Wednesday, July 31, 2013



'Caring' Greens unveil asylum policy to increase nation's refugee intake

The Greens would strip away all deterrents from refugee policy and aim to stop deaths at sea by dramatically increasing Australia's refugee intake and boosting the capacity of the United Nations refugee agency to process claims in Indonesia.

The pre-election policy to be released on Wednesday would also shut down detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, give work rights to those in the community and lift the ban on people in refugee-producing countries coming directly by air to seek asylum.

It would also appoint an Australian ambassador for refugee protection to help broker a regional co-operation response modelled on the approach of Malcolm Fraser with Vietnamese asylum seekers in the 1970s.

The policy has been criticised by Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison who says it "won't stop the boats". Meanwhile, bad weather had delayed the transfer of the first asylum seekers to Manus Island under the Rudd Government's agreement with Papua New Guinea.

Buoyed by polling showing only one in three voters trusts the major parties to "handle refugees with care", the Greens will market themselves as the only party offering "compassion, legality and the only model for saving refugee lives at sea that has ever really worked".

"If you want to stop the people-smuggling business, you have to undercut it, and that means providing a viable option that does not force refugees into the hands of people smugglers in the first place," says the party's spokeswoman on asylum, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Greens leader Christine Milne will propose a doubling of funding to the United Nations refugee agency to speed up assessment and resettlement of asylum seekers in Indonesia and Malaysia, and a 10,000 increase in Australia's refugee intake. One in three places in the 30,000 program would be set aside for refugees assessed by the UN agency in the region, including at least 3800 in Indonesia.

Senator Milne said the Parliamentary Budget Office has costed an increase in the humanitarian program to 30,000 at $2.5 billion over four years, a fraction of the amount spent on offshore processing.

A Galaxy poll commissioned by the Greens found that almost 50 per cent of voters did not trust either Labor or the Liberals "to put caring for refugees before political interest". The same proportion did not trust either of the major parties to "handle refugees with care".

"Both parties are moving so far to the right, it's difficult to imagine the next level of cruelty they could possibly engage in," Senator Milne told Fairfax Media. "They are bringing shame on Australia in a national and global sense."

Spending an extra $70 million a year to boost the UNHCR's capacity in the region was in line with recommendations of the Gillard government's expert panel and would "take pressure off people feeling like they have no other option than to be on boats".

The policy commits the Greens to restore Australia's migration zone "to match our land and sea territory"; to guarantee legal review and community detention options for refugees who receive adverse ASIO security assessments; and to replace the immigration minister with an independent guardian for unaccompanied children seeking asylum.

Coalition critical

But Mr Morrison said he did not agree with the Greens plan, telling ABC radio that with so many refugees worldwide, increasing the intake would not make a difference.

"We don't agree that increasing the intake at the end of the day when you've got less than one per cent of the world's refugees actually getting resettlement . . .  moving that dial by 4 or 5,000 either way is going to make any real difference," he said.

The Coalition's policy is to reduce the current humanitarian intake from 20,000 people a year to 13,750 a year, including 11,000 reserved for offshore applicants.

"Not one of those visas will be given to someone who has arrived illegally by boat," he told ABC Radio. 

Mr Morrison said the risk of the Greens policy is "you don't want to create Indonesia as a magnate for people to move into either".

He said the Coalition's "Operation Sovereign Borders" was designed to stop people coming to the region.

Earlier on Wednesday, Senator Milne criticised the major parties for their asylum seeker policies, saying it was not a military or border security issue but a humanitarian one.

She also said that deterrence did not work when it came to dealing with asylum seeker flows. "We've seen an absolutely horrible and farcical raising of the stakes," she told ABC Radio.

PNG solution

Under the Government's policy, all boat arrivals will be sent to Manus Island for processing and eventual settlement in Papua New Guinea if they are found to be refugees.

The first asylum seekers bound for Manus Island had been scheduled to leave Australia on Tuesday evening, arriving some time on Wednesday morning, but a spokesman for the Department of Immigration on Wednesday confirmed the transfer had been delayed due to poor weather.

Arrangements were being made for the group to be sent to PNG as soon as possible.

They will be the first arrivals since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his PNG counterpart, Peter O'Neill, agreed to expand asylum seeker processing two weeks ago.

The initial group is likely to consist of only men, with women and children to be moved at a later date.

The fourth and final flight carrying equipment destined for Manus arrived in PNG earlier this week, with work continuing to expand the facility.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke said on Wednesday that it would take about a day for asylum seekers in Australia to be transferred to Manus Island. People will not be sent from Australia, however, until health checks are complete.

The minister said the facilities at Manus Island were not yet ready for family groups, as he wanted them separate from single adult males.

"At the moment, I'm only comfortable with single adult males going across," he told ABC radio. "I want to get the standards to a point where more can go across and I don’t believe it will take a long time to do that."

SOURCE





Carbon credits market is neither free nor worth anything

THE paradox du jour: people who like free markets don't want a carbon market, and the people who don't trust capitalism want emissions trading. So why are socialists fighting for a carbon market? Because this "market" is a bureaucrat's wet dream.

A free market is the voluntary exchange of goods and services. "Free" means being free to choose to buy or to not buy the product. At the end of a free trade, both parties have something they prefer.

A carbon market is a forced market. There is little intrinsic incentive to buy a certificate for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. It says a lot about the voluntary value of a carbon credit that when given the option to pay $2 to offset their flight emissions, 88 per cent of people choose not to. A few do it as a form of green penance to assuage guilt, and others do it for their eco public relations campaign or branding.

To create demand for emissions permits, the government threatens onerous fines to force people to buy a product they otherwise don't need and most of the time would never even have thought of acquiring. Likewise, supply wouldn't exist without government approved agents. Potentially a company could sell fake credits (cheaper than the real ones) and what buyer could spot the difference? Indeed, in terms of penance or eco-branding, fake credits, as long as they were not audited, would "work" just as well as real ones.

Despite being called a commodity market, there is no commodity: the end result is air that belongs to no one in particular that has slightly less of a trace gas. Sometimes it is not even air with slightly less carbon dioxide, it is merely air that might have had more CO2, but doesn't. It depends on the unknowable intentions of factory owners in distant lands.

How strange, then, that this non-commodity was at one time projected to become the largest tradeable commodity in the world - bigger even than the global market for oil. In 2009, Bart Chilton, chairman of energy markets at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, estimated global carbon markets would be worth $2 trillion within five years.

The UN may claim that carbon is "tracked and traded like any other commodity", but if I buy a tonne of tin, I either get a tonne of tin or I get $20,000 because I onsold it. Fraud is easy to spot.

Unfortunately, fraud has been a big, ongoing problem with emissions trading. This market needs auditors, and the auditors need auditing (the top two auditors in the EU emissions trading scheme were suspended in 2009 for irregularities). The EU has already lost €5 billion to carbon-trading value-added tax fraud. The mafia is laundering money in Italy through renewables schemes, and after one tax loophole was closed, market volume in Belgium dropped by up to 90 per cent.

The carbon market also depends on the honesty of people claiming: "We wouldn't have built that dam without that carbon credit." How would we know? The Xiaoxi dam in China was already under construction two years before the owners applied for credits "to build it".

Since an ETS exists by government fiat and has no intrinsic value without it, it is technically a fiat currency rather than a tradeable commodity. Supply and demand is set by bureaucrats in the EU. If the price is too high, politicians will issue more credits, and if it's too low they will delay them (as the EU is planning to do). Bureaucrats can also give exemptions to trade-affected industries (or their friends, and to their fans in marginal seats).

Those who say that a carbon market is "like" other derivatives markets are wrong. Derivatives markets are sometimes quite disconnected from actual products such as pork bellies or gold bars, but eventually the supply and demand for real goods will determine the price. In some places the size of the derivatives market exceeds that of the commodity market, but that's a reason to question those schemes, not to set up a market in an atmospheric nullity or something as frivolous as an "intention" not to build a dam.

So, who profits from the carbon market? The brokers in a carbon market - almost every large investment bank - make money on every trade. The global carbon market turned over $176bn in 2011. These groups have been lobbying for a market, not a tax, and the reasons are obvious.

Most of the key factors in a carbon market are misnamed. The market is not free. An essential plant fertiliser is called pollution. The aim of the market is not to make clean energy but to change global temperatures by an amount that rounded to the nearest degree, equals zero. The US has no market but has reduced emissions (largely thanks to shale gas), while any reductions in EU emissions were largely due to falling gross domestic product. Yet the government wants to join the EU scheme.

Ironically, the reason for having any carbon scheme at all comes from monopolistic research. There are virtually no grants specifically available for sceptical scientists, but funding galore for unsceptical ones.

We need a free market in science before we even discuss the need for a free market in carbon.

But don't hold your breath - the global warmers prove to be mostly global hypocrites.

SOURCE





Sir Lunchalot was corrupt

Among others

TWO former high-profile Labor MPs, Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, have been found by the NSW ICAC to have acted corruptly and referred for possible criminal charges. More to come.

Earlier, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he was "disgusted" by revelations that have been aired at the hearings of the Independent Commission Against Corruption into members of the NSW Labor Party and anyone found guilty of illegal behaviour should face the full force of the law.

"That's what I want to see happen," the Prime Minister said. "I've been disgusted by what I have seen in ICAC hearings so far and my view is anyone who is responsible for corruption or illegal behaviour should face the full force of the law."

Ahead of the release of three reports from ICAC today into former NSW Labor ministers, Mr Rudd said he would not tolerate corruption.

He hoped the federal intervention into the NSW branch of the Labor Party would help clean it up.

"I would say it was for no idle reason that I took a virtually unprecedented step of directing federal intervention in the NSW branch of the Labor party," Mr Rudd said.

"This set of reforms are anchored in one core principal - zero tolerance for corruption - and I expect that to be fully reflected in the intervention we have taken."

ICAC will today present three reports relating to the business dealings of Ian Macdonald, Eddie Obeid and Eric Roozendaal.

The findings of ICAC's Commissioner David Ipp are expected to be damning - and will reveal whether recommendations will be referred to the DPP for criminal charges.

Mr Rudd has demanded ALP reforms to loosen the hold of factional warlords in a bid to pre-empt a voter backlash should the ICAC recommend charges against former party figures.

The Prime Minister and ministerial colleagues, particularly those in western Sydney, will be careful to distance themselves and the party from central characters in the ICAC probe.

These are the three reports and five things you might need to know about each of them:

OPERATION JARILO: In which a massage didn't have a happy ending...

1. Sometimes referred to as the Tiffany Report or the "neck massage" incident after the former NSW resources minister Ian Macdonald met a woman in a Sydney hotel room who, ICAC heard, stripped down to her underwear. Mr Macdonald testified he had gone there for a neck massage and fallen asleep.

2. In July, 2009, the then head of state power company Country Energy, Craig Murray, was invited by Mr Macdonald to a dinner at Tuscany, a restaurant in Sydney's inner-west Italian quarter of Leichhardt. Mr Murray went with a fellow executive for back-up, a worthwhile precaution.

3. Suddenly Mr Medich and another businessman sat down at a table which had been added to the one Mr Murray was sitting at, and made an uninvited pitch for business from Country Energy as Mr Macdonald looked on.

4. Mr Macdonald ordered four bottles of wine costing $130 each, but because Country Energy had strict rules barring gifts from business suitors, Mr Murray had to pick up the $850 dinner bill.

5. ICAC heard Mr Gattellari, an associate of Mr Medich and involved with him in a separate murder case, later paid $400 for a hotel room where Mr Macdonald later turned up (See Tiffany).

OPERATION JASPER: In which properties miraculously increased in value...

1. Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid has declared his income was his pay as a member of the NSW Upper House but his sons ran a wide range of businesses, from cafes to roadside poles, and also had interests in coal leases.

2. Eddie Obeid, who had remarkable influence even as a back bencher, helped the career of Mr Macdonald, a left-winger, through his faction.

3. In 2007-08 the Obeids and acquaintances bought property in a valley about 250km north of Sydney as rural retreats. This changed in 2008 when Mr Macdonald agreed to open a mining area in the Bylong Valley for coal exploration, which greatly increased the value of the Obeid holdings.

4. Some of Eddie Obeid's profits, estimated to be in the several millions, from the property dealings went to the lease of a $300,000 Mercedes.

5. Mr Macdonald was given the nickname Sir Lunchalot because of his fondness for dining out, including his 2008 lunch of pork and beef and a magnum of pinot noir.

OPERATION INDUS: In which a remarkably cheap car was procured...

1. In May 2007 Amanda Roozendaal, wife of Labor MP and former treasurer Eric Roozendaal wrote off the family Honda and the search for a replacement led to Eddie Obeid, who passed the matter to son Moses who was able to find a $44,800 Honda which would cost the Roozendaals just $34,000.

2. The Roozendaals didn't have the ownership papers at first and it was only Mrs Roozendaal's car accident - and her decision not to stop to pay for the damage - that revealed the trail of people who on paper owned the car but had never seen, raising suspicions in ICAC they were used to pretend the Honda was cheaper because it was second hand.

3. There is at least one good citizen in this saga. A professional musician who had business in Surry Hills saw the bingle-and-run incident and took down the Honda's licence number to give to the owner of the parked car which had been hit. The Roozendaals had been driving their new car for just two days.

4. Mr Roozendaal, a former ALP state secretary, was a supporter of the Obeid faction known as the Terrigals after the NSW coastal resort town. The Terrigals ran the state party and their support was needed to get ministerial jobs, and to become Premier.

5. ICAC has investigated whether the provision of a cheap vehicle played a role in any consultation by the Obeids with Mr Roozendaal when he became State Treasurer.

----

Cleaning up NSW Labor is seen as crucial to Mr Rudd's chances at the upcoming federal poll. The government needs to hold on to a host of western Sydney seats to retain power.

On July 4, Mr Rudd gave NSW ALP secretary Sam Dastyari 30 days to report on cleaning up the branch, and sought changes including the expulsion of any member found to be corrupt or engaging in improper conduct.

But Liberal MP Jamie Briggs said the Rudd "intervention" was all for show, as many of the key powerbrokers pulling the strings within the ALP were still in senior positions.

He said many of those who helped Mr Rudd return to the Labor leadership had strong ties with the ALP secretariat and had since been promoted by the prime minister.

SOURCE






Court-ordered parole, suspended sentences may be dumped as Qld.  gets tough on criminals

CRIMINALS currently walking free from court face being sent to jail and others locked up for longer amid Government concerns crooks are being let out too early.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie told The Courier-Mail offenders who made no attempt to rehabilitate were being released, and he was not afraid to change the law to better protect the community.

The Government is looking at dumping court-ordered parole and suspended jail sentences which would see Queensland's prison population of about 6000 almost certainly increase.

Mr Bleijie said offenders were being given too many chances and judges could soon lose the power to decide when criminals are released from jail.

Highly placed sources told The Courier-Mail that the Attorney-General had lost faith in court-ordered parole, suspended sentences and the system's ability to deal with recidivist offenders.

Of the 53,952 prisoners sentenced in Queensland courts in the past three years, more than 41,000 received a wholly suspended jail sentence or received court-ordered parole.

Mr Bleijie admitted there were problems with the system.

"I am certainly questioning whether court-ordered parole and suspended sentences still have a place in our legal system," he said.

"I'm well aware of concern and anger in the community over offenders committing more crimes after either walking straight from court or getting let out of jail on court ordered parole."

Privately, prison boards and police have lamented the fact they have to release some prisoners into the community on court-ordered parole.

Sources say a 25-year-old man went from "maximum security to the street" this year, despite Corrective Services staff and the Parole Board believing he should not be released on the parole date set by a judge. Within a week of being released, the Gold Coast bikie was charged with allegedly firing a gun inside a taxi, attacking two drivers and a police officer.

Court-ordered parole is a release date set during sentencing by the sentencing judge. It can include immediate parole, which means an offender is sentenced but walks free straight away.

Under the current system, the Parole Board has no say on an offender's release if they are on court-ordered parole unless they commit a criminal offence in jail or there is an imminent risk.

Criminals aged between 18-24 years are causing the greatest headaches for policy makers, with internal Corrective Service statistics revealing 70 per cent of the cohort will return to jail at least one more time before they reach 35 years.

About 300 offenders a month are suspended and returned to prison for breaching their parole. In 2011-2012, the two regional Parole Boards suspended or cancelled 3548 court-ordered parole orders because offenders committed another offence or breached their parole orders.

Mr Bleijie said some offenders knew how to work the system. "For some, court-ordered parole means they just have to wait their sentence out, without even trying to rehabilitate themselves," he said.

"If offenders were only eligible for parole and had to prove themselves to the Parole Board, it might motivate them to rehabilitate and change their offending behaviour.

"We're committed to getting tough on crime and people who think they can get away with repeatedly thumbing their nose at the law.

"We are not afraid to change laws if they will better protect the community."

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman disputed Mr Bleijie's claim court-ordered parole was not working and asked how the Attorney-General would know given he scrapped the Sentence Advisory Council.

"The more you say no more second chances the more you push up recidivism," Mr O'Gorman said.

He predicted the judiciary would not be happy about any moves to limit their sentencing options.

Police Union president Ian Leavers said the Parole Board should be able to overrule a

court-ordered parole date if they thought a criminal should remain in prison.

"(It should be) until the Parole Board is satisfied they should be released or until they've served their full sentence, whatever comes first," Mr Leavers said.

Yesterday, Mr Bleijie ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal against the sentences of three young offenders, aged 16, 15, and 12, who took part in a violent crime spree on the Gold Coast last year.

The 15 and 16-year-olds, who committed robberies, received two years probation and 40 hours community service. The 16-year-old driver received 18 months probation and was disqualified from driving for six months. No convictions were recorded.

SOURCE

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