Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tony Abbott not happy about gay marriage bill, says senator

Same-sex marriage advocates are rejoicing that Senator David Leyonhjelm will introduce his same-sex marriage bill to Parliament on Wednesday.

But there is one person who is most definitely not, according to the Liberal Democrat.  Senator Leyonhjelm told reporters in Canberra that Prime Minister Tony Abbott was "not enthusiastic" about the same-sex marriage bill.

"His argument was the government's got plenty of troubles without this one coming along," Senator Leyonhjelm said.  "He would prefer I didn't [introduce the bill]."

Senator Leyonhjelm had a recent dinner meeting with Mr Abbott, where the Prime Minister again "made plain" his opposition to same-sex marriage.

After the dinner, the LDP Senator decided to go ahead with his plans to legalise marriage for same-sex couples as well as transgender, bisexual and intersex Australians. "The time is right for this bill," he said on Wednesday.

"I support marriage equality because I believe people should have the freedom to choose their own life path. "

On Wednesday, Senator Leyonhjelm called on the Prime Minister to agree to allow a conscience vote on the issue.

Mr Abbott has previously said the matter of a free vote would be one for the post-2013 election party room after an attempt to introduce same-sex marriage was voted down in 2012 when Coalition MPs and some Labor MPs voted against it.

"All I am asking for is tolerance," Senator Leyonhjelm said. "I will not be asking anyone to join a float in the gay mardi gras. Or to become the seventh member of the Village People."

Senator Leyonhjelm's bill proposes to change the wording of the Marriage Act to define marriage as "the union of two people" rather than a "man and a woman". But it will not make it compulsory for celebrants to marry same-sex couples, except in the case of government employed celebrants.

Senator Leyonhjelm explained that he had resisted the urge - as a libertarian - to ban the government from authorising marriages entirely, as he understood the bill needed to appeal to mainstream Australia.  The NSW Senator is not officially married to his wife of 30 years.

Senator Leyonhjelm said that after introducing his bill at around 3pm on Wednesday, he would delay a vote until he was confident it would succeed. He said he was confident that the Liberal Party would agree to a free vote on the issue, but cautioned it was not a "foregone conclusion".


BHP Billiton’s short-lived climate cuddle

The climate-friendly bonhomie of BHP Billiton’s Chairman, Jac Nasser, didn’t last long into question time at the company’s annual general meeting in Adelaide late last week.

Ahead of the AGM BHP had gone to great lengths to buff its climate policy credentials. In his opening speech Nasser even addressed climate change before discussing the state of the global economy.

However, when asked whether the company would continue to invest in thermal coal assets Nasser testily declared that there is no “realistic alternative” to the ongoing use of coal in power stations.

Aviva Imhof, representing her father and a number of other shareholders, had initially congratulated the board on their recent in acknowledging the seriousness of climate change and the implications of it for the company. [Disclosure: Ms Imhof is a work colleague]

“Will BHP Billiton rule out new investments in thermal coal? Do you believe that your existing investments in thermal coal risk becoming stranded assets due to the need to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius?,” she asked Nasser.

“It’s ‘no’ and ‘no’,” Nasser said. “Do you have any other questions?,” he bluntly asked.

She did. “So, given that the IPCC and the global consensus is that up to 80% of fossil fuels need to remain in the ground if we are to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, how could you justify additional investments in thermal coal?,” she asked.

Nasser reiterated that the company accepts the IPCC’s assessment of climate science. He argued that the company believed in the need to pursue a twin objectives of limiting climate change and track and providing for growing energy needs for development.

“You have to be realistic. The realistic side of this is that there are no real alternatives for the growing demand of energy over the next decade,” he said.

Imhof was stunned: “I’m really surprised to hear you say that Mr Chairman, given the absolutely astronomic decline in the price of solar and wind and other renewables. Solar is reaching grid parity in at least 16 markets around …”.

Nasser tersely interjected. “Ms Imhof, it’s not us, it’s the IPCC.”

“Yes and the IPCC say there has to be no investments in high-carbon infrastructure after 2017 if we are going to keep within two degrees of global warming. So it seems to me that if you say you are not going to rule out further investments in thermal coal you are not taking your commitment to climate change seriously,” she responded.

While Nasser was asserting there was no alternative to thermal coal last Thursday, an investor presentation briefing released on Monday morning indicated that the company is acutely aware of the declining financial performance of thermal coal and its vulnerability to energy competition.

In one slide (page 31) BHP Billiton states that energy growth will continue but concedes that “the shape of future energy demand mix is difficult to predict.” While the BHP Billiton code is cautious, the implication is clear: that at least in part, the growth of renewables and efficiency are posing a threat to thermal coal.

This is as good as confirmed when in another slide (page 33) the company refers to ‘energy coal’ as being “contestable.”

Another slide (page 48) charts the contribution of the company’s coal division to earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) plummeting from approximately 14 per cent in 2010 to approximately two percent in the space of five years.

In an accompanying note, BHP Billiton laments that the thermal coal market “remains well supplied” which is “prolonging the weaker pricing environment.” While demand it says “remains steady”, it soberly notes that prices will languish longer until further mines close.

As for the coal industry’s long touted silver bullet of Carbon Capture and Storage, in his speech Nasser would only go so far as to state that it is “exploring opportunities” to invest in the technology.


Muslims defend the Halal-for-money racket

Islamic organisations are now fighting back to protect a billion dollar industry that thrives on labelling Australian products as “halal certified”. Now that the extortion racket has been exposed, Aussie shoppers are shunning the “certified” products to the dismay of Australian manufacturers and processors.

An avalanche of Australian companies are now declaring their products as “non-halal certified” to protect their domestic market, and the Muslim mobsters who control the racket are incensed at their potential loss of income.

Not to be outdone, Islamic certification activists, who go by the names of Charkawi Wesam and Abu Hanifa, are fighting back, naming and shaming Australian companies who are refusing to pay (or who are avoiding paying) outrageous sums of money to be “certified” as halal.

The implication is that Australian companies must first make their products halal compliant so they can be “certified”. Those that refuse will suffer trade bans.

Arnott’s, who has been resisting threats to its export markets from Muslims, is described thus on their web site:

“Arnott's clearly states that its "non-halal" status extends to 'every product' bearing the name "Arnott's" even the non-cream biscuits and Tim Tams. The company has clearly demonstrated a reluctance to change its stance on this community issue.”

The site declares in respect of Flora products:

"Pork based gelatin is contained in Flora and Pro-activ Light, Ultra Light and Flora Pro-activ Olive spreads. Whilst there are some products 'Flora Original' that are certified 'halal' by AFIC (The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils) people need to be aware of the Pork Based ones. An investigation is continuing to determine the process and contamination factors that require compliance before halal can be granted.”

In relation to Golden Circle products the site states:

“Alcohol based flavours are used across some of the products of the Golden Circle and Original Juice Co. juice and orange ranges. Furthermore, after speaking directly to Golden Circle, it is clear that alcohol is used to derive certain flavours. The flavours are used and it is claimed that the alcohol is burnt off. However, with no oversight or some minimal monitoring in the very least, nothing can be substantiated.”

The site claims this about Smiths Chips:

“Smiths advocates a clear status of non-Halal certified, but says instead - that their products are ‘Suitable for Vegans.’ This means that some of their products do not contain any animal products. It must be noted that when it comes to food, the assumption is non-permissibility until it is proven Halal. Therefore, the onus is for Smiths to prove why they are Halal and simply claiming suitability for vegetarian without any oversight, and possible cross contamination work methods cannot be ruled out.”

“Smiths states that seeking Halal certification is on their agenda and they have been responsive to calls made.”

[Typos, grammar and misspelled words have been corrected to make the above quoted material more legible.]

It is clear that pressure is being applied to Australian processors to either comply with halal requirements or risk exports being cancelled.

One Queensland exporter has lost his entire Indonesian market by refusing to comply with Muslim certifiers’ demands.

Another NSW processor, who held out against Muslim demands for massive “certification fees”, eventually had to capitulate to save his business but was fined for not complying when asked to and made to pay loaded back-fees applicable to when he was first told to pay up.

All Australian exporters are being targeted in a world-wide $2.5 trillion extortion racket run out of Saudi Arabia with an Asian arm in Indonesia (MUI) that oversees dozens of certifying agencies here in Australia .

Certifiers make a quick phone call to Islamic importers overseas and Australian exporters who refuse to comply are told to pay up or lose their export markets.

The ABC and Fairfax (along with a certain radio station that advertises and promotes the discredited Arab Bank) naively believe “halal” is all about the inhumane slaughter of animals but if Minister Barnaby Joyce decides to return my calls, I will hand him proof of a massive extortion racket raising “certification” funds that go to terrorist organisations, laundered through "charity" front companies here in Australia.

You obviously don’t want to rock the boat Barnaby, so we will, and you better have your swimmers handy!


Freya Newman Escapes Conviction For Exposing Secret Frances Abbott Scholarship

Freya Newman, the whistleblower in the Frances Abbott secret scholarship scandal, has been given a two-year good behaviour bond and had no conviction recorded against her in the Downing Local Court this morning.

Magistrate Teresa O’Sullivan read a lengthy judgment to a packed courthouse, which included more than two dozen journalists.

At the end of the judgement, she asked Freya Newman to stand.  “The offence is proved. You are discharged on the condition that you enter into a good behavior bond for two years,” Magistrate O’Sullivan said.

And with those words, the long-running saga was finally over for Ms Newman, the 21-year-old University of Technology Sydney student who blew the whistle on the $60,636 scholarship provided to the Prime Minister’s daughter by the Whitehouse Institute of Design.

Or at least it will be the end of it in 28 days, when the period for an appeal by the prosecution officially expires.

That time is likely to pass without appeal, given the lengthy and detailed judgment handed down by Magistrate O’Sullivan.

The local court judge provided substantial detail around the reasoning of her sentence, after having accepted submissions from both the prosecution and the defence that the offence of ‘accessing restricted computer data’ was at the lower end of the scale.


Pearson Test of English language proficiency ACCEPTED by the Australian government FOR VISA APPLICATIONS

Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, today announced that the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) has been approved by the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) as proof of English language proficiency for a range of visa categories. The decision means that for the first time in thirteen years, visa applicants will have a choice of Government-approved English language testing options.

Emma Stubbs, Senior Vice-President of Pearson Language Testing, commented: “English language ability is important for success for any new Australian migrant, helping them to improve their employment opportunities, social integration and everyday interaction. It is critical to be able to prove this skill in a secure and objective environment using the most up-to-date testing methods and technologies.  This is what PTE Academic offers and we are delighted that people intending to work and live in Australia will now have the opportunity to choose which English test best suits them.”

The decision affects skilled, temporary graduate, work, holiday and former resident visa programmes. This impacts all visa subclasses, with the exception of subclass 457 which is currently undergoing an external review. In 2012 – 2013, around 130,000 visas were granted for permanent additions to the Australian population through this range of visa categories. The largest migrant source markets (excluding New Zealand) were India, China and the United Kingdom.

David Barnett, Managing Director of Pearson Australia & Singapore, commented: “PTE Academic operates in over 45 countries where people are looking to prove their English language ability, and has seen a rapid expansion into key source markets for Australian migration. The test’s rapid adoption has been fuelled by its superior service - convenient test locations worldwide, flexible test schedules and fast result times – typically, test-takers receive their results within five business days.”


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