Sunday, October 06, 2013

A great day for the monarchy in Australia

Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, has welcomed Prince Harry to Sydney – but apologised that not everyone was pleased to see him.

Mr Abbott was born in Britain [of an Australian mother] and was once head of Australia's monarchist movement.

And addressing Prince Harry on his first visit to Australia, he said: "I regret to say that not every Australian is a monarchist, but today everyone feels like a monarchist."

He added: "You grace us as your family has graced our nation from its beginning. It is quite fitting on a day such as this when we think back over 100 years of the Royal Australian Navy that you are here as the crown is a symbol of continuity, decency, stability in our public life."

Prince Harry received a rapturous welcome in Sydney for his short visit, which included a trip on the harbour to inspect a warship parade. The harbour visit generated much excitement and forced police to remove one woman, Victoria McRae, 20, who ventured onto the harbour on a kayak with a flag that read "I (heart) U Harry".

"He's an eligible bachelor, I thought I was in with a chance," she said.  "I just wanted to see Harry on the boat really, I thought we'd get up close. We got towed away, but it was worth it. We were under the Harbour Bridge and they were worried we were going to get run over."

Mr Abbott was beaming as he blithely ignored warnings to "lock up" his daughters and proudly introduced his wife and two younger daughters to the visiting prince.

Prince Harry then joined Mr Abbott, his wife Margie and two daughters, Frances, 22, and Bridget, 20, for a casual stroll through the waterside gardens of his official residence.

The prince later cheekily warned some well-wishers at the front gate that their new neighbour, Mr Abbott, who was elected last month, may be planning to bring his dogs into new residence.

"What do you think of your new neighbour?" Prince Harry asked. "He has got lots of dogs. They have not arrived yet."

Prince Harry earlier boarded the Australian navy's survey ship HMAS Leeuwin to sail past the Sydney Opera House and inspect a parade of international naval fleets and tall ships on the harbour. The parade marks the centenary of Australian navy's entrance into Sydney harbour.

The Prince was then greeted by thousands of well-wishers and spoke to screaming fans during a stroll along the waterfront.

He had a lengthy chat with a Georgia Marks, 11, who later burst into joyful tears.  "He asked me about the fireworks," she said, referring to an impending fireworks display across the harbour. "He is nice. He talks to everybody."

The Prince's visit has sparked much interest in Australia, despite the public's slight leaning towards becoming a republic. His visit has been short – he leaves Sydney for Perth and then Dubai on Sunday – but generated excitement and roars of applause wherever he was sighted.

"Go, The Ranga," went some cries, using the slang term for redheads.  Others cried "We love you Harry" and "Harry, Harry, Harry!"

Around the harbour, crowds had flocked to watch the naval parade, view the fireworks and try to spot the Prince.

"It's the new game to play on the harbour," reported the Sydney Morning Herald.  "Let's spot Prince Harry. Made easier because Captain Wales is dressed in a white tropical dress uniform of the British Army and a blue Army AirCorp beret. He stands out quite well among all those dark naval uniforms."


Prince Harry's popularity

There has been huge coverage of Prince Harry's visit to Sydney

PRINCE Harry is arguably the most popular royal in Australia.
We love the fact that despite his position of privilege, he has somehow managed to remain a normal bloke.

He likes to party, he drinks, he dresses up in stupid outfits and every now and then he ditches his clothes for a friendly game of strip poker.

He's one of us.

The 29-year-old will arrive in Sydney today for the International Fleet Review and thousands of Aussies will no doubt wave at him as if he's one of their best mates.

In fact we probably know more about Harry than we do about some of our close friends.


Incredible workers' compensation claims from the Australian Public Service

A MAN who says his penis and surrounding tissue swelled because his government employer made him sit in a small plane seat is among current and former public servants seeking compensation.
Another woman claimed to the taxpayer-funded insurer Comcare she suffered a psychological injury after she said colleagues laughed when she revealed she had suffered a bout of diarrhoea in the office toilet.

Comcare offered to pay part of another man's $16,000 fitness bill after he said the gym and personal training helped with his workplace psychological injury and his "fear of people and strangers."

The former public servant who claimed his genital condition was caused by being forced to sit for five hours in a small plane seat had his compensation bid rejected.

He appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal with doctors reports showing due to his obesity his "penis became retracted into perineal fat folds" during the flight in March 2010.

The man later developed scrotal cellulitis, a life-threatening condition which required hospitalisation and hyper baric treatment, with the man also claiming compensation for partial deafness caused by antibiotics used during treatment.

A doctor found sitting in a cramped plane seat for five hours "would have contributed" to the development of the condition for a man who was obese.

The Tribunal last month dismissed the appeal, finding the flight did not contribute by "a significant degree" to the man's illness.

In August the tribunal also dismissed an appeal by the female public servant who claimed an "anxiety state" after she told colleagues she had been in the bathroom for 20 minutes with diarrhoea in September 2010.

At the time the workers in her department were only allowed to be absent from their desks without explanation for ten minutes and the woman said her anxiety disorder commenced from her feeling "embarrassed" by a colleague.

After that and a later incident in which her work was questioned, she said she "felt stressed, emotionally drained, angry, (had) difficulty sleeping and increasing headache."

A man who was compensated for his adjustment disorder which was suffered at work in 2007 was offered a free $750 gym membership and $480 worth of personal training support by Comcare.

He appealed to the Tribunal seeking almost $16,000 to refund what he had spent on personal trainers which he claimed helped his psychological injury.

Comcare told the tribunal the man had "exaggerated his sense of isolation and his need for a personal trainer."

The Tribunal agreed Comcare should cover six personal training sessions to introduce the man to the gym, which it agreed Comcare should pay for, but rejected the man's claim for compensation for his entire personal fitness bill.

"We find that it was not medical treatment for the purposes of the Act," the Tribunal said.


Hypocrisy cry as Barnaby Joyce switches on foreign investment

BARNABY Joyce, who has built his political career opposing foreign investment, is under fire for hypocrisy after giving his blessing to the sale of two of the Northern Territory's best known cattle stations to Indonesia's biggest live cattle importer.

The Agriculture Minister, who two weeks ago asked Australians to "make a big noise" and oppose the Indonesian government's plan to purchase a million hectares of cattle country, said he supported the latest sale after talking to the Northern Territory cattle industry.

The Santori company - a subsidiary of the Indonesian agribusiness Japfa group - is purchasing two large Northern Territory cattle properties, Riveren and Inverway stations.

Mr Joyce said last night he made the decision to support the sale after talking to northern Australian cattlemen.  "They wanted the sale to go forward," he said.

The Deputy Nationals Leader said the purchase of the two cattle stations was a joint venture on lease-hold land, that would kick-start the live cattle trade to Indonesia.

He dismissed the charge of hypocrisy, declaring the Greens wanted to "shut down the trade all together" and Labor had created the slump in cattle exports in the first place. "We are just trying to sweep up the dishes they dropped," he said.

Former agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon said it had taken Mr Joyce "all of five minutes to fall into line behind the Liberals".

"This deal is in the national interest and we can be thankful the Nationals are so ineffectual," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Mr Fitzgibbon expressed doubt about whether the Coalition government would persist with its plan to lower the threshold for foreign purchases of land to be scrutinised by the Foreign Investment Review Board to $15 million, a policy he derided as "silly".

Greens leader Christine Milne said Mr Joyce's decision to back the sale of 5500sq km of prime farmland to the Santori company showed he was willing to talk tough in opposition but "sell the farm" on behalf of his Liberal Coalition partners in government.

"I never thought of Barnaby Joyce as a gymnast, but this stunning backflip has sold out his constituents with a perfect 10," Senator Milne said.

"The Nationals have now adopted the open-slather approach of Labor and Liberal."

Mr Joyce's decision to support the sale is a stark departure from his public call - about two weeks ago, before being appointed to the ministry - for Australians to "make a big noise" and oppose a similar plan from the Indonesian government to buy farmland and raise cattle for the domestic market.

"I cannot possibly see how it is in the national interest, what benefit is it to Australian farmers, to Australian taxpayers, if another entity buys our land to breed their cattle, exports them to their own facilities and pays tax in another country," Mr Joyce said at the time.

The Nationals deputy leader's about-face received a mixed reception from his party colleagues yesterday. Some of them have flagged a tough fight on the potential sale of Australia's largest listed agribusiness, GrainCorp, to US firm Archer Daniels Midland if it is approved by Joe Hockey.

NSW Nationals senator John Williams said Australia should own its own farmland, with the profits going back into regional and rural towns.

"Have the owners of those stations had them on the market for a long time?" Senator Williams said. "Are they desperate to get out? If they can't get a local buyer, then I wouldn't blame them for selling to a foreign buyer. But I like to see Australians own our farmland. I want to see the profits of those farms spent locally in our regional towns."

Queensland LNP MP George Christensen said Mr Joyce was only meeting the demands of industry.

"You have to talk to the local industry, and my understanding is that they are all behind it.

"In that case, as Australia's Agriculture Minister, he is (fulfilling) the wishes of the Australian agricultural industry," he said.

Labor senator Doug Cameron said Mr Joyce's comments were part of a pattern of Coalition MPs retreating from their former positions on a range of issues.

"I think this just demonstrates the flippant approach that has been taken by the Coalition on a whole range of areas," Senator Cameron said.  "It's not just Barnaby Joyce.  "You see this on issues such as the asylum-seekers.  "And you now see it on foreign investment."


CSG limits to 'cost jobs, lift gas prices'

BUSINESS has warned that the NSW government's move to protect a further one million hectares of prime agricultural land from coal-seam gas extraction risks jobs, plant closures and imposing higher energy costs on households and manufacturers.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox warned there was a "real risk" of industrial closures sparked by steeply rising gas prices within a couple of years as he criticised the NSW government for proceeding with "the most restrictive elements of its revamp of coal-seam gas regulation, regardless of the looming and intense gas-supply issues facing NSW".

NSW Resources Minister Brad Hazzard announced that hundreds of horse studs and vineyards would be "off limits" to coal-seam gas extraction activities as he increased to 2.8 million hectares the amount of valuable agricultural land that has been deemed "strategic".

The move increased by one million hectares the amount of land for which CSG companies will be required to have their plans reviewed by a "gateway panel" consisting of six state-appointed groundwater, agricultural and mining experts.

While business and the CSG industry attacked the move as economically damaging, farmers argued prime agricultural land remained under threat.

Premier Barry O'Farrell seized on the dissatisfaction from both sides as evidence that the government had got its regulation right.

"Today we have both farmers and miners criticising the government's moves," Mr O'Farrell said. "It sounds as though we have achieved the balance we want."

Peter Stackhouse's 50ha cattle and vegetable farm on Iron Pot Creek near Kyogle in northern NSW has been included in the dark green section of the new government maps released yesterday, that affords added protections to the most important farming land.

But Mr Stackhouse is not convinced by the new measures and thinks they may be a political smokescreen.

The staunch opponent of CSG extraction questions why the NSW government has earmarked 464 vineyards and 297 horse studs in the Upper Hunter Valley as "off-limits" to all CSG mining, declaring them a "critical industry cluster", but has not gone so far with other farmland.

"It should make no difference if your farm has grapes or horses or cows; it's an injustice to protect some farms and not others," Mr Stackhouse said.

"If these plans are as good as it gets to protect farm land, then this government is falling very short of the mark."

The state's peak business organisation, the NSW Business Chamber, said it had serious concerns that the NSW government's decision would risk the livelihoods of businesses and their employees by ignoring the need for NSW to rapidly develop its own gas industry.

The chamber's chief executive, Stephen Cartwright, said he did not see a plan to secure increased gas supplies for industry and domestic users, which was "absolutely essential" to help moderate price spikes expected in 2016.

"The decision to completely exclude parts of NSW - including 2km zones around residential areas and around critical industry clusters - from gas exploration has put the future of NSW gas-dependent industries such as manufacturing at risk."

Mr Willox said all eastern states faced tight gas supply and steeply rising prices thanks to the imminent start of liquefied natural gas exports, but NSW had the worst problem.

"Shortages and industrial closures are a real risk in the next few years if local and Victorian supply cannot fill the gap left by South Australian gas diverted to export," he said.

Mr Willox said firm regulation of gas production was wise.

The NSW Chief Scientist's recent report highlighted that, while many fears were unfounded, there were genuine environmental issues concerning water that must be managed safely.

The NSW Strategic Regional Land Use Policy went well beyond what was needed by excluding large tracts of the state's best energy resources from development.

The NSW Farmers Association raised concerns over the ability of the government's proposed "gateway process" to protect prime agricultural land from mining.

NSWFA Association president Fiona Simson claimed the panel lacked teeth.

Energy giant AGL backed the assessment of the Ai Group and NSW Business Chamber.

"AGL has consistently raised concerns about the impact of the government's policies on the cost of energy to NSW families and businesses. On face value, the government's announcement will only add upward pressure on gas prices in NSW and exacerbate the gas supply issues facing the state," said AGL managing director Michael Fraser.

Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane said the Coalition was proceeding with plans to work with the NSW government to convene a group of farmers, gas explorers, producers, consumers and relevant stakeholders to address issues relating to the long-term gas supply in NSW.

"An important part of that will be focused on the development of the coal-seam gas industry in a way that will benefit landholders and local communities," he said.

"The regulations for the coal-seam gas industry are a matter for state governments, and the group will work within the rules and regulations that are put in place by the NSW government."

Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association chief executive David Byers said the policy announced by the NSW government did not do enough to "proactively support development of the natural gas industry in NSW and does too little to address the state's growing gas needs".

The east coast gas market is undergoing significant transformation, with demand set to triple once three large interstate export projects enter production from late next year.

NSW produces 5 per cent of its own gas supply, with the rest coming from interstate.

Santos east coast chief James Baulderstone said the extended moratorium on NSW CSG exploration would drive up prices.

Mr Baulderstone said Santos would not be affected by the NSW legislation and was happy the state government had agreed to support its Pilliga project and AGL's Gloucester project.

BG Group Australia chairman Catherine Tanna said the decision to extend the NSW ban on CSG exploration increased the perception of risk for the nation.

"If you picked up the newspaper this morning you would have seen enormous risk and it's become more elaborate," Ms Tanna said.

She denied there was a looming shortage of gas in NSW or any other east coast state and accused gas consumers of waging a scare campaign.

"There is gas there if people are willing to pay for it," Ms Tanna said.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Many of us would love to see Harry made King (stuff succession rules) just because he would be the most fun King since...probably ever.