Tuesday, November 18, 2014

China and Australia strike major free trade deal

Free trade is of great importance and good relations with China are hugely important so this is a great leap forward. (Yes.  I know about a previous great leap forward)

China and Australia have struck a major free trade deal to remove tariffs from 95 per cent of Australian goods in return for more investment opportunities for Chinese companies.

The deal will see China will open up its dining tables to billions of pounds of Australian dairy, meat, seafood and wine.

In return, private Chinese companies will be able to buy Australian firms worth up to AUD1.08 billion (£600 million) without coming under government scrutiny.

The announcement came during a state visit by Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, following the G20 summit.

In a speech that underlined the ties between the two countries Mr Xi noted that 200,000 Chinese students study in Australia and that China gets over half its iron ore from Australian mines.

Last year, Australia exported AUD52.65 billion of iron ore, AUD9.08 billion of coal and AUD8.07 billion of gold to China.

But now it is trying to expand into food and agricultural exports and services, moving from a "mining boom" to a "dining boom".

In particular, Australian dairy farmers will get lucrative access to China's baby formula market, where parents have shunned local brands following a toxic milk scandal in 2008.

Meanwhile, Mr Xi also gave a rare speech to the Australian parliament in which he vowed that China would not use force to achieve its strategic goals.

"A review of history shows that countries that attempted to pursue development with force invariably failed," he said. "This is what history teaches us. China is dedicated to upholding peace. Peace is precious and needs to be protected."

"China has settled land boundary issues with 12 out of its 14 neighbours through friendly consultation. And we will continue to work in this direction," he said, vowing closer cooperation over maritime boundaries.

Mr Xi spoke after Barack Obama, the United States' president, warned over the spats that have broken out in the East Sea and South China Sea, saying that: "Disputes over territory – remote islands and rocky shoals – threaten to spiral into confrontation."


The obsession with defaming Abbott at the G20

Wow, it’s been a weekend of headline after headline from the ‘progressive’ outlets seemingly obsessed with undermining, embarrassing, and defaming our Prime Minister to suit their own political ends. 

People complain about the bias of the Murdoch press, but it really is a sad state of affairs when every headline on the largest meeting of world leaders in history has been focused on embarrassing Tony Abbott by nit picking tiny, insignificant elements of his speeches and finding every possible, desperate angle for attack. The issues of growth, conflict and tackling disease gave way to a national commentary that descended into an asinine obsession with personality.

It started with Abbott’s apparently failed ‘shirtfront’ on Vladimir Putin – where the ABC attempted a pathetic skit of satire aimed at mocking Abbott while seemingly forgetting they were offending the families of people who died on the MH17 flight.

Then came Abbott’s supposed ‘embarrassing comment that when the first settlers arrived here, Australia was ‘nothing but bush.’ In the context of what he was saying, there was nothing factually incorrect about his statements. From an infrastructure point of view, in which he was talking, Australia was nothing but bush.

It should be noted that the world leaders then trotted off to join in a Welcome to Country ceremony to pay their recognition to the country’s first owners, but this didn’t rate a mention over all the faux outrage over Abbott’s comments.

Where next to find the ‘embarrassing’ story? It didn’t take long. Abbott was in the firing line again after his supposed ‘cringe worthy’ opening speech when he made a minor comment about each country’s domestic agenda and the difficulties that come with passing difficult reform, to which he then cited his government’s $7 GP co-payment as an example. Never mind that world leaders in discussion also mentioned some of their own policy frustrations at the summit, and never mind the fact that the majority of the speech urged leaders to maintain optimism in the face of challenges occurring in the Middle East and West Africa. Never mind the emphasis on freer trade, growth, and tackling unemployment. Abbott mentioned GP payments – cue outrage.

Meanwhile, radicals outside in the streets of Brisbane were burning Australian flags in protest over indigenous rights. Talk about embarrassing.  Yep, the headlines keep flooding in, and they all focus on one target- Abbott. Meanwhile, beneath the noise, the leaders did actually do some talking and the following commitments have been made under their Communique:

Raising global growth to deliver better living standards and quality jobs for people across the world.

Implementing structural reforms to lift growth and private sector activity, recognising that well-functioning markets underpin prosperity

Establishing a Global Infrastructure Hub with a four-year mandate.
Setting new targets and implementing initiatives to tackle youth unemployment.

2015-16 G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan

Establishing increased collaboration on global energy markets.
Committing to lift the G20′s annual GDP growth to at least an additional two per cent by 2018

Agreeing to the goal of reducing the gap in participation rates between men and women in our countries by 25 per cent by 2025

Did you read about much of that over the weekend? Probably not. You see, Abbott led the G20 meeting, and Abbott is bad, you know. So bad, so every headline must be…bad. Because Abbott is bad. The reports will continue to come flooding in – Abbott embarrasses Australia at the G20. Abbott sends Australia backward. Abbott was bad. Abbott ‘insert negative headline here just cos.’

So what did the US president say? Obama thanked Abbott and said that Australia had been an ‘extraordinary host’. But hey, the headlines will no doubt suggest a huge rift between the leader of the free world and our lowly Prime Minister.

There was a blatant aim by the nation’s progressive class to undermine the G20 at every turn this weekend, and it was nothing short of disgraceful. It was particularly concerning that one of our elected members, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, had the audacity to mock the meeting of world leaders on our shores, by posting this on his social media account:

"Because I’m sure no security at all would have worked wonders".

Now THAT could have been embarrassing. The chattering classes wanted to hijack this weekend and utilise it to promote their pet causes – climate change, equalising wealth distribution, and same-sex marriage rights.

Barack Obama was happy to indulge, free from the difficulties of actually taking action on such matters in his own country. Without a doubt, the China-US deal on reducing carbon emissions is laudable and an achievement worthy of celebration, but these headlines were quickly used as a platform for the Left to embarrass Australia by pointing out Abbott’s dissonance on climate change.

Perhaps people should look to Obama’s own modest record on climate politics, and before they high five the Chinese for their ‘achievement’, perhaps look at their record over the past decade.

Barack Obama, the charismatic and charming US president, has always been brilliant at the arousing, inspiring speeches, but when one looks at his record as president they could only conclude that he’s done much on seeming, and little on doing. It’s true that in his time as President US carbon emissions have decreased, but that’s more a product of recession rather than any lasting policy achievement. In fairness to Obama, he has faced an obstructionist congress from day one, but Abbott faces the same issues here in the Senate with his budget – but don’t expect much sympathy there.

Here, we had a world leaders meeting where common ground was reached in tackling world disease, freeing up our borders for trade, closing the gender pay gap and promoting economic growth across the world, with a particular eye to easing youth unemployment. But those issues didn’t matter, because Tony Abbott ran the show; and because Tony ran the show, the political left could not see past their own hate to look at the issues that matter.

Fellow Australians, we don’t have to worry about Tony Abbott embarrassing us as a country. We have plenty of people out there going out of their way to do it themselves.


Queensland government determined to get big coal mining project off the ground

Greenie pressure on banks means that finance for such projects is hard to get so the State government is going to come to the party

Come hell, high-water or - worse - lack of private investment, the Queensland government is going to make sure the Galilee Basin is "open for business".

In his excitement at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit on Sunday, Premier Campbell Newman pre-empted Monday's big announcement that the state government would be prepared to fund the infrastructure needed to get the Galilee Basin projects happening.

"We'll be saying, if necessary, we'll be prepared to invest in infrastructure, core infrastructure, common-use infrastructure, we'll be making the case that we are prepared to do that to get this going," he said on Sunday morning.

"The role of the government, given the financial situation we face these days, the role would be to make targeted investments to help get something going and then within a few years time exit those investments so the private sector can then get on with it, but I stress, open to all comers - we just want a new coal resource basin to be opened up."

Climate change and the need to take carbon emission reduction more seriously may have hijacked the G20 agenda, but privately, Tony Abbott reportedly repeated Australia's commitment to coal, an attitude Mr Newman echoes.

The government sees the Galilee Basin as key to turning around the state's economy.  Gas projects initiated under the previous Labor governments are transitioning from the construction to production phase and shedding jobs at a rapid rate.

Mr Newman has said previously he wanted to see preliminary works on the Galilee Basin projects, the most significant of which is the Indian company Adani's Carmichael mine, set to be the largest coal mine in Australia, begin early next year.

So far the private sector has had issues securing the funding needed to begin work.  Mr Newman has not said how the government would fund the infrastructure or whether it would be part of its asset sales agenda.

But the announcement has already created ripples.  Director of Energy Resource Studies Australasia at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), Tim Buckley, said it was a financially irresponsible decision, and labelled the Galilee Basin projects "unviable".  "Many would consider this a Government simply pissing taxpayers' money up against the wall," he said in a statement.

"The people of Queensland and Australia should be outraged at this idea of questionable politicians spending many billions of tax payer dollars to make an unviable, unwanted and dangerous mega coal project a reality.

"The Galilee coal projects are totally commercially unviable. Any project undertaken is highly likely to end up as a stranded fossil fuel asset as the rest of the world rapidly transitions to lower carbon solutions. Coal has entered structural decline – there is no two ways about that fact."

Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters labelled it a bad decision, for both the environment and economy.  "Not only is this environmentally disastrous, it's economically insane, especially when you're spending the state's public wealth," she said.


ABC news and current affairs sink to new lows

Janet Albrechtson

WHEN Mark Scott was appointed managing director of the ABC, he made grand promises of exerting much needed editorial control over a national broadcaster that too often was failing to satisfy its charter. As an ABC board member committed to a vibrant and impartial national broadcaster, I had deep reservations about Scott’s ability and willingness to take on this editorial role. Having watched the ABC hierarchy up close, I saw how most of those in senior positions too often wanted to be loved by staff, rather than respected.

Earning respect requires making tough budget decisions; challenging the progressive orthodoxy that reigns at the ABC on issues from climate change to gay marriage to immigration; holding to account those who breach editorial standards; and expecting more than business as usual from producers, television and radio hosts and management. In other words, ensuring that the ABC meets it charter obligations.

Worse than wanting to be loved, Scott and ABC honchos have grown drunk with cultural, editorial and political arrogance. That is the inescapable conclusion arising from Tuesday’s 7.30 program. The ABC’s flagship current affairs program devoted more than five minutes of its prime half-hour slot to a skit about the “showdown of the century”, ridiculing Tony Abbott’s promise to “shirt-front” Russian President Vladimir Putin. Host Leigh Sales introduced the segment as “lighthearted”, but even she seemed uncomfortable with the questions it raised about the ABC’s distorted political and cultural antenna. On Thursday, Sales tweeted: “I can robustly make my case in editorial meetings but, ultimately, I have to present what’s commissioned.”

The commissioning of The Checkout’s Kirsten Drysdale to mock the Prime Minister’s reaction to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 speaks volumes about how the ABC has gone awry. While Abbott’s language was clumsy, his ­reaction reflected the outrage of Australians over the shooting down of an aeroplane by Russian-backed rebels, killing 298 innocent people, including 38 Australians.

That one of the ABC’s premier news programs opted for a tasteless skit, more at home on the Network Ten’s The Project, is just the latest sign that those in charge are entirely disconnected from Australians who fund the broadcaster through taxes.

From top to bottom, from Scott to ABC chairman Jim Spigelman, to members of the ABC board, to the all-powerful but little-known executive producers and highly paid program hosts, and all manner of well-paid management between, the ABC is deliberately delivering two fingers to those who fund the ABC — us. Twitter has become the target audience.

It’s hard to imagine leading British journalists Jeremy Paxman or Emily Maitlis using Newsnight, the BBC’s award-winning current affairs show, to showcase such trite comedies. Or legendary US journalists Jim Lehrer, Judy Woodruff or Gwen Ifill making a mockery of important stories on NewsHour, the US public broadcaster’s prime-time show.

No wonder the Prime Minister and Bill Shorten rarely appear on 7.30. In 2007, John Howard appeared 13 times, Kevin Rudd 10 times. In the 2013 election year, Abbott appeared four times and only once this year. Last year, the three Labor leaders appeared in total eight times. This year the Opposition Leader has appeared only three times.

Why would political leaders treat 7.30 seriously when it now includes tawdry journalism?

Neither Scott nor Spigelman is stupid. They know that section 8 of the ABC Act requires the ABC to provide “innovative and comprehensive broadcasting services of a high standard … that contribute to a sense of identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community”. They know that section 8 imposes a duty on the board to ensure that “the gathering and presentation … of news and information is accurate and impartial”. These are neither difficult nor unreasonable obligations. Scott and Spigelman know this is the quid pro quo for taxpayers paying $1.1 billion a year to the ABC.

Yet program producers operate with impunity and immunity, directing much of the ABC at the left-leaning, inner-city tweeting community. It points to a moral vanity that the values of this tiny community matter more than the wider Australian community.

Clearly, Scott is failing politically to read the times. Perhaps he is counting on Abbott being a one-term prime minister. He has even managed to get offside an ABC friend, Malcolm Turnbull, who increasingly voices his dissatisfaction with the ABC.

When Scott responded to ABC budget cuts by threatening to pull Peppa Pig and then Lateline, his arrogance was exposed. Playing emotional blackmail is no substitute for recognising that every taxpayer-funded organisation must accept sensible budget cuts when the country faces debt and deficits.

If Scott doesn’t realise that spending thousands of Australian taxpayer dollars to buy a Google ranking to direct viewers to a taxpayer-funded ABC website is an affront to taxpayers, he has forgotten who is paying his hefty wage.

Worse, by allowing the ABC to be run by the hipster Left for the hipster Left, instead of running a serious news organisation, he is treating Australians with ­contempt.

Breaking stories do happen at the ABC, but they are few and far between. Good reporting is there, too, but not often enough given the billion-dollar cheque written by taxpayers to the ABC. You only need watch Sky News to see how excellent news and current affairs can be delivered efficiently. And if Sky can broadcast left-wing hosts such as Graham Richardson and Kristina Kenneally, why can’t our taxpayer-funded Aunty find a conservative to front a headline program? After all, diversity delivers better quality debate.

It may suit Scott and Spigelman to depict criticism as another broadside in a culture war. But they miss the point at their peril. The ABC should not be right-wing any more than it should be left-wing. This is not a culture war. It is a cri de coeur about the legitimacy of the ABC as a publicly funded ­vibrant, innovative, intellectually curious, philosophically open-minded media organisation. When producers treat news and current affairs seriously, they treat their audience with respect. The opposite is also true.

In the lead-up to the G20 gathering, Lateline and 7.30 have done a paltry job. On Wednesday night Lateline host Tony Jones interviewed Paul Keating to deliver yet another slap to Abbott over carbon pricing and climate change.

On 7.30, earlier that same night, Sales talked up the “game-changing deal” between China and the US over emission reductions, with no mention of how such a deal might get through a Republican congress. The myopic focus was on what’s not included on the G20 agenda — climate change — rather than what the agenda does include, boosting economic growth.

Trotting out favourites on ABC news programs — Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young on asylum-seekers, Tim Flannery on climate change and so on — may titillate the tastes of the trendy Left, but what about the views and values of the rest of Australia? Why, for example, was it recently left to ABC regional radio stations — and Steve Austin on Brisbane ABC radio — to interview Patrick Moore, the founder of Greenpeace, who is an articulate and sensible voice of scepticism about climate-change fanaticism?

It’s more moral vanity from those at ABC headquarters in Ultimo in Sydney and Southbank in Melbourne who think their views should dominate ABC output. The Daily Telegraph’s Miranda Devine interviewed Moore when he was recently in Australia. So did Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and Fairfax’s Ben Potter. But not one of the myriad journalists at the ABC’s flagship programs.

Over at Q&A, it has become a chore to sit through an hour of the predictable cookie-cutter output, where hip favourites such as Penny Wong and Tanya Plibersek draw raucous applause and conservatives guffaw at mention that 40 to 45 per cent of the audience votes Liberal or Nationals. It has become a show for the graffiti world of Twitter that cheers panel members routinely invited to rubbish Australia.

It’s little wonder that serious conservatives such as Tom Switzer and Devine long ago decided to boycott the Monday night show. Why appear when doing so only serves to legitimise a program that routinely pours scorn on the views and values of a large slice of Australia?

With a sense of disappointment and regret, I’m joining the boycott because this week the national broadcaster sank to new lows of contempt for its paying audience.


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