Friday, December 13, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is disgusted by the foul-mouthed speech from the Left

Abbott government to launch Royal commission into union 'slush funds'

The Abbott government will launch a royal commission into union "slush funds" in the coming months in a move that will place heavy scrutiny on union officials and senior Labor politicians.

The royal commission comes less than a fortnight after a Fairfax Media investigation uncovered millions of dollars in a string of secret union slush funds.

The series of Fairfax reports revealed the involvement of the NSW Right’s powerful Transport Workers Union in a $500,000 takeover of its own Queensland branch with the backing of the disgraced former HSU leader Michael Williamson.

It also reported the possible unlawful misuse of union and parliamentary staff by senior union officials and Labor figures.

Staff from the TWU’s national and NSW offices were sent to Brisbane and for weeks were paid to oversee an elaborate campaign including use of call centres, focus groups, bulk SMS messaging, and repeated mail-outs to members.

The Fair Work Commission has started making initial inquiries into the allegations.Before the 2013 election, the Coalition had promised a judicial inquiry into an early-1990s slush fund, the AWU Workplace Reform Association.

That fund involved then union official Bruce Wilson, the former boyfriend of Julia Gillard.

The former prime minister provided legal advice to Mr Wilson in setting up the association.

She has vigorously denied wrongdoing or any knowledge of the fund’s operations.But now the Abbott government is to dramatically widen the scope of that inquiry to a royal commission.

Attorney-General George Brandis confirmed it was "considering the scope and terms of reference" of its inquiry.

Full details are yet to be released.

Last week, Employment Minister Eric Abetz said, in response to the Fairfax reports, that there was an "endemic culture of illegality and funny money" in the union movement.Senator Abetz, speaking in Parliament, said workers were being ripped off by factional games in Labor.

"Those [Fairfax] revelations told us about hundreds of thousands of dollars being used to fight, not for trade union members, but union leaders and their fiefdoms and ALP endorsements," Senator Abetz said.

"In relation to the Transport Workers Union slush fund, that’s not just a Christmas social club, that is a huge amount of money. It is serious money with serious consequences.

Money held in secret funds, in buckets and in brown paper bags.

"Senior union leaders attacked the prospect of a royal commission as a "union-bashing exercise" and an attempt by the government to distract attention from the closure of Holden’s manufacturing business.


Australia's top court overrules gay marriage in capital

The decision means that the 27 couples who have wed since the ACT laws came into effect a month ago will have their marriages annulled as unconstitutional

Australia's High Court has struck down gay marriage in the nation's capital where dozens have wed under a landmark law, ruling that parliament must decide whether to approve same-sex unions.

Had the nation's top court upheld the Australian Capital Territory's gay marriage legislation it would have opened the door to similar laws being passed across the country, pressuring the government to make it legal at a national level.

In a unanimous decision, Australia's highest court ruled that the federal parliament -- not state and territory authorities -- had the ultimate say over marriage, and whether it was extended to same-sex couples was a matter for lawmakers.

"The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same-sex couples," the court said.

"That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage," it added.

"Under the constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same-sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal parliament."

The decision means that the 27 couples who have wed since the ACT laws came into effect a month ago will have their marriages annulled as unconstitutional.

There were tearful scenes outside the court as those who had married digested the judgment, with Ivan Hinton describing it as "personally devastating" to have his vows to partner Chris Teoh overturned.

"In less than a week we've been married and we've been unmarried, at least on a legal level," he told reporters, fighting back tears.

"We're still married. I've made commitments to Chris to spend the rest of my life with him, through sickness and through health, in the good times and in the bad. Today's not particularly good."

Veteran gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome said the case represented major progress.

"Although there's been a defeat for marriage equality in the High Court today this week we've seen a much greater victory," an emotional Mr Croome said.

"For the first time ever same-sex couples have married on Australian soil. That has been a huge step forward and one from which there is no return."

Instead of "protests or politics, or even laws and the constitution", Mr Croome said the passage of the ACT laws had showed that gay marriage was about "love, commitment, family and fairness".

The ruling had also given campaigners a clear path forward, Mr Croome said, putting the ball squarely in the parliament's court, and affirming "for the first time ever" that lawmakers "definitely" had the power to make same-sex marriage legal. "Many people had assumed that until now but it has never been declared by the court," he said.

Others also took heart from the court's declaration that while the Marriage Act was restricted to male-female unions, the constitution did not inherently exclude same-sex couples from the definition of "marriage", underscoring that it was a political rather than legal issue.

Religious groups including the Australian Christian Lobby welcomed the ruling, saying gay marriage was irrelevant to most Australians and it was "time to move on".

Gay marriage has been explicitly outlawed in Australia since 2004, when then-prime minister John Howard amended the Marriage Act to specify that such unions were only valid between a man and a woman.

The conservative Tony Abbott-led government is opposed to gay marriage, despite Abbott's sister being a lesbian who is engaged and hopes to marry her partner.

Same-sex couples can have civil unions or register their relationships in most states across Australia but the government does not consider them married under national law. For legal purposes they are considered de facto couples and have exactly the same rights as married couples.


Why the Left takes joy in foul abuse

Miranda Devine

SO Joy Burch, the Education minister of the ACT, publishes a tweet describing her federal counterpart Christopher Pyne as a c**t - and gets away with it.

Her excuse for retweeting the foul abuse is that she is inexperienced on Twitter, despite the fact she has been publishing her thoughts on the social media site for four years, during which time she has written 1161 tweets.

“I haven’t finessed my social skills, my Twitter skills on this,” she said, while considering an offer by the University of Canberra for remedial social media training.

In other words, Burch has published six tweets a week for the past four years and she still hasn’t worked out how to use Twitter.

Slow learner, much?

Her boss, fellow feminist and Emily’s Lister Katy Gallagher, the ACT Chief Minister, accepted Burch’s explanation that the tweet - which she later deleted - was a mistake.

“I also believe that she has done the right thing and accepted responsibility for what happened ... and has offered an apology to Minister Pyne,’’ she said.

We all make mistakes. But imagine if the roles were reversed. Imagine if Pyne had used the most obscene word in the English language, describing an intimate portion of the female anatomy, in reference to Burch. He would be crucified. Twitter would be ablaze! The destroy-the-jointers would be apoplectic. The entire Abbott government would be implicated.

“If I had done that, before my head hit the pillow [Thursday night] I would have resigned or been sacked,” Pyne says.

“If it was me saying such a thing, the howls from the left would be cacophonous.”

But there has been barely a peep against Burch, who also happens to be the ACT’s Minister for Women. Moving right along. No double standards here.

That’s the Left for you, hysterical overreaction when it suits them, benign tolerance when it doesn’t. If you’re on their side, anything goes. If you’re a conservative, a minefield of ‘isms lie in wait - sooner or later you will be accused of sexism, racism, elitism, homophobia and misogyny.

Of course, the upside is that conservatives become battle - hardened and vigilant while their establishment foes grow sloppy and complacent.

The truth is that Burch doesn’t like Pyne because he is an ideological enemy and a fearsome warrior.

In fact there are few politicians as tough. Pyne relishes combat. As the much-loved youngest of five children growing up in Adelaide, he learned his skills at a family dining table where vigorous debate was nightly sport.

The photograph that had Burch and comrades so furious that they called him “c**t” last week shows Pyne smirking, or, as one tweeter put it, “smugly loitering”, in the background of one of those ranting press conferences NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli held about Gonski funding.

This was supposed to be the moment when Pyne was on the ropes, chastised by the media for executing backflips, supposedly humiliated by Prime Ministerial intervention, and yet here he was looking exceedingly pleased with himself.

How infuriating for his enemies!

Having unwisely promised to match the extra billions pledged by Labor before the election under the so-called Gonski model of redistributing education funding, the Abbott government is stuck with it.

But don’t expect Pyne to capitulate.

He knows giving extra billions to the very state education bureaucracies that have presided over a decline in standards over the past decade of record funding increases is no answer to our woes.

The latest OECD rankings show Australian students have fallen even further behind their peers in 65 industrialised nations, dropping out of the top ten for reading, maths and science for the first time.

The test results released last week show Australian 15-year-old students ranked 13th in reading last year, down from 9th in 2009; 19th in maths, down from 14th; and 17th in science, down from 10th. An earlier report showed the reading skills of our Year 4 students are the worst of every English-speaking country tested.

This sorry result is despite the fact Australia increased spending on schools by more than 40 per cent last decade.

More money does not automatically mean better education.

In fact it can make things worse, if you are just entrenching the progressive education ideology that has infected teacher training for decades, and which fails disadvantaged children the most.

Pyne understands completely.

“The failing in education is not money,” he says. “[What’s needed is] an acceptance that what we’ve been doing for decades doesn’t work. Child-centred learning, whole language teaching of reading, acceptance of failure, is not going to get our students to the top of the tree around the world.”

The federal government doesn’t control what happens in schools. But what Pyne can control is teacher quality, the single biggest determinant of student success.

“We are going to intervene in the training of our teachers ... to ensure that [when they graduate]from university they are properly trained in how to teach students to read, and to do so from phonics, through orthodox teaching methods.”

He has lots of other plans too, from expanding direct instruction to ensuring principal autonomy, all of which is anathema to the progressive education establishment.

He should wear their foul abuse as a badge of honour.


How  General Motors Holden exited from Australia

In a seemingly calculated performance - one designed to flush out GM's intentions and back the car maker into a corner - the Treasurer said it was time for Holden to "come clean" and be "fair dinkum" with the Australian people over its future in the country. "Either you're here or you're not," Mr Hockey said.

Mr Truss chimed in by saying: "They owe it to the workers of General Motors not to go into the Christmas period without making a clear commitment to manufacturing in this country."

For Holden management, which had been in commercial-in-confidence discussions with the government for months, it was a clear signal that the federal cabinet had turned on the company, and wanted a swift end.

Holden staff members were not the only ones listening in to the "extraordinary" events unfold in Canberra. So was GMH managing director Mike Devereux.

For weeks Holden management had been fighting a battle over the timing of the announcement regarding the company's manufacturing operations in Australia.

The facts were simple to Mr Devereux's masters in Detroit. To them, Australia was suffering a severe case of "Dutch disease" - an economic malaise by which a mining boom had pushed up the local currency and wages for industrial workers.

Without government assistance, head office in Detroit had decided that making cars in Australia no longer added up - to the tune of $3750 a car per year.

Mr Devereux knew that with no money forthcoming from the federal government, the end was nigh. His team had already brokered an enterprise bargaining agreement with the unions that enshrined a three-year wage freeze and won an extra 16 minutes of work time per employee a shift.

Mr Devereux told the Productivity Commission he did not have to eliminate the entire $3750 gap, just enough to keep his masters happy.

"GM, where possible and where feasible, the general philosophy of our company is to build where we sell," he said.

What Holden needed was a further commitment of $150 million a year from the government through to 2020 - roughly $2000 a car built. With that, Mr Devereux could get the numbers to work. In return, Holden would continue making the VF Commodore and Cruze in Australia until 2017, and then commit to build GM's next generation global car in Adelaide until 2020.

"We need a public-private partnership over the long term to be able to be relatively competitive and to have GM be able to do what it wants to do, which is to build where we sell," Mr Devereux told the Productivity Commission hearing after an hour of questions. "Now, unless you guys have more questions, I need to move."

Mr Devereux's impatience was understandable. It was 10am and big moves had been announced back in Detroit. GM chief executive Dan Akerson had just handed over the reins to Mary Barra, the first female chief executive of a major auto company.

Compared with other events taking place on the GM "ecosystem", as Mr Devereux likes to call it, a Productivity Commission hearing in Australia was small fry. But all that changed during question time.

While listening to the words of Mr Hockey and Mr Truss, the Holden boss was on the phone to Detroit, where it was after 10pm.

Mr Devereux informed GM headquarters of the events in Australia. The decision was swift. Detroit pulled the pin. Mr Devereux would take up his position as vice-president of sales, marketing and aftersales for GM's consolidated international operations, based in Shanghai.

Mr Truss on Wednesday claimed he had been told by Holden that the government's actions had little influence on GM's decision.

But Mr Hockey appeared to concede the government was not willing to give money to Holden. "Ultimately, what it comes down to is prosperity only comes from hard work and enterprise; it doesn't come from the benevolence of taxpayers," he said.

After his phone call to Detroit, Mr Devereux booked a flight to Adelaide. "I wanted to tell my workers first," he said on Wednesday.

The Holden team hit the phones to spread the news. South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill and Victorian Premier Denis Napthine were next to be briefed.


BOOK REVIEW of The Age of Global Warming: A History by Rupert Darwall.  Review by Australian scientist DAVID ARCHIBALD

As the pumped-up spectre of climatic catastrophe continues to deflate, Ruper Darwall's new book makes a handy guide to the conceits, careerism, delusions and blatant misrepresentations that debased the good name of science and set the stage for economic ruin

Rupert Darwall’s The Age of Global Warming: A History is a wonderful book, the best account of the politics of global warming to date — and the best likely to be written.  It is engaging and doesn’t over-reach to become over-worked and tedious.  As someone who has served as a foot soldier in the solar-science trench of the global warming battle for less than a decade, this book filled in a lot of the missing details.

It also offers some new insights.  Environmentalism had a big run up from the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 to the first environmental conference in Stockholm ten years later. During that time, Ronald Reagan, as Governor of California, blocked the building of some dams and highways for environmental reasons, and Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.  Then the Yom Kippur began on October 6, 1973.  Interest in environmental matters as a popular issue was sidelined for some time by wars and oil-supply shocks.  Nevertheless, notions of wealth redistribution from OECD countries to the Third World continued to be generated, their rationale based on the novel concept of “environmental justice”.  The movement thrashed around until it lit upon the issue that would take it mainstream.  Initially, the health of the oceans was promoted as the big concern, but then global warming emerged as the issue able to get the best traction.

One of the missing details that this book fills in is the lack of economic modelling on global warming policies.darwall cover  The first governmental review of the costs and benefits of mitigation measures was that of the George Bush administration in 1990.  No other government bothered, being quite happy to sign up to commitments to deep cuts in emissions without knowing or caring about the economic consequences.  That is what I found strange when I got involved in this issue.  Do you remember when Kevin Rudd said that fighting global warming would cost a family just $1 per day, as if they were signing up to a World Vision child sponsorship plan or the like?  Of course the economic consequences have been much more burdensome than that, underwritten by the indisputble fact that environmentalism needs prosperity to flourish.

The first people to lose their jobs in Australia due to the global warming scare were cement workers in Rockhampton.  One of the more recent victims was a restaurant in inner Sydney, where the owners could not afford to re-gas their fridges – collateral damage in the war on Western civilisation.  A warehouse burnt down in New Zealand because the owners tried to save money by switching to a hydrocarbon refrigerant.  The economic consequences are now coming faster and harder.  The Europeans have suddenly become much more aware of what will happen to their power prices under the global-warming legislation they have enacted.  Seemingly none of them did any economic modelling of what would happen.  They were so very happy to sign up to the cause and equally eager to coerce others into committing economic suicide as well. Now the consequences are becoming grimly apparent.

[Australian politician] Malcolm Turnbull, a climate change true believer, once said that for global warming not to be true, it would have to be the largest conspiracy the world has ever seen.  Darwall details the first stirrings of that conspiracy in the 1920s, and he tracks its progress over the near-hundred years since.  Did the scientists actually believe the theory they were advocating? It seems they did and simply cooked the books to show that it was happening, fervently believing reality would eventually catch up with their projections.  Gaia had other ideas, however. The planet has refused to warm for very nearly two decades, and there is a growing body of evidence and observations that suggest we may actually on the brink of global cooling.

For those thoroughly bored with global warming, Darwell’s book still represents a very good read because it shows how public opinion is shaped and prepared for concerted and calculated multi-year campaigns at the international level.  I have heard speculation that “global warming” is to be replaced as a poster issue for the environmentalist cause by the notion of “sustainability”.  One of the first indications that such a switch in emphasis is in progress  was a recent campaign by the NSW EPA against food wastage.  Seemingly, the state agency is reading the cues and reacting to them.

The vast majority of our polity here in Australia are still afflicted by global warming, either as believers or in paying lip service to it.  The country at this juncture is still destined for one pointless burden or the other – be it the carbon tax or “direct action”.  Tellingly, while the new Liberal Government was elected on a pledge to abolish the carbon tax, it has kept the National Greenhouse & Energy Reporting Act (NGER) — the last dark deed of the Howard Government in 2007.  Howard pronounced himself as agnostic on global warming, but for some reason was very efficient at bringing in legislation that paved the way for the carbon tax.  He later rewrote his autobiography to explain that he was panicked by a tidal wave of environmentalism.  It seems Howard thought he would use global warming as an issue to push Australia towards nuclear power.  Instead, he cast himself as another of  Lenin’s “useful fools”.

Belief in global warming has been a litmus test for our politicians.  If they have ever believed in it, or uttered the inane “we have decided to give the planet the benefit of the doubt”, they are fools for being so easily deluded.  Repeal of the NGER is now the litmus test.  If that act is not repealed, then it will be self-evident our current crop of leaders is not serious about Australia’s economic health, national security, liquid fuel supplies and similar grave matters of state.  Our country will continue to suffer until the issue of global warming is entirely behind us.  Reading Darwall’s book will bring forward that frabjous day.


1 comment:

Paul said...

As I noted some time back, the Gay Marriage advocates missed the fact that this was a Constitution issue, or maybe they didn't miss it. They'd certainly have to have known. Either way, a large group of would be marrieds have just been used and discarded for political benefit.