forward to developing one," he replied.


Conservatives will allow some industries to fail

The Coalition is not discounting the Australian dollar hitting $US1.25 as it shapes policy proposals for those industries which would be most affected.

In a broad-ranging speech on the economy yesterday, the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, said that if elected, the Coalition would ask the Productivity Commission to look into the dollar and other structural changes which were afflicting industry and "recommend appropriate government responses".

Mr Hockey said that according to some analysts, "it is not inconceivable for the Australian dollar to reach $US1.25 over the next 12 to 18 months".

"It is time to carefully consider what a comparatively high Australian dollar means for key sectors of our economy," he said.

In a warning to those in the Coalition advocating protectionism, Mr Hockey said it would not be propping up unsustainable industries.

While it was worth providing help to those industries facing short-to-medium-term pressures, such as the high dollar, industries which are proving unsustainable over the longer term for many reasons would not be saved.

While they could be eligible for such assistance as retraining or relocating workers, "we should not, however, be in the business of propping up industries that for many reasons do not have a sustainable future in Australia", he said.

He said the "brutal truth" was that managers and consumers, not government, would determine the fate of individual businesses.

Mr Hockey did not single out any specific industries but his words were, in part, a message to those colleagues pushing for tighter regulation of the supermarket giants, Coles and Woolworths.

Also, in January, Mr Hockey won an internal battle to ensure the Coalition would not increase assistance to the automotive industry by 2015 by matching the $500 million extra that Labor has pledged.

The Coalition has also yet to announce what assistance it will provide the car industry post-2015.

While much of Mr Hockey's speech was spent attacking the government, he agreed the Reserve Bank was Australia's frontline defence against another financial crisis.

With the budget in deficit because of the stimulus measures taken to keep the global financial crisis at bay, the government believes monetary policy - decreased interest rates - should be the first weapon deployed should further stimulus be required.

"Under the Coalition, the budget will not be the first lever pulled in the event of another downturn," Mr Hockey said. "I would prefer to see greater use of monetary policy for managing demand, with movements in interest rates to smooth the economic cycle."

However, Mr Hockey would face the same problem as the government because the big four banks, Westpac, ANZ, NAB and the Commonwealth, now ignore the signals sent by the Reserve.

Last month, after the Reserve Bank left its rates on hold, the big four increased their rates, a move that would slow growth rather than help it.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said yesterday there was no excuse for the behaviour of the big banks.

After a recent week of confusion and conflicting messages within the Coalition about when it would return the budget to surplus, Mr Hockey pledged yesterday that there would be a surplus year in the Coalition's first year in power along with each subsequent year of its first term.


Conservatives to allow culling of hordes of bats

There's millions of them in thousands of colonies so they are not remotely "endangered"

THE RSPCA and about 40 animal and conservation groups say an LNP plan to reintroduce shooting and electrocution of native flying foxes is a return to the dark ages. They have pledged to fight the move, which is aimed at helping farmers reduce damage to orchards. It is likely to be challenged in court on cruelty grounds, with electrocution having been banned for a decade and shooting for four years.

RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said his organisation remained apolitical but strongly opposed the policy. "The RSPCA has advised Queensland governments that electrocution and shooting of flying foxes is inhumane," Mr Beatty said. "...Most Queenslanders abhor cruelty and would oppose the use of inhumane methods for crop protection. "We've been trying to talk to (LNP Leader) Campbell Newman about this ... but his office tells us he's too busy to be talking to organisations such as ours."

Opposition agriculture spokesman Andrew Cripps told Parliament last year the LNP would continue low interest loans for bat netting and would encourage farmers to use non-lethal methods. "...An LNP government will reintroduce damage mitigation permits to farmers to use lethal deterrent where non-lethal deterrent have failed," Mr Cripps said.

Opposition environment spokesman Andrew Powell said in a statement the policy balanced conservation with public health and agricultural production.

An LNP Government will work with councils and landholders affected by nuisance colonies of flying foxes to ensure human health and agricultural productivity are not adversely affected," he said. "An LNP Government will overhaul the damage mitigation permit system in relation to moving bat colonies."

Shooting is deemed cruel because of a high rate of wounding. A 2009 study found that of 146 bats shot, 44 were wounded and would have died slowly and the young of 41 lactating females left in roosts also would have died from dehydration and starvation.

Wildlife Preservation Society spokesman Des Boyland said governments should help nationally threatened species such as spectacled and grey-headed flying-foxes, not shoot them, and if the LNP wanted to ease problems for farmers, they could look at subsidising netting.

Bats Conservation and Rescue president Louise Saunders said her organisation rehabilitated nearly 1000 of the tree pollinators a year and it would be bitterly disappointing to see killing reintroduced. It was irrational that possums, rats and birds did substantial damage to fruiting crops yet flying foxes received disproportionate blame.

Queensland Conservation spokeswoman Carol Booth said if the ban was overturned, thousands of animal would be killed annually.


Hospitals face $170m hit from sick carbon tax

VICTORIA'S health system faces a $170 million carbon tax slug in the next decade. A secret report reveals the controversial tax will add 15 per cent to hospital power bills.

Private hospital patients also face higher charges, as leading operators warn they will pass on tens of millions of dollars in costs of the Gillard Government's greenhouse emissions scheme.

2A report commissioned by the Victorian Department of Health reveals the state's public hospitals will have to find $12.3 million more for energy bills in the first year of the carbon tax.

Cost increases will also hit medical supplies such as anaesthetic. Ambulance and hospital catering bills will soar.

Hospital catering costs will rise by $131,000 from next year, while Victoria's ambulance service will have to find an extra $334,000 as higher energy and aviation fuel costs flow through.

The total annual tax hit from July across the public health sector will be $13.4 million.

The Sinclair Knight Merz report, obtained by the Herald Sun, shows carbon tax costs will rise to $14.8 million in 2014 and hit $19 million by 2020. Over 10 years, the total cost to the Victorian public health system will be $170 million - about two thirds of the price of a new Monash Children's Hospital, which is still to be financed.

According to the report, "the carbon price results in an average real increase of 14 per cent" in electricity prices while natural gas will rise by an even steeper 16 per cent next year.

For Melbourne's biggest public hospitals, such as the Alfred and the Austin, the annual cost will be about $1 million. "Should the Federal Government not come to the party and compensate our hospitals for this massive impost, it's Victorian patients that will suffer," Health Minister David Davis said. "This tax will slow the growth in operations and other patient services."

Private hospitals warned the tax could result in higher private higher insurance premiums.

Chris Rex, the head of Australia's largest private hospital chain, Ramsey Health Care, said his company expects to pass on the costs.

A spokesman for federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said the costs of health services were forecast to rise by just 0.3 per cent - 10c a week for the average household - according to Treasury modelling.

The Government will provide increased family payments and pensions to counter the effects of the carbon tax on family living costs.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Spigelman, Finklestein, I'm starting to see a pattern here.