Monday, September 30, 2013
More Leftist groupthink on display
Dealing with people as individuals is beyond them
Labor leadership aspirant Bill Shorten has proposed broadening the party's quota system to include gay and lesbian candidates and indigenous Australians, to improve their under-representation in Parliament.
In a bulk mailout to Labor members, due to arrive in coming days, Mr Shorten launches a passionate bid to be made leader.
He outlines his vision for the Labor Party as a younger, more dynamic organisation that would attract more professional women, academics, small business people, tradespeople and farmers.
To attract and keep more members, he says the party should offer discount memberships for union members, students, pensioners and people out of work, and allow people to join online. He says Labor must also redouble its efforts to promote at least 40 per cent female candidates.
Labor's membership has risen by more than 1100 new applications since the election, with broad support among the membership for the new leadership election process introduced by former leader Kevin Rudd.
NSW general secretary Jamie Clements said the leadership reforms had softened the blow of Labor's election defeat. "A lot of oxygen has been sucked out of what's wrong with the Labor Party. That's not the focus right now. The focus is, members have an opportunity to elect their future. That's the net effect."
National secretary George Wright said 43,000 members were eligible to vote in the contest between Mr Shorten and Left stalwart Anthony Albanese.
Mr Albanese and Mr Shorten are understood to have better chances in their home states of NSW and Victoria, respectively, despite NSW being controlled by the Right. The majority of branch members are not factionally aligned.
Ballot papers were posted to members on Tuesday and will be counted within a fortnight.
Literacy failings 'due to ideology'
A "SHOCKING" proportion of Australian schoolchildren are failing to meet basic literacy standards, with a new study blaming a tendency by teachers and government to impose "ideological" theories rather than evidence-based teaching programs.
Writing in the spring edition of the Centre for Independent Studies' Policy magazine, Jennifer Buckingham, Kevin Wheldall and Robyn Wheldall argue policymakers and teachers need to use "scientifically valid" reading methods, not ideological theories, to reduce illiteracy.
In the 2013 NAPLAN results, 11.5 per cent of year three students were at, or below, the minimum standard for reading, despite about 1200 hours of reading instruction.
In an article entitled "Why Jaydon can't read: the triumph of ideology over evidence in teaching reading", the authors say those results do not necessarily reflect student ability. Rather, they were the product of teacher training and badly advised government strategies.
"National and international tests show that average (reading) achievement is static, with no reduction in the proportion of Australian students at the lowest performance levels," the authors say.
"Poorly conceived government policies and university education faculties wedded to outdated and unproven teaching methods have each contributed to the situation."
Australia ranked second last among English-speaking countries in the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). The work drew on studies in Britain, the US and Australia that found a large proportion of training and classroom teachers had insufficient knowledge of meta-linguistics.
A 2008 Victorian study found that only 38 per cent of pre-service teachers and 52 per cent of in-service teachers knew the correct definition of a syllable.
The authors argued a comprehensive reading program incorporating five essential elements - phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension - was needed in Australian schools.
"The importance of phonemic awareness and phonics in teaching reading seems to be widely acknowledged among teachers, but many have neither the personal literacy skills nor the requisite professional and practical knowledge to teach them well," the article says.
"Governments must cease wasting money on ineffective 'add-on' programs that add to the burden of schools. If more money is to be spent on schools, it should be spent on up-skilling classroom and learning support teachers."
Ms Buckingham, a CIS research fellow specialising in school education, said a number of successful phonics programs had been refined over the years and had proved to be engaging.
"You need to have great literature in the classroom, shared reading, that love of literature encouraged, but at the same time there needs to be a really strong phonics program," she said.
"Almost 100 per cent of schools would say 'we do phonics' but their idea is not necessarily the most effective or proven way."
Milne's Greens 'marching to slow death'
On her way out of the party-room meeting that returned Christine Milne as Greens leader on Monday morning, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young walked past a table of journalists at Aussies Cafe at Parliament House.
To their bewilderment, Senator Hanson-Young matter-of-factly announced that her party had just returned a leader that would see the party "marching to a slow death".
After the election, at which the Greens bled a third of their vote, recriminations within the party have been swift. There is clear disquiet in the party's senior ranks about Senator Milne's leadership, but for the first time, it is out in the open. It was revealed last week six of the party's 18 most senior staffers, including Senator Milne's chief-of-staff Ben Oquist, had left.
One Greens senator told Fairfax Media: "I believe all this [leadership speculation] is because there are concerns about where [Senator Milne] takes us in the next three years. If we have the same result we had this election, we will be gone; we can't afford to do it again."
But who is driving the destabilisation in this post-Bob Brown era of the Greens?
Senator Hanson-Young, an outspoken and ambitious party room member, is often mentioned by her colleagues as one of the key destabilising forces. Four separate sources claim that she made a bid for the party's leadership team at Monday's party meeting, a charge she denies.
The story goes that Senator Hanson-Young tried to gauge support for her to run for deputy leader, a position now held by the member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, who would then be propelled into the leadership. (Senator Hanson-Young would not comment on Saturday, other than to say "that's just not true").
But others suspect the rumours are being put about to deflect attention from 41-year-old Mr Bandt, coming as they do on the back of reports that he had tried to gauge numbers for a challenge last Monday. Mr Bandt issued a statement saying he and his leader were "a strong, united leadership team", and that he had never sought the position of leader. But his office would not respond to questions about whether others had urged him to run for leader.
This sort of publicly fought internecine warfare is nothing new to Labor but it is a shock to many in the Greens, who have never experienced the sort of leadership challenges normal to most political parties. There is a sense within the party that even to publicly discuss a possible challenge is impolite. Behind the scenes, the Greens have been a consistently unified presence in Federal Parliament.
But in the aftermath of the Greens' election performance, in which the party's lower house vote dropped from 11.76 per cent in 2010 to 8.6 per cent, some within the party's senior ranks are concerned about Senator Milne's leadership, particularly her attempts to put a positive spin on a poor result.
Mr Oquist, an experienced political operator who had spent years fighting for the Green side of politics, quit early last week citing "fundamental differences of opinion in strategy".
A former staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says Senator Milne is "in denial" about the election result. "She said this week she wanted to move to a 'campaigning phase'. Well, here's a tip, love. We've just had a federal election. What the f--k have you been doing all year?"
Senator Milne told Fairfax she took "some" responsibility for the party's election result - and losing about a third of its vote - and vowed to listen to supporters who abandoned the party.
"Of course, as the leader of any political party you take some responsibility for the outcome of that election, and certainly I have to take a share of that responsibility in terms of the outcome for the election both good and bad," she said. This included returning at least 10 senators to Parliament after the election, with new Victorian senator Janet Rice elected. (WA senator Scott Ludlam's position is still in doubt.) But Senator Milne dismissed reports there had been a foiled attempt by party insiders to install Mr Bandt as leader, saying there was no threat to her leadership. "It's wrong."
NSW senator Lee Rhiannon leapt to Senator Milne's defence, saying: "I figure if someone is going to mount a challenge, they're going to lobby for numbers. I wasn't lobbied. I just do not believe there was a challenge."
While she acknowledged the Greens had "a challenging election and a challenging election result", Senator Rhiannon said the party room shared responsibility for the low vote. "I think what we need to be looking at is how we project our message to voters."
The party's campaign committee will review the election result and report to the Greens' national conference in November.
Immigration minister denies that efforts to rescue asylum seekers were delayed
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has for the second time in two days forcefully rejected suggestions Australia did not respond quickly enough to an asylum seeker boat that sank off Java on Friday morning, killing at least 24 people.
Breaking his self-imposed media blackout on asylum seeker operations for the second consecutive day, the minister issued a statement on Sunday saying Australian rescue and border protection agencies "respond to all such events with great professionalism and a keenly felt sense of duty, as they did on this occasion".
Only 28 of the boat's 81 passengers have been found alive, leaving more than 50 dead or missing. Indonesian authorities say they have little hope of finding more.
One survivor, Abdullah, from Jordan, said: "I called the Australian embassy. For 24 hours we were calling them. They told us just send us the position on GPS, where are you. We did, and they told us: 'OK, we know … where you are.' And they said: 'We'll come for you in two hours.'
"We wait 24 hours, and we kept calling them: 'We don't have food, we don't have water for three days, we have children, just rescue us.' And nobody come."
Mr Morrison's second statement said the government "completely rejects allegations of a 26-hour delay".
"Suggestions Australian authorities did not respond to this incident appropriately are absolutely and totally wrong," the minister's statement said.
His earlier statement on Saturday said Australian authorities received a phone call about the vessel on Friday morning. Initial reports placed it inside the Indonesian search and rescue region.
Australia's Maritime Safety Rescue Co-ordination Centre issued an all-ships broadcast. A merchant ship responded but was unable to locate the vessel. A Border Protection Command aircraft was also unable to locate it.
Mr Morrison is due to give the second of the weekly briefings he has promised about asylum seeker operations on Monday.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Network Ten: "Tragically, I mean, the events occurred in an area that was under Indonesian jurisdiction.
"As long as the boats keep coming, people sadly will continue to lose their lives."
Greens leader Christine Milne called for an inquiry into Australia's response.
She said the Greens would use the Senate to demand a return to the regular release of information rather than weekly briefings.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Australian Navy sends asylum seekers back to Indonesia
For only the second time in the past six years, the Australian Navy intercepted a boat and handed the asylum seekers back to Indonesia
THE Australian Navy has sent more than 40 asylum seekers back to Indonesia, after intercepting their boat off the coast of Java.
The boat carrying 44 asylum seekers attempting to get to Australia, issued a distress call 40 nautical miles off Java yesterday morning.
The Australian Navy intercepted the asylum vessel, after Indonesia’s rescue agency Basarnas said it did not have the capability to reach the boat.
The Australian Navy advised Basarnas it would drop the asylum seekers and two crew members off.
In the early hours of the morning, the Indonesian rescue crew met the Navy ship off the coast of Java and the passengers were handed over, and returned to the mainland.
Azam, one of the intercepted boat’s crew members told the ABC the boat was not broken, despite passengers calling Australia to be rescued. He said there was nothing wrong with the boat when the Australian Navy intercepted it, and the engine was working.
It appears the asylum seekers called the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, hoping to get rescued and taken to Australia.
He said the Navy set fire to the boat at sea.
Suyatno, head of operations at the Jakarta office of Basarnas said he did not know why Australia did not take the asylum seekers to Christmas Island.
The Australian Navy only handed asylum seekers back to Indonesian authorities once during the six years of the last Labor government.
On all other occasions where a boat of asylum seekers were intercepted by Australian authorities assisting in their rescue, they were taken to Christmas Island.
This rescue and return of asylum seekers hints at a new and tougher approach by the Australian government, according to the ABC’s Parliament House bureau chief Greg Jennett.
Jennett predicts this action could establish a precedent with Indonesia, and future calls for Australian help and rescue will come with a condition that the passengers and crew will be handed back.
However, such claims may never be confirmed or denied, following the Government’s recent communications clampdown.
The Government are sticking by its policy of not commenting on the operational details of any intercepts at sea under Operation Sovereign Borders.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently ordered all ministers to obtain approval from his office prior to speaking to the media, including the ABC.
The Australian Navy’s return of passengers back to west Java has caused a minor dispute with local Indonesian authorities, who did not want responsibility for the asylum seekers.
This recent incident comes as a diplomatic row continues to simmer between Australia and Indonesia about the handling of asylum boats.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott described tensions between the two countries over the Coalition’s border protection policy as a “passing irritant”.
“The last thing I would ever want to do is anything that doesn’t show the fullest possible respect for Indonesia’s sovereignty,” he said.
“We are already at this very moment cooperating closely with the Indonesians… I don’t believe that the incoming government will do anything that will put that cooperation at risk. We want to build on that.”
Cool, calm and coiffed, Julie Bishop brings world's leaders to heel
LOL. Julie Bishop in the seat Kevvy coveted. That must burn
First came a bang of her gavel, and next was one of those steely-eyed stares.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stopped talking, and Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg sat up straight - Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was the boss today after all.
Making her world debut as chair of the United Nations Security Council in New York, Ms Bishop quickly had the full attention of some of the globe’s most important leaders as she declared: “The 7036 order.”
Dressed in a designer suit, Armani probably, and her hair coiffed and unmoving throughout, Ms Bishop, who for years voiced her opposition to Labor’s campaign to snare a position on the UN Security Council, sat proudly centre stage, the words “PRESIDENT AUSTRALIA” on the desk in front of her.
“The provisional agenda for this meeting is ...,” she paused, "small arms,” before giving another strong bang of her gavel.
The 57-year-old, whose childhood was spent on a cherry farm in the Adelaide Hills, could not have hoped for a better outcome to her first day in charge as the council adopted a landmark resolution on small arms.
During the two-hour long meeting Ms Bishop was poised, professional and in control.
There was only an occasional stumble as she tried to pronounce names, including Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov.
Also not going to plan was when the lights went out – but only for a second.
But mostly Ms Bishop, who has been in New York all week representing Australia at the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, held her own.
“The Security Council has taken too long to adopt its first resolution on small arms,” she told the high level meeting.
Yet despite her polished performance, Ms Bishop unusually refused a request to speak to world media about her landmark role, prompting speculation she was unwilling to face potential questions on the increasing tension with Indonesia over the Coalition’s turn-back-the-boats policy.
During the meeting, representatives from member states applauded the Australian government for its relentless pursuit of a devastating global problem that has not been addressed by the UN in four years.
“Thank you Madame president for choosing the issue of small arms for the month of your presidency,” added the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
His sentiments were echoed by foreign ministers from other states who praised Australia for its “hard work” in highlighting the issue of the proliferation and use of small arms and light weapons.
Ms Bishop beamed, and said: “I should note that Australia has built on the earlier work of others – including Argentina some years ago – to get to this point.”
What she could also have noted – but did not – was the work of Labor, who battled for four years amid fierce opposition from Ms Bishop herself to land a position on the Security Council.
“An expensive victory,” was how she and Tony Abbott put it when the campaign, started by former prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2008 came to fruition last October.
"There is a limit to what can be achieved as a temporary member on the United Nations Security Council,” she told ABC TV at the time.
"Of course, the ultimate test will be in terms of success, what we have achieved for the benefit of the Australian people after two years on the Security Council as a temporary member."
Most likely, as Ms Bishop kicks back tonight in her plush hotel near Grand Central with a view of New York's sparkling Empire State Building, she is toasting that success.
TV cameraman fired for 'terrorist' slur on rioting Muslim
CHANNEL Nine cameraman Simon Fuller has been sacked after calling the father of a Melbourne riot suspect a "f---ing terrorist" outside the Melbourne Magistrates' Court.
Nine announced the decision on its news bulletin last night. "Following an investigation, his employment has been terminated," news reader Peter Hitchener said. Nine director of news Michael Venus today said he had nothing more to add.
Fuller was stood down pending an investigation after footage of the incident aired on Media Watch on Monday night.
"I've looked at the tape myself, the field tape, and it's sufficiently deeply disturbing enough for us to have taken the action that we have taken in recent days," Mr Venus told Neil Mitchell on Radio 3AW yesterday.
"I should point out, Neil, also that the cameraman involved did apologise to the father and his son immediately after the incident. That's no excuse but it's something that has been overlooked in the discussion to date."
Fuller was filming 19-year-old Omar Amr and his father after the teenager was bailed on April 1. He followed them after the court session ended and filmed them.
The dispute began when Fuller said what sounded like "f--- off" to the pair. Amr's father, Gad, responded by calling him in a "bloody idiot". Fuller then called Mr Amr a "f---ing terrorist".
Omar Amr is facing charges of incitement to riot, riot, affray, burglary, theft and criminal damage following the riot that damaged a Bob Jane T-Mart store in Oakleigh.
Two 19-year-old men from Morwell have also been charged over their alleged involvement in the riot.
New broom Pyne ready to reshape curriculum
Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has warned he will take a much more hands-on approach to what is taught in the nation's schools, as he prepares to overhaul the government body in charge of the curriculum and NAPLAN tests.
In an ominous sign for the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, Mr Pyne vowed not to outsource his ministerial responsibilities and declared the agency was "not the final arbiter on everything that is good in education".
And Mr Pyne was not worried about sparking a fresh round of "history wars" by claiming the national curriculum favoured progressive causes, saying he did not mind if the left wanted to fight the Coalition on the topic.
"People need to understand that the government has changed in Canberra, that we're not simply administering the previous government's policies or views," Mr Pyne said. "I know that the left will find that rather galling and, while we govern for everyone, there is a new management in town."
Mr Pyne signalled the interventionist approach in an interview in which he also failed to spell out a clear way forward on school funding.
The new system of needs-based funding is due to begin in most states in January, but it remains unclear how the Abbott government will treat cash-strapped Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, the places that did not strike agreements with the Commonwealth before the election.
Pressed on the school funding issue, Mr Pyne repeatedly said Labor had "left us a mess" and he would consult with the states and territories on how "to fix that mess".
If the new government were to offer more favourable concessions to the hold-out jurisdictions it could open itself to demands by the early adopters - NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT - to pass on the concessions.
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli vowed to defend his state's rights, saying the agreement Premier Barry O'Farrell signed with then prime minister Julia Gillard in April ensured no state would receive a greater share of additional funding or more beneficial annual increases.
"We signed an agreement that had a 'no disadvantage' clause in it and that was signed with the Commonwealth government, not with the Labor Party," Mr Piccoli said. "Yes, we would seek to use that clause."
Mr Piccoli said he had not spoken to Mr Pyne since the election but was confident the new government would be much more co-operative than its Labor predecessor.
One of Mr Pyne's immediate priorities is to set up a ministerial advisory group to look at improving teacher training. He said universities should take a more practical approach to training teachers and focus less on theory so graduates left classroom-ready.
Mr Pyne also confirmed plans to reform one of the government's key education authorities by ensuring it was focused only on curriculum development. ACARA now publishes the My School website, administers national literacy and numeracy tests known as NAPLAN and collects performance data.
Under Mr Pyne's plan all non-curriculum-related roles will move into the Department of Education, suggesting ACARA will relinquish much of its testing and ranking activities.
Mr Pyne said he had not yet started work on the agency's overhaul as it was not a priority, but the Coalition's election-eve costings document factored in $23 million in savings from ACARA's four-year budget, including $7 million this financial year.
Mr Pyne said the review of the national curriculum was needed to ensure "that it is achieving the outcomes that we believe it should be" and hinted he may not accept ACARA's advice.
"I don't believe in handing over responsibility for government policy to third parties," Mr Pyne said. "The Westminster system of government requires ministers to take a hands-on approach to matters within their portfolio. "ACARA has an important role but ACARA is not the final arbiter on everything that is good in education."
Mr Pyne said the national history curriculum played down "the non-Labor side of our history" despite the Coalition governing for two-thirds of the past 60 years.
In a statement to Fairfax Media, ACARA - which has 117 full-time and 22 part-time staff - said the curriculum for English, mathematics, science, history and geography had been "signed off by all state and territory ministers". It vowed to continue to perform its current roles, which had been agreed by a standing council of state, territory and federal education ministers.
"We will prepare advice for Minister Pyne on current activities as well as matters that have been raised in policy statements," it said.
Friday, September 27, 2013
A pleasant accent
Your accent is hugely important in England. It indexes your social class. And your social class greatly governs your life chances. So British parents who can afford it send their kids to private schools -- where they will acquire an RP accent As a result, the 7% who have been to private schools run the country and are, generally speaking, hated by the rest of the population. Tony Blair vowed to end all that but social mobility under his regime in fact worsened.
There is some echo of that in Australia -- but only a faint one. The "official" ideology in Australia is egalitarian and that is widely heartfelt. Your chances in life can be good regardless of your background and you will not be held back by your accent. The large number of immigrants to Australia from Europe who have prospered despite starting out with very little English at all are instructive.
Nonetheless, many Australian parents feel that private schooling does give their kids a leg-up and Australia does as result have one of the world's highest rates of private schooling. 40% of Australian teenagers go to private High schools (including Catholic schools). I sent my own son to a Catholic school.
All schools are not equal, however, and those private schools with the highest academic and sporting standards are in my home State of Queensland grouped as "GPS" (Great Public Schools) schools.
That long preamble was needed to explain the context of a very small event in my life this norning. I was in the pharmacy of the Wesley private hospital to pick up a prescription when I was attended to by a pleasant, nice-looking and well-presented Chinese lady. That was not at all unusual. All the pharmacies that I know are overwhelmingly staffed by well-presented people of East Asian appearance.
What made this young lady different, however, was her accent. It was a very familiar one. She spoke perfect English with a GPS accent! I said to her that she sounded as if she had been to a GPS school and, with a blush, she confirmed that she had: Brisbane Girl's Grammar. Brisbane Girl's Grammar advertises itself as "the best girls private school in Brisbane".
I was pleased to hear that accent because much of my early life was spent in the company of other women with that accent. In proof of what I say about Australian mores, my own working class background has never been any obstacle to such associations. If a young lady knew about Bach, Chopin and madrigals, she had almost certainly learnt it at a private school so my own obsession with that music led inevitably to a meeting of minds with ladies of a GPS background.
So it was a nice surprise to hear that pleasant and familiar accent coming from the mouth of a very Chinese-looking lady. She will do well and I certainly wish her well. I told her that she would go down well in England -- which she will. A GPS accent and RP are very similar. Her parents invested wisely in the education of their lovely daughter.
An extraordinarily slack bureaucracy
Not too surprising from a bureaucracy that dates from 1944. It's had a lot of time to decay
His mornings were reserved for royal correspondence.
His leave was timed for the British royal wedding.
Yet very few questioned why a 'Tahitian prince', who lived an extravagant lifestyle full of fast cars and beautiful people [adjectives which can be swapped] and would often slash HRH on the bottom of letters, was working at a Queensland government department.
His success, a Crime and Misconduct Commission report into fraud and accountability in the Queensland public service seemed to suggest, was the product of apathetic colleagues, disregard for policy and haphazard investigations.
He didn't just raise red flags; he cloaked himself with them and dropped them throughout Queensland Health.
Barlow pulled off Queensland's single largest fraud, stealing $16.69 million over four years, because those around him weren't doing their jobs.
A CMC report, released nearly two years after Barlow was arrested, found systemic failures allowed the flamboyant New Zealand expat to make 65 fraudulent transactions, transferring Queensland Health grant money to a company he had set up and entered into the grants system.
Despite an anonymous complaint accusing Barlow of defrauding the department being sent to the CMC in 2010, a substantiated misuse claim, a criminal history and outstanding warrant in New Zealand, a work history which included irregular hours, questionable reasons for sick leave, concerns over his corporate credit card use and a failure to deliver on projects, Barlow was not only allowed to skate by, he was promoted.
Staff continued to complain about Barlow's work – the poor quality briefing notes he produced, his constant absences from work, his irregular hours, his bullying (which included making staff members cry on a regular basis), his inability to meet project deadlines, his tardiness because he was waiting on tradesmen or having a personal training session – but “everyone seemed to laugh it off because 'it was Ho'”.
Barlow told the CMC he had no idea how much money he had defrauded through his fake grants scheme. He simply took more money when he needed it, which, given his Bollinger lifestyle and the gifts he spread around to friends, family, colleagues and managers, was often.
On December 8, 2011, a finance officer was trying to work out why the Community Service Purchasing [Barlow's team] budget would not balance.
He uncovered a $11 million payment made to Healthy Initiatives and Choices from the Minister's Grants in Aid program. Barlow's luck had finally deserted him, although he would later claim to the CMC that he had had decided it was time to be caught “tired of living a double [life]...[being] His Royal Highness”.
The officer not only queried the grant with a superior officer, he performed a company search on HIC through the Australian Business Register and found it was registered to Barlow.
Barlow wandered into work about lunchtime. He saw that his superior was missing from a scheduled meeting and noticed his electronic access had been blocked and his work phone had been wiped.
He told his assistant he was popping out for a bite to eat and never came back. He was arrested four days later and charged; in March this year he was sentenced to 14 years in jail. He will become eligible for parole in December 2016.
But his spectre still haunts Queensland Health.
Having ignored Barlow's brazenness, or just failed to carry out the proper checks and balances which had been put in place to stop the misuse of public funds resulted in 45 allegations against 11 Queensland Health employees, including Barlow.
Twenty-four allegations against nine officers, including the man at the centre of the storm were substantiated by the CMC – failing to follow procedure, failing to act as managers and failing to comply with policy meant one officer was sacked, another moved out of the department, while others became the subject of disciplinary action, including retraining.
The CMC has suggested the Public Service Commission review its guideline on gift giving – gifts coming from outside the service are monitored but gifts given by employees to colleagues are not.
High value gifts particularly if they flow from an employee to a manager, should be noted, says the CMC.
Tea cakes and flowers remain safe, but Barlow's generosity with colleagues included airfares, expensive bottles of vintage champagne and platinum sporting tickets.
“It is reasonable to assume in those sort of circumstances that that sort of gift giving could compromise a manager's ability to act objectively and energetically,” CMC Assistant Commissioner Kathleen Florian told the media.
Like all CMC officers, Ms Florian is not comfortable in front of the media.
She presented the findings of the watchdog's report with the monotone senior public servants across the world master early.
But with each revelation – the fake crown Barlow had bought to give credence to his story, the trust fund which suddenly “kicked in” to explain the multi-million dollar river-front apartment and corresponding lifestyle at the same time Barlow became increasingly protective and territorial over grant paperwork, the complaints which were made and haphazardly investigated, the different names, the poor work performance, the permission to take mornings off to attend to royal correspondence – having now been laid out in black and white, even Ms Florian had to offer an exasperated smile.
“Looking at it all on paper and analysing further the four year period, it does seem extraordinary that this fraudulent activity was not identified earlier,” Ms Florian said.
Not just extraordinary – an “appalling, sad indictment” of the public service under the previous Labor government, says the man who was put in charge of cleaning up the mess, LNP Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg.
“It is a black stain against the former Labor administration in Queensland,” he said.
Mr Springborg said things have changed. Criminal background checks for employees – even temporary ones – now extend to New Zealand. Three people are required to sign for any payment over $100,000, while grants have been reduced, with service agreements taking their place.
Employees have been reminded of policy procedure which has been tightened, while Mr Springborg said a culture of accountability is slowly being introduced.
He said that would mean promotions would occur on merit, not (as seemingly in Barlow's case) through length of service, confusion and a lack of ideas of what else to do with such a frustrating employee.
“Everyone would be amazed, shocked and saddened by a set of circumstances where someone who had been so poor at work, had to be disciplined and had actually threatened their subordinates, could get away with those sorts of things for so long and was able to work his way up the food chain,” Mr Springborg said.
“The warning signs were there, but they were never picked up, they were never picked up and it had been escalated to a fairly high area.”
But Mr Springborg can't guarantee it will never happen again.
“What we've got are better systems, better processes, better structures which are giving more accountability for the people of Queensland and I think people can have more confidence,” he said.
“No one can ever give guarantees, but if you have a good process and someone's found a way around the good process, then it is different than having no process at all.”
But perhaps Barlow summed it up best during his confession to investigating officers.
“A simple ABN search would have stopped this in the beginning,” he said.
Anthony Albanese is an 'intellectual lightweight': Mark Latham
Labor may be insisting that its days of personal attacks and bitter infighting over leadership are behind it, but it appears Mark Latham did not get the memo.
The former Labor leader and perennial heckler has launched a withering attack on wannabe leader, Anthony Albanese, calling him an "intellectual lightweight" and arguing that Labor needed to vote ABA - or "anyone but Albo".
In the wake of Labor's election loss earlier this month, Labor MPs have widely concurred that Labor needs to stop talking about itself, while Mr Albanese and Bill Shorten have so far been at pains to conduct a leadership contest that is free from the nastiness that characterised the Rudd and Gillard years.
But Mr Latham has broken the self-imposed detente in a column in the Australian Financial Review on Thursday, writing that "the caucus has deluded itself into thinking if everyone is nice to each other [for a couple of weeks] the big issues will go away".
The former member for Werriwa, who took Labor to the 2004 federal election before resigning in January 2005, said that instead of seeking a mandate for major policy and organisational change, Mr Shorten and Mr Albanese have been "paralysed by conservatism".
"So far, the leadership contest between Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese has resembled a Nimbin MardiGrass festival, spaced out on mutual love and unreality."
Mr Albanese and Mr Shorten are currently campaigning for the Labor leadership under a new system where Labor members as well as the caucus get a vote.
On Thursday, Mr Shorten suggested he was likely to win the caucus vote but would not predict how the membership vote - where Mr Albanese is favoured - would turn out.
"I don't know how anyone could predict the outcome of the ballot for the membership of the party," Mr Shorten told ABC Radio.
"We'll have to see how the caucus members vote. A majority of them have indicated to me that they support me but this is a process also involving party members."
After criticising the campaign so far, Mr Latham goes on to tear strips off Mr Albanese in his column, arguing that when the former deputy prime minister launched his campaign in Sydney last week, he "gave one of the worst speeches in recent Labor history".
"It was a throwback to the 1960s, a narrow, insular pitch to the party's ever-shrinking industrial base. He had nothing to say about fiscal policy or boat people drownings. Other than in his transport portfolio, it is clear Albanese has not thought in any depth about public policy. He's an intellectual lightweight," Mr Latham writes.
The former Labor leader - who has previously labelled Mr Rudd a "once-in-a-century egomaniac" - went on to declare that Mr Albanese has been wrong on "every significant issue over the past decade".
"In effect, Albanese's political instincts are terrible. If he wins next month's leadership ballot, he will be a case study in inner-city, left-wing bunkum. His close links to [former NSW MP Ian] Macdonald will be electoral suicide for Labor."
"The caucus and party membership have no choice but to vote ABA: Anyone But Albo."
When contacted by Fairfax Media about Mr Latham's column, Mr Albanese's office had no comment.
But Mr Albanese responded via Twitter, posting: "So [union leader] Joe de Bruyn thinks I'm "rabid" on sexuality issues and Mark Latham thinks I don't have Leadership skills ........"
In the aftermath of the 2013 election, Mr Latham said that former attorney-general Mark Dreyfus should be Labor leader, arguing the party needed someone who had had a "real life outside of politics".
"If you took that logical, objective criteria, there's only one person who could possibly match it and that's Mark Dreyfus, the outgoing Attorney-General," he told ABC Radio.
"Now, [Mr Dreyfus] won't be running for the Labor leadership because he's not part of the gang. That's the sad thing about Labor Party - that objectively the person who could present a new face, a new outlook, won't even be thought of. We're going to go back to, what, Shorten: union, union, union. Or Albanese: warlord, warlord, warlord."
The membership vote closes on October 9 at 5 pm. The Labor caucus will then meet on October 10 for its vote, before the result is announced on October 13.
Coal seam gas opponents 'anarchists', says minister
The Federal Minister for Resources, Mr Ian Macfarlane, has slammed as "anarchists" some of the opponents to coal seam gas projects in NSW. "They are anarchists, they don't respect people's property, they don't respect people's rights. They don't respect the law of the land. "They go out deliberately to break the law."
The minister said he does not oppose people demonstrating but any opponents but they must respect the law, he said.
"If they try to spit on a state's MLA I think that is anarchy.
"If they go onto a farmer's property and trespass and won't remove themselves when asked I think that is anarchy.
"If they do not accept the science that (Professor) Mary (O'Kane, the NSW Chief Scientist) comes up with, if they don't accept the policy and they don't accept the law of the land, that's anarchy."
The newly installed resources minister is to visit the Northern Rivers district of NSW early next week, he said and he expects to encounter some of the opponents to the coal seam gas industry during that visit.
Mr Macfarlane was addressing an energy summit being held in Sydney in the wake of surging gas and electricity prices following restrictions to developing of the gas industry in NSW.
'Clean-eating' celebrity diet fad hits raw nerve
A GROWING number of young women across the country are embracing the latest "clean-eating" diet focused on raw, organic, vegan and abstract ingredients such as bee pollen.
However, the head of the federal government's dietary guidelines committee has warned that the latest dieting craze could have long-term health affects.
The clean-eating diet, boasting celebrity endorsement by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman, promotes the use of unprocessed and uncooked whole foods.
Amanda Lee said yesterday the fad, which has been embraced by young women seeking weight loss, could affect childbearing and lead to health problems in later years. While there was no consensus on what clean eating was among the different guidelines set by diet programs, most promoted no processed and refined foods, meat or dairy. "I worry mostly about the lack of food groups," Professor Lee said.
"It's definitely not good for health in the long term and if women are going to have babies they need to have a good source of calcium and iron.
"It worries me that something that is potentially harmful could become so fashionable."
There was no scientific evidence that organic food, which comes at a premium price, was better for your health, she said.
"People who eat organic food should only do it because of their concern for the environment," Professor Lee said.
Hayley Richards, 25, a student nutritionist and owner of Raw Karma vegan catering company, said the decision to "go clean" was a lifestyle choice and not a fad.
She said it was important that people following a clean-eating diet did their research to understand what they needed to eat to meet their nutritional needs.
"For me, it's about being as natural as possible with everything," Ms Richards said.
"It's not about just eating a salad for lunch -- you have to eat a lot of plant-based products so you can get what you need nutritionally. As a population we're over-eating, but we're not eating the right foods."
The National Health and Medical Research Council released updated dietary guidelines in February with a new focus on the obesity epidemic gripping the country.
They recommend men eat less meat and all Australians cut back on white bread, high-fat milk, soft drinks and takeaway food.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Mandatory student fees: Coalition split as Michael McCormack says fees important to regional universities
What is not mentioned below is that for many years student fees were used to pay for Far-Left political agitation
There is division within the Federal Government over whether university students should pay a compulsory services charge that helps fund student unions and services.
Nationals MP Michael McCormack says his party is likely to oppose any move from the Coalition to abolish the fees.
There were reports today that Education Minister Christopher Pyne plans to scrap the mandatory fees, which are collected by universities who then distribute the money to student unions for on-campus services.
It is not the first time the issue has caused a split within the Coalition: Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce crossed the floor in 2005 when the Howard government first axed the fees.
The Rudd government then reinstated them in 2007.
Mr Pyne clarified his position on ABC Radio today, saying that while the Government remains opposed to the fees, it is "not a priority" of the Coalition to get rid of them.
But Mr McCormack told triple j's Hack program that the funds are essential to regional university campuses. He said Nationals senator Fiona Nash was also against the fees, and National Party members were "surprised and shocked" at the reports today.
Mr McCormack says that while he is not sure if Mr Pyne intends to scrap the fees, but any decision should go before the entire Coalition. "I think perhaps it has to go to a backbench committee where we have regional Liberals, as well as National Party members, who can argue the point on behalf of regional universities and regional students that the student services and amenities fee is an integral part of regional universities campuses," he said.
Mr McCormack says the Liberal Party is ideologically against compulsory unionism, but a blanket approach will not benefit regional universities.
"The Liberal Party, let's face it, are against compulsory unionism, they're against having to pay that fee that might otherwise go towards things that the people who are paying the fees don't want or need," he said.
"I think this isn't so much of a funding issue so much as it is an ideology. Whilst it might be philosophically important for those city unis to not have compulsory unionism, to not have compulsory fees, out here in the bush things are different, students are different.
"Certainly in this instance it's something I don't think has necessarily been totally thought through."
Ian Young, vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, says there is "clearly an ideological view" within Coalition regarding mandatory student fees.
"I think it's been a policy within the Liberal Party in particular for quite some time," he said.
"I guess the job for myself and my fellow vice-chancellors is to be able to explain that this is not a student union fee and that it's something that is really important to the rich education for both Australian students and also for international students who study here in Australia."
Palmer United Party candidate Jacqui Lambie claims last Tasmanian Senate spot
Palmer United Party candidate Jacqui Lambie has picked up Tasmania's sixth Senate seat. The Australian Electoral Commission confirmed the results this morning after preferences were distributed from the September 7 poll.
The race for the last seat had been too close to call, but the former Army corporal prevailed with a margin of about 15,000 votes over Liberal hopeful Sally Chandler and Robbie Swan from the Australian Sex Party.
Ms Lambie, a mother of two, lives in Tasmania's north-west and was in Hobart this morning to wait for the results. She says there will be little time for celebrations and she will spend the day pulling down her election posters.
Ms Lambie says she is passionate about veterans issues and plans to focus on freight issues which are troubling the island state. "It's a core issue, the negative effect that's coming our of that...it's just not good for Tasmania whatsoever," she said.
"So I'd like to get straight onto that and fix up our freight and passenger services and get something down on the table and that is not going to come at a cheap price."
She says Tasmania is in a dire financial situation. "Use Clive Palmer and his contacts and his business smarts to see if we can get Tasmania back on its feet," she said. About 20,000 Tasmanians voted for Mr Palmer's party.
Earlier this month, Ms Lambie dubbed the Liberal Party a "boys club" and warned she would be harder for Tony Abbott to deal with than Pauline Hanson. She previously said she did not support the PUP's push to scrap the carbon tax but has since changed her position.
"The Palmer United Party has better solutions that won't cost the taxpayer, so we'll keep putting those issues through and across the table." "It is the underdog who is actually paying for this and we don't want to so their sufferance any longer."
Ms Lambie is the second PUP candidate elected to the Senate after former rugby league player Glenn Lazarus won a seat in Queensland.
A possible third Senate seat could go to the party when Western Australia's tally is finalised next week.
New Greenie leader is already a lame duck
FORMER Greens leader Bob Brown has refused to defend his successor Christine Milne as tensions rise in the minor party following an exodus of staff.
It was revealed yesterday that many staff members in Senator Milne’s office have applied for redundancies in the wake of the September 7 election where the Greens lost more than 400,000 votes and suffered a negative swing.
She has lost a total of six staffers in recent weeks. One high profile departure is that of Senator Milne’s highly regarded chief of staff Ben Oquist, who served Dr Brown and stayed on when he stepped down from the party in 2012.
Former Greens leader Bon Brown won’t comment on Christine Milne’s leadership style. “Sorry I just have no comment,” he said when asked if he had spoken to Mr Oquist.
Green leader Christine Milne denies that the resignations are a sign her leadership is on shaky ground.
Dr Brown, 68, retired from his position as Greens Leader in April 2012. He said he wanted to have a quieter life at the time.
Dr Brown was widely credited with boosting the Greens vote and was hugely popular among young and older voters alike. He currently devotes his efforts to environmental protection and works with anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd.
Senator Milne last night defended the exodus of staff from her office. She confirmed to the ABC’s Lateline program that six staff members had tendered their resignations but dismissed claims her leadership was on shaky ground.
She said some staff had indicated last year they would stay with her until the election, and some had given personal reasons for leaving.
“It’s quite common in politics after an election for people to consider whether they want to stay on or not,” Senator Milne said.
Mr Oquist issued a statement saying he was leaving with good will but cited “fundamental differences of opinion about strategy”.
Asked about his reason last night Senator Milne said: “interesting that Ben would say that.” “I wish Ben very well with his endeavours in the future,” she said.
The Coalition has indicated it intends to cut the staff allocation to the Greens’ leader by up to a third. “That is further reason for restructure of the office,” a spokesman said.
Australia: 23 million and counting
Australia's population is about to tick past the 23 million mark as the country continues to grow at the fastest rate in the developed world.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics population counter will tick over to 23 million at 9.57pm. Social researchers say the milestone baby will - statistically - be a boy called Jack. Odds suggest his mother will be 31, his father 33 and he will live in western Sydney.
Jack isn't real, of course. His likely arrival time has been reached by averaging the expected number of births, deaths and net overseas migration intake (incoming residents minus outgoing) since data was last collected in September 2012.
What is known is our annual population growth rate of 1.7 per cent - 1048 people per day, or the equivalent of a new Gold Coast every 19 months - is the fastest of any OECD country. The US is growing at 0.9 per cent, and Britain at just 0.6 per cent.
The world's population is growing at 1.1 per cent, having surpassed 7 billion people in late 2011. Australia's population growth is even outstripping countries with traditionally high birth rates, such as India on 1.4 per cent.
Demographers say it is migration, rather than an elevated birth rate, that is the main driver spurring Australia's growth. Net overseas migration accounted for 60 per cent of Australia's population increase last year, with the proportion from births falling from 46 per cent to 40 per cent.
Bob Birrell, from Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research, said aside from a surge in the early 2000s, Australia's fertility rate (the number of children per woman) has remained stable at about 1.9.
Dr Birrell said the population was driven upwards by people on temporary visas, who make up about half of the growth in net migration. "Working holiday makers, visitors, 457 visa holders, New Zealanders - they have all been going up sharply," he said.
"There is no cap on working holiday makers and we are a very attractive destination now for people from Ireland, Taiwan, England, where the labour markets are dead."
Almost two-thirds of permanent arrivals last year were on some kind of working visa. Thirty per cent were on family visas and 7 per cent on humanitarian visas.
Bjorn Jarvis, director of demography at the ABS, pointed out that the 488,100 permanent arrivals last year was proportionally a smaller group relative to the rest of the population than the influx following World War II.
In 1918, Australia's population was just 5 million. It passed 10 million in 1959, 15 million in 1982, and 20 million in 2003. While a lesser contributor than migration, births still hit a record high last year, surpassing 300,000 for the first time. Australia recorded twice as many births (303,600) as deaths (149,100). By 2028 there will be more people aged over 60 than under 20.
Professor Billie Giles-Corti, director of the McCaughey VicHealth Centre at Melbourne University, warned that the health system would be overwhelmed unless the elderly remained fit and active.
She said people in retirement housing close to shops and services did better than those living further out, even if they had facilities in their own village.
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".
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Qld. workers face being stripped of right to travel compo
Sometimes people have to take responsibility for themselves!
WORKERS injured on their way to and from work face being stripped of their right to compensation under a shake-up to WorkCover Queensland.
The State Government is considering dumping journey and recess claims, which last year cost the scheme $50 million for 6000 cases. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland will today increase pressure on Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie to introduce reforms to WorkCover, which also include stopping staff from suing employers for minor injuries suffered at work.
Workers who are involved in car accidents or hurt themselves in other ways while travelling to and from work can apply for compensation.
However, CCIQ believes the system is being rorted by staff and want journey claims dumped so business can cut its premiums. Employers pay a workers' compensation premium based on the wages, their industry classification and the number of claims in the past.
Statistics show most claims are made in southeast Queensland.
Business lobbying has alarmed the Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams, who said he had been leaked information that Mr Bleijie was getting ready to buckle to the big end of town. However, Mr Bleijie made it clear that no decision had been made.
"The Government is currently considering a report from the Inquiry into the Operation of Queensland's Workers' Compensation Scheme," Mr Bleijie said.
Mr Bleijie said lodgements for journey claims had been stable for 10 years but more money was being paid because of a growth in wages and medical costs. He said depending on the circumstances of the injury, the motor accident insurance scheme (CTP) could also provide coverage.
WorkCover was able to recover costs of the statutory claim from the CTP insurer if the person subsequently lodged a successful damages claim under that scheme, he said.
A review of the scheme was required by law and was completed this year. A Parliamentary Committee recommended that journey claims and the right to sue remain.
A briefing note sent to Mr Bleijie in April - and obtained by Saturday's Courier-Mail - revealed that WorkCover had costed three options in relation to ditching journey claims. It modelled scrapping it for all workers, scrapping it for all workers except police and scrapping for all workers except police and emergency service workers.
Mr Battams said workers would be left in the lurch if the Government dumped both provisions.
He said Queensland's scheme was fair and sustainable.
"The nature of our state is that people have to travel long distances to get to work on bad roads," he said. "Many of them have no choice."
He accused Mr Bleijie of deliberately waiting until after the Federal election to make a decision.
CCIQ spokesman Nick Behrens said it would help business if the Government restricted access to compensation. Mr Behrens said while business wanted journey claims scrapped it really wanted to stop workers for suing for minor injuries.
He said injured workers should be given a set amount depending on their injury.
"The common law process is an expensive way of awarding compensation to employees compared to the statutory process, particularly for minor injuries in the lower levels of whole of person injury.
"The average common law claim settlement, $120,150, is approximately 17 times more than the average cost of a statutory claim, $7070," Mr Behrens said.
CONFESSIONS OF A FACELESS FOOL. THE REAL BILL SHORTEN STORY
Bill Shorten who is running for the federal Labor Party leadership has more skeletons in the closet than any other federal Labor politician which is a sign that nothing has changed and that the Labor Party has learnt nothing from their mistakes.
Worse still for Bill is that some of those skeletons are coming back to life with a fresh Fair Work Commission inquiry into corruption at the Heath Services Union.
Add this to numerous recent incidents, many covered on this site, and Bill Shorten if elected as leader will be nothing more than the Mafia Don of the Labor Party and the voters will know this. So let’s have a look at some of those recent incidents and it is the HSU we will focus on as Bill Shorten is right up to neck in it. He claims he put the HSU into administration to clean up the corruption, the reality is all he wanted to do is put his own crooks and cronies in charge of the HSU.
New Fair Work Commission inquiry
It was reported on Friday (20/9/13) that the Fair Work Commission has started an inquiry into the Health Services Union regarding new allegations of corruption and cronyism. The new allegations relate to this year and they have Bill Shorten’s fingerprints all over them.
Some of the new allegations are: “Jobs were not advertised, but were instead handed to factional Labor Party allies, former councillors or council staff and their relatives, and a former state MP, Nathan Murphy.” (Click here to read more)
It is Bill who put the Union into administration to sideline Kathy Jackson and even worked the phones to do so which shows up in a couple of Statutory Declarations. (Click here to read the Statutory Declarations) He had his preferred candidate, Michael Moore, a corrupt former judge appointed as the administrator. Then he supported the new crooks that are now running the show.
This site has written three recent posts on the matter which has helped put the spotlight on the HSU and Bill Shorten. The first being on the 14th July in a post titled “Bill Shorten tried to stab Julia Gillard in the back one last time. Return of corruption at the HSU” (Click here to read) and then on the 20th July in a post titled “Does Kevin Rudd support the Bill Shorten backed “Kimberley Kitching for Senate movement”? Andrew Bolt does!” (Click here to read) and on the 18th August a post titled “The return of the Labor Party, HSU, stolen money, defamation and a prostitute. And this time it isn’t Craig Thomson” (Click here to read)
I have spoken to a couple of people with first hand knowledge of the current complaint and who are personally involved and this story has some real legs and if it goes as far as it should then Bill Shorten will have plenty of questions that he needs to answer.
How can Bill Shorten be an alternative Prime Minister given his intimate involvement in the return of corruption at the HSU?
Other recent handiwork by Bill Shorten
I will not mention them all and leave it up to commentators to write their favourite corruption tale about Bill Shorten, and there many. But one of my favourites is when Bill Shorten as Employment and Industrial Relations Minister appointed Bernie Riordan, secretary Electrical Trades Union New South Wales, as a Fair Work Commissioner. Bernie Riordan at the time was a thief on the run from his own members after he had stolen $1.8 million from the union. Bernie Riordan pocketed the $1.8 million in directors fees from industry boards he sat on that was meant to go to the Union.
In a previous post I wrote:
"At the end of February 2012 Electrical Trades Union New South Wales secretary Bernie Riordan “accused of pocketing $1.8 million in directors fees was appointed a commissioner of Fair Work Australia just the day after long-running legal action against him was withdrawn.” (Click here to read more) I wonder who put the call through to make sure the legal action was dropped so he could be appointed to FWA?
“Bill Shorten was the one who appointed Bernie Riordan as a commissioner. He did not just decide to appoint him the day after the legal proceedings had been dropped. The planning for appointing him would have been weeks in the making. It looks to me that Bill Shorten did a deal to appoint Bernie Riordan as a commissioner to save embarrassing the union movement and the Gillard Government even more. He probably did a deal with the people who launched the legal action against Bernie Riordan along the lines that he would appoint him a commissioner and they could move up the pecking order in the union and Labor Party. The point to this is that is consistent with how Bill Shorten operates.”
Then there is Bill Shorten’s penchant for stabbing Prime Ministers in the back. The voters will not forget this.
Lastly but not least is the infamous interview Bill did with the Melbourne paper the Herald Sun in 2012 denying a rumour and claiming he had called his lawyers but failed to say what the rumour was. Bill seems to think if he does an interview and denies something without saying what it is, then that is the end of it. Imagine if Bill was PM? What would he be like then? I wrote a post after his interview saying what the rumour was but never heard from his lawyers. I wonder why? (Click here to read the post)
The Labor Party Leadership and why you should care
It is up to the opposition to keep the government of the day honest and accountable whether that is the Labor Party or Coalition (Liberal Party and National Party). Governments that go unchallenged and unchecked become riddled with corruption which is what happened in NSW and other States where there were weak opposition political parties for long periods. It is also important that the opposition at least be a possibility of an alternative government which keeps the pressure on the current government. With Bill Shorten as leader the Labor Party will never be a possibility of an alternate government as he is rotten to the core. The Labor Party needs major reform to weed out corruption which Bill Shorten will never do given he is at the heart of it.
The title of this post is a slight take on the title of the book “Confessions of a Faceless Man” written by Bill Shorten’s successor at the Australian Workers Union Paul Howes who is very much in the Bill Shorten mould.
Goward campaign a vicious vendetta
DESTRUCTION of the Fairfax media brand and what remains of “our” ABC’s reputation continues apace with the vendetta being pursued against Pru Goward, the NSW Family and Community Services (FACS) Minister.
The media organisations are running a strident campaign for the laughable rump that ?remains? of ?the ?NSW Labor Party and the real force within the opposition, the trade union movement.
Over the past five weeks there have been more than 50 questions to Goward, many based on leaked documents, and most from the former minister, Linda Burney, whose legacy of disaster has been swept under the carpet.
But the media attacks on Goward have nothing to do with competency, they are all about the blatant partisanship of the two Left-wing organisations which have been prosecuting a union battle against genuine reform of the sector.
I certainly have nothing against media campaigns against governmental failure, indeed, The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs were instrumental in disclosing facts which forced NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to dismiss former Finance Minister Greg Pearce for a breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
The assault on Goward is entirely another matter and led FACS Director-General Michael Coutts-Trotter, a respected public servant (who happens to be ?married to former federal Labor health minister Tanya Plibersek) to issue a strongly-worded warning to FACS staffers on Thursday.
In his unprecedented admonition, he slammed the unnamed persons who provided a copy of an internal death review report to the ABC.
He said the profound breach of trust was completely unacceptable, breaching the privacy of the little boy who died, his siblings, his family and friends. The report contained the most intimate details of the family, “information that is gathered and held in strictest confidence”.
The leaked material “contains unproven allegations about many people,” he said, and breached the privacy of those who reported their concerns? about? the child to the department. ?Revealing such information increases the chance that others will not report concerns about other children at risk.
“It is quite possible that the person or people responsible thought that some good would flow from their actions,” Coutts-Trotter wrote. “If that’s the case, they are quite wrong.
“I have noted only dismay, shock and hurt among our colleagues inside the department and from the family of the little boy who died.”
The ABC’s 7.30 Report led its program with an anonymous attack on Goward by union members last Wednesday, the first full day of the new Abbott government.
The ABC report on the death of the little boy mentioned earlier led to an immediate suppression order on the case, which is still before the courts.
Lawyers for the mother in the case noted that the ABC had made no contact before the broadcast, and that The Sydney Morning Herald had named and published photographs of the dead boy even though the naming and publication of images of those deceased who identify as Aboriginal is regarded as being highly offensive to their families. The photo has now been removed from the Fairfax website.
Leaking of FACS files is a breach of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act, subsequent reporting of such material by the media is also illegal, as is the publication or broadcasting in any way the name of a person that connects that person with criminal proceedings under the S15A of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act.
Such has been the enthusiasm of the ABC and Fairfax to act as spear carriers for the dysfunctional NSW ALP and union moment that their reports may well lead to a plea for a mistrial.
The campaign to discredit Goward is viciously and bitterly personal. The ABC and Fairfax cannot acknowledge that her predecessor, Burney, had a shocking record.
In attempting to cover up Burney’s ministerial failure, the SMH even published one article in July taking Goward to task for FACS’ actions in relation to the death of six-year-old Kiesha Weippeart - who died when Burney was minister in 2010.
The record - which the ABC and Fairfax will not publish - shows that under Burney, case workers were seeing just one in five children and now are seeing one in four, or more than 4000 more than they were under Labor.
There were 83 child deaths in 2012, under Burney in 2010 there were 139 - and there is greater transparency with an annual Child Death Report now being published.
Children’s lives should be above politics, but they are not when Labor and its media allies see their core ideology under attack.
ABC's programme "Q&A" of 23rd.
Tonight provides further evidence of bias at the ABC. David Suzuki appears on Q&A without any other panelists. Normally Q&A consists of a panel of six people with Tony Jones. Occasionally there will be just two (and Tony Jones) – such as when Chris Bowen and Joe Hockey appeared on 19 August 2013.
Very rarely there will be just one panelist, like tonight’s show with David Suzuki. The previous examples are:
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (2 September 2013 and 8 February 2010)
Prime Minister Julia Gillard (6 May 2013, 11 June 2012, 11 July 2011, 14 March 2011, 9 August 2010)
Former Prime Minister John Howard (25 October 2010)
Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott (16 August 2010)
Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull (13 October 2008)
Retiring Leader of the Greens Senator Bob Brown (23 April 2012)
With the exception of Bob Brown (who was at least leader of a minor party in the Parliament of Australia), all the others have been Prime Ministers or Opposition Leaders.
Now comes David Suzuki with no particular claim to fame except on the Q&A website as a: "Renowned Environmental Scientist and Campaigner"
How much did the ABC pay David Suzuki to appear? Have they provided young ladies to accompany him as is his wont?
It is time to privatise the ABC.
Monday, September 23, 2013
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has drawn TWO cartoons celebrating the sacking of a certain psychopathic "Australian of the year". The way Flannery makes big prophecies that get him kudos in the present but earn him ridicule in his future is template psychopathy.
New Broom: Commonwealth agencies to be cut by Abbott Government
AGENCIES responsible for tackling obesity, city planning and security advice on asylum seekers are to be slashed as Tony Abbott takes the axe to Labor's reform agenda.
Less than a week after taking office, the Coalition Government has scrapped plans to build a multimillion-dollar embassy in Africa, and will also wipe $100 million off research funding.
The Prime Minister has also pulled the pin on a key Kevin Rudd initiative - Community Cabinet - as he instructs his new ministry team to put the broom through the bureaucracy.
Key elements of Labor's reform agenda are being dismantled.
The Major Cities Unit - which provided advice on developing Australia's 18 biggest cities - and the Social Inclusion Unit in Mr Abbott's own Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet will be dismantled.
The Coalition will also begin unwinding key "nanny state" agencies such as the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, established to lead the national fight against obesity, alcohol abuse and tobacco use. Health Minister Peter Dutton has been critical of ANPHA's decision to spend $500,000 on a study into a potential "fat tax" despite neither side of politics supporting such a move.
Senior ministers are now searching for big savings from departments with a raft of back office operations and smaller agencies on the chopping block.
"It's out of control," one senior minister said, of the rapid growth in Commonwealth agencies.
Even the Australian Institute of Criminology, established by Gough Whitlam in 1973, is under review and could be merged with a major university. in a bid to save millions of taxpayer dollars.
Two major health agencies - the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the year-old National Health Performance Authority - are under review and could have their combined budgets - of around $40 million a year - slashed.
One micro agency likely to be scrapped is the Independent Reviewer of Adverse Security Assessments. It was established in 2012 last year and reviews assessments by ASIO into people in detention. But with a $1 million a year price tag, the Government will likely scrap the organisation.
The future is also uncertain for key agencies such as the Human Rights Commission.
Some senior Coalition figures are keen to scrap the Commission altogether - but that would provoke a serious political brawl that Mr Abbott is not keen to have.
Attorney-General George Brandis has signalled his intention to challenge what he sees as a Left-controlled human rights agenda, and the role of issue-specific commissioners - such as Disability - could be broadened as part of an overhaul of the HRC.
The future of the national Children's Commissioner - announced by former PM Julia Gillard in February - is also in doubt. Its role could be radically reshaped to focus on cyber bullying.
Around $100 million will be cut from Australian Research Council grants with the Government determined to wipe out costly academic indulgences, such as a $443,000 study into the "God of Hegel's Post-Kantian idealism".
Senior Coalition figures say the Australian Institute of Criminology will be reviewed to see whether it should remain a stand-alone agency. The Institute produces academic-style research papers and there is a view that its operations should be taken over by a big university, saving taxpayers a considerable sum of money.
Climate Change Minister Greg Hunt has already taken the knife to key agencies, including the Climate Commission.
And another of Kevin Rudd's pet initiatives, Community Cabinet, will be scrapped with a saving of around $13 million over the four year forward estimates.
Other key Rudd reforms - including the expensive bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council - are being wound back with a planned new Australian embassy in Senegal to be abandoned.
Scrapping ANPHA will leave the Government open to criticism that it's not taking seriously a raft of key health challenges - including the growing obesity challenge and tobacco and alcohol control.
But Mr Dutton is determined to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in bureaucratic expenses and is reviewing the ongoing role of the AIHW - which provides a national service on health and welfare statistics.
The National Health Performance Authority - established in 2011 to provide uniform statistics on the performance of hospitals and other health facilities - could also be absorbed back into the health department.
Companies to get protection from activists' boycotts
CONSERVATION groups seeking boycotts of products linked to alleged poor environmental practices may soon be liable for prosecution under consumer law.
The move, which could severely hamper market-based campaigns by groups such as Markets for Change and GetUp!, is to be pursued by the Abbott government.
Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck told The Australian the move would prevent green groups from holding companies to ransom in their markets.
"We'll be looking at the way some of the environmental groups work because we are very concerned about some of the activities they conduct in the markets," Senator Colbeck said. "They have exemptions for secondary boycott activities under the Consumer and Competition Act. We are going to have a complete review of the act.
"And one of the things I'd be looking at would be to bring a level playing field back so that environment groups are required to comply with the same requirements as business and industry."
The move has strong backing within the Liberal and Nationals parties, as well as among sections of the ALP, concerned about groups targeting the customers of timber and agricultural products in campaigns against old-growth logging and live-animal exports.
Section 45D of the act prevents action to hinder or prevent a third person supplying goods to, or buying them from, another person. The law restrains business from unfair dealings and trade unions from dragging third parties into industrial disputes via sympathy strikes or trade boycotts. However, section 45DA exempts people from the secondary boycott provisions if their actions are "substantially related to environmental or consumer protection".
The timber industry has long complained about green groups organising boycotts and campaigns to pressure their customers not to accept products sourced from so-called high-conservation-value forests. The tactic has been used successfully in Australia and in Japan to pressure timber companies such as Gunns and Ta Ann to shift out of contentious forest areas and to adopt top-flight green certification. Senator Colbeck also told The Australian the Coalition would push ahead with its policy to ask UNESCO's World Heritage Committee to rescind the recent Gillard government listing of an additional 100,000ha of Tasmania's forests. "That was our commitment to the Tasmanian people and we intend to carry through with our commitments," he said.
"So we will sit down with our departments and work through processes, as far as that is concerned, and look to see how we go about doing it."
He was not swayed by calls from the timber industry - including the CFMEU forest union, Ta Ann and the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania - for the policy to be scrapped because it would jeopardise environmentalists' support for the sector.
The Tasmanian Forest Agreement - a landmark peace deal three years in the making - has seen the peak green groups join industry on joint trade missions to win back markets lost during the so-called forest wars. However, signatories to the deal fear seeking to unwind the World Heritage listing at the heart of the agreement would destroy it.
Coalition bid to cut green tape and fix project paralysis
MASTER plans for future development of the Great Barrier Reef and the nation's major coal, iron ore and gas regions have been fast-tracked to help deliver a Coalition promise to cut green tape and break the decision-making "paralysis" of the Rudd and Gillard governments.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said 50 projects had been left stranded by the former government without a decision on whether they even needed to be assessed under bipartisan legislation to protect prime farmland and groundwater.
Mr Hunt has promised to act immediately on the projects and complete strategic plans for the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, the Pilbara in Western Australia and the Hunter Valley in NSW.
Renewed urgency will be given to joint planning with state governments to manage bushfires in South Australia and development of north Queensland's major urban growth project at Mount Peter, 15km south of Cairns.
Mr Hunt said a master plan of environmental values and commonwealth concerns would enable the creation of a "one-stop shop" for environmental approvals promised by the Coalition.
Future projects would be measured against the strategic assessment template and state governments would be given the power to make assessments.
Writing in The Australian today, the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, Josh Frydenberg, says an "avalanche of green and red tape stifles investment and innovation, seriously hurting the economy".
Mr Frydenberg, who has responsibility for driving the government's deregulation agenda, has pledged a "paradigm shift" in tackling bureaucracy.
"Ministers will be required to include regulatory impact statements on their submissions as well as establishing their own ministerial advisory committees from which they will seek recommendations on cutting red and green tape," the Liberal MP writes today.
He says the performance of senior members of the public service "will be assessed in part according to their proven record in reducing regulation, with their remuneration calculated accordingly", and the Productivity Commission ordered to determine a framework for auditing the performance of regulatory agencies.
Business groups have lobbied hard for a review of the environmental review process, claiming it is delaying projects and threatening billions of dollars worth of investments.
Labor and the Greens had argued that state governments could not be trusted to make final environmental decisions on behalf of the commonwealth.
Environment groups have warned a full delegation of decision making to the states poses a risk to business of lengthy and expensive delays in the courts.
Mr Hunt said the strategic assessments were a "vital framework that has largely been missing".
Strategic assessments to date had focused on planning for major urban growth corridors rather than industrial projects, he said.
"It is a model where you really begin to look at the deep, long-term cumulative impacts."
Completing the strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef and onshore development in co-operation with the Queensland government was the Coalition government's priority.
"I think it is very important for our international commitments as well as to the future wellbeing of the Great Barrier Reef," Mr Hunt said. "The Great Barrier Reef is the No 1 environmental asset in Australia and you need to look at the reef as a whole."
Mr Hunt said he believed it would be possible to complete the strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef within two months.
The federal Environment Department has been instructed to have the remaining priority areas assessed and open for public exhibition in the first half of next year.
"The big picture is about achieving two things: a deep strategic assessment of the environment allows proper consideration of cumulative impacts and the connectedness of the region and it allows for a much more streamlined process," Mr Hunt said.
"If you know the environmental concerns of a region you don't have to reinvent them in every case. Everything is then seen against the grand strategic framework of the environment and the economy."
Mr Hunt said environmental decision making had become paralysed in the final months of the Gillard/Rudd government.
He said 50 projects had been left "in complete limbo" because the Labor government had been unable to make a decision on whether they should even be assessed under the new water trigger legislation.
"They didn't make a single decision after the legislation was passed," Mr Hunt said.
"It was not even whether projects should proceed but whether they should even be considered. From my perspective it is a legacy of complete chaos that 50 decisions are left in limbo. It is not right that the law is changed and there is then complete indecision about what you do about it.
"The dying months (of Labor) were a complete paralysis."
Once again rural and regional areas have seats at the cabinet table
LAST week we saw the Labor opposition selectively highlight demographics in an attempt to measure how representative the Abbott-Truss government is. But this does not serve to inform the public of anything substantial.
The commentary has focused on the lack of women in the Abbott-Truss ministry. But in terms of outcomes, gender is less important than geography.
Representatives with a broad range of experiences who are connected to constituents will result in real and effective change.
Aside from competence - a commodity lacking around the cabinet table for the past six years - individual experience informs the decision-making process more than gender, religion or race.
The Rudd-Gillard governments, in their various guises, suffered from a significant lack of regional experience in their ministries. At the low-water mark, there were no cabinet ministers who represented regional areas. This was evident in the decisions the government made that had disproportionately negative impacts on regional economies and communities - decisions such as bringing in the carbon tax, the mining tax and shutting down the live export trade, to name just a few.
The former government's own figures showed that the carbon tax made electricity at least 10 per cent more expensive and gas bills at least 9 per cent more expensive, rising each year as the carbon tax increases. This hit families, small businesses, farmers and manufacturers in regional areas particularly hard.
One year after the implementation of the carbon tax, dairy farmers were experiencing an estimated cost increase of between $5500 and $7000 a year.
The ban on live exports was similarly disastrous for regional communities in Australia's north. Indeed, Australia's largest beef cattle producer, Australian Agricultural Company, blamed the suspension of live exports to Indonesia for a March-quarter loss of $46.5 million. The uncertainty has had serious effects on exporters' livelihoods and consequently on their mental health.
Changing the eligibly rules for Youth Allowance, disproportionately disadvantaging rural and regional students, was another example of the former government's contempt for rural Australia. Or perhaps there was simply no one at the cabinet room table who thought to ask, "How will this affect country kids?"
In 1999, National Party leader John Anderson said: "The sense of alienation, of being left behind, of no longer being recognised and respected for the contribution to the nation being made, is deep and palpable in much of rural and regional Australia today." That mood has been felt strongly in many regions during the past six years.
In stark contrast, more than 30 per cent of those in the Abbott-Truss ministry have direct and significant experience of regional Australia. Interestingly, they are not all farmers, neither are they all men, but each understands the crucial role local industry plays in underpinning the national economy. This understanding is more important than gender in making the strategic decisions necessary in government. Regional Australia has the most to lose from hasty, ill thought out political decisions and is often the first and worst hit in recessionary periods. It will also lead our economic recovery. This is the reason it needs adequate representation at the decision-making level of government. As the academic Jennifer Curtin has noted: "Rural representation provides us with a social perspective that is fluid but place-based. Without it we risk undermining the communicative and responsive dimensions of a representative democracy."
That is why the Abbott-Truss ministry has prioritised rural and regional Australia.
It's important that our political representatives have a range of personal experiences, so each member can, in the words of Edmund Burke, exercise their "unbiased opinion, mature judgment, enlightened conscience". Our role is to represent our constituents, not to simply reflect the physical make-up of Australia's population.
I am sure we would all like to see more women, fewer lawyers and union officials and a greater diversity of ages, backgrounds and cultures in our parliament and in senior government positions, to better reflect the population of modern Australia. This is something that will happen over time.
In the meantime though, geography is more important than demography in governing for all Australians.