Friday, November 21, 2014

Australia's Iron Lady criticises Barack Obama over Great Barrier Reef comments

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has taken a highly unusual swipe at US President Barack Obama over his comments about the future of the Great Barrier Reef.

Ms Bishop, in New York for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, said there was "an issue" with Mr Obama's remarks during a speech at the University of Queensland speech last weekend as part of the G20 summit.

Mr Obama told the audience the "incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened" because of global warming and said he wanted to be able to return to Australia with his daughters when he had more time.

"And I want them to be able to bring their daughters or sons to visit and I want that there 50 years from now," he said.

That speech has already drawn a guarded rebuke from the Queensland government; its Environment Minister Andrew Powell said he wanted to assure the President and all Queenslanders that "we are working ... to ensure the reef is protected for future generations".

Ms Bishop said on Thursday that Australia was employing world's best practice to ensure the reef was preserved for future generations.  "I think that President Obama might have overlooked that aspect of our commitment to conserving the Great Barrier Reef," she told the ABC's 7.30 on Thursday.

"There was an issue regarding his statement about the Great Barrier Reef, and I can understand the Queensland government's concern because we have committed significant resources to preserve and conserve the reef.  "We have demonstrated world's best practice ... to ensure the Great Barrier Reef is preserved for generations to come."

Ms Bishop denied suggestions that Australia and the US had taken widely different approaches to climate changing, saying Mr Obama had not introduced a carbon tax, which the Australian government had repealed earlier this year.

Treasurer Joe Hockey also appeared to criticise Mr Obama's reef speech by suggesting the President "hasn't had great success" so far on his own plans to cut carbon emissions.

Australia is awaiting a determination by the United Nations World Heritage Committee on granting the reef status of being "in danger". It has been deferred until next year.

The reef's sustainability plan, drafted by the federal and Queensland governments, has been attacked by the Australian Academy of Science — the country's leading scientific academy — which said the plan failed to acknowledge how the reef had already suffered extensively from the effects of climate change.

UNESCO is also concerned about the effects on the reef of the rapid industrialisation of Queensland's coastline.

Critics say the sustainability plan should also have ruled out further dumping of dredge waste.


Lib senator admits TPV plan is draconian

Most Australians will cheer that.  Draco (Δράκων) was actually rather a good guy.  It was he who first gave Athenians written laws and established courts to adjudicate them.  And he took a very dim view of law-breakers

A LIBERAL senator has admitted government plans to fast-track the processing of about 30,000 asylum-seeker claims contain draconian measures.

BUT Ian Macdonald defended the move, arguing it was what the Australian people wanted.
"There are some draconian things, hopefully it will be reasonably temporary," he told a Senate inquiry in Canberra on Friday.

Senator Macdonald was responding to Law Council representatives who told the inquiry government legislation before parliament was at odds with accepted standards of international and domestic law.

The government wants to speed-up the processing of about 30,000 outstanding asylum-seeker claims left over from the previous Labor government since August 2012.

It plans to re-introduce temporary protection visas, a Howard government measure abolished by the Rudd government in 2008.

Asylum seekers on TPVs will be denied permanent residency and will have their protection claims assessed every three years.

However, asylum seekers who agree to move to regional areas will be provided with safe-haven visas that may lead to permanent protection.

The move has the backing of the Palmer United Party but is being opposed by Labor and the Greens.

The Law Council also opposes the bill in its current form, describing it as the single biggest change to Australia's asylum seeker policy ever made.

The proposed changes departed from the accepted standards of protection for asylum seekers in international and domestic law, it told the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee.

They were also at odds with rule-of-law principles and procedural fairness guarantees.

The council said if TPVs were reintroduced they should only constitute a form of bridging visa while people await the determination of their claim.

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Trigg said the legislation contained provisions that were of great concern within circles of the United Nations.

Under the government plan, most references to the UN Refugee Convention will be removed from the Migration Act.

In its place will be a self-contained statutory framework which sets out Australia's interpretation of its protection obligations under the convention. The move is aimed at limiting appeals to the High Court.

Professor Triggs said it was virtually unprecedented for a mature democracy to take such a retrograde step.  It was one that would bring Australia into international disrepute, she told the inquiry.

The Australian Red Cross, which is providing support to about 11,000 asylum seekers living in the community while they wait for their claims to be processed, is concerned TPV holders will not be able to re-enter the country if they leave temporarily.

They would also be denied opportunities to reunite with family not in Australia, a point challenged by Senator Macdonald who said splitting up family was a choice made by asylum seekers who arrived by boat.

The Red Cross said previous experience showed that TPV holders lived with the constant threat and fear of repatriation.

This included fear of incarceration, torture or death upon return, it told the inquiry.

Liberal senator Linda Reynolds said it could take up to seven years to process the outstanding claims under the existing system.

That claim was rejected by Angela Chan, national president of the Migration Institute of Australia, who said the immigration department handled backlogs all the time.

"If they had the will they could process these people very quickly without a change in legislation," she told the inquiry.


Qld. Labor party 'blew billions on poor hospital plan'

Just another example of Leftist waste left for conservatives to sort out and clean up

More than $2.2 billion was wasted in the building of three Queensland hospitals due to poor planning, the Auditor-General says.

An Auditor-General's report says the Gold Coast University Hospital, South Brisbane's Lady Cilento Children's Hospital and the Sunshine Coast Public University Hospital have cost more than twice as much and will be delivered far later than needed.

The Beattie Labor government pledged to build the three facilities for $2.87 billion in 2006, but the report, released on Tuesday, says the hospitals have cost more than $5 billion thus far.

"When commitment was made to build three hospitals, no robust investment planning and analysis had been undertaken to determine their likely outturn cost, with the result that the August 2006 estimates significantly understated the cost of the projects," the report said.

The Auditor-General said the projects were announced before Queensland Health (QH) had the chance to investigate the needs of health services on the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, or for children, in regards to Lady Cilento Hospital.

"As a result, QH focused on the announced infrastructure solutions without adequate consideration of alternative options, their risks, costs and benefits," the report said.

Premier Campbell Newman said when combined with $1.2 billion blown on the new health payroll bungle, the former Labor government had completely wasted $3.4 billion.

"That could've cleared backlogs. That could've built new hospitals. That's what my government has been working to clean up over the last two-and-a-half years," he told reporters.

The Auditor-General recommended all future hospital projects be planned after their service area needs were identified; the costs, risks and benefits were analysed; and whole-of-life financial effects of projects were assessed.


Industry super funds outperform banks yet again

Commission-free industry super funds have again outperformed bank-owned super funds and other retail super funds, on average, over all time periods, according to monthly data from SuperRatings, based on balanced fund median rolling returns to 31 October 2014.

Industry Super Australia (ISA) Chief Executive David Whiteley welcomed the results.

“The community response to last night’s Senate vote demonstrates a commitment to the retention of strong consumer protections and super which is free from sales incentives and conflicted advice to ensure the best returns for investors,” said Mr. Whiteley.

“Over the long and short-term, independent research reinforces that industry super fund members benefit from the undivided loyalty the funds have to their members.”

The data underlines again the importance of the default superannuation safety net that safeguards the super savings of eight in ten Australians who don’t select their own funds. Bank-owned super funds are lobbying to scrap the safety net to avoid competing on investment performance.

“The outperformance, on average, of industry super funds further solidifies the case for the default super safety net not only being retained, but being strengthened and expanded,” said Mr. Whiteley.


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