Wednesday, September 25, 2013

More evidence that Greenies have ready access to rivers of cash

The axed Climate Commission is to be relaunched with private funds in a bid to keep information about global warming prominent in the public arena, former head Tim Flannery said.

The decision to create the Australian Climate Council, as the group will be known, was spurred by "a groundswell of support" from across the country, Dr Flannery said.

"We've developed a real reputation for independence and authority in this area, and we just want to continue with that job," he said, before a formal launch planned for Tuesday in Sydney.

"We haven't seen any plans from the government to provide an alternative" to the commission, he said.

The Abbott government made closing the Climate Commission one of its first acts last week. The Coalition also plans to repeal other climate change policies of the Rudd and Gillard governments, such as the carbon price, the Climate Change Authority and the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The Coalition instead plans a $2.55 billion Direct Action scheme to pay polluters to cut greenhouse gases to meet the bipartisan goal of reducing emissions by at least 5 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020.

Most, if not all, of the six commissioners, will sign up as directors of the new council, with climate scientist Will Steffen and ex-BP head for Australia Gerry Hueston among them. "We'll all be working pro bono at least initially," Dr Flannery said.

The commission's budget was about $5.4 million over four years, a figure that will be considerably smaller in the private revamp, he said. "We've already had some people step up and we've got every chance that this will work," Dr Flannery said, declining to say how much had been raised and from whom ahead of the launch of a drive for donations.

Among those supporting the reboot was retired admiral Chris Barrie. "Frankly, I think the work they have done is fantastic," he said.

"The commission's work was invaluable in taking very complex information and presenting it in ways easily digestible by the community."


Malcolm Turnbull called for NBN Co board's scalps

Labor says the "trashing" of the national broadband network has begun after Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked NBN Co board members to resign last week.

A spokesman for Mr Turnbull confirmed late on Monday night that Mr Turnbull made the request ahead of the board meeting last Friday.

He declined to confirm NBN Co chairwoman Siobhan McKenna and all but one of her board colleagues have since offered their resignations. The spokesman said there may be an announcement about new board members soon.

It is understood the matter will be considered at a meeting of the federal cabinet as early as next Tuesday.

"And so the trashing of the national broadband network has begun," Labor communications spokesman Anthony Albanese said on Monday.

The resignations may relate to Mr Turnbull's comment earlier this month that while he had no criticism of individual members "it is remarkable that there is nobody on that board who has either run or built or been responsible for building or managing a large telecommunications network".

"Given that is the core business of NBN Co, that is a singular deficiency", Mr Turnbull said.

Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said the Abbott government would stack the NBN Co board with its "friends".

The Abbott government has flagged at least three examinations into broadband: an independent audit of NBN Co's books, a review of its commercial progress and a Productivity Commission inquiry into broadband policy.

It wants to cut down the cost and speed up the rollout by changing from a fibre-to-the-premises to a fibre-to-the-node model.

NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley, who also sits on the board, announced his retirement in July but remains in the job during the transition. Former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski has been flagged as a possible replacement for Mr Quigley.

The NBN Co website makes no mention of the resignations, but states: "This website is currently under review, pending the introduction of new government policy."

Liberal frontbencher Mitch Fifield said the government would ensure there was "good and appropriate governance" of the NBN.


Coal activist to stand trial over fake ANZ statement

An anti-coal mining activist has been committed to stand trial in the New South Wales Supreme Court for issuing a hoax ANZ Bank media release.

Jonathan Moylan is being prosecuted by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) over the fake statement released in January claiming ANZ had withdrawn its $1.2 billion funding for Whitehaven Coal's Maules Creek project on environmental grounds.

The hoax caused a temporary crash of more than $300 million in Whitehaven's share price.

Moylan is charged with making a false and misleading statement under the Corporations Act.

He emailed the statement from a protest campsite at Maules Creek, near Narrabri in north-western NSW.

The Newcastle man's family, including his mother and sister, were in the Downing Centre District Court today as the prosecution and Moylan's lawyer John Sutton agreed for the matter to go straight to trail without a committal hearing.

The court heard the Supreme Court's chief justice had already determined it should go to a higher court.

Earlier this month Moylan's legal team described as "an enormous overreaction" the push to have the case moved from the District Court to the Supreme Court.

Today outside court his lawyer Mr Sutton said the case has been sent to the Supreme Court because of its supposed complexity.

"I have a view of the complexity which is at odds with what the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has," Mr Sutton said.

"The DPP wrote to the Chief Justice of New South Wales suggesting it was a complex matter, the Chief Justice accepted that, that's a matter for his honour to determine.

"What it says is the state, with a capital S, thinks that this is a complicated matter and they want to have the best brain in the Supreme Court or the highest court in this state to examine the matters and examine the issues.

"It does frustrate me to be perfectly honest. The cost involved in running the Supreme Court mean that this is a matter that will cost the state tax payer more money."

Moylan will appear in the Supreme Court on November 1.


Scott Morrison says Government won't reveal when asylum seekers boats turned back

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the Government does not plan to publicly reveal when or if any asylum seeker boats are turned around - a measure that is a key plank of the Coalition's border protection policy.

The Coalition's measures, Operation Sovereign Borders, began last week and Mr Morrison and its commander Angus Campbell held the first weekly media briefing on Monday.

The Minister says the Government will announce how many boats arrive and the numbers of asylum seekers at the briefings, but there will be no information about whether boats are turned around.

"That goes to operational matters that, whether they affect current or future operational activity, you will not be getting commentary from this podium or that podium either way on those matters," Mr Morrison said.

"We want to make it crystal clear: operational and tactical issues that relate to current and prospective operations... will not be the subject of public commentary from these podiums.

"We will tell you what vessels have arrived and have gone into the care of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

"Those updates will be provided as well as transfers and other key policy decisions and announcements and implementation issues regarding this policy, but we are not getting into the tactical discussion of things that happen at sea."

Under the Howard government's Operation Relex, four asylum seeker boats were turned back to Indonesia.

Acting Opposition Leader Chris Bowen says the Government has "no excuse" not to tell the public if boats are intercepted and turned around.

"Turning back the boats has been a centrepiece of Coalition policy now for a long time," he said.  "They've told us at every opportunity that they would turn back boats where it was safe to do so.  "Now we're seeing Mr Morrison saying we may or may not tell you if we've ever turned a boat back.  "This lack of transparency is completely unacceptable."

Lieutenant General Campbell has advised the Government to hold "periodic" media briefings on asylum seeker matters "to prevent the potential for messaging to people smugglers with regards to changes to procedures or our tactical activities that might evolve over time".

Mr Morrison says the intention is not to "keep a lid" on asylum seeker matters.

"This is an open briefing process but there are obvious limitations to what can be discussed in these forums for the protection and safety of the people who are doing our service for our nation," he said.

He said there may be specific briefings if a boat was involved in an accident or somebody went overboard.

"If there are significant incidents that occur, then obviously a decision will be taken at that time as to what briefing will be provided," the Minister said.

The Coalition's policy, released in July, promises that an Abbott Government would instruct the Defence Force to "turn back boats where it is safe to do so" and to intercept "all identified vessels travelling from Sri Lanka outside our sea border".

Morrison sets 48-hour transfer target

The Government has also announced that it is pushing ahead with its plans to expand offshore processing facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

It has also cancelled plans to build a centre in Singleton in the NSW Hunter Valley, and is in the process of transferring $58 million in funding to offshore centres instead.

People who arrive by boat will also be subject to a new target of transferring them overseas within 48 hours.

Mr Morrison says once asylum seekers are deemed fit to fly, they will be sent to Nauru or Manus Island for further health checks and full processing.

"You won't be settling in on Christmas Island if you come on a boat," he said.

"You will find yourself very quickly and rapidly transferred by air to one of the offshore processing centres."

But Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the plan could cost lives because 48 hours is not enough time to do proper medical checks.

"If we haven't worked out whether a child is asthmatic, if we haven't worked out whether a child has a particular health concern, we are effectively dumping that child in the middle of a deserted island with no appropriate medical assistance," she said.   "That's not humane."

Hundreds already sent offshore

Earlier on Monday, Mr Morrison said hundreds of asylum seekers who had arrived by boat since the election had already been transferred.

In the past two weeks, 523 people have arrived by boat and claimed asylum in Australia.

Mr Morrison says around half of those have already left Australia's shores for processing on either Manus Island or Nauru.

Previously the process of carrying out health and security checks has taken several weeks.

The Minister also revealed the Rudd-Gillard government had not funded its offshore processing operations on Manus Island beyond this year.

"There is not currently $1 that the previous government put in place for operations - operational funding for offshore processing at Manus Island," he said.

"Not $1 did they fund it beyond the first of January, so that's one of the early nasty surprises that we've had to deal with."

Mr Morrison said the Abbott Government would "make sure that's addressed" but added there was "an enormous amount of work to do to salvage that arrangement".


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