Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Ideology and politics trump reality and understanding

Disability benefit reforms proposed by Abbott government rejected in Senate on the dreamy grounds that they were not backed by big enough handouts

Carers Alliance condemns the Senate for playing political games with the employment, lives and well-being of people with intellectual disability.

“Last week the Senate voted down sensible government legislation which would have given some certainty to the continued employment of people with intellectual disability ” said Mary Lou Carter, secretary of the Carers Alliance.

“Thanks to the Senate’s political gainsaying: limbo does exist, and that’s where the situation has been left to languish for people with intellectual disability employed in supported employment in Australian Disability Enterprises.” said Mrs Carter.

While some have applauded this outcome, it is people with intellectual disabilities and the people least able to speak for themselves, whose situation is being exploited and manipulated for vain political purposes.

So the upshot of all of this is: negotiations continue.

Standing on the sidelines are people with intellectual disabilities themselves who are not all represented, and their greatest supporters: their parents and families. They have been caught up in a process which has become a sad game of oneupmanship leaving them in an untenable situation.

Carers Alliance does not want to see people with intellectual disability lose their precious jobs and believes employment is real and practical social inclusion as opposed to a warm and fuzzy adjective-noun. Employment opportunities for people with intellectual disability are limited and should not be further eroded by the Senate’s political games.

A way forward must be found for people with intellectual disability to retain their employment and for a return to stability and certainty to the disability sector.

To do otherwise may result in people with the most to lose,  not being seen and not being heard.


Palmer’s Mineralogy suffers Chinese burn

CLIVE Palmer’s flagship private company will be stripped of its ­environmental approvals for the $10 billion Sino Iron project in the Pilbara after suffering a resounding defeat in the West Australian Supreme Court.

In the latest blow to the federal MP in his multi-pronged legal war against estranged business partner Citic Pacific, judge James Edelman ruled Mineralogy had breached its obligations by refusing to transfer the approvals to the Chinese company. The ruling tightens China’s grip on Sino Iron, which began producing iron ore last year, but is the focus of a legal battle between Citic and Mr Palmer, on whose tenements the project was built.

Mr Palmer’s attempts to seize control of the project from the Chinese government-owned Citic so far have been unsuccessful.

The mine, rail and port development near Karratha is one of China’s biggest investments in Australia.

Mineralogy was granted environmental approvals for the project in 2003, but later signed a deal for them to be handed over to Citic, which became the project operator and major shareholder.

Mineralogy’s refusal to transfer the government approvals has forced Citic to rely on Mr Palmer’s company to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

It is understood Mineralogy’s obstructiveness has risked compliance breaches, leading Citic to take the matter to court.

In his judgment published on Thursday night, Justice Edelman said there would be “serious commercial inconvenience” to Citic if Mineralogy continued to refuse to hand over the approvals.

He noted Citic had written to Mineralogy at least six times since 2012 requesting a transfer of an approval from the WA Environmental Protection Authority.

Justice Edelman found nine reasons he believed Citic’s submissions should be accepted.

“Any of these nine reasons would have been sufficient on its own to reject the submissions of Mineralogy,” he said.

“In combination, the nine ­reasons mean that the Citic parties’ construction is ­irresistible.”

The court defeat is the latest setback in his brawl with Citic, whom Mr Palmer has described publicly as “Chinese mongrels”.

The WA Supreme Court ruled in September against Mineralogy’s bid to serve wind-up ­notices on Citic.

Mr Palmer also failed in Queensland to win a permanent stay of a dispute in which Citic ­alleges Mineralogy wrongfully ­siphoned more than $12 million of Citic’s cash.

He also dropped a defamation action against The Australian over five stories published in the ­newspaper last year by journalist ­Hedley Thomas.

In August, he was hit with a legal bill of more than $1 million after Justice Edelman described Mineralogy’s courtroom tactics in a dispute with Citic over royalties as “absurd” and “unreasonable”.

Mr Palmer is fighting Citic for royalties he says are worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Such earnings would be critical for the Queensland businessman, as several of his other assets are struggling. Mineralogy did not ­respond to requests for comment yesterday.


Time to reload on ABC warrior Mark Scott

Miranda Devine

THIS is a tale of two Australias. In one Australia you have the increasingly derided wealth creators. In the other, you have the burgeoning new entitlement class – “leaners” who rely on big government to protect them from the disciplines of the market.

On the one hand, you have 7000 workers beavering away on Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill mine in the Pilbara, which will throw off an annual 55 billion tonnes of premium iron ore, worth $5 billion, once it’s completed next September.

The $12 billion investment in the mine, including building a heavy rail line 344km to Port Hedland, was borne entirely by Rinehart and her 30 per cent Asian equity partners, until she achieved debt ­financing of $8 billion this year, in the largest new mining project ­finance deal in history.

On the other hand, you have the ABC, the taxpayer-funded media leviathan which costs $1.1 billion a year and is squealing over a 5 per cent haircut.

The government’s problem is that it will not challenge the entitlement class. And none is more entitled than the ABC, with its fat employment contracts, generous superannuation, curious business plan, and even more curious ­approach to wealth creation.

For instance, you will never hear about the Roy Hill triumph on ‘Our ABC’ — apart from criticism from that bastion of integrity, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and ­Energy Union.

Two examples illustrate the ABC’s surreal approach to other people’s money. Example one: the ABC enterprise agreement, 2013-16, which covers an 8 per cent annual growth of wages and perks, including superannuation contributions of 17-20 per cent, more than double the rate of the private sector. The employment contract guarantees minimum 2.5-2.6 per cent pay rises every year. If you work Saturdays, you are paid time-and-a-half, Sundays is double time and public holidays double time-and-a-half. Then there are various allowances, for meals or television clothing, or if you live in an “isolated locality” — like Darwin. If you work in Kununurra you get an extra seven days annual leave.

Maternity leave is 14 weeks, adoption leave is six weeks and supporting partners’ leave is two weeks. You get paid leave to move house or for “special religious ceremonial or cultural obligations”.

There is study leave of up to five hours a week. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees get a day’s paid leave each year to participate in NAIDOC Week.

All this and salaries which now outstrip their equivalents in the private sector.

Example two: in 2006, when Mark Scott was hired as ABC managing director, the 2005-06 annual report shows the salary to be about $430,000, including perks, ­although a rival contender for the job remembers the base salary ­offered at the time was more like $300,000.

Early in Scott’s reign, rumours were printed that he was in line for the BBC’s top job. Afraid of losing him, the board, then chaired by banker Maurice Newman, decided to give him a lavish pay rise of more than $200,000. They did this by ­reclassifying his position, making it one of the highest paid public service jobs in the country.

ABC staff listen as Mark Scott delivers an address regarding budget cuts at the ABC in Ul
ABC staff listen as Mark Scott delivers an address regarding budget cuts at the ABC in Ultimo, Sydney.
The 2013-14 annual report shows Scott’s salary now to be $805,392.

Whether there was any truth in the BBC rumour is unknown, but what is known is that Scott’s benefactor at his previous employer Fairfax Media, CEO Fred Hilmer, was on his way out of the ailing company. Scott had little journalism experience when he was elevated to be Fairfax editorial director, but Hilmer, a management theory academic, was impressed by his Masters in Public Administration from Harvard.

Halfway through a second five-year term, Scott has created a ­Sydney-centric empire which has entrenched the ABC’s leftist bias while shirking the regional responsibilities of its charter and ­expanding digital strategy deliberately to annihilate commercial competitors.

The only real instrument of control over the ABC available to any government is funding, and the feral reaction to the modest 5 per cent cut over five years proposed by Malcolm Turnbull shows the political dangers. Scott’s response has been to damage the government at its electoral base, by slashing at ­regional and rural services, disproportionately disadvantaging Coalition voters while beefing up digital spending.

This is tantamount to a declaration of war. The only answer for the government is to return fire, with a really significant funding cut to the ABC’s $1.1 billion budget.

The furore could hardly be more than it is for the piddling cut ­already planned. And part of the savings could be used to create a new regional-only independent public broadcaster, with a charter to provide the service Australians love and expect from ‘Our ABC’.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott says has no objection to nuclear energy and would be 'fine' with a proposal for it

Interesting that subsidies are fine for windmills and solar farms but not for nuclear

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he would be "fine" with someone putting forward a nuclear energy proposal and described the Fukushima meltdown as a "problem".

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier told Fairfax Media nuclear energy was an "obvious" way to reduce carbon emissions.

Mr Abbott agreed that nuclear technology was worth considering.  "I don't have any theological objection to nuclear energy," Mr Abbott said.

"Nuclear energy is a very important part of the energy mix of many countries - Japan, and it's coming back in Japan after the Fukushima problem."

Mr Abbott has said there is no need for Australia to pursue nuclear energy due to the nation's large coal and gas reserves.

But he said nuclear energy would help cut carbon pollution.

"If we are to dramatically reduce emissions we have to remember that the one absolutely proven way of generating emissions-free baseload power is through nuclear," he said.

Mr Abbott warned the Government was not interested in providing financial incentives to private operators to build nuclear-power facilities in Australia.

"If someone wants to put a proposal for nuclear energy generation here in Australia - fine," Mr Abbott said.

"But don't expect a Government subsidy.  "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen because it's economically feasible, not because the Government runs around offering a subsidy."

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek dismissed nuclear power as an alternative.

There is no nuclear power generated in Australia.


Far North Queensland Council Puts People & Environment Before Proposed Wind Farm Disaster

THE Tablelands Regional Council has been accused of being “openly hostile” towards a controversial wind farm project and trying everything to impede its progress.

It comes as the Senate launches an inquiry into the effectiveness of wind turbines, scrutinising their regulatory governance and economic impact.

The $380 million project to be built near Walkamin is to include up to 75 turbines.  It is a joint venture by property developers Port Bajool and power producers Ratch Australia.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney called in the development application in June, taking responsibility to assess it away from the Mareeba Shire Council, which de-amalgamated from the Tablelands Regional Council.

Mr Seeney has promised not to make a decision over the Mt Emerald Wind Farm until he meets with residents at this weekend’s Community Cabinet in Mareeba.

In an email obtained by The Cairns Post, Cook MP David Kempton responded to claims his government had ignored residents’ concerns about the wind farm, assuring there had been a full and proper investigation of the project.

“The Tablelands Regional Council has been openly hostile to this project from the outset,’’ he said.  “I have given full personal support to this project as I believe the regional benefits will far out-weight the perceived and in many cases, misguided information.

“I can also assure you I have received many delegations from the opponents over the time since this project was mooted.”

When questioned about the email by The Cairns Post, Mr Kempton only offered the following statement:  “The (wind farm) is being determined by the Deputy Premier and I have confidence there will be proper and rigorous process around the determination,” he said.

Tableland Division 6 Councillor Marjorie Pagani said the council had legitimately raised a number of concerns about the development when the application first came to the council, and there had been no vote taken on it.

“What he is interpreting as open hostility was in fact a series of requisition questions sent by our planning department to the developer, which were never answered,’’ he said.

“There were pages and pages of very significant and important questions relating to planning, roads, noise, environmental/ecological issues, and even size of turbines, for example.

“They hadn’t even put the size of their proposed development, or the size of each turbine.”

Tableland Mayor Rosa Lee Long, in a statement, said since the Mareeba Shire Council had taken over the application after de-amalgamation, TRC continued to have concerns, including the potential impact of heavy vehicles on local roads during the construction process.

Meanwhile, the Senate has launched an inquiry into the regulatory governance and economic impact of wind turbines.  The inquiry, a first in Australia, will examine issues such as impact on household electricity prices, the role of the Clean Energy Regulator, effect on fauna, planning processes, and whole-of-life CO2 inputs and outputs.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Quite a few signs of protest along the Atherton-Mareeba road (between the Jesus is Coming signs which have been up for years now...still waiting I guess). There's that big wind farm up at Ravenshoe, but I think for the space it occupies, both visually and physically, it doesn't do much good.