Thursday, May 30, 2013

ABC's new fact checker Russell Skelton accused of left-wing bias over tweets

THE ABC's new chief fact checker has been accused of left-wing bias over tweets criticising Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and other coalition MPs.

Tweets read at a budget estimates hearing last night show Fact Checking Unit editor Russell Skelton also targeted the Coalition MP controversially mocked by his wife, ABC Breakfast host Virginia Trioli, during a live television interview four years ago.

But the government last night said the opposition was trying to intimidate Mr Skelton, a Walkley Award winner and former senior newspaper journalist, adding that some of the criticisms read out were factually accurate.

Tweets show Mr Skelton often links to articles negative of Mr Abbott, who he describes as "The Monk" in some tweets, and appears to add his own criticism to the article link.

In one recent case, Mr Skelton also retweeted a tweet by someone else saying opposition senator Eric Abetz wanted to start a "race war" with Aboriginals.

In multiple tweets, Mr Skelton criticised Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce, who received an apology from Ms Trioli in 2009 after being caught on camera twirling her finger around her ear and pulling a crazy face while he spoke.

Mr Skelton described Mr Joyce in tweets as "super snide'', a "dense, opportunistic carpetbagger'' and "Bananaby'' while referring to Joe Hockey as "not the sharpest pencil in the box''.

The fact-checking unit will assess political statements ahead of the federal election and rule on their accuracy.

ABC managing director Mark Scott told the hearing a fact checker did not express opinions but rather checked claims, noting all journalists voted but the test was the content they produced.

"There is no suggestion at all a retweet is an endorsement of an view,'' he said of the race war tweet.

Senator Abetz questioned the appointment, saying articles by Mr Skelton had also been corrected by the ABC's Mediawatch, including for not telling both sides of a story.  "Your own Mediawatch has pinged him!'' he said.

After Senator Abetz raised a tweet by Mr Skelton about a poll accompanied with the phrase "Abbott now a liability, a proverbial albatross'', Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the questioning was "blatant intimidation'' from the opposition.

"That would be factually accurate!'' Senator Conroy said.

Mr Scott said the tweets were made before Mr Skelton’s appointment was announced.


Solar has increased electricity prices, says Qld. government

Solar power users and green schemes have been singled out by the state government as responsible for driving up the state's electricity prices.

Energy minister Mark McArdle said advice from the Queensland Competition Authority had shown the Commonwealth's Renewable Energy Target Scheme added $102 to the average electricity bill, while the Solar Bonus Scheme cost $67.

"When you add $190 for the carbon tax this means 18.9 per cent of an average $1900 annual electricity bill is made up of green schemes," Mr McArdle said in a statement.

"By 2015-16 the solar bonus scheme will increase to $276 on an average bill, which could see the price of green schemes reach $621 on average per year if the carbon tax is not repealed."

Solar Citizens, an advocacy group supported by ‘‘a number of community and industry organisations’’, has dismissed Mr McArdle’s statement as ‘‘unfair and misleading’’.

“The primary driver of rising energy bills in QLD is increasing network costs,” Solar Citizens’ campaign manager Dr Geoff Evans said.

“In fact, the Queensland Competition Authority recently released data that shows that solar users only amount to 7 per cent of a family’s electricity cost — with nearly 70 per cent of an electricity bill going to network and retail costs.’’

Mr McArdle issued the statement ahead of the QCA announcing on Friday an anticipated 21 to 22 per cent increase in the retail price for electricity.

When releasing its draft determination in February, the QCA laid some of the blame for the massive price hike at the state government's feet, claiming its decision to freeze the tariff 11 last year had forced the authority to play catch up.

"So low-use customers have not been paying enough to cover the costs of their supply and high-use customers have been paying more than the cost of their supply," the QCA said at the time.

"This is changing, so that customers' bills better reflect the costs of their electricity use.

"As a result, low consumption customers will see a high percentage increase in their bill as the fixed service fee is increased."

But Mr McArdle blamed green schemes, saying the state government was "looking at ways" it could reduce their impact on households.

"The overly generous solar bonus scheme gave significant cash windfalls to those customers who installed solar PV [Photovoltaic panels] on domestic roofs, but the scheme did not pass on the real costs to the electricity network, to support solar PV," he said.

"It is not right that the 80 per cent of customers who do not have solar are expected to pay the full price of the 20 per cent who have solar.

"Some customers with solar are getting a very generous $0.44 feed-in tariff (FiT) and should make a fair contribution towards the upgrade of the electricity network needed to support their solar PV."

But Mr McArdle said the government would not be changing the solar feed-in tariff that was legislated by the former government until 2028.

Mr McArdle said it would "cost other electricity consumers almost $3 billion to support".

Instead he said the government would consider "a range of other options" to make the "system more equitable".


Qld. Building Services Authority to be scrapped and replaced with new watchdog

About time

THE controversial Building Services Authority will be scrapped and replaced with a new commission in a move the Newman Government says will restore confidence in the system.

Housing Minister Tim Mander will today announce his plans to create a new building and construction watchdog after a parliamentary committee released a scathing review of the BSA last year and recommended it be replaced and the system overhauled.

He said legislation was expected to be introduced into State Parliament next week to establish the new Queensland Building and Construction Commission to take over from the BSA in January next year.

A new complaints review unit will be set up within the commission but will remain independent to ensure builders and consumers can appeal decisions, the home warranty scheme will be retained and possibly broadened while an implementation committee with also be established to help determine a new disputes and review process.

"The whole challenge has been to balance the rights of contractors and consumers," Mr Mander said. "We want both those groups, consumers and contractors to have confidence in the system."

Current BSA general manager Ian Jenning's contract will be terminated year's end but Mr Mander said Mr Jennings was welcome to apply for the new commissioner role.

"We have put together a 10-point action plan for the future," the Minister said.

The Queensland Building and Construction Commission will be run by a professional board and a commissioner.  "The commissioner will report to the board and the board will report to me," Mr Mander said.

The commission would include a number of general managers whose areas of responsibility would be firewalled from each other to avoid conflicts of interest.

A rapid dispute adjudication system will be implemented to allow builders and consumers to raise disputes before a contract is finished or terminated.

"Being able to intervene far earlier in disputes and also putting in processes that will actually stop disputes in the first place will mean there will be far less issues going to QCAT . . . " Mr Mander said. "And of course there's the right of review of decision which consumers haven't had in the past, nor builders."

A building ratings system could be introduced along with consumer incentives for those who undertake some form of education or training.

Licensing, compliance and auditing practices will also be overhauled along with the penalties scheme.


Remand prisoner severely bashed

A remand prisoner is one who has not been convicted of any crime.  There will be a big compensation claim out of this  -- which will be borne by the taxpayer

A FATHER has had three conflicting explanations of how his son suffered severe head injuries while on remand in the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre last week.

Russell Smulders is on life support in the Princess Alexandra Hospital after the mystery incident at the jail last Tuesday.

His father, Russell Smulders Snr, said he was told his son had slipped while mopping, had fallen while playing basketball and had run into a wall in a touch football game.

He said doctors told him his son's injuries were inconsistent with an accident. Corrective Services said there was no CCTV footage.

"He has severe brain damage - if he lives, he will never have any motor skills again," Mr Smulders Snr said. "He's got damage to the right temple, he's got a back head injury, he's got a shoulder injury and spinal injury."

Corrective Services yesterday said that "given the seriousness of the injuries", Commissioner Marlene Morison had asked the chief inspector to investigate.

"Early indications are the prisoner was injured while participating in supervised physical activity (touch football) in the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre gymnasium," it said.

In a separate incident, alleged loan shark and standover man Christophe Phillipe Bertomeu was taken to the PA Hospital last week after an assault by another prisoner in Arthur Gorrie.

Prison staff have also been assaulted in a series of attacks and the United Voice union says it is concerned about safety and security in the prison.

Smulders, 25, is charged with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing his wife Analeigh in the chest and stomach at Crestmead, in Logan, in November.

He was under observation after he jumped from the top floor of a building in an attempt to take his life in December, his father said.

The family has regularly featured in newspapers and magazines because of its size, with Smulders the eldest of 15 siblings.

Mr Smulders Snr said he was first advised of the injuries in a phone call from a nurse at Arthur Gorrie about 2pm last Tuesday.

"She said, 'I have an eyewitness that Russell was mopping the floor and he slipped over'," he said.

Mr Smulders Snr flew from his Sydney home to Brisbane and met hospital staff, including doctors who said his son had fallen while playing basketball.

Corrective Services subsequently told him Smulders ran into a wall while playing touch football.

"The neurosurgeon has discounted everything. None of those fit the injuries," he said.



Paul said...

Green energy. A brilliant example of ill-conceived policy based on fairy tales, and even then not thought through in the slightest. Now we get to witness the unintended consequences.

Paul said...

"He said doctors told him his son's injuries were inconsistent with an accident"

Love to know the finer details. we had a similar one some years ago. Its hard to make what was basically strangulation look like blunt trauma, but media can do anything if its called for.

Anonymous said...

Corrective service staff and their stupid useless management from ethical standards f wits to the police section to the intel section...what a joke.....what a joke...and the biggest fool is morison the drag queen who wouldn't know her back from her from, she is useless, stupid and a disgrace to any woman....