Thursday, May 16, 2013

Leftist government says conservatives stand for hate speech

Everything that the Left disagrees with is hate speech

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Mark Dreyfus has accused the opposition of defending hate speech, not free speech, after his Coalition counterpart George Brandis's charge that the government was waging war against freedom of expression.

Yesterday The Australian previewed a speech Senator Brandis gave at the Sydney Institute last night.

"This government is engaged in a multi-front war against the traditional liberal conception of freedom of speech," he said, "sometimes by overt acts, but just as commonly by fostering a climate of opinion in which the centrality of the right to freedom of speech . . . is increasingly being questioned."

But ahead of the address Mr Dreyfus said the words were a disguise for "Tony Abbott's real plan to strip away laws in the Racial Discrimination Act that protect people from hate speech".

He described section 18C of the act -- which was used to silence columnist Andrew Bolt -- as an essential tool in stamping out vilification based on a person's race, colour or ethnic origin, saying: "When Mr Abbott and Senator Brandis claim that repealing these laws is in the interests of freedom of speech, they really mean freedom to commit virulent hate speech."

Senator Brandis dismissed the allegation. "I'm disappointed that a barrister of Mr Dreyfus's experience would make the beginner's error of commenting on a document he has not read," he said. "Nothing in my speech says what Mr Dreyfus asserts. Perhaps I am owed an apology."

Senator Brandis said last night the Australian Human Rights Commission was helping muzzle the right to freedom of expression. He cited comments by AHRC head Gillian Triggs to a Senate estimates committee about its activities during the press freedom debate.

"At a time when . . . freedom of speech . . . has been the subject of public discussion to an unprecedented degree, the response of the government's own human rights watchdog is to emphasise its limits."


Prospects for NDIS blowout

The Centre for Independent Studies has played a leading role in the debate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the financial sustainability of the scheme into the future.

Many of these issues have finally received widespread coverage following the government’s announcement that it would break another promise and raise another tax by introducing an NDIS levy to help cover the cost of its budget deficit. The opposition quickly followed suit, announcing its support for the tax increase.

The CIS’ work on the NDIS has focused on the prospect of a financial blowout in the scheme, which is expected to provide lifetime care and support to around 441,000 people at a cost of $22 billion a year when it is fully operational in 2018–19.

These figures do not take into account the many additional financial and political risks that could affect the overall cost of the scheme.

In particular, there will be substantial political pressure to expand the scope of the scheme to the 500,000 disability pensioners who will not be eligible to receive NDIS supports. Another 600,000 people aged over 65 years who have a severe or profound disability will also be excluded from NDIS supports.

Despite an annual spend of around $22 billion, future governments will face substantial political pressure from more than 1 million people who have a vested interest in expanding the scheme even further. Disability sector workforce shortages have the potential to drive increases in the overall cost of the scheme as well.

Government expenditure on the NDIS is expected to grow at around 6% every year and has been budgeted accordingly. However, if the experiences of similar schemes like Medicare or New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation are anything to go by, the NDIS could have average annual expenditure growth of around 8% per year, which would make the entire scheme financially unsustainable in the long run.


China's hunger for Australian iron ore tipped to grow

Australia's economic fortunes have become increasingly tied to China's, and over the past decade the strength of Asia's economic giant has delivered considerable benefits to Australia.

But recent predictions from certain quarters suggest that China's growth might not be sustainable and that some large commodity exporters could be looking to take a hit in the near future.

However, enormous volumes of iron ore from the Pilbara continue to sail into Ningbo port, just south of Shanghai on China's wealthy south-eastern coastal strip.

Ningbo Port iron ore terminal general manager Han Weixu says as soon as the large ships now in port have left, others are waiting to take their berths.

He says they unload 300 iron ore ships a year – half of them from Australia.

"China needs to improve its steel production capacity for its economic development," he said.

"The iron ore we use mostly comes in from overseas and Australia is the most important import partner for us.

"In 2012, 47 million tonnes of iron ore came through this port, of which 24 million tonnes were from Australia.

"This iron ore goes to the steel factories along the Yangtze River as well as Hunan and Jiangxi provinces."

Australia's big miners are all expanding at the moment to deliver even more iron ore to China which has prompted some analysts to warn of an oversupply that could drive down prices and eat into profits.

There is also fear that steel overproduction in China could see iron ore demand fall away.

Yet Mr Han is in constant contact with China's steel companies and is well placed to hazard a guess at how much ore they will want this year and even into the future.

"In 2013, we predict we will handle 51.5 million tonnes and that Australian iron ore will increase to between 25 million and 26 million tonnes," he said.

"In 2014, we think the volume will reach 56 million tonnes and that Australian iron ore will reach 27 million to 28 million tonnes."

As China's drift to the cities goes on apace and probably still has decades to play out, what was once a country of farmers is being utterly urbanised requiring new subways, roads, bridges and the like.

Apart from the port, Ningbo is also an industrial hub which has attracted Ningbo Zhonglian Steel Structure Company - an Australian outfit building steel structures.

Chairman Sean McMonagle says the joint venture is between Queensland mining structure company Sun Engineering and partners from Canada, Britain and the United States, who have banded together to cash in on the production advantages that come with scale.

"I honestly thought I was going to come into factories where people would be in bare feet and welding with no helmets," he said.

"I went to a factory in Shanghai that had more technology than shops I'd seen in Australia had more social conscience than some shops that I'd seen in Australia.

"I thought to myself, 'if this is the competition at the price they're offering, we're doomed if we don't get on to this bandwagon'."

Because Australia avoided the worst of the global financial crisis it kept buying steel structures from the company, constructed using the same iron ore which Australia sent in the first place - much of it going back into the mining industry.

Mr McMonagle says it has experienced 20 per cent growth every year and he expects it will be better in the future.

However, he said one of the challenges - especially with as much as 95 per cent of it for export - is convincing the global market of the product's quality, so Sun Engineering tradesmen have been bought in to train local staff and ensure quality.

However, Mr McMonagle says confidence in China's immediate economic future does not only stem from the orders the company is getting.

"You look at some of the housing and building and infrastructure that's going on around us here and some of these high-rise accommodation complexes: you're talking 30, 40-storey buildings and you've got 15 of them in one development - that's just huge," he said.

"But not only have you got that you've got that happening 10 times just around this little city ... and you think this is happening all over China."


New taxes 'flogging' mining industry: CME

The WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy says the removal of immediate tax deductions for the mining sector are "flogging" an industry that is supporting the Australia economy.

The chamber's economic and tax manager Shannon Burdeu says the changes to upfront tax benefits for exploration will add an additional burden on small and mid-cap miners.

In a move expected to save billions of dollars, the Federal Government has deferred a deduction that allows miners to claim exploration costs when they take over other mining companies.

Instead they will be able to claim the deduction over 15 years or the life of the mine.

Ms Burdeu says the measure will place further strain on an industry already struggling with high production costs.

"This is just an additional tax burden on the resources sector when ideally economic policy should be looking towards creating jobs and growing the economy rather than flogging the industry that really is supporting the economy with additional tax burdens," she said.

WA's Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the changes will constrain mining growth in WA.

The CCI's chief economist John Nicolaou says targeting exploration companies is a step in the wrong direction.

"All that will do is make it more difficult and constrain the ability for these companies to fund exploration and, in effect, create new opportunities through the development of mining operations," he said.

Mr Nicolaou says the move will exacerbate already tough conditions in the industry.

"This comes at a time when business conditions are as tough as they have been for many years," he said.

"And, if the government is to deliver on its rhetoric around supporting jobs and growth, its actions shouldn't be the reverse."

Exploration in greenfields areas are still eligible for an immediate tax deduction.


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