Tuesday, February 25, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says that Medicare should be means-tested

Illegal immigrants turned back to Indonesia by Abbott government in lifeboat

AUSTRALIA has sent a group of asylum seekers back to Indonesia in a lifeboat, in the latest “turn back’’ under the Abbott government.

Senior Indonesian sources have told the ABC that the large orange lifeboat was discovered at about midday on Monday on the south coast of Central Java.

It said local media had reported that about 26 asylum seekers were on board, but it was unclear whether that figure also included the boat’s Indonesian crew.

The unsinkable lifeboats were purchased by the government as part of Operation Sovereign Borders, but it has refused to confirm their use in sending asylum seekers back to Indonesia.

The turn-back policy has angered the Indonesians, who have rejected it as a solution to people smuggling in the region.

Discovery of the lifeboat comes as the government is under fire over its border policies, following the riot at the Manus Island detention centre and the navy’s incursions into Indonesian waters.

A spokesperson for the Immigration Minister refused to confirm the report:  “In accordance with the Operation Sovereign Borders Joint Agency Task Force policy regarding public release of information on operational matters, the government has no further response on the issues raised.”


Coal seam gas debate has no place for scare campaigns

Peter Reith

Until last week I thought the NSW government had in effect banned the coal seam gas industry. The O'Farrell government has certainly abandoned public debate and as a result the greenies and Alan Jones have filled the vacuum with a lot of nonsensical claims.

But last week, the government designated a coal seam gas project in Narrabri as a ''strategic energy project'' which is meant to cut back on red and green tape.

Jones is in a different class to the greenies. He is a strong supporter of free enterprise. He supported me and Chris Corrigan over the waterfront dispute and he has been a strong voice for many good causes. But, for reasons I do not understand, Jones has a bee in his bonnet over the gas industry.

I became interested in natural gas at the request of the Victorian government, which was concerned at the impact of gas sales to China and its implications for the eastern Australia gas market. The massive developments in Queensland are already imposing transitional effects. There is a real prospect Sydney could suffer gas shortages causing major dislocation to business. Gas prices are already rising and it could take at least three years to supply additional gas to Sydney if everything goes well and if the government holds its nerve.

I do not discard community concerns about the gas industry. The NSW government has comprehensive regulations to manage it. Whatever the risks, they need to be addressed. But some activists are totally opposed to the gas industry regardless of the regulations and of the consequences.

The Greens also oppose coal and nuclear power and claim that solar and wind power can make the difference. It's hard to fathom why they oppose natural gas which has half the emissions of brown coal.

We all face risks every day. It's a risk to drive down the street or walk across the road. The question is whether the risks can be managed. Managing risk is the reality in Queensland, especially between farmers and the gas industry.

Professor Peter Hartley from Rice University in the US said: "There is no proven case of fracturing fluid or hydrocarbons produced by fracturing diffusing from the fractured zone into an aquifer." I believe you would be hard pressed to find any independently confirmed cases of water contamination as a result of drilling by the gas industry after more than 2 million fracking operations in the US.

There is a revolution in the US gas industry, to the extent that manufacturing plants that were established by the US in China are now popping up back home.

The US will soon have energy independence because of new technologies, such as fracking and horizontal drilling. In NSW and Victoria you would think the new technology is some form of plague.

The Santos project will face Jones leading the charge, microphone at the ready.

There are big changes under way in the NSW, Victorian and Queensland natural gas markets. Some big decisions will need to be made and they should be premised on the facts, the science and the public interest. The industry can provide jobs and rising living standards but for that to happen, there needs to be sensible debate, not a scare campaign.


Qld. Premier attacks penalty rates as too great a burden on business

PREMIER Campbell Newman has urged the Federal Government to consider a review of penalty rates, saying they are too great a burden on business owners.

Speaking in far north Queensland at the Mission Beach Visitor Information Centre, Mr Newman said ­operators were telling his ­Government that penalty rates made it uneconomical to open on public holidays, impacting the state’s tourism industry.

“Particularly restaurant ­operators will say they often get complaints from people who want to know why they’re not open on public holidays,” Mr Newman said.  “What they’re telling us is they’re paying people $50 an hour and it’s just not economical to open.  “I’m stating what the problem is and the Federal Government are the ones who need to have a look at it.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has asked the Fair Work Commission to look at penalty rates as part of its four-year review of the award wage system.

The move has angered ­unions, who say penalty rates make working in traditionally low-paid jobs in the hospitality industry worthwhile.  John Battams from the Queensland Council of Unions said Mr Newman’s support for the abolition of penalty rates showed he had learnt nothing from Saturday’s Redcliffe by-election defeat.

“That result was people openly and actively saying the Government doesn’t consult, and it doesn’t have compassion for real people in society,” Mr Battams said.

“The fact is, the people who work in hospitality are among our lowest-paid ­employees and many would not survive without the ­payment of penalty rates.”


Cardinal Pell promoted to Rome

His Eminence is Australian-born and educated so it is a credit to Australia that one of its sons should rise to such a senior position.

In a sign of the times I notice that the COMUNICATO DELLA SALA STAMPA DELLA SANTA SEDE (Press release) appears to have been  issued in English and Italian only.  Latinists will mourn

POPE Francis has appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell to one of the church’s most senior positions in Rome.

Cardinal Pell will become the prefect for the economy of the Holy See and the Vatican — supervising the tiny city state’s economic and administrative affairs.

Pope Francis made the announcement­ at midnight (AEDT).

Cardinal Pell will be responsible for preparing the Holy See and Vatican’s annual budget as well as financial planning and enhanced internal controls, the Vatican said in a statement.

Cardinal Pell’s new position will rank on a par with the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin — an Italian.

Both men are likely to rank equal second behind the Pope, The Australian reported.

Cardinal Pell — the Archbishop of Sydney and formerly the Archbishop of Melbourne — will relocate to Rome.

No Australian cardinal has ever been appointed to such a senior position within the Catholic Church.

Pell has been close to all three recent popes.


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