Thursday, October 31, 2013
Bishop, Iran discuss return of "asylum seekers"
Julie Bishop has begun high-level efforts to strike an agreement with the Iranian Government to repatriate its nationals whose refugee claims have been rejected by Australia.
The Foreign Affairs Minister told _The West Australian _ that she raised the involuntary return of boat people with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Zarif in New York last month.
It is understood that Mr Zarif acknowledged that many Iranians arriving in Australia by boat were economic migrants with no genuine fear of persecution.
Ms Bishop will follow up her talks with Mr Zarif during a meeting with top-ranking Iranian diplomat Majid Bizmark at the Indian Ocean Rim Association meeting in Perth tomorrow.
Striking an arrangement with Tehran that would allow Iranians to be involuntarily sent home would be a major coup, given it has long eluded Australian governments of all political persuasions. Of the 6403 people in immigration detention, almost one-third - 1867 - are Iranian.
Though a large percentage of Iranian detainees have failed in their bid for protection visas, Australia has been unable to send them home because there is no diplomatic agreement in place to allow it.
In July, Ms Bishop's predecessor Bob Carr said Iranian arrivals were mostly middle class, from majority ethnic and religious groups and "motivated by economic factors and are not fleeing persecution".
Ms Bishop said she would use her meeting with Mr Bizmark to progress discussions she had with Mr Zarif in New York.
"During that meeting at the UN, I raised with Foreign Minister Zarif our concerns that we needed arrangements put in place for the involuntary return of illegal immigrants from Iran," she told _The West Australian _.
"It was agreed that the Iranian Government and the Australian Government would work together to discourage other Iranians from seeking to leave Iran."
It is believed Iran has indicated it could back a public information campaign in the country to discourage more asylum seekers heading to Australia.
Ms Bishop will also use the meeting to discuss people smuggling with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who will be making his first trip to Perth for the event.
As well as addressing people smuggling, Ms Bishop will use the summit to reboot complex negotiations over selling uranium to India.
The Gillard government reversed the ban on uranium sales to India in 2011 but negotiations for a nuclear safeguard agreement have slowed.
Let's get rid of all the useless wind farms
By TERRY MCCRANN Financial journalist
I STILL have a dream. Of that one day when we start pulling down all the utterly useless, landscape-blighting, bird-killing, people-punishing, so-called wind farms.
We'll leave a few, some stripped of their turbines, some left with a blade to turn lazily and even more uselessly in the occasional breeze; all, like fragments of the Berlin Wall, as testimony to the time when insanity engulfed our supposed intellectual and policymaking elites.
Why, we could even keep one as a particular memorial to a certain former prime minister and his "greatest moral challenge of our time". This one, shorn of its blades, to mark his squibbing of that challenge.
The Climate Change Authority's 177 pages of sheer drivel, released today, as disconnected from reality as an abandoned wind farm is from the grid, comes close to ranking as the high-water mark of this insanity.
Although it came after a pretty competitive week, after the hysterical fires fanned by the ABC and Fairfax media, and in particular down at Climate Frenzy Central, the Age broadloid newspaper.
For the Big C, as the CCA styles itself, was not content with just doubling down on the climate stupidity, it tripled down in its draft report.
Indeed, it was even gathering its collective loins, to quintuple down in its final, and hopefully FINAL, as in ever, report early next year.
Thanks to Julia Gillard and Bob Brown - endorsed so memorably by that in-chamber kiss from the squibber, Kevin Rudd - Australia is legally committed to cutting its emissions of carbon dioxide by 5 per cent by 2020.
Thankfully, the way the legislation was constructed, the 23 million individual Australians are excused from having to reduce their bodily CO2 emissions by that 5 per cent; or required as an alternative to buy the appropriate permit to emit.
Well, the CCA says that's "inadequate". It said, we've got to shoot for at least 15 per cent; and it left little doubt that it really thought 25 per cent was where we should be aiming.
That's hardly surprising given the troika of professorial climate hysterics, Hamilton (Clive), Karoly (David) and Quiggin (John) that are the CCA's core. It's only surprising they didn't persuade their fellow members to shoot for something more tangible - like closing down all our real power stations by 2020.
The central argument from the CCA for bigger CO2 emission cuts, was that "evidence is also mounting" that several other comparable countries were "gearing up" to reduce their emissions even more aggressively by 2020.
This was followed by the usual 'what will they think of us' bleat from the policy activist, that a 5 per cent target would leave Australia lagging behind others, including the US.
Well, Greg Sheridan at our sister paper The Australian, utterly shredded that claim two weeks ago, so far as action through an emissions trading scheme is concerned.
Of the 195 members in the UN Framework Convention on Climate, only 34 had anything resembling an ETS and 27 of those were in the European Union - where the way it rigged the measurement of CO2 cuts around the closing down of inefficient former eastern European industry, has run out of steam anyway.
Japan had effectively abandoned plans for an ETS, Sheridan wrote. South Korea had one but was going to issue all permits for free. Some of the biggest emitters, like Indonesia and India, actually subsidised carbon-based fuels.
Yes, the US has an impressive target. It also stumbled on shale oil and gas - like winning the CO2-cut lottery. But it does not have either a carbon tax or an ETS and never will.
But it all really comes back to the carbon elephant in the room: China. Which of course buys a lot of coal and iron ore from us and turns that into steel, a little bit of power and a lot of CO2.
It is this context that the CCA lives up to its claim of independence. It just failed to add, that was, independence from reason. The world it projects of robust action on cutting CO2 emissions is like an alternative universe - a universe that exists only in the delusions of especially Hamilton and Quiggin. But now it would appear also, of their fellow CCA members.
The report claimed that China was stepping up its efforts to "reduce emissions." And that it was "investing heavily in renewable energy projects, closing inefficient coal power plants".
The first is simply and completely untrue. As the fine print of the CCA report itself noted, China is only aiming to cut CO2 emission intensity not emissions per se. By cutting emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 per cent by 2020.
That might sound impressive, but given China's phenomenal pace of growth, its actual total emissions in 2020 will be significantly higher than they are today.
Do the math and the very best outcome would see China increase its emissions between now and 2020 by more than the total of Australia's emissions.
More realistic projections would see China increase its emissions by up to `10 Australia's.' That's to say, China would go up by perhaps 200 times as much as we cut at 5 per cent; by 67 times as much even if we cut by 15 per cent,
And that's assuming it actually met its target. It's not binding; and as even the Sydney Morning Herald has noted in an analysis from Reuters, China's actual carbon intensity was unchanged from 2009 to 2011.
The third CCA claim is a deliberate constructive lie. Yes, China is closing down old coal-fired power stations - to reduce REAL pollution, the dirty little bits of grit that really does kill people in poor energy-deprived countries.
But is replacing them with modern plants that pump out just as much CO2 plant food, but does it cleanly. Indeed, it's building far more than it replaces.
As the Economist Intelligence Unit noted in an analysis in July, China's CO2 emissions were headed for a 40 per cent INCREASE by 2020. Why? Because of rapidly expanding coal-fired power generation.
The CCA report is worse than a disgrace. It proposes wilful pain on all Australians and extraordinarily serious damage to the economy.
To cut emissions by 25 per cent in just seven years would require us to send the economy into recession, or write out multi-billion dollar cheques to foreigners, just for `permission' to keep our lights on and (any remaining) factories operating.
And all for utterly no point. Even if you believe the climate hysteria, it would make no difference to global or indeed Australian temperatures; and the CCA lies aside, the rest of the world is NOT following anyway.
The report could just as well have been written by Bob Brown and Christine Milne. It certainly channelled all their fantasies.
Students burn Tony Abbott effigy, chase Joe Hockey in heated protest outside Parliament
Just hate-filled Trots having fun again now there is a conservative government. Real students would be busy studying for their exams at this time
STUDENTS have clashed with police in a dramatic protest outside State Parliament this afternoon over proposed federal funding cuts to higher education.
The protesters burnt an effigy of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and threw shoes at Liberal Party headquarters in a rally against proposed federal funding cuts to higher education.
About 100 student protesters gathered outside parliament house in Spring St before the group marched into the city.
Some protesters chased Treasurer Joe Hockey who appeared on Spring Street around lunchtime.
The protest was organised by the National Union of Students, whose members recently sent hundreds of angry emails to Education Minister Christopher Pyne.
"Five people have been arrested following a protest in the CBD this afternoon," Victoria Police spokeswoman Natalie Webster said.
"Approximately 50 to 100 people marched through the CBD, stopping to protest at several sites including Parliament House, the State Library, a political party headquarters in Exhibition Street and ending at RMIT University.
"Police attended to ensure the safety of all involved, and provided an escort to persons entering and exiting the building.
"It's alleged several police members were assaulted during the incident, including one member who was allegedly punched to the face by a protester. "He is currently receiving treatment in hospital for minor facial injuries.
"It's alleged some protesters also threw shoes and chalk at police and burned items in the street. "Three men and two women are currently in custody and are assisting police with their inquiries. "The protestors have left the street however police continue to monitor the situation.
"The investigation into the incident remains ongoing," she said.
First Nations Students Officer at La Trobe University Jay Wymarra said he was arrested and charged with arson for burning a cardboard cutout of Abbott.
"What they did was arrest me, shove me to the ground, put their knees in my neck and drag me away from the protest as far as they could," he said. "We as students will not stand for this," he said
"We are not going to be told what to study, we are going to take a stand against it.
Mr Wymarra said the police were heavy handed. "It was all for perfectly peaceful means," he said. "We were trying to voice our opinions. They (the police) attacked us." He said the students planned more demonstrations.
Matthew Lesh of the Australian Liberal Students' Federation condemned the disruption. "They have every right to protest calmly and peacefully, but today's violence and disruption is despicable, and certainly does not represent students," Mr Lesh said.
"Students who are concerned about their education are busy studying today, not playing games, disrupting traffic, wasting police time."
The dramatic protest comes during a busy university exam period.
Sex injury compo bid rebuffed by High Court over 'lack of inducements'
Very fair and clear reasoning from the High Court -- JR
There are days within the august surrounds of the High Court when even the most sober of Justices might struggle against an injudicious outbreak of levity.
The matter revolved around a claim for compensation by a female public servant from Canberra who, while out of town in the NSW coastal town of Nowra on a brief work trip, met a chap and repaired to her Commonwealth-paid motel bed for purposes other than sleeping.
There, in what was described in an earlier court as a "vigorous" bout of non-sleeping, a light fitting above the bed was ripped loose. The unfortunate woman suffered facial injuries.
She complained also of psychological damage. We can only imagine. Evidence, sadly, does not extend to whether or not it was during the moment of rapture, or whether the vigorous companion of the night suffered anything similar.
The public servant, her name suppressed, sued Comcare for compensation. The matter wended its way through a tribunal and the Federal Court until it reached its zenith in the High Court.
The High Court on Wednesday issued a one-page summary of its finding. The Justices' musings upon whether the said "interlude" was "induced" by the woman's employer may prove a classic of the genre, and serve forever as a cautionary tale to travelling servants of the public or other bosses.
Herewith is the Justices' summary:
"Today the High Court, by majority, held that Comcare, the appellant, was not liable to pay compensation to a Commonwealth government employee who, whilst staying overnight on a work-related trip to a regional town, suffered injuries whilst engaging in sexual intercourse in the motel room her employer had booked for her.
"The respondent had been required by her employer to work for two consecutive days in a regional town away from her ordinary place of residence. She stayed overnight at a local motel which had been booked by her employer. Whilst at the motel, the respondent engaged in sexual intercourse with an acquaintance.
"In that process, a glass light fitting above the bed was pulled from its mount and struck the respondent on her nose and mouth, causing her physical injuries and a subsequent psychological injury.
"The respondent sought compensation from Comcare under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth) ("the Act"). She argued that her injuries were suffered "in the course of" her employment and that she was, therefore, entitled to compensation.
"The Administrative Appeals Tribunal ("the Tribunal") held that the respondent's injuries were unrelated to her employment. On appeal, the Federal Court of Australia set aside the Tribunal's decision. The Federal Court's decision was then upheld by the Full Court of the Federal Court.
"The Full Court held that the respondent's injuries occurred in an "interval or interlude" during an overall period of work and, therefore, arose in the course of her employment.
"An interval or interlude existed because the respondent's employer had induced or encouraged her to spend the night at a particular place – the motel. It was not necessary to show that the respondent's employer had induced or encouraged her to engage in the particular activity in which she was engaged when her injuries were suffered. By special leave, Comcare appealed to the High Court.
"The High Court allowed Comcare's appeal. A majority of the High Court held that in order for an injury sustained in an interval or interlude during an overall period of work to be in the course of an employee's employment, the circumstances in which the employee was injured must be connected to an inducement or encouragement by the employer.
"If the employee is injured whilst engaged in an activity at a certain place, that connection does not exist merely because of an inducement or encouragement to be at that place. When the circumstances of an injury involve the employee engaging in an activity at the time of the injury, the relevant question is: did the employer induce or encourage the employee to engage in that activity?
"On the facts of the respondent's case, the majority held that the answer to that question was 'no'."
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Renewable energy target looking shaky
Festering just below the surface of the energy supply debate is the vexing question of the renewable energy target (RET).
While gas supply has grabbed headlines in recent weeks, the growing crisis around the RET cannot be ignored. Discussion around the problem got as least as much airplay as coal seam gas at energy conferences in Sydney this week.
The 2020 RET is almost unique in that it is a piece of energy legislation that has enjoyed bipartisan support for years. But the target is looking increasingly untenable in today’s climate of declining wholesale power demand, putting that broad political backing under strain.
The RET in its current form mandates 41,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy supply by 2020.
When the policy was designed that fixed target was to account for 20 per cent of total electricity supply. It assumed continued growth in wholesale electricity demand, in parallel with economic growth, as had been the case for ever.
Fast forward to today and the picture is very different. Power demand on the National Electricity Market (NEM) hit a peak in 2008-09 and has been on the way down since.
On the current trend, the same 41,000 gigawatt hours is likely to be closer to 28 per cent of total supply.
Consultancy ACIL Allen calculates the decline of 6.7 per cent in NEM demand since the peak is the equivalent of taking an 1800-megawatt power plant running at 85 per cent capacity out of the market.
But no such plant has been removed. No plants closed under the Labor government’s failed “contracts for closure” scheme and meanwhile more renewable energy is being forced into the market when no new capacity is needed. Several plants have been mothballed, but none permanently closed.
The result is what Origin Energy’s head of energy markets Frank Calabria says is probably the worst case of surplus capacity the market has ever seen.
The consequences are being felt throughout the energy supply space. Wholesale prices, excluding carbon, are as low as they were 10 years ago. Natural gas demand, which only a few years ago was expected to enjoy a boost from increased use in power generation, is stalling as far as domestic use goes.
In 2010, ACIL Tasman, as it was then, was forecasting demand for gas for power generation in the eastern states could reach as high as 1000 petajoules by 2030, depending on policy settings, out of total demand for the region of 1800 petajoules. Now the firm reckons 650 petajoules is more likely for the whole eastern states market in 2030, leaving aside liquefied natural gas exports.
The Abbott government is set to review the RET next year. For many it can’t come too soon.
Arguments by the previous Labor government that modifying the target to a “real” 20 per cent of electricity demand would destabilise the industry seem to carry increasingly less weight when virtually the whole energy supply sector is suffering.
But the stakes are high should the target be modified. Numerous foreign investors, such as Spain’s Acciona and New Zealand’s Meridian Energy, are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in wind power projects that will help meet the target.
Local players such as Infigen Energy and Pacific Hydro are similarly exposed.
Even discussion around potential changes to the legislation are damaging when the heads of Australian project developers seek sanctions for funding from their boards.
AGL Energy’s Tim Nelson pointed out on Thursday that the 9000 megawatts oversupply currently calculated in the National Electricity Market matches up pretty well with the amount of generation capacity that has been built, thanks to subsidies such as the RET scheme over the past few years.
Remove it and the market would be back in balance.
No one is suggesting that is the answer, but it highlights the distortions in the market that have been created by such policy interventions, however worthwhile.
$790 million boost for Catholic and independent schools
Independent and Catholic schools sector set to receive an additional $790 million in funding over the next six years as part of a new system of schools funding.
Education Minister Adrian Piccoli will amend the NSW Education Act to allow it to comply with a new national agreement for funding non-government schools, with the sector set to receive $790 million over the next six years.
The existing legislation requires the state to provide non-government schools with 25 per cent of the per-student funding it gives to government schools, but this will be changed to herald in the new needs-based 'Gonski' system.
A spokesman for Mr Piccoli said all schools would receive extra funding under the National Education Reform Agreement, signed between former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Premier Barry O'Farrell earlier this year.
"There will be an estimated additional $790 million provided to non-government schools in NSW from the state and Commonwealth over the period 2014 to 2019," he said.
"Funding to non-government schools will continue, but will be delivered according to an improved needs-based system, rather than being tied to the cost of education government school children."
"The requirement that non-government school per-capita grants be provided at a fixed level relative to Government schools does not allow the State to move over time to a more responsive funding system as agreed in the NERA."
Over the six years of the so-called Gonski agreement, during which time funding increases step-up over time, public schools are slated to receive an additional $4.2 billion in funding.
The NSW Government recently announced a new funding model for public schools in NSW in line with the NERA which delivered gains in the first year to 90 per cent of schools but resulted in funding cuts for more than 200 schools in 2014, many from low socio-economic areas.
NSW Greens MP John Kaye said it was "scandalous" for the government to increase funding for non-government schools.
"It's a scandalous increase to a sector that is already awash with cash. The O'Farrell government is making private schools even wealthier while cutting funds from more than 200 disadvantaged public schools,'' said Dr Kaye.
The Abbott federal government has so far only agreed to honouring the first four years of the six-year funding agreements reached between the former Gillard government and the NSW government.
NSW returns to surplus earlier than expected
After Labor party chaos
The surging Sydney property market has contributed to a turnaround of more than half a billion dollars in the state's finances, bringing the budget into surplus last financial year.
Treasurer Mike Baird told parliament the actual budget result for 2012-13 was a $239 million surplus instead of the $374 million deficit announced in the June statement.
He said stamp duty revenue had jumped by $198 million, but a decision by the federal government to bring forward $123 million in grants and a $50 million reduction in expenses also contributed to the result.
Additionally, revenue was boosted by the lease of Port Botany and Port Kembla, which delivered a "one-off" $215 million in duty to the government.
Mr Baird said the result was "a good news story for the people of NSW" but warned the state had "a long way to go".
Last week the NSW government was warned there was a one-in-three chance it would lose its AAA credit rating in the next two years.
Ratings agency Standard & Poor's said this was because of anticipated increased debt levels to fund infrastructure plans.
On Tuesday Mr Baird said the government made "no apologies for undertaking an aggressive infrastructure program".
He also defended the size of the $613 million revision for the 2012-13 result, arguing that revisions were "inevitable".
"A revision of $613 million represents barely one per cent of the total Budget or less than four days' worth of spending," Mr Baird said.
Last year Mr Baird was embarrassed when the auditor-general discovered a so-called "billion dollar blunder" in the state budget due to 37 errors by agencies.
He has since enlisted the assistance of the auditor-general to prepare the budget.
Tony Abbott well short of wacky diplomatic highs of previous PMs
In the annals of Great Moments in Bunyip Diplomacy, Tony Abbott's use of the term "wacko" to describe, in an interview with the Washington Post, Labor's broadband policy, is a limp thing.
Consider Gough Whitlam's towering magnificence during a historic visit to the Soviet Union in 1975.
Whitlam and Labor minister Lionel Bowen were ushered through the halls of the Kremlin and into the presence of Alexei Gromyko, the chairman of the Council of Ministers and the second most powerful figure in the entire USSR.
The full splendour of what happened next was kept secret and only confided many years later by Bowen to the Labor Party's historian, Senator John Faulkner, who finally recounted it at Whitlam's 92nd birthday, five years ago.
"With the aid of a translator," Faulkner began, "Kosygin said 'I'm delighted to meet you. This is the first occasion an Australian prime minister has visited the Kremlin despite the fact we have fought alongside each other in two world wars. Now, let's do something big to honour the occasion, like a major trade announcement'."
Gromyko proposed that the USSR take large amounts of Australia's wheat and wool, and Australia could reciprocate with landing rights for Aeroflot and the purchase of minerals and ships from the Soviets.
Whitlam left Gromyko thunderstruck and Bowen aghast by responding, "Comrade, I don't want to talk with you about mundane things like trade! "I want to know what happened to the Grand Duchess Anastasia in 1918!”
The grand duchess was the daughter of Russia's last Tsar, Nicholas II. In July, 1918, the Tsar and his whole family were murdered by the Bolshevik secret police, though rumours persisted that Anastasia may have been spared and spirited away, leading to one of the great romantic mysteries of the 20th century.
Unsurprisingly, no announcement of a trade deal between Australia and the USSR was forthcoming.
Prime Minister Paul Keating was another master of diplomacy. In 1995, with new opposition leader John Howard barking at his heels, Keating flew off on a grand tour to the reunited Germany and places between and beyond. Thanks to Keating advising Berlin's city fathers how to rebuild their city, it became known as the "Captain Wacky Goes to Berlin" tour.
On the way, he stopped into Singapore and was granted a meeting with the prime minister, Goh Chok Tong.
Keating was fuming about media baron Kerry Packer, back in Australia, having suggested that Howard might make a good prime minister. Keating hijacked a joint media conference with Goh Chok Tong at Singapore's presidential palace, wording up Australian journalists to ask him about Packer and Howard so he could rant, at great and colourful length, about both of them. The inscrutable Singaporean Prime Minister was left stranded like an unwanted guest at his own garden party as Keating seethed.
It was about as diplomatic as accusing Malaysia's Prime Minister, the prickly Dr Mahathir Mohamad, of being "recalcitrant" for not attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum in 1993.
Keating's criticism - which sent a lot of observers scurrying for their dictionaries - was as welcome to Mahathir as Bob Hawke's thrust of 1986, when he described Malaysia's execution of two Australian drug traffickers as "barbaric". White Australians, Mahathir shot back, massacred Aborigines, so they had no right to tell Asians what to do.
John Howard was very pally with George W. Bush and the Republicans, but his great moment in diplomacy guaranteed his relationship with the US administration, had he survived as PM after 2007, would have been entertainingly toxic.
He outdid every leader before him in US-Australian relations by suggesting Barack Obama was a friend of terrorists because he wanted to pull troops out of Iraq.
"If I were running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats," Howard declared in February 2007.
Obama retorted that he was flattered that one of George W. Bush's allies had attacked him, adding that unless Howard was "ginned up" to send another 20,000 troops to Iraq, his offering was "just a bunch of empty rhetoric".
Tony Abbott's an amateur. He has a long distance to travel before he enters the big league of Bunyip Diplomats. And no one has a hope of challenging Gough Whitlam.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
The mother of the boy accused of race-hate attack in Bondi works in a Jewish nursing home
Because the assailants were NOT Muslim, we are told about their ethnicity. Polynesians do have a high incidence of crime in Australia. They have very little respect for the law
THE mother of a boy accused of an anti-semitic bashing in Bondi has denied her son is racist, citing she works in a Jewish nursing home. The 17-year-old is accused of being among a group of boys who viciously bashed a Jewish family at Bondi at midnight Saturday. They allegedly called the group "f...ing Jews" before allegedly bashing them.
Yesterday the mother of one of the two boys arrested moved to defend her son from the racist accusations. Asked whether her son was racist, she said "no". Then, as evidence, she said she worked at a Jewish nursing home.
"When he's at home he's not racist but when they get together they like to pick on people - it only takes drinking," she said.
The two boys, who cannot be identified as they will appear before a children's court, were already on bail for assaulting a police officer when they allegedly attacked the family at Bondi Beach.
They were charged with using unlawful violence against Constable Chun-Yuan Shieh and a number of others at Coogee beach on Saturday, September 7. They were also charged with affray for assaulting the officer in the execution of his duty.
The boy's mother confirmed that her son has been in trouble before and said he hung out with a "gang" that often used her home to sleep. "He's been in a lot of trouble," she said.
The mother said her son, who is addicted to alcohol, only got out of juvenile detention last week. "When he was 16 he was in there for a very long time ... for robbery at a train station."
The two boys were part of a group of eight mainly Pacific Islander youths charged with attacking the family, including a 66-year-old father and a 62-year-old mother, and friends walking home from a Sabbath dinner.
Five of them were hospitalised with broken bones, concussion and bleeding on the brain.
The two 17-year-olds were arrested and charged with affray. They were refused bail in court yesterday. A 23-year-old was also arrested and charged but was released to appear in court in December.
Senior police said those allegedly involved in the attack had no connection to Islam.
The pair were part of a group of eight mainly Pacific Islander youths who have been charged with attacking the family and friends walking home from a Sabbath Dinner just after midnight on Saturday morning at Bondi. A 23-year-old was arrested and charged on the night before being released to appear in court on December 3.
The remaining five are still being hunted by police who are now scouring CCTV footage in the area near Blair and Glenayr Streets where the attack took place.
A 27-year-old man, his father, 66, and mother, 62 along with two other males aged 48 and 39, all ended up being hospitalised after the attack suffering from concussion, fractured bones, bleeding on the brain and serious abrasions
The family also released a statement calling for tolerance.
"We thank God that we are alive," the family said.
"Our overriding concern is that such an attack should not happen again - to anyone. Our objective at this time is not vengeance, but justice and concern. We want justice to be done in regard to the perpetrators. And we are concerned about the need for the education of future generations about the importance of goodwill and tolerance, and the need for society to embrace those concepts. We would like to see proactive measures in that regard.
"People should be free to walk the streets in safety, without fear of being attacked because of the colour of their skin or the race to which they belong.
"We wish to thank the police for their fast response on the night of the incident, as well as St Vincent's Hospital emergency staff, the ambulance service, the shopkeepers who offered assistance, the locals who tried to help, the hotel bouncers who eventually came to our aid. We also thank the Premier, Opposition Leader, ministers, shadow ministers, MPs and leaders of the many faith groups and organisations across the wider community which have expressed support and concern. We also thank friends and members of the community. The support is deeply appreciated and reminds us that what occurred is not what Australia is about.
The Jewish community is still in shock over the attack."
Labor needs to ditch the Greens and embrace the facts
In February, Senator Christine Milne announced that the Greens would be unilaterally junking their alliance with Labor. The Labor-Greens agreement, which was formalised in September 2010, did the ALP a lot of political harm. So it is possible that the then prime minister Julia Gillard and her treasurer Wayne Swan were not displeased with Milne's decision.
So the Greens publicly dumped Labor. But the ALP has found it difficult to distance itself from the Greens. Towards the end of her prime ministership, Gillard overturned Labor's policy on asylum seekers and adapted a position closer to that held by Tony Abbott and the Coalition. Kevin Rudd embraced the Gillard position when he resumed as prime minister in June. He went on to renounce Gillard's carbon tax, which he planned to replace with an emissions trading scheme. And then came Labor's defeat.
As opposition leader in the aftermath of a devastating defeat, Bill Shorten faces obvious problems. Some commentators have been heard to suggest that, in the modern era, no opposition leader has taken over after a serious loss and gone on to become prime minister.
This overlooks Gough Whitlam, who took over as Labor leader in the wake of Arthur Calwell's defeat in February 1967 and led the ALP to victory six years later. Whitlam and Tony Abbott are the most successful opposition leaders since the end of the Second World War.
It would be foolish to predict that, under Shorten's leadership, Labor has no hope. Yet Shorten Labor clearly has serious policy difficulties. They mainly turn on the policy legacy of the Greens-Labor alliance: namely, carbon pricing and asylum seekers.
The latter issue presents obvious predicaments since it brings into play Labor's diverse base. There are the inner-city working professionals, many of whom are dependent (directly or indirectly) on government funding. Then there are those who live in the suburbs and regional areas, many of whom are in the private workforce or self-employed.
Rudd Labor's decision to wind back John Howard's strong border protection policies appealed to many inner-city types but did not go down well elsewhere and was a factor in Labor's near loss in 2010 and its bad defeat last month. If, under Shorten, Labor appears to embrace the Greens' position on asylum seekers it is difficult to see how Labor can win back many of the suburban and regional seats it lost in the past two elections.
Labor's chance of developing a considered and effective policy on asylum seekers will be enhanced if it is informed by fact rather than by sentiment. This requires that prevailing myths be challenged and demolished.
Myth one: the Vietnamese boat people came to Australia by boat. Not so. Q&A presenter Tony Jones made this howler last week when he confidently declared that "we took an awful lot of Vietnamese" in the 1970s and "they came here on boats". According to Malcolm Fraser, about 70,000 Indochinese came to Australia during the period of his government - from November 1975 until March 1983. However, just over 2000 asylum seekers arrived in Australia by boat during the entire seven-year period of the Fraser government. The remaining 97 per cent arrived in Australia by plane with valid visas. This compares with an estimated 45,000 boat arrivals during the almost six years of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments.
Myth two: people arriving in Australia by boat are fleeing persecution. Not necessarily so. The overwhelming majority of boats arriving in Australia unlawfully contain people who have made secondary movements. Many have travelled freely to Indonesia or Malaysia where they buy spaces on boats from people smugglers. Their immediate fear of persecution is no greater than that of established refugees waiting for placement in United Nations-run camps in Asia, Africa and elsewhere.
Myth three: until recent times, there was a bipartisan approach on asylum seekers. Novelist Tom Keneally made this point on 7.30 last week. Not at all. During his final year as prime minister in 1975, and as opposition leader in 1976 and 1977, Whitlam opposed Vietnamese refugees settling in Australia. Labor's position only changed when Bill Hayden succeeded Whitlam. Moreover, since Labor changed its policy under Gillard, there is now a degree of similarity in the position of both the Coalition and Labor.
Myth four: only the hard-hearted lack sympathy for boat people. This is special pleading. At present rates, 4 per cent of boat people die at sea. The only way to stop the drownings is to stop the boats.
Labor's best chance of handling the asylum seeker issue turns on its ability to demolish the myths and establish the facts. This will have the effect of distancing Labor from myth-loving Greens.
Labor set to bury carbon tax
Labor is expected to support axing the carbon tax, with senior figures - including leader Bill Shorten - now convinced that its case for action on climate change will be more easily sold if the politically toxic tax is abolished.
The opposition has been wrestling with what to do on the repeal of the tax, with some saying it must hold the line to show voters and demoralised supporters that it still stands for something.
They argue that Labor proposed to "terminate" the tax at the last election and to simply block its repeal would allow the government to continue to punish it politically.
Mr Shorten is also worried that continual focus on the tax will distract from serious flaws in the government's $3.2 billion "direct action" policy, which Labor will oppose.
Under direct action, taxpayer dollars are used to pay polluters to reduce emissions and to fund other initiatives in forestry, carbon capture and recycling.
A survey of economists by Fairfax Media found only two of 35 supported direct action over an emissions trading scheme, which uses a floating carbon price driven by the global market.
Labor will continue to back some form of carbon pricing but reserves the right to deliver its policy closer to the election. Meanwhile, it will scrutinise direct action.
Independent analysis of direct action suggests it will not be able to reduce emissions by the bipartisan target of 5 per cent by 2020 without more funding - which has been ruled out by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
A senior Labor source said the party would not countenance weakening the target, amid concern that the legislation to repeal the carbon tax will change the status of the 5 per cent target from a legally enforceable cap to merely an aspiration.
"We are happy to get rid of the tax but we do think there should be a cap on pollution," said one Labor insider.
Mr Abbott has made the repeal of the tax his legislative priority when Parliament resumes in two weeks. He has urged Labor to "repent" and support the government.
A number of Labor sources acknowledge there has been a shift in sentiment since the election. Even so, the shadow cabinet is yet to finalise Labor's position and wants to see the final shape of the government's legislation before making any commitment.
Labor's climate change spokesman, Mark Butler, hinted strongly at the weekend that the option of backing the repeal bills was being considered, saying that the final policy "will be informed by the fact that we took to the last election a commitment ourselves to terminate the carbon tax".
John Scales of JWS Research said polling showed that the carbon tax had dominated the climate change debate in recent years and undermined support for action.
He said the tax was widely seen through the prism of former prime minister Julia Gillard's broken promise when she introduced the impost, and through its impact on electricity and other prices.
Mr Abbott has already begun to call Mr Shorten "Electricity Bill" as he goads him to support the repeal of the tax. With it gone, Mr Scales said Labor would have clear air to make direct action its target and to develop its alternative.
War Memorial to keep 'Known unto God' on tomb of Unknown Soldier
The Australian War Memorial (AWM) has dropped plans to remove the phrase "Known unto God" from the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Canberra.
Last month the memorial's governing council decided to replace two inscriptions on the tomb with words from a eulogy delivered by then prime minister Paul Keating during the re-internment of the Unknown Soldier 20 years ago.
Rudyard Kiplings's words "Known unto God", which are on the headstones of thousands of soldiers in war cemeteries worldwide, were to be replaced with "We do not know this Australian's name, we never will".
But AWM director Brendan Nelson says the decision prompted about 40 complaints from Christians, historians, politicians and other interested parties.
He says there will now be a compromise.
"Obviously sensitive to the concerns, the council's then said right well we will leave 'Known unto God' but we will replace at the other end of the tomb the words 'He symbolises all those Australians who've died in war' with 'He is one of them, and he is all of us'," he said.
There are reports the backdown was prompted by intervention by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Minister for Veteran's Affairs Michael Ronaldson.
"I'm not going to discuss whether the Prime Minister or indeed the Minister for Veteran's Affairs have had conversations with me or anybody else here or indeed what the content of that is," Dr Nelson said. "But I think it would be fair to say, knowing Tony Abbott as I do so very well, I suspect he'd be quite comfortable with where we've landed."
Dr Nelson says political correctness had nothing to do with the initial decision to remove "Known unto God". "Historically, Charles Bean ... who conceived and drove the memorial, his ambition was always that there would be no religious symbols or references in the memorial or indeed in the hall," he said. "It was not until 1999 that the words 'Known unto God' were placed."
He says the change was designed to give permanence to Mr Keating's 1993 eulogy. "This was never driven by some suggestion that we should remove God or political correctness or anything of the sort," Dr Nelson said.
The remains of an unknown Australian soldier killed in World War I were returned from France in 1993 and buried in a tomb within the memorial's Hall of Memory to honour all Australians who have died in wars.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Five Jews hospitalised after mob attack in Bondi; Ordinary Ockers spring to their assistance
What would be the religion of a group of 8 males who attacked a group of peaceful Jewish pedestrians? Lebanese Muslims would be my best guess.
Two men remain in hospital with serious injuries after an alleged anti-Semitic attack near Bondi Beach on Saturday. Five people were injured suffering a fractured cheekbone, broken nose, concussion, lacerations and bruising when they were set upon by eight youths on Blair Street.
St Vincent's Hospital spokesman and member of the Bondi Jewish community David Faktor said the victims told him the attack was unprovoked and racially motivated. He said the family was returning from a Jewish Sabbath dinner and did not know their attackers or do anything to incite the violence.
"Any kind of serious unprovoked attack is of great concern but the fact it was racially motivated is all the more concerning," Mr Faktor said. "It is extremely shocking that an attack like this could happen in Australia let alone in Bondi being such a multicultural area."
Mr Faktor said the victims were wearing skullcaps and told him the attack felt like it went for about 15 minutes.
Police said four men, aged 27 to 66, and a 62-year-old woman were walking along Blair Street when a group of eight males started hurling abuse and assaulting them at 12.30am on Saturday. Police said the melee continued along Glenayr Avenue before police arrived and the attackers fled. Police have arrested two teenage boys, 17, and a 23-year-old man.
Beach Road Hotel licensee Ben Pearce said four bouncers and two managers from the hotel went to help stop the attack. He said the hotel's employees jumped into the middle of the brawl in an effort to break it up and were able to restrain a couple of offenders before the police arrived.
"The guys did the best they could to grab as many of [the attackers] as possible," Mr Pearce said. "The fact it had that extra component [was racially motivated] makes it even more ugly. "If it ever happened again we'd do the same to try and help."
Mr Pearce said a taxi driver also stopped to try and grab one of the youths as they ran away. He said the youths were not patrons of the hotel. The hotel provided security footage and statements to police.
Mr Faktor said two of the victims were released from hospital early on Saturday with superficial injuries while another man, 27, whose face and eye were injured was expected to be released later on Saturday.
Another man, 66, who suffered serious head injuries will stay in hospital overnight. He is expected to make a full recovery.
Two 17-year-old boys were charged with affray and breach of bail. They were refused bail and will appear at children's court on Sunday.
A 23-year-old man was charged with affray and granted bail to appear at Waverley Local Court on December 3.
The NSW Anti-discrimination Board of NSW will investigate the incident. Board president Stepan Kerkyasharian told Channel 7 News there appeared to be "severe racial vilification involved in the incident". "That’s a term under the [anti-discrimination] legislation," he said. "And I think that we should be taking action."
Prime Minister Abbott tells the US of the wacko Rudd-Gillard government
TONY Abbott has offered Americans an insight into the "wonderful, wacko world" of the Rudd-Gillard government, describing his federal predecessors as "scandalous".
In an interview with the Washington Post, the newspaper that famously exposed the Watergate scandal during the Nixon years, the Prime Minister also rubbished suggestions the recent bushfires were linked to climate change.
"Welcome to the wonderful, wacko world of the former government," he said. "I thought it was the most incompetent and untrustworthy government in modern Australian history."
Asked to expand on his argument, Mr Abbott said the former government made a whole lot of commitments, "which they scandalously failed to honour".
"They did a lot of things that were scandalously wasteful and the actual conduct of government was a circus.
"They were untrustworthy in terms of the carbon tax. They were incompetent in terms of the national broadband network," he said. "They were a scandal when it came to their own internal disunity.
"They made a whole lot of grubby deals in order to try and perpetuate themselves in power. It was an embarrassing spectacle, and I think Australians are relieved they are gone."
Mr Abbott also told Americans the arguments around climate change had become too "theological" - Australia had had fires and floods since the beginning of time.
"We've had much bigger floods and fires than the ones we've recently experienced. You can hardly say they were the result of anthropic global warming," he said.
"This argument has become far too theological for anyone's good. I accept that climate change is a reality. And I support policies that will be effective in reducing emissions, but I do think there is too much climate-change alarmism."
Mr Abbott told the Tasmanian Liberal Party Conference yesterday his "stop the boats" pledge was already being realised, despite Labor shifting to a hard line policy in June.
Boat people policy that works
"Tony Abbott makes a beeline in my arse," says people smuggler Reza Kord on a secretly recorded phone call recently.
It's a particularly rude piece of idiom in the Farsi language, apparently, but just one of the unkind things being said about the new Australian Prime Minister among people smugglers and asylum seekers in Indonesia.
If Australia's aim was, in Julia Gillard's words, to "smash the people smugglers' business model", then the recent policy changes have done the job.
Smashing the model has fragmented it into a series of complex and expensive alternative options, proposals and pipedreams, which, even if they are possible, will never see the huge volume of people hitting Australia as we've seen in the past.
"All Australian prime ministers have been chosen for two terms," one people smuggler was recorded saying recently. "Two terms means six years. Without any doubt, for six years, Australia's door will be shut for asylum seekers."
The irony here is that it's not Abbott's policies, but Kevin Rudd's uncompromising final stand - the Papua New Guinea and Nauru options - as well as Indonesia's decision (under pressure from Labor) to stop Iranians using visas-on-arrival to get to Indonesia, that have stopped the people traffic in its tracks.
So, why is Abbott being accused of making the beeline? Because his tough talk - known in the finance industry as "jawboning" - has almost fully convinced the people smugglers and their customers that this time Australia means it.
Labor's frequent policy reversals encouraged the impression that asylum seekers merely had to wait and the door would inch back open.
Of Abbott they hold no such hope. So, now, in desperation, they are casting around for alternatives.
Hodgman calls for Tasmanian election
The Green/Left have ruined Tasmania's industries -- Hydro, timber, pulp & paper -- through environmental restrictions -- and Tasmania now lives on Federal handouts. It's time to free the place up
TASMANIAN Opposition Leader Will Hodgman is demanding an increasingly beleaguered state government name an election date.
A poll is due in the state on March 15 but Premier Lara Giddings is yet to confirm the date.
A new bout of turmoil has hit the Labor-Green alliance with rogue ALP backbencher Brenton Best calling for Ms Giddings to quit as leader.
Mr Best has been a ticking time bomb for the party for months, criticising it over its partnership with the Greens, who have two ministers in the government.
He says Ms Giddings should now step aside for police and economic development minister David O'Byrne.
Labor is languishing in the polls after 15 years in power with Ms Giddings' most recent approval rating at just 18 per cent, its lowest level yet.
Mr Hodgman, the son of late former federal minister Michael Hodgman, has used his address to the Liberals' state council to call for an election.
"It should be called today," he told members. "(It) will be the most important election in our lifetime, probably in our state's history."
Mr Hodgman said Labor had reached the point where it was unfit to govern the economically ailing state.
"Infighting has now escalated to open warfare," he said. "It is appalling for Tasmanians who want to see a government that's focused on them, not on itself."
The Liberals have long drawn a comparison between the state's Labor-Green power-sharing arrangement and the former federal minority government headed by Julia Gillard.
Mr Hodgman's address came under banners reading "Jobs. Growth. Majority Government".
He repeated a warning to Labor voters that only by voting Liberal will another hung parliament be avoided, since Tasmania has the unusual Hare-Clark system which delivers five members per seat.
He said a vote for minor players like the Palmer United Party, which won a Tasmanian Senate spot in September's federal election, could also mean no clear majority. "Don't risk it and don't waste your vote," he said.
Mr Hodgman has ruled out deals with any other party.
The state Liberals' buoyancy was boosted when prime Minister Tony Abbott addressed the conference on Saturday, 50 days after supplanting three Tasmanian Labor members at the federal election.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Fuel Loads Not Climate Change Are Making Bushfires More Severe
Dr David Evans
The bibles of mainstream climate change are the Assessment Reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) every six years or so. The latest was issued recently, in September 2013. Significantly, it backs away from the link between climate change and specific extreme weather events.
The IPCC says that connections of warming to extreme weather have not been found. “There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses [that is, adjusted for exposure and wealth of the increasing populations] have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change.” The IPCC claim only to have “low confidence” in their ability to project “changes in frequency and duration of megadroughts.”
The official report does say that “drought, coupled with extreme heat and low humidity, can increase the risk of wildfire”, but there is no drought in southeast Australia at the moment.
They also say “there is evidence that future climate change could lead to increases in the occurrence of wildfires because of changes in fuel availability, readiness of the fuel to burn and ignition sources.” Carbon dioxide is a potent plant fertilizer. According to NASA satellites there is more living plant matter today, with a 6% increase in the twenty years to 2000. So there is more to burn.
Some academic papers conclude that climate change might be a contributing factor (Cai, Nicholls), others say it is not (Crompton, Pielke).
If there was any specific evidence that linked climate change to bushfires or extreme weather events, we know they would be trumpeting it loudly. That they don’t, speaks volumes.
There has been a hiatus in the rise of average global air temperatures for the last fifteen years or more. Basically the world hasn’t warmed for the last decade and a half. While this does not rule out warming in some regions, climate cannot have been much of a contributor to the worsening bushfire situation over the last fifteen years.
People have been burning off to keep fuel loads low in Australia for thousands of years.
Current fuel loads are now typically 30 tonnes per hectare in the forests of southeast Australia, compared to maybe 8 tonnes per hectare in the recent and ancient pasts. So fires burn hotter and longer. (The figures are hard to obtain, which is scandalous considering their central importance. There is also confusion over whether to include all material dropped by the trees, or just the material less than 6mm thick–it is mainly the finer material that contributes to the flame front.)
The old advice to either fight or flee when a bushfire approached, and to defend property, only made sense when fuel loads were light. The fire wasn’t too hot, it was over in a few minutes, and we could survive. With the high fuel loads of today, fighting the fire is too dangerous in most cases.
Eucalypts love fire, because it gives them an advantage over competing tree species. Eucalypts regenerate very quickly after a fire, much faster than other trees, so periodic fires ensure the dominance of eucalypts in the forest. Eucalypts have evolved to encourage fires, dropping copious amounts of easily flammable litter. Stringy bark trees are the worst, dangling flammable strings of bark that catch alight and detach from the tree to spread the fire a kilometer or two downwind.
Picture lighting a fire in an outside fireplace. The more newspaper and twigs you pack in, the hotter and faster the fire will burn. Extra heat ignites thicker denser wood, which fuels the fire for so much longer. Now imagine being an ant living in or around that fireplace, and wondering whether to fight or flee. The forests of southeast Australia are our fireplace, and the eucalypts are piling up the easily flammable material around us.
Bill Gammage wrote an excellent book, The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia, which was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2012. The first Europeans in Australia noted over and over that Australia looked like a country estate in England, like a park with open woodlands, extensive grassy patches, and abundant wildlife. Where Europeans prevented aborigines from tending their land it became overgrown, and the inevitable fires became dangerous and uncontrollable.
Particularly memorable is the account of driving a horse and carriage from Hobart to Launceston in the early 1800’s, before there were any roads, simply by driving along the grassy park underneath the tree canopies. Try doing that today.
People will die and property losses will be high until we relearn these lessons and reduce fuel loads again. [By off-seasaon burning]
Why greenies only make me see red
BILL Leak, acclaimed cartoonist, lives in one of the loveliest places in Australia: Killcare, on the Central Coast. But one of the consequences of living in the middle of the Australian bush is fire.
And in pretty seachange and treechange communities, you’re likely to find yourself in a greenie council dominated by refugees from the city who haven’t a clue about the real dangers of living among trees.
So it is that at the start of a dangerous bushfire season, Leak finds himself with a backyard full of trees and flammable material that he is forbidden to clear by Gosford Council on threat of fines as high as $1.1 million.
“Here I am, living on the edge of bushland that could burst into flame at any time, and I’m not allowed to clear the land in my own backyard of trees that, in the event of a fire, will bring the fire straight into my home,” he says.
Council flora preservation policies warn that the removal of any native tree over 3m can attract hefty fines.
This “puts homes like mine in grave danger: the refusal of local councils to allow home owners to remove trees that can extend the bushland right up to our own back doors,” Leak says.
“The only possible explanation for this is the council is hell-bent on securing Green votes. I’ll accept, albeit unwillingly, the indulgence of Greens fantasies up to a point but if and when they cost me my house I think I’ll have to say, ‘A line has been crossed’.”
How many warnings do councils need before they understand that tea trees and eucalypts and other lovely natives, not to mention shrubs and organic litter on the ground, are lethal near homes in fireprone areas.
It’s bad enough that properties are being burned out by unstoppable infernos that erupt out of neglected national parks. But to actively stop people from protecting their homes by forbidding them to remove fire fuel on their own land is insanity.
Gosford Council is not alone, or even the worst.
Wyong Council has recently sent residents in Lake Munmorah warning letters about clearing bush adjoining their properties where dead lantana poses a serious bushfire hazard.
It’s the same all over the country wherever green sensibilities have overwhelmed sensible decision making.
Who could forget Liam Sheahan, who was fined $50,000 by his local council for clearing trees around his house, only to find that his property was the only one in a 2km area which survived the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009. Yet we still haven’t learned the lesson.
In 2009 Blue Mountains residents signed a petition condemning the state government for failing to carry out enough burn-offs as experienced firefighters warned the area was a “time bomb”.
Where 10 tonnes of ground fuel per hectare is regarded as hazardous, one veteran firefighter estimates there was 40 tonnes in areas that have been burned out in the past week. That’s despite a significant improvement in national parks and firetrails management in recent years.
But greenies are brilliant at warping the narrative, so instead what most people are hearing is that the bushfires have been caused by climate change, a claim not even the IPCC has made.
The ABC has allowed itself to shill for climate alarmists, claiming that the bushfire season has never started so early, when a simple record check shows raging October bushfires near Sydney on several occasions in the last century.
But Monday night’s 7.30 took the cake. “Scientists told 7.30 the science is in, the link between global warming and bushfires has been established and it’s time for action,” it said.
But not a single scientist was produced to say such a thing. Just the usual fear-mongering greenies such as John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, and Don Henry of the Australian Conversation Foundation, whose grave faces and confident pronouncements appeared before captions told the audience that these were not the promised scientists.
Eventually appeared Professor Andy Pitman, who is an alarmist but at least an actual scientist and halfway responsible about what he says. And nor did he say anything which backed up the conclusive link which was the thesis of the program.
The only link which has been proven conclusively is the equation between ground fuel and fire intensity. And that’s the one thing greenies don’t like talking about.
Teacher strike possible as Queensland Government pushes staff performance bonuses, contracts
A 24-HOUR teacher strike could hit schools when the State Government goes ahead with staff performance bonuses and fixed contracts for principals.
The Queensland Teachers' Union is balloting members throughout the state to authorise a 24-hour strike "if the government proceeds with a number of Great Teachers = Great Results (GT=GR) actions". They include teacher performance bonuses, which the union says are "inherently bad", performance-based fixed-term contracts for principals and deputy principals and any annual performance review process that hasn't been negotiated with or agreed to by the QTU.
""The industrial action will only occur if the government moves to implement one or more of those changes," a statement authorised by QTU general secretary Graham Moloney states.
The State Government has already indicated it will go ahead with the changes.
Mr Moloney said the process of authorising industrial action before a government acted was unusual but necessary due to "the Queensland government's propensity to announce and implement changes without notice and with no real consultation".
In a 10-minute video on the QTU website, Mr Moloney warns teachers the strike would be unprotected industrial action, so they could be fined up to $3000 each, but goes on to say he thinks the State Government would be unlikely to do this.
He urges them to push aside their fear and make a stand on the issues. "If these changes go through, they will profoundly and negatively affect your working lives and the education of students in our schools," Mr Moloney tells teachers. "We have two choices: we can either sit by and let it happen and bemoan our fates or we can stand up for ourselves and that is what this ballot is about."
Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the Newman Government had a relentless focus on delivering better student outcomes and threatened strike action from the QTU would not stand in the way. "It's extremely disappointing that the Queensland Teachers Union wants to upset student learning and inconvenience parents just to make a political point," Mr Langbroek said.
"Great Teachers = Great Results is about boosting teacher quality, increasing school autonomy and improving student discipline. "Through this initiative we'll be putting an extra $50 million into the pockets of teachers as well as offering scholarships for masters degrees. "I would expect reasonable teachers would vote against the Union playing politics with student outcomes."
Tony Abbott says his government stopped the boats in 50 days
FIFTY days into the job, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he's already delivered on many of his election promises, and that includes stopping the boats. Mr Abbott emphasised the minor milestone, which he'll reach on Sunday, as he addressed Liberal members at the party's Tasmanian state conference.
His "stop the boats" pledge was already being realised, the Prime Minister said, despite Labor shifting to a hard line policy on Kevin Rudd's return as PM in June. "I don't want to underestimate the difficulty of that challenge but they are stopping," Mr Abbott said.
"Over the last month, illegal arrivals by boat have been scarcely 10 per cent of the peak under Labor in July."
Mr Abbott said immigration officials had been "managing a problem" under the ALP. "Our determination is to end the problem," he said. "Our determination is not to guide the boats, our determination is to stop the boats."
The Coalition's asylum seeker policy was one on a long list of achievements Mr Abbott said the government had already ticked off.
They also included a day-one move to axe a fringe benefits tax hit to the car industry and plans to repeal the mining and carbon taxes.
"We inherited a mess but we have made a very strong start," the PM said. "Never forget the trough into which our country had fallen."
Mr Abbott warned there were economic challenges ahead as much of the rest of the world battles recession. "It's an uncertain world," he said.
"We've seen consistent long-term economic mismanagement in so many of the countries that we are accustomed to look to for leadership."
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Friday, October 25, 2013
Bushfires and climate change
Australia is having some nasty forest fires at the moment -- as it does most years. In their usual form, Warmists want to claim that the fires are due to "climate change". Since most Australians are aware that we have ALWAYS had such fires, however, they struggle to make their case and the Prime Minister has been completely dismissive of their nonsense.
The article below is therefore both very cautious and very vague. There seems to be some claim that bushfire incidence has increased in recent years but there are no numbered graphs or other statistics to prove it. We have to wait almost to the end of the article to get some numbers and discover that we have been talking about relatively recent times. We read that fire-danger has increased substatially from 1973 to 2010 and also that the fire danger "is about a third higher since 1996-97"
It's no wonder that the author put that figure at the bottom of the article because it completely rips up his case. From 1997 on there has BEEN no global warming. So if there has been any temperature increase in Australia in that period, it is local, not global
Tony Abbott has not been afraid to use blunt language when asked about a link between climate change and this week's bushfires.
"Complete hogwash," is what the Prime Minister said in response to a question about the connection by News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt.
This came two days after an interview on Fairfax Radio, where he said United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres was "talking through her hat" for implying a link between climate change and the bushfires blazing across large regions of NSW.
"Climate change is real, as I've often said, and we should take strong action against it. But these fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they're a function of life in Australia," declared the Prime Minister.
But is that the advice Mr Abbott is getting from the experts at his disposal?
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has been briefed this week by the Bureau of Meteorology, and that wouldn't be its advice.
As the bureau told a Senate inquiry into extreme weather events earlier this year: "The Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI), which essentially 'sums' daily fire weather danger across the year, has increased significantly across many Australian locations since the 1970s.
"The number of locations with significant increases is greatest in the southeast, while the largest trends occurred inland rather than near the coast. The largest increases in seasonal FFDI have occurred during spring and autumn. This indicates a lengthened fire season."
Yet, despite this, why Mr Hunt found the need to consult Wikipedia is not so clear.
Mr Hunt did, though, point to a hotly debated link in the climate-bushfire chain. "Senior people at the Bureau of Meteorology” take a precautionary line, Mr Hunt said. “They always emphasise never trying to link any particular event to climate change."
Actually, Mr Hunt is slightly off the mark. To say that such a link can “never” be made is only true if you add the words “right now”.
In fact, climate scientists around the country and beyond will already have pointed their super-computers towards identifying a signal from the changing climate system.
Australia's famously variable climate makes it difficult to prove any major event is caused by climate change, only that the odds of it happening without a warming background would be less. It would be at least as hard to rule it out as "hogwash".
Temperature is one of the key factors influencing fire danger ratings - along with wind, humidity, and dryness of the fuel load.
The science is less certain about wind and humidity trends, but hotter temperatures are among Australia's clearest climate signals. It's not a huge leap to figure that hotter temperature would tend to dry out fuel loads more than cooler ones.
And you don't need to be a climate scientist to observe a clear warming trend - assuming, of course, you accept the integrity of the Bureau and the CSIRO.
Australia has warmed up by roughly 0.7 degrees nationally since 1960, the two organisations say.
But we're a big country and have seasons, so it's worth looking at spring maximums, since that's the current problem in NSW and also the season when the rate of warming happens to be fastest:
So Australia is getting hotter, especially NSW in spring.
Bushfire experts such as Hamish Clarke, Christopher Lucas and Peter Smith, have examined the data from weather stations across the country where the data is considered of sufficient quality and duration.
(Mr Smith was the head of climate science before leaving the NSW government in March, noting this week how the O'Farrell government has slashed in-house research into the issue; Dr Lucas remains a researcher with CSIRO and the bureau; and Mr Clarke continues to work for the NSW government, and is understood to have been busy defending his home in this week's blazes.)
Between 1973 and 2010, they found the Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) – the measure used by fire authorities to determine whether the day will have a “low/moderate” to “catastrophic” fire danger – increased significantly at 16 of the 38 stations during the period. Not one registered a decrease.
The FFDI is complex, not least because it combines meteorological data and dryness of fuel. (For Sydney this year, July-October will smash records for average maximums, with each month the hottest or second hottest on record, while much of the eastern part of the state has been very dry since mid-June after a couple of wet years.)
That complexity is one reason why it's unwise to jump to a precise attribution of the NSW fires to global warming - but also why it's absurd to rule it out completely.
Sarah Perkins, an expert in heatwaves at the ARC Centre for Excellence in Climate System Science at the UNSW, can understand why some blanch at discussing climate change amid the past week's destructive fires, with hundreds of homes lost and thousands of lives disrupted.
But it's an issue that's unlikely to go away. “The eastern half of Australia is seeing an increase in the number of heatwave days,” Dr Perkins said, with heatwaves defined as three consecutive days when temperatures are in the top 10 per cent of warmth for that particular day.
“Those heatwaves outside summer are actually increasing faster than summertime events,” said Dr Perkins. “That is quite worrying for bushfire events and bushfire risk because it can induce this earlier drying of the fuel load.”
And, as fire authorities and many of their volunteers appear to accept, the science is pointing to 2013 being less extraordinary in the future. “It's more likely that these conditions will continue more often in spring, in the future,” Dr Perkins said.
NSW, of course, is hardly alone. Roger Jones, a researcher at Victoria University and former CSIRO scientist, says levels of fire dangers "have done the same thing as extreme temperatures".
For Victoria, that means the FFDI is about a third higher since 1996-97 than before. "That's generally not recognised," Dr Jones said, who is also a co-ordinating lead author for the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Dr Jones' work for the IPCC focused on decision making, aimed at resolving perhaps the most challenging link of them all - how to connect policymakers with the overwhelming findings of climate science.
NSW cuts climate change watchers
Deep cuts to staff and funding by the NSW government have largely dismantled the state's ability to investigate and prepare for the effects of climate change such as more frequent extreme fire weather, a former senior scientist with the government said.
Peter Smith, who led the state's climate change science group until March, said his team of 10 had been slashed to just three whose work remained climate-focused. A similar cut had been made to a separate team of 10 working on climate adaptation, he said.
When you really see governments are going to take climate change seriously is when you see them spending money on adaptation
"There's been more than a 50 per cent cut in the numbers of staff whose primary focus was climate change," Dr Smith said in his first media comments since leaving the role. "The [Office of Environment and Heritage] was being downgraded anyway from a super department under the previous government to being an office attached to the premier's [department]. The reduction in the climate change [section] was even more significant than the general reduction."
Dr Smith, who now works as an adviser on United Nations projects, was a contributor to peer-reviewed research reports that found Australia was already facing an increase in bushfire dangers. The shift was particularly clear in spring, with national mean temperatures rising 0.9 degrees since 1960.
Areas such as the Blue Mountains and the central coast - two regions hit by fires in the past few days - could expect to have a 20 per cent to 84 per cent increase in days with potential large fire ignition risk by 2050. Across south-eastern Australia, the number of days a year at the "uppermost" forest fire danger index levels would triple by then, according to two of the papers Dr Smith worked on.
"We know the [climate] science is unequivocal," Environment Minister Robyn Parker told a Nature Conservation Council meeting on Saturday. "It is for governments to respond. What we are doing is investing in climate change science, and so minimising the impacts of climate change on communities."
Ms Parker cited plans to introduce a regional climate model with the University of NSW next year, and is allocating an extra $3 million in research grants to universities.
"The NSW government is investing $20 million on research and programs that will assist communities to be better prepared to respond and adapt to a changing climate, such as climate projection modeling," Ms Parker said.
"The government is committed to delivering communities robust scientific evidence on which to base decisions and make the information and research widely available."
Dr Smith welcomed the projects, which he said had been initiated by the previous Labor governments. The reduction of in-house government research, though, meant the knowledge gained from the work would be harder to share with other state agencies and policymakers. As it was, getting in-house generated research approved typically took longer than the original study, and even then the O'Farrell government did little to publicise the work.
"It was very acute, very frustrating, very problematical trying to get information onto the website for climate change," Dr Smith said.
Instead, governments - federal and state - were likely to talk up other issues, such as energy efficiency. While important, such policies were easy to promote since they saved money as well as cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"When you really see governments are going to take climate change seriously is when you see them spending money on adaptation," Dr Smith said.
"Australians" at the Haj
Mina is a town near Mecca, where pilgrims sleep in tents and stone three pillars, representing the satan, with seven pebbles, on the last day of Hajj. The Saudi government has built thousand of air-conditioned tents to accommodate pilgrims, during this ritual.
A known female community leader said that when the local group entered Tent Section 40, an area designated for American, European and Australian Muslims, a pilgrim in the group was asked about his sect, by a member of another group.
"When he said he was Shi'a, they called him Kafir (infidel) and attacked him," said the woman, who did not want her name to be revealed, for safety concerns, until she leaves Saudi Arabia next week.
The attackers, who are Australians of Lebanese descent, then hit three other men in the group and dragged one into a tent, while choking and kicking him.
"They took him into a woman's tent and had him in a chokehold. They were choking him out. When our guys got to him, he was blue," she said.
The attackers threatened the pilgrims to leave the tent area, while bringing up historic sectarian references.
"We will kill you Shi'a men and rape your women," they shouted, according to the source.
The source said security officers at the tent area were aware of the attack, but stood by and did not do anything to stop it.
The pilgrims left the tent area from the emergency exits and waited about an hour for their buses to arrive and drive them back to the hotel, which was 15 minutes away.
"We were terrified. When you have someone threatening your life and threatening to rape your women and having the audacity to make such remarks and walk into your tent, you take those threats seriously," said the female community leader.
Police came to the scene, after the group had gotten out to the main road, cooperated with the pilgrims' guide and promised to get them justice. However, police officers deleted video recordings of the attack from the pilgrims' phones.
Qld govt opens more land for coal
Too bad Greenies
THE Queensland government is calling for tenders to explore coal in more than 1200 square kilometres of land in the Bowen Basin in central Queensland.
Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps says this is the first ever non-cash tender for coal exploration.
"The Newman government understands that a vibrant exploration sector is critical to uncovering the mineral deposits and mines of the future, and non-cash tender processes offer the opportunity for junior explorers to make their mark," he said in a statement.
Interested parties have until March 5 next year.
This comes as the government announced it's clearing a backlog of exploration permits.
Mr Cripps says a backlog of about 1400 exploration permit applications had been cleared by his department in the past week.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Qld. Government road maintenance workers made redundant
Government roadworkers have long been a conspicuously "relaxed" lot so this is long overdue
WORKERS at RoadTek have been made redundant. The State Government road maintenance workers were given their redundancy slips on Wednesday morning.
One worker, who did not want to be named, said while the redundancies were not a shock, he felt hard done by.
About 60 workers at the Nathan depot were given a redundancy.
"I don't think many people are happy about it," another worker said. "People have mortgages and everything to pay off." He said everyone had been stressed by the prospect of the redundancies.
A spokesman for Transport Minister Scott Emerson said it had been known that the long-term road asset management contracts would be opened to the private sector since June 2012. "About 140 people across Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast operations will be given an update on the progress of those tenders and the transition of work to the private sector. "These are not additional staff changes, but part off the original program outlined in media statements and budget papers since mid 2012," he said.
Staff have access to an on-going program of voluntary redundancies and redeployment.
He said the cost to build and maintain roads in southeast Queensland was increasing and the changes had been driven to give better value.
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk says Mr Newman promised in December last year that there would be no more sackings, past the 14,000 job losses announced last year. "What sort of Christmas are these people going to have?" she said. "This is not acceptable. It is clearly a broken promise."
The government agreed in its response to the Costello Commission of Audit earlier this year that the work done by RoadTek should be opened to private bidders in southeast Queensland.
The union has come out swinging against the sackings. AWU Queensland Branch Secretary Ben Swan said the move was "senseless". "These workers have bills to pay, mortgages and families to support, but that doesn't matter to this mob on George Street," Mr Swan said. "These are hardworking Queenslanders who deliver services night and day to make roads safe for all of us". He said the government had showed "callous disregard" for people's job security.
"In the last week we have seen an attack on workers compensation rights, the stifling of fair enterprise bargaining and now a direct hit on these workers' jobs".
The State Government introduced controversial new workplace reforms and changes to the WorkCover legislation a week ago.
The winning tenders for more than $400 million in work, to begin in late November, will be announced in the next week.
Twisted logic links the tragic NSW bushfires with the Prime Minister, climate change and abolishing the carbon tax
According to Adam Bandt's logic, the Greens are responsible for the devastating bushfires sweeping parts of NSW. Last Wednesday, the Greens MP for Melbourne accused the Prime Minister of "donning a volunteer firefighter uniform for the media". This was nothing but a slur, since Tony Abbott has been an active volunteer firefighter for more than a decade.
Bandt went on to suggest Abbott's firefighting was a "con" because he was "helping start fires that put people's lives in danger". In other words, the Prime Minister is not only a con artist but also an arsonist. Then, as if to prove when muck-racking the muck can go even lower, Bandt tweeted on Thursday, "Tony Abbott's plan means more bushfires for Australia".
Bandt's attack overlooked two essential facts. First, the Coalition's policy aim on the reduction of carbon emissions by 2020 is the same as that of the Labor Party (which the Greens were aligned to for most of the past three years).
Second, if the Greens had supported Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme in 2009 and 2010, Australia would already have a form of an emissions trading scheme in place. Bob Brown, Christine Milne and their Greens colleagues in the Senate opposed Rudd Labor's reduction scheme and prevented it passing into legislation.
Of course, if Australia had introduced Rudd's scheme it would have done nothing to stop the bushfires. Australia's carbon emissions are but a tiny fraction of world output. Moreover, the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events remains uncertain. NSW experienced record bushfires half a century ago and earlier. It is just that there were no alienated political types around to lay the blame on political leaders. It appears that Labor, under its new leadership team of Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek, is intent on thwarting the Abbott government's determination to junk the carbon tax. This despite the fact that before the 2013 election Rudd said Labor would terminate this tax.
Labor's position appears to be that it will only support Abbott if he agrees to replace the carbon tax with an emissions trading scheme. This overlooks the fact that Abbott went to the election with a promise to junk the carbon tax and not to introduce an ETS.
There are some forthright Labor backbenchers who want Labor to cut its losses and drop its carbon pricing policies - just as the Coalition dropped WorkChoices after its comprehensive defeat in 2007. The South Australian MP Nick Champion is in this camp as is West Australian senator Mark Bishop. But they appear to be in a minority.
Certainly, as backbenchers, Champion and Bishop have a freedom to speak which is not shared by many of their colleagues. However, their approach is politically sound. Rudd lost his way in early 2010 when Labor dropped the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme without replacing it. From that time he was deauthorised and was replaced by Julia Gillard in June 2010.
Gillard at least managed to form a minority government after the August 2010 election. However, the former prime minister also became deauthorised when, in February 2011, she broke her promise not to introduce a carbon tax. Rudd and Gillard are victims of Labor's carbon pricing obsession, which does not enjoy popular support.
Shorten could be heading the same way. If Labor and the Greens defeat Abbott's carbon tax repeal legislation, there could be a double dissolution. Alternatively, the Coalition may have the numbers to abolish carbon pricing after the new Senate takes effect on July 1.
The problem for Shorten is that even if Abbott gets his carbon tax abolition through the Senate, this issue does not go away while Labor remains committed to a trading scheme. Unless Labor does to carbon pricing what the Coalition did to WorkChoices, Shorten will have to campaign in the election scheduled for late 2016 on a promise to introduce an ETS or some other form of carbon pricing. It is quite likely that neither the US nor Canada will have a nationwide ETS by then. In such a situation, Abbott would be able to paint Labor as the party of higher energy prices that will make Australia less competitive on world markets.
Labor's choice right now is not helped by the sense of urgency engendered by the tragic NSW bushfires and the perception that unusually high temperatures are the cause. Yesterday, a colleague sent me a clipping from the Herald reporting that on October 13, 1946, the temperature in Sydney reached 35 degrees. At least the Prime Minister can't be blamed for that.
"Soft" magistrate who allowed alleged bikie bail was a former Labor Senate candidate
A SUNSHINE COAST magistrate who has defied the Newman Government's crackdown on criminal gangs to release a bikie on bail is a failed Senate candidate with a history of contentious decisions - including ignoring the one minute silence in her courtroom on Remembrance Day.
As well as infuriating war veterans over the snub, Bernadette Callaghan, a former senior union official, has also previously lashed out at police for arresting a man for giving them a rude gesture, and criticised politicians for having "rocks in their heads".
Despite new laws that not only declare bikies illegal but also compel the courts to treat them more harshly, Ms Callaghan let a Rebel with 'FTP' for F... k the Police tattooed on his forehead walk this week, insisting there was not enough evidence to suggest he was a gang member.
A furious Premier Campbell Newman said it was time legal ``insiders" got out of the way of the crackdown.
Police bosses say they will take legal action to overturn the decision.
Mr Newman said it was high time the judiciary understood that Queenslanders wanted criminal bikies behind bars. "What we need now is for the judiciary, those who run the court system, the insiders, to actually realise that's what Queenslanders want as well," he said. "And they need to have a look at how they're operating and make sure they protect Queenslanders."
However, it is far from the first time that one of Ms Callaghan's decisions has earned the community's ire.
In 2010, the controversial magistrate failed to stop proceedings during a coroner's inquest for a minute silence on Remembrance Day, sparking accusations she lacked respect for veterans.
The following year Ms Callaghan criticised politicians who supported mandatory sentencing during a case of a motorists who earned an automatic licence suspension. "Anyone who thinks mandatory sentencing is a good thing has rocks in their heads," she said at the time.
'Cram central' class leaps into the shadow end
It's 9.53pm on a Monday, and inside a fluorescent-lit office in Glen Waverley 16 tired teenagers are shuffling papers, punching at calculators and wolfing down warm pizza.
They have been here since 7.30, sitting on folding chairs at white plastic picnic tables, listening to their teacher, Kevin Xiao, 28, as he dissects the mathematical methods exam they will face in less than a fortnight.
They listen in part because they clearly adore the exuberant Mr Xiao, the founder of this private tutoring college.
But also because of the only adornment on the walls at Breakthrough Education: laminated posters selling a narrative of success. "11 perfect ATARs in 4 years"; "Median ATAR of 97.65"; "1 in 7 graduates scoring 99+".
The students have come in search of those promised scores, paying $45 a class every Monday night since July to try to dominate the written VCE exam period that begins next week.
"Grab a slice, grab a seat, grab a Coke and let's get cracking," Mr Xiao says, launching into an explanation of another unfathomable problem. "Ten is to H, as 2 is to R, so what does that mean?"
Welcome to the expanding world of "shadow education". In 2005 there were 24,000 people working as full-time tutors in Australia. There are now more than 36,000, and demand continues to grow, particularly in "cram schools" such as this one, which caters to 250 students here and in Balwyn and Box Hill.
Mohan Dhall, of the Australian Tutoring Association, said such instruction was found anywhere that "transfer tests" existed, whether for perfect VCE scores or entry into selective schools.
Tutoring was once mainly a remedial tool to give struggling students a hand up, but increasingly parents trying to give dominant students a head start.
Bareetu Aba-Bulga, 18, sits somewhere in the middle. Of Oromian (Ethiopian) descent, she goes to Huntingtower School, Mount Waverley, studies Indonesian and wants to be an accountant. "It's my dream to empower the women of Indonesia through business," she says.
But she struggles with numbers. Group tutoring has helped, although going to school after school is a challenge. "It's OK for the first hour, but then we hit 8.30 and I start to fall asleep sometimes," she said, laughing. "Maths isn't always exciting."
Students from St Albans and Werribee, Caulfield Grammar and Melbourne Grammar, and even Mac.Robertson Girls High School and Melbourne High School augment their education here.
Janet McCutcheon, assistant principal at Mac.Rob, said tuition had its place, provided children and parents did not think of it as the only way. "We don't want them being overloaded," she said.