Thursday, December 25, 2014

Frabjous joy in NZ

Australian dollar on track to dip below parity with New Zealand unit.  It has always burned Kiwis up that their dollar is worth less than ours.  Both dollars originated from the old British "Ten bob note"

The Australian dollar is on the verge of a historic low against the New Zealand dollar and could even go below parity next year, according to foreign exchange broker ThinkForex.

Currently, one Australian dollar buys $1.049 New Zealand dollars - just above the $1.042 low reached in 2006.

"The currencies have always traded above parity since being floated so this will be an historic event," said ThinkForex senior market analyst Matt Simpson.

The Aussie hold above parity was looking "increasingly tenuous," he said.  "I expect the Aussie dollar will have a battle around parity with the Kiwi during the first half of next year," he said.

The Aussie would get "initial support" at parity but could "easily reach" 95 New Zealand cents, he said.  "It's looking increasingly likely that the divergence between the Aussie and the Kiwi will continue, with the Aussie breaking below parity and hitting a low of 95 New Zealand cents."

The underlying reason, he said, was that Australia and New Zealand were in completely separate phases of their economic cycles.

"The New Zealand Reserve Bank are looking to increase rates and the Reserve Bank of Australia has hinted at potential for rate cuts. If the US does not (change) rates then I also suspect this will add pressure to the Reserve Bank of Australia to cut rates, as really they're waiting for the US Federal Reserve to move first before acting themselves."

However, Mr Simpson was more bullish on the Aussie versus the greenback.  "We are close to 80 US cents and it might get there for a quick high five but is unlikely to stay there long.

"We may actually see a bounce in the Aussie dollar during the first few months of next year.  "A rally to 85 US cents is not out of the question, especially if the Federal Reserve begin to delay their rate hike program and the Reserve Bank keeps rates on hold."

In late afternoon trading, the Australian dollar was buying 81.17 US cents, just above a four-and-a-half year low of 81.07 US cents.


Labor union treachery during World War II

By Hal G.P. Colebatch

My wife and I were flown to Melbourne for me to receive half of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s $80,000 Prize for History for my book Australia’s Secret War: How Unionists Sabotaged Our Troops in World War II

The hotel we were put up at, on the south bank of the Yarra River, was a good deal more luxurious than I am accustomed to, with uniformed doormen and all. The “gala meal” at the oxymoronically named Victorian National Arts Centre, was excellent.

My publisher, Keith Windschuttle, editor of the conservative cultural magazine Quadrant, Roger Franklin, editor of Quadrant Online, and former editor Peter Coleman and his daughter shared our table.

It was hard to judge the volume of applause from the 400-plus plus literary figures present, most of them probably leftie luvvies, when my name was announced. Our table drowned out much of those nearby. I was wearing an orthopedic boot, and the Prime Minister had to help me up the steps to receive my certificate.

My speech, briefly outlining a few of the instances strikes, go-slows, and sabotage that had undermined Australia’s war effort – with the gruesomely appropriate figure of 6 million days directly lost through strikes – was heard in silence. New facts I have been supplied with since the book was published include evidence that a longshoreman’s strike, which prevented the defenses of Darwin being completed by the time the Japanese struck, was organized by a Nazi German operative.

U.S. aircraft and airplane engines, rushed to Australian ports for the defense of Australia, were deliberately wrecked as they were being unloaded, for example by being dropped by cranes onto concrete wharves, until U.S. troops intervened.

Eddie Ward, the far-left Minister for Labour and National Service in the Labor Government which took over in 1941, dubbed Australian troops fighting Nazism “four shilling a day murderers,” a catchcry taken up by the perpetually striking longshoremen’s and coal-miners’ unions, not to mention the gas-fitting, shipbuilding, and other unions. The endless strikes probably contributed to the premature death of Prime Minister John Curtin from hypertension at 60.

U.S. troops again intervened when longshoremen refused to load heavy guns for the Battle of Milne Bay, as attempted Japanese landing on the eastern tip of New Guinea, which, if successful, would have brought more Australian and U.S. positions in range of Japanese attack. Pilfering was wholesale, including small keepsakes sent to soldiers by their families (the accompanying notes were thoughtfully left for the soldiers to read) and, as a further demonstration by the watersiders of who was boss, jeeps were dropped into harbors.

My book was the result of the testimony of scores of soldiers, sailors, and airmen (mostly lower ranks — the senior officers of World War II were mostly dead), published memoirs of senior officers including both Australia’s most senior admiral and a later State Premier, unit histories, and official Year Books and the bipartisan War Council.

It also made the point that the left-leaning history industry has largely glossed over the whole question of wartime strikes, sabotage, and go-slows. How slow can you go? It took almost as long, but in some cases longer, to build a 750-ton corvette in Australia as it took to build a 35,000-ton aircraft carrier in the United States. Canada built many times more naval and merchant ships. An armed guard had to be posted on the cruiser HMAS Perth after it was found that 6-inch nails had been driven into the electrical wiring. Awe hardly ever gets such a chance in Australia and I made the most of it.

There was some applause at the end of my speech but it did not take long to discover that, with a conservative author winning a major national literary prize, probably, as blogger and wag Tim Blair said, for the first time ever, the leftie luvvies were furious (Tim telephoned Perth to tell my daughter). Twitter was going berserk even before the ceremony finished. Leading the charge was one Mike Carlton, whose own entry, a rehashing of a naval engagement in World War I, had not won a prize. (I had previously written critically of another book by him and received a delightful note from him replete with four-letter words, a practice that is said to have got him sacked from the Sydney Morning Herald.)

He claimed my book was both “badly researched” and “fiction,” though how it could be both I am not sure. It could only be untrue if I or the ex-soldiers, sailors, and airmen who contacted me with first-person accounts, the various memoirs, unit histories, and official documents that I quoted from, were lying. I believe the man who risked their lives to defend our country were telling the truth. Where possible I quoted service numbers to help ensure accuracy.

Carlton also claimed that one of my informants, W.S. Monks — who said a strike at the end of the war prevented him and other men returning from Japanese prison-camps from being disembarked from HMS Speaker — did not exist, despite the fact an hour-long interview with him exists on YouTube.

Along with an abusive, ideologically revealing and false attack on Quadrant, one Peter Stanley, an academic, claims:

"[Colebatch] does not seem to confront the awkward fact that while the union was dominated by “Communists,” between 1941 and 1945 the Communist Party of Australia was “the leading war party,” whose officials strove to reduce industrial action and who supported more than most Australians the most vigorous prosecution of the war. While individual members of the union may well have lacked the ideological purity of their officials and may well have pilfered, struck and vandalised cargos, they were doing so in defiance of “the union.” Colebatch never grapples with this fundamental conundrum".

This is simply false. I devote a chapter to dealing with “this awkward conundrum” and come up with several possible explanations, while suggesting none are complete in themselves.

First, the strikes did occur, whether led by communists or members of the left-wing lumpenproletariat, between whom the difference was quite negligible. The official Commonwealth Year Book lists the number of working days lost — and in some industries these actually increased after Stalin changed sides in 1941.

Second, it does not take a very profound knowledge of World War II to know Stalin was not at war with Japan until the very end, and had nothing to lose by Australian Communists damaging the Pacific War effort. An important and scholarly U.S. book, Stalin’s Secret Agents, by M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein, reminds us that Stalinist Russia was not at war with Japan until the very last few days of the war (after Hiroshima). Japanese ships were still coming and going out of Vladivostok through nearly all the war. Most importantly, the authors point out that Stalin did not want a quick and overwhelming allied victory in the Pacific until he had moved troops from Europe and was positioned to take a share of the spoils.

The award was a triumph for Quadrant’snew conservative publishing house. The Quadrant magazine was founded in 1956, partly in response to the Soviet Union crushing Hungary. The magazine has flown the flag of intellectual conservatism, often against daunting odds, for 58 years. We got out the champagne. The leftie luvvies did not join us.


Bushfire insurers in line for $100 million Black Saturday payout

A class action lawsuit by more than 5,000 people sued electricity provider AusNet Services and asset manager Utility Services Corporation Ltd after a Royal Commission found that the Kinglake fire, the most deadly of the series of wildfires, was caused by an aging AusNet power line.  Bigger bills for Victoria's electricity users?

Large insurance companies are set to reap about $100 million from the settlement of Victoria's Black Saturday bushfire disaster.

The Victorian Supreme Court approved the $500 million settlement on Tuesday, ending a five-year class action over the Kilmore East-Kinglake fire in 2009 that claimed 119 lives and destroyed 1242 properties.

Insurers took an active role in the lawsuit against AusNet, formerly SP AusNet, including providing funding in the case.

They now stand to gain about $100 million through subrogation payouts - when an insurer tries to recoup money paid out to policyholders who lost homes and other assets.

Maurice Blackburn senior associate Rory Walsh said the exact amount of money going to insurers would be determined once each individual case was assessed.

"That figure will not be known until we've gone through the process of assessing everybody's losses," he said.

"Insurers have paid out somewhere in the order of $500 million directly on insurance policies to group members. How much of that will be recovered as part of the process will be determined towards the end.

"It will be somewhere in the region of $100 million."

The AusNet settlement is the largest class action settlement in Australian history, more than doubling the $200 million Centro payout.

Only two members objected to the settlement out of a total of 5000 group members.

Justice Robert Osborn called the payment a "large and commercially significant sum".

He said it was significant that none of the insurers objected, given they were "sophisticated litigants, with experience in the reasonable costs of large scale litigation".

The Insurance Council of Australia declined to comment on the case.

Mr Walsh said the role of the insurers in the case, which did not have a litigation funder, was unique.

"What we've had somewhat uniquely here is we've managed to have the co-operation of the insurers in the proceeding," he said.

"They didn't run their own proceeding, they were within our tent."


New dams coming to Queensland?

A new dam about a third the size of Wivenhoe Dam has been proposed for Linville, north-west of Brisbane.

Another potential new dam, about one-10th the capacity of Wivenhoe, could be built near Willowbank, according to a state government study released on Tuesday.

The pre-feasibility study into potential flood defences for Ipswich and Brisbane was unveiled by Water Supply Minister Mark McArdle. A third option is raising the wall of Wivenhoe Dam.

The government announced mid-year eight potential dam sites.

Mr McArdle said the government would now spend 12 months - if it wins the 2015 state election - finalising technical studies before deciding whether to proceed with any or all three of the options.

He said it was too early to begin talking about construction costs.  "There is no doubt each project could cost hundreds of millions of dollars," Mr McArdle said.  "If they all go ahead, it will be a very large sum."

Instead, he pointed to the financial damage of the January 2011 floods.  "In 2011, the insurance damage from that flood was $2.5 billion," he said.  "The total estimated damage was between $3 billion and $5 billion.  "Both in Ipswich and Brisbane there were some 12,000 buildings inundated."

The 12-month study will also include detailed engineering studies of raising Wivenhoe Dam wall by two, four or eight metres.

The proposed 370,000 to 500,000 megalitre Linville Dam could be built on the Upper Brisbane River, upstream of the town of Linville.

The proposed site at Willowbank is on the Lower Warrill Creek to the south of the Bremer River.  That was not listed in the original eight locations announced mid-year.

The Lower Warrill Creek flows into the Bremer River, to the west of Ipswich.

Mr McArdle said initial studies showed it was a good flood mitigation site.

"We believe that the Lower Warrill Creek site will provide protection for both Ipswich and Brisbane in a capacity that would save hundreds of homes in the event of a 2011 flood event."

Mr McArdle said the Willowbank site was added after the eight locations were expanded to 39 locations.

Lockyer MP Ian Rickuss said choosing a dam site on the Lower Warrill Creek - rather than the Bremer - offered more flexibility for planners.  "Because the Bremer and the Lower Warrill join, it does take the pressure of the Bremer," he said.  "You could store 120,00 or 130,000 megalitres there [Willowbank], it will really take pressure off here (Ipswich) as well."

Mr Rickuss said there was potential for water stored in a dam on the Lower Warrill Creek to be used for irrigation.

Mr McArdle said a dam at Linville would offer better flood mitigation or drinking water storage for Wivenhoe Dam.

Water from Linville flows down the Upper Brisbane River into Somerset Dam, which flows into Wivenhoe Dam.  He said the site could be kept for grazing or pasture until it was needed as a dam.  "We believe we could capture a large quantity  of water in Linville," he said.

That would free up extra "flood mitigation" storage space in Wivenhoe Dam, Mr McArdle explained.  "We could store water in Linville, drop the [drinking water] capacity in Wivenhoe and let extra flood waters into Wivenhoe, therefore protecting the whole of south-east Queensland."


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