Monday, October 14, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks the new leader of the Labor party has learnt nothing. 


Shorten under pressure on carbon tax

Shorten looks like a little weasel.  Won't last

THE federal government is pushing new Labor leader Bill Shorten to support legislation scrapping the carbon tax.

"This is an early test for Mr Shorten," Environment Minister Greg Hunt told ABC radio on Monday.

The government has flagged it will ask parliament to repeal Labor's carbon pricing regime before Christmas.

"Only Mr Shorten can stand between Australians and lower electricity prices," Mr Hunt said.

Labor and the Australian Greens together have the numbers in the Senate to stymie any repeal legislation before a likely more compliant upper house operates from July 2014.

Mr Shorten said after his election as Labor leader on Sunday that he supported a price on carbon, prompting a pledge from Mr Hunt: "We will not stop until the carbon tax is repealed."

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne urged Mr Shorten to hold his ground on carbon pricing, saying "the writing is on the wall" regarding climate change, with extreme fires, floods, droughts and heatwaves.

"Tony Abbott may have a mandate to lead the government of the nation, but he doesn't have one to stand by and watch it swelter and burn," she said in a statement.

Labor MP Michelle Rowland said the party supported a market mechanism for pricing carbon and had gone to the past three elections arguing it was the best approach for tackling climate change.

"I can't see us not supporting that," she told Sky News.

Parliamentary secretary Steve Ciobo said Labor wasn't listening to voters who had clearly indicated they wanted the carbon price scrapped.

"We've indicated we will go to a double dissolution, and we'll get the Australian people to have their say for a second time," he said.

Mr Shorten said he didn't have to support Prime Minister Tony Abbott's campaign to dump the carbon tax.

"He has a mandate to form a government of Australia, but there is nothing in Australian democracy that says that Labor has to be a rubber stamp for every coalition proposition," he told Fairfax Radio in Melbourne.

Mr Shorten said he would consult with caucus before making a big policy statement but he backed a price on carbon pollution.

"I don't support the coalition putting off until tomorrow and next week and next year tackling issues of climate change and carbon pollution and leaving this issue for our kids to solve."


Some more multiculturalism for Australia

 A CHILD bride forced to ­illegally wed at 14 has won a disturbing custody fight that shines rare light on arranged unions in suburban Australia.

Married off as a schoolgirl to a 21-year-old groom by her Muslim parents, the woman endured years of violence and abuse before walking out with their young daughter.

The Federal Circuit Court heard the bride's mum pushed her into the Islamic ceremony, telling the then-teen she'd get to attend theme parks and movies and eat lollies and ice- cream with her new husband.

But once the girl moved in to the man's outer-Sydney home she was locked inside, let out only to attend high school.

The court heard evidence her husband used to burn her homework, and made her drop out of classes entirely after about a year.

He also stopped her watching her favourite TV shows - Home and Away and Neighbours - instead screening a ­violent DVD showing soldiers taken hostage and blown up with grenades.

In a decision published last week, Judge Joe Harman ­described the man as "a most heinous, capricious and ­revolting misogynist".

The judge stressed that he accepted all of the wife's ­evidence, and expressed his concern that while the girl ­apparently reported her predicament to a teacher, mandatory reporting laws appeared not to have protected her.

In his decision the judge ­invited authorities, such as police, wishing to investigate the serious matters raised during the case to apply to the court to obtain material from the file.

Legal restrictions prevent the Herald Sun from identifying the parties.

The woman, now 24, can only be referred to by the pseudonym "Ms Elia", and the man, now 31, as "Mr Essey".

Ms Elia fell pregnant at age 17 and gave birth to a daughter, now 6, who was the subject of the custody proceedings.

Her affidavit included a claim Mr Essey had once threatened to marry off their young daughter when she turned 14.

The judge found that the couple's illegal marriage ceremony had taken place "with the full knowledge, if not connivance and co-operation, of her parents".

Ms Elia was subjected to ­violence, including being kicked, punched, stamped on and thrown into walls, and their daughter was also attacked, he found.

The court heard claims that Mr Essey was involved in ­regular criminal activity, ­including robberies and ­assaults and was a routine user, if not a dealer, of drugs.

The couple separated in early 2009. She has since found a new partner.

Ms Elia gave evidence she'd stopped speaking to her parents after her divorce.

"My father has said to me, 'So what if he raped you? So what if he bashed you?'

"He has also said, 'The only way you can come back to me is in a coffin to pray on you'."

Judge Harman ordered Ms Elia have sole ­responsibility for the child and that Mr Essey be restrained from having all contact with them.


Indonesia changes tack as asylum-seekers returned

INDONESIA has been accepting asylum-seekers rescued at sea by Australian authorities, boosting hopes that Jakarta may be prepared to shoulder a greater share of the burden of dealing with the people-smuggling trade.

Australian officials have been taking advantage of Jakarta's goodwill by trying -- on at least two occasions in recent weeks -- to intercept asylum-seeker boats further north as soon as calls for help are received.

In both cases, the transfer of asylum-seekers was done at sea and came after Australian officials requested Indonesia's search and rescue agency, Basarnas, take them.

As a result, Customs and Border Protection vessels have been operating slightly further north of Christmas Island than they have in the past.

The returns have a similar effect on asylum-seekers as turning back boats -- the most controversial element of the Coalition's policies -- but avoid any possibility of a diplomatic stoush with Jakarta.

Although they do not represent a formal policy, the returns are understood to be a priority for the Abbott government, which has long held the view that Australia is not obliged to receive every boatload of asylum-seekers rescued by Australian authorities.

Australian and Indonesian officials have been engaging in talks aimed at deepening co-operation on a range of anti-smuggling measures.

The talks followed the visit two weeks ago by Tony Abbott to Jakarta, where the Prime Minister met Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Although there has been a lull in arrivals, authorities intercepted an asylum boat carrying 55 people on Wednesday afternoon.

The boat, which was carrying Iranians, Afghans and Sri Lankans, was unloaded at Christmas Island on Saturday morning, just two days after another boat bearing Sri Lankan asylum-seekers arrived off Cocos Island.

The Australian has been told there are encouraging signs Jakarta is now prepared to accept asylum-seekers intercepted by Australian authorities during rescues.

Senior Australian officials are understood to be heartened by what they see as a new-found willingness among the upper echelons of Indonesia's political and bureaucratic elite to co-operate with Australia, particularly during rescues.

Last week, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus offered an insight into the type of co-operation between the AFP and its Indonesian counterparts, saying more than 550 asylum-seekers had been prevented from boarding boats.

It is understood the high tempo of disruptions is in part the result of a request by Kevin Rudd, who after reclaiming the Labor leadership in June petitioned Dr Yudhoyono to increase law enforcement efforts against the smugglers. Indonesia's ocean-faring boats, the ones capable of mounting rescues in high seas, are deployed to the country's north for strategic reasons, meaning Jakarta struggles to mount rescues within its southern search-and-rescue zones.

Its civil maritime assets are ill-equipped to operate far from shore, effectively leaving Australia responsible for co-ordinating, or even conducting, rescues that occur between Indonesia and Christmas Island.

But given the rescues occur within Indonesia's search-and-rescue area, there is scope for returning asylum-seekers to the custody of Indonesian authorities lawfully and without any loss of face.

One source familiar with the present situation said the SOLAS, or safety-of-life-at-sea conventions, "were being pushed to their limits" by Australia's new government.


Vic Students to face fast-track expulsion

Parents may not be warned when their child is suspended from school and principals will have greater power to expel students - even for being "unproductive" - under a discipline crackdown by the state government.

In a move critics fear could exacerbate drop-out rates, students may also have to fend for themselves once they are kicked out because principals will no longer be required to help them find another school.

The Coalition went to the state election promising to give principals more authority to deal with unruly students. But leaked department documents reveal how extensive those powers will be, sparking concerns from families, welfare advocates, and the state opposition. Among the proposed changes seen by Fairfax Media:

 * Students could be kicked out regardless of whether they present an "actual" or "perceived" danger, and if they "consistently behave in an unproductive manner" that interferes with other students.

* Principals will no longer be required to schedule a meeting with another school or training organisation that could take on the expelled student.

 * Department staff could stand in for parents or guardians if they are being "unco-operative" or delay the expulsion/suspension process.

 * Principals will no longer have to convene special support meetings, designed to inform students and their parents that suspension is being considered.

 * Schools will have more grounds to throw out students for bad behaviour while travelling to and from school, and on school premises.

Education Minister Martin Dixon said the changes were still being finalised by his department, but the government's aim was to make schools safer for teachers and students.

"This is about trust. I know that principals are not just going to expel a child without any good reason, without any good process, and totally disregard the future of that child just to get them out of their schools," he said.

But parents say that children who break disciplinary rules should have the right to a fair and lawful process, just as their teachers would, and the right to have their well-being protected in the long term.

"Exclusion, long or short-term, may remove or relieve the problem and stress in the interim … but it does not change the incident, harm or trauma that has been experienced by those affected or sorting it all out," said Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy.

Figures show that 11,876 students were suspended in government schools last year, and a further 150 were expelled. But the proposals have raised fears parents will have less of a say when their child is kicked out.

For instance, under the old guidelines, schools were required to convene a special meeting to inform students and their families about an expulsion. Under the proposed changes, a new "behaviour review conference" will be held before the decision to expel, but principals will ultimately have the ability to make on-the-spot decisions in the interest of the rest of the school. The new guidelines don't say whether parents take part in the behaviour review conference.

Opposition parliamentary spokesman for education Colin Brooks accused the government of placing vulnerable young people at even greater risk: "This tick-and-flick approach to school expulsion and suspension will see many kids fall through the cracks and disengage from education."

Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive Emma King said she would have "enormous concerns" if students were not properly supported once they were expelled.

But Frank Sal, president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, welcomed the changes, saying they would give schools greater flexibility to deal with unruly students.

The guidelines will form part of a new ministerial order being developed by the Education Department. In another bid to expedite the process, it will no longer be a requirement to inform the department's regional directors before an expulsion takes place.

Students will retain the right to appeal an expulsion, but parents do not have that right. Mr Dixon said this was consistent with legislation introduced by the former Labor government.


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