Monday, November 04, 2013

Tony Abbott to bring in new IR body

THE Abbott government is moving to impose an appeals body over the nation's workplace umpire, declaring concern at inconsistent decisions by the Fair Work Commission.

The new body, which follows employer claims that Labor had stacked the tribunal, would be headed by a Coalition appointee and would establish a new avenue for appeal against commission rulings.

In his first extended interview since being appointed, Employment Minister Eric Abetz revealed that he had written to employers and unions, giving notice of a December 13 deadline to state their position on the appeals body that he likened to the NSW Court of Appeal.

Outlining the government's workplace agenda, Senator Abetz told The Weekend Australian that the commission was close to finalising new rules and regulations that would result in bullying claims by workers being subject to a "filter" before they were decided on by the commission.

Under changes to the disclosure obligations of registered organisations, Senator Abetz also said unions and employer organisations would be required to name their top five highest-paid employees and their salaries.

He confirmed that a proposed new construction code on government projects to stamp out "sweetheart deals" in the building sector would be introduced next month through regulation, rather than legislation.

Justifying the proposed reinstatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, he said it had been "suggested to me" that organised crime elements, including bikie gangs, had infiltrated the construction sector. "It might all be quite innocent but what I am hearing from the sector is that it is anything but innocent," he said.

Prior to the election, Senator Abetz downplayed the prospect of setting up the appeals body in the Fair Work Commission, with the proposal comprising just one sentence in the Coalition's workplace policy.

"The idea has been put to us fairly strongly that it would be good to have (a body) like NSW has a Court of Appeal in the Supreme Court, and to basically have a similar body in relation to matters Fair Work, so you could get a robust consistency of decision-making within the Fair Work jurisdiction," Senator Abetz said yesterday. "If there has been one concern, it's been the inconsistency of decisions."

He denied the government was attempting to interfere in the operation of a tribunal by constructing a new appeals body.

"No one has asserted that the Court of Appeal in NSW is an interference in the operation of the NSW Supreme Court," Senator Abetz said.

"We believe it's an idea worth considering and that's as strongly as I have put it."

Senator Abetz said the government had been in discussions with the commission about introducing new rules designed to ensure the tribunal was "not clogged up" by the introduction of new ant-bullying laws.

"We said there should be a filter for the bullying claims and to the credit of the Fair Work Commission, they are putting in rules and systems that may well provide that filter," he said. "Now we are prepared to legislate (but) if the Fair Work Commission can achieve the same outcome by rules and procedures, I will just say well done to them and obviate the need for legislation."

Senator Abetz said the government would seek to implement further key elements of its workplace policy, including changes to the union right-of-entry laws and rules for greenfield projects, in the autumn session.

He said draft terms of reference for a Productivity Commission inquiry into the Fair Work Act are being finalised and will be released by March.

Senator Abetz confirmed that strengthened national construction a code to police conditions that apply to workers would be introduced through regulation rather than legislation in the first parliamentary sitting.

"We say to employers and businesses, if you want to contract with the commonwealth, and we are pretty big in the construction area, you will have to abide by certain conditions - that is no sweetheart deals with trade unions," he said.

"That will strengthen their hand because (they will say) we can't do this, it will breach the code and we will lose business."


Burnout is no cause for alarm

    Bjorn Lomborg

LAST week in this newspaper I pointed out that global warming is actually a net benefit for the world and for Australia, at least until 2050. This is because the benefits of agricultural CO2 fertilisation are much bigger than the costs of increased water stress, and because fewer cold deaths outweigh extra heat deaths.

This is documented in the latest and most comprehensive, peer-reviewed article, collecting all published estimates showing an overwhelming likelihood that global warming below 2C is beneficial.

This does not imply that global warming is not a long-run problem. Moreover, cost-effective solutions are still warranted for the adverse effects by the year 2100 and beyond.

But it shows we need less scaremongering in the climate debate.

To many, the information was genuinely new in a debate entirely focused on one-sided negatives. To others, the information was genuinely outrageous. Environment Victoria's campaign director suggested I was "shameless" for making my case while "NSW is burning". But while the bushfires are definitely detrimental, they simply do not cancel out everything else. Yet in the past weeks they have been used as the latest cudgel to showcase the dangers of global warming and argue for strong carbon cuts.

UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres told CNN that global warming and bushfires were "absolutely" connected, and former US vice-president Al Gore made it even clearer on the ABC: "When the temperature goes up and when the vegetation and soils dry out, then wildfires become more pervasive and more dangerous. That's not me saying it, that's what the scientific community says."

The problem is, that is simply not what the science says. The latest peer-reviewed study on global fire, run with a record 16 climate models, tells us that sometimes heat and dryness lead to more fire, but sometimes lead to less fire. This is because with less precipitation the biomass burns more easily, but with less precipitation there is also less growth and hence less biomass to burn.

For Mediterranean-type ecosystems, such as southwest and south Australia, it turns out that more than half the time, future drying means less fire. Gore's generalisation is simply wrong.

For now, the models give strongly contradictory results about climate impacts on future fire across the world, some finding more fire in the tropics and less in boreal areas, others the exact opposite. Even within a single fire model, the large discrepancies in precipitation from different climate models means we are unsure if there will be more or less fire on more than half the planet's surface. This is also why there is no established scientific link (a so-called climate attribution) between current fire frequency and climate change.

Even Figueres accepts that. "The World Meteorological Organisation has not established the direct link between this wildfire and climate change," she said, though she optimistically added a prophesying "yet" to her sentence. Instead she emphasised that we would see increasing heat waves (correct), and somehow looked satisfied, as if that were sufficient to link it to Australia's bushfires. However, it is likely that, in the long run, global warming will lead to more fire. Sixty per cent of the planet's surface will see a higher probability of fire by the end of the century, though more than one-fifth will see lower fire probability, including Mexico, most of South America, almost all of Africa below the Sahara, Southeast Asia, India and about half of Australia.

Moreover, global fire activity is estimated to have declined 10 per cent from its maximum around 1950. For the past 60 years we have seen less global fire activity, despite rising temperatures.

Even with global warming, the fire activity decline will likely continue until about 2025 and only then start going up.

It will still not reach current levels again before the second half of this century, and only later, possibly into the 22nd century, go above 1950s levels.

But Figueres argues that the Australian fires support the argument for substantial CO2 cuts. Somewhat undermining her argument with a "maybe", she insists that the pictures of bushfires are "an example of what we may be looking at unless we take actual vigorous action". Yet dramatic CO2 cuts would likely be one of the least effective ways to help fire. If we could get the entire rich world to cut emissions to the extent the EU has already promised for 2020, the cost would be at least $500 billion annually. Yet, towards the end of the century we would have spent more than $30 trillion, and reduced temperatures by only an immeasurable 0.1C. It would have virtually no impact on fire, even in 100 years.

Phil Cheney, a former head of CSIRO Bushfire Research, points out the main problem is the increasing fuel loads that dramatically increase fire danger. The obvious solution is "to increase the amount of prescribed burning and fuel management".

Such simple, smart and cost-effective solutions to bushfires don't negate the need to tackle global warming. But they underline how alarmist rhetoric often leads to bad policies. Bushfires are very poor arguments for climate policies, and strong, immediate carbon cuts are costly ways to achieve tiny temperature reductions.

Smart climate policies need to focus on the most cost-effective solutions because green policies will be sustainable only if they are economical. We need to focus on R&D to create innovations that will bring down the price of green energy so it can eventually outcompete fossil fuels.

It is not shameless to correctly point out that global warming will likely be a net benefit till after 2050. Hopefully that fact can cool the climate conversation, so we can choose the better solutions.


NSW bill is about marriage, just not equality

By Waleed Aly.  Aly  is a very bright boy so that helps explain why he often makes sense, despite being Left-leaning.  He is pretty right below

Amid all the pyrotechnics surrounding same-sex marriage this week, it's important to remember that this is overwhelmingly a symbolic debate. That doesn't mean it's unimportant. Symbolism matters to us in a visceral way, sometimes even more than substance. That is why flag-burning is such a provocative act. But it's important to know when something is symbolic so we can assess what has or hasn't been achieved.

It's true there are real, substantive issues of discrimination at play. Same-sex couples don't have the same rights and entitlements as married heterosexual ones do on a range of things: workers' compensation death benefits, pensions for the partners of Defence Force veterans, access to carer's leave for example. It's true same-sex marriage would quickly remedy this. But it's also true that you could remove that discrimination by amending the way those entitlements work without even thinking about same-sex marriage. And if you did that, marriage equality activists would still want to change the definition of marriage, and their opponents would still resist them. In fact, their opponents would probably be happy to give same-sex couples all those rights if they'd just leave marriage alone.

That's why the ACT government found itself in court this week, defending its marriage equality legislation from the federal government's legal attack, why a same-sex marriage bill was debated in NSW Parliament on Thursday (though Premier Barry O'Farrell has indicated he will not support a state same-sex marriage bill, only a federal one), and why the Tasmanian upper house ultimately decided not to proceed with similar legislation of its own. None of these laws, which could operate only at state and territory levels, remedy same-sex discrimination in a stroke. They are political acts designed to make symbolic, political statements.

This is clearest in the case of the ACT legislation which, one way or another, is doomed to failure. Even if it wins in the High Court, the federal government can - and almost certainly will - override the legislation because it has the power to do that to a territory. The ACT will have opened the way for states, but territorians must surely know that every marriage they contract under this legislation will one day be annulled. The ACT government surely knows this, too. It isn't looking for a substantive result; it's trying to apply pressure to the federal government.

But something strange has arisen this week in the attempt to do that. So strong is the sense that marriage equality's moment is approaching, and so frenzied is the race to get there, that marriage equality advocates have begun, in a remarkable way, to argue against their own position.

The ACT's present fight with the federal government comes down to whether or not the Federal Marriage Act is intended to be a comprehensive statement on the definition of marriage, which precludes the states having anything to say on the matter. If so, the laws are inconsistent and the federal law prevails. This is for the High Court to decide, and while the ACT certainly has a chance of winning, there's no doubt it's vulnerable. At least, that is the view of Bret Walker, SC, one of the country's best constitutional lawyers, who has been advising Australian Marriage Equality. But, he says, the NSW bill and its (now defunct) Tasmanian counterpart are on stronger ground.

The key difference is that those bills don't attempt to redefine marriage. In fact, they avoid legislating on marriage at all. Instead they create a new species of legal relationship that happens to be called "same-sex marriage". Since this is not the same thing as "marriage" in the meaning of federal law, it can't be treading on federal toes.

It's a neat legal technique. It's a strong legal argument. The only problem for marriage equality activists is that it completely undermines the cause. This is not simply a small matter of language. It's about changing the whole concept of the legislation.

The very purpose of marriage equality is to extend the definition of marriage so it is blind to gender. That's what the ACT bill is attempting to do. And that's exactly what you don't do by sidestepping this process and creating an entirely new social construct that just happens to have "marriage" in its name. A "same-sex marriage" is just a civil union by a more political name.

Really, you can call it what you like - a "consolation marriage" might be most honest - you've done nothing to change the legal definition of marriage. A legally rigorous man still couldn't turn to his boyfriend and ask: "Will you marry me?" It would have to be: "Will you same-sex marry me?" In that way, the NSW bill might offer same-sex marriage, but it's not offering marriage equality. It's a bit like republicans finally replacing the monarch with a system of hereditary, foreign-born presidents.

As symbolic achievements go, that would be relatively anaemic. But now you have marriage equality activists, who are typically uninspired by the prospect of civil unions, pleading with the ACT government to enact precisely that, and reacting angrily when it refuses to do so.

Take independent NSW MP Alex Greenwich's warning that "it is not going to be Tony Abbott, it is not going to be the High Court that will be blamed for the invalidation of these marriages, it will be the ACT government that will be blamed". Perhaps. But the ACT's response would surely be that at least they had marriages to annul.

Meanwhile, opponents of marriage equality, who frequently offer civil unions as some kind of compromise, seem not to have seen the opportunity. They're delighting in their victory in Tasmania, but the onward march of same-sex marriage - which transcends traditional partisan or conservative/progressive lines - suggests that victory can only be pyrrhic.

Perhaps their best strategy would be to limit same-sex marriage to consolation, state-level status, especially if their opponents seem happy with that. One look at the NSW and Tasmanian bills and they should be should be leaping on them, screaming: "Deal! Are we done now?"


Abbott must stop those foreigners breeding

Labor’s deputy leader can’t stop pushing the anti-Catholic and anti-Abbott smears:

Labor is warning Tony Abbott not to let his social conservatism dictate foreign aid by stripping funding from services that provide abortions and birth control in poor countries.

In her first major speech as opposition spokeswoman on foreign affairs and international development, Tanya Plibersek will raise the spectre of Mr Abbott’s conservatism as part of an attack on plans to cut $4.5 billion in aid over four years.

"I will fight any effort by Tony Abbott to strip aid from family planning services in developing countries,’’ she says...


1 comment:

Rubyred said...

As usual, the Labor person is raising a spectre which probably does not exist. Where is her proof?

Labor has not learnt a thing. They still think they are in Government. The people have rejected them after six disastrous years.