Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Another "multicultural" crime -- in WA

A WOMAN on her way home from a funeral has been bashed as she sat in her car at traffic lights in Kardinya this morning.

The unprovoked attack occurred about 11.30am as the 33-year-old woman, known only as Yvonne, sat at traffic lights at the intersection of North Lake Road and South Street.

The male attacker was crossing the intersection when without warning he ran towards the driver’s side of Yvonne’s car and grabbed her hair as she attempted to put her window up.

The man then punched Yvonne in the face, which caused her bruising and a chipped tooth.

Yvonne then drove away and the man let go of her hair and ran in a northerly direction towards the Shell service station.

Yvonne drove to a nearby business where she called police and her husband.

She bravely spoke to PerthNow over the phone today just minutes after undergoing an x-ray at Armadale Hospital where she also works as a patient care assistant.

She said while the attack lasted probably only about 10 seconds, nobody came to her aid.

She had just been to a funeral and was driving home when she was attacked.

“This guy just ran up to me and told me to ‘get out of the f****g car,’ “ Yvonne said.

“As I’ve gone to put my window up he still had my hair in his hands and then he punched me, chipping my tooth.

“The thing that makes me angry is nobody helped me. In broad daylight nobody helped me.

“I had a car to my right and a car behind me and no-one helped me. It happened that fast but there was no way I was letting him in my car.”

Yvonne said she was the victim of an attempted carjacking at the hands of a group of men several years ago.

She said what probably helped her in this morning’s incident was having her doors locked at the time.

“From the moment I leave my driveway I lock my car doors, I always have done,” she said.

She urged anyone who saw the incident or who might know the attacker to call police.

Yvonne’s attacker is described as being in his early 20s, has dark skin, a slim build and black unshaved facial hair.

He was wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a black hooded zip up jacket.


No refuge for almost 100 asylum seekers charged with criminal offences

ALMOST 100 asylum seekers granted bridging visas to live in the community have been charged with criminal offences in the past eight months ­including murder, rape, burglary, and domestic violence, according to data from the ­Department of Immigration.

A further 15 detainees have had their residence determinations revoked by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison for criminal charges. The range of offences included drink driving, domestic violence, assault, rape, trespass and larceny.

Asylum seekers currently in detention or on bridging visas in Australia had also become victims of crime — including murder.

“All aspects of our operations involving dealing with the legacy of illegal maritime arrivals created by Labor’s chronic border failures carry risk,” Mr Morrison said. “This includes risks to those who have arrived as well as to those caring for them who have been the subject of abuse and assault by asylum seekers in their care.

“Asylum seekers are also at risk, regardless of where they may be accommodated.

“Asylum seekers have self-harmed in the community, as well as in detention and offshore processing centres.”

Mr Morrison has accused the Opposition and the Greens of hypocrisy for calling for a royal commission into the death of an asylum seeker, Reza Berati, on Manus Island, while saying nothing of the murder of an asylum seeker in Sydney last September.

Last September, Afghan Mohammed Ali Nabizada was stabbed to death at Berala in Sydney’s west.

His alleged attacker was also an asylum seeker on a bridging visa.

“Tragically, asylum seekers like Reza Berati have also died in detention, and his death is the subject of serious and comprehensive investigation. Others have also died on release into the community.

“There have been no calls for parliamentary inquiries into the death of Muhammad Ali Nabizada.

“No advocates have asked for his photo so they can display it in public remembrance.

“There have been no public protests or vigils over his death. There have also been no calls for the community release program to be shut down.

“A community release policy, like offshore processing, carries risk.

“We are working constructively to manage this risk, whether with local police in our community or our PNG and Nauruan partners at our offshore processing centres.

“When more than 50,000 people turn up illegally on more than 800 boats, this ­places incredible pressure on the system and creates significant risks in dealing with the resulting problem.”


Final results of WA Senate election announced by Australian Electoral Commission

THE final results of the re-run West Australian Senate election have been announced, confirming Labor's assumption it has missed out on a second seat.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has revealed the Liberals have picked up three seats, with one seat each to Labor, The Greens and Palmer United Party (PUP).

WA's six senators will be David Johnston, Michaelia Cash and Linda Reynolds (Liberal), Joe Bullock (Labor), Scott Ludlam (Greens) and Dio Wang (PUP).

But the official declaration of votes will not be made until Thursday.

Senator Johnston, Mr Bullock and Senator Ludlam were all elected on quota, while Senator Cash was elected on count two, Mr Wang on count 252 and Ms Reynolds on count 257.

Labor Senator Louise Pratt conceded defeat on April 16, lashing her right wing running mate Mr Bullock, a trade union leader who secured his seat after shunting her from the top spot on the party's senate ticket.

Senator Pratt was diplomatic during the campaign when asked how she felt about comments he'd made about her, including questioning whether she was a lesbian given her partner was born a woman but is now a man.

But after it became clear she would not continue as a WA Senator from July 1, she labelled him homophobic and called on Labor to break the grasp of union powerbrokers, whose wrangling had delivered Mr Bullock victory.

There appears to have been a strong swing towards the Greens and PUP, which both campaigned hard to appeal to voters who were disillusioned with the major parties.

The billionaire-backed PUP spent especially big on advertising, while the Greens also relied on social media.

A fresh Senate election was ordered in the state and an official inquiry launched after the AEC lost 1370 votes during a recount requested by Senator Ludlam because the original count showed he had lost his seat by a wafer-thin margin.


Play the race card, get out of jail

WHITEOAK v State of NSW has reached its inexorable conclusion. The lawyers have brushed off the crumbs and rolled up the picnic rug.

The next step, if the Court of Common Sense still sits in NSW, is to bring the Anti-Discrimination Board, the Legal Aid Commission and the Civil and Administrative Tribunal to account.

They must explain why they did not put their heads together and drop this risible case before it turned the state’s anti-discrimination legislation into a complete and utter joke.

The implication of the tribunal’s 26,400-word judgment is that anyone can play the race card, even Barry Whiteoak, a white, Anglo-Saxon murderer and serial rapist who will deported back to Britain if he ever completes his life sentence.

Whiteoak, the tribunal has now ruled, has been denied a service by the Correctional Services Department because he is British.

Whiteoak was jailed in 1983 for raping, strangling and stabbing Noreen Hannon, a 25-year-old nurse, in her Parramatta flat and dumping her naked body in the lift.

In 2002, Whiteoak’s classification was changed to the minimum security category C3, allowing him to apply for day or weekend release.

It was clearly a mistake. Two years later Whiteoak was thrown off a sex offence rehabilitation program for misbehaviour and was deemed to present a moderate to high risk of reoffending.

A review of Whiteoak’s criminal history suggests it would be foolhardy to grant him parole. Whiteoak murdered Hannon while on parole for the rape of another woman, whom he had assaulted while on parole for indecently assaulting a third.

Whiteoak was also of interest to the Department of Immigration, since he was not an Australian citizen and therefore could be deported back to Britain on release from jail.

The then corrective services commissioner, Ron Woodham, one of the few public servants to have acted decently in this whole sorry affair, decided it was potentially dangerous to allow White­oak out on leave.

In Woodham’s opinion, White­oak’s uncertain immigration status made him an unquantified flight risk. Indeed another non-citizen had escaped under just such a circumstance in 2005. Woodham decided to reinstate Whiteoak’s C1 status.

Whiteoak complained to the Anti-Discrimination Board, which judged he could have a case under the 1977 NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, section 19 of which states: “It is unlawful for a person who provides (whether or not for payment) goods or ser­vices to discriminate against another person on the ground of race.”

He was assisted by the exceptional definition of race in the NSW legislation that includes nationality as well as colour, descent and ethnic, ethno-religious or national origin.

Thus Whiteoak complained that the decision to cancel his permanent residency visa was “strongly racist”. He sought the board’s help “in regaining C3 classification and Day Leaves as Day Leaves are a major part of the Pre-Release Program that the Parole Board requires”.

The board’s president, Stepan Kerkyasharian, had the power under section 92(1) of the act to throw out the complaint on the grounds that it was “frivolous, vexatious, misconceived or lacking in substance”.

He did not, suggesting he saw some merit in Whiteoak’s claim that the denial of day release “was based solely on the fact that I am a British subject who is in gaol and not on my offensive behaviour”.

“It is discrimination because the policy decisions are treating me differently to what an Australian citizen is treated,” Whiteoak wrote to the commissioner.

“I do not want monitary (sic) compensation as the change in classification has not cost me any money.

“I want you now to use all the powers available to you and your organisation to persuade or force the Corrective Services to change inmate’s classifications back.”

The tribunal too could have rejected Whiteoak’s vexatious and insubstantial case. Its refusal to do so, despite an application by the state’s lawyers, has probably cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.

It has funded Whiteoak’s legal aid, multiple procedural applications, a three-day hearing, two half-days of submissions, and the discovery and circulation of more than 1000 tendered documents. Both parties have been represented by experienced counsel and instructing solicitors.

Two weeks ago the tribunal ruled that this devious, dysfunctional, despicable human being was a victim of racism. They awarded him $500 compensa­tion, which mercifully will be redirected to victims of crime. Is the tribunal really suggesting that Woodham was motiv­ated by rac­ism? Could he not have been trying to protect the rights of NSW residents by keeping a dangerous offender off the streets until he could be deported?

More serious, however, are the two extraordinary assumptions underpinning the tribunal’s ruling. First, the tribunal accepted that the categorisation of prisoners is “a service” under the terms of the act. Second, the tribunal assumed that nationality, citizenship and race are synonymous.

If this is the case, we must rewrite the Macquarie Dictionary entry that defines race as “a group of persons connected by common descent” or “a group of tribes or peoples forming an ethnic stock”.

There are other definitions, but every one of them links race to biology, as the word must unless it is to be stripped of any useful meaning.

Surely the tribunal is not claiming that everyone holding an Australian passport shares a common race, for that would be a killer blow to the race discrimination industry, putting hundreds of human rights lawyers out of work.

By devaluing the notion of rac­ism to nothing more than an arbitrary form of victimhood, the tribunal has not helped those who wish to defend the federal Racial Discrimination Act against the government’s attempts to amend it.

The judgment exemplifies the case opponents of the RDA have argued all along: that anti-discrimination legislation is just a game for lawyers who search for any crack in the door through which their client can enter the victims club.

It is human rights devoid of any sense of proportion, prudence or natural justice; human rights as a sledgehammer to settle petty grievances; human rights that creates more red tape and employment for bureaucrats; human rights that turns courts and tribunals into theatres of the grotesque.

The purpose of human rights legislation, Gough Whitlam said in 1975, was to “build a climate of maturity, of goodwill, of co-operation and understanding at all levels of society”.

Never, in his wildest dreams, would he imagined a case such as Whiteoak v State of NSW.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Multicultural murder shocks quiet Australian country town  --and me

This murder happened in the same part of the world that I come from and affects people of the sort that I grew up with.  I know the places concerned, even such obscure ones as Feluga.  This matter has therefore given me much grief.  I would burn the offender to death if I could.  I know the sort of farming family she comes from.  Lovely people.  To think that such a treasure as her is lost at the hands of a scum "refugee" is hard to bear.  Africans tend to be very pushy towards women and get aggressive when rejected  -- JR

HOMICIDE detectives swooped on Jo La Spina’s accused killer on Sunday, concerned that he was about to leave Sydney.  Musa Ngwira, a crocodile tour guide of South Mission Beach, was arrested by New South Wales police at his girlfriend’s home in Cronulla about 4pm on Sunday.

The 31-year-old, of African descent, faced Sydney Central Court yesterday on an arrest warrant charged with one count of murder.

Magistrate Jacqueline Trad confirmed the extradition in Sutherland Local Court yesterday with Ngwira to return to Queensland this morning.

Four detectives flew from far north Queensland to continue the high-profile investigation into the alleged slaying of rafting guide Ms La Spina, 26, in a Bingil Bay townhouse, south of Cairns on Easter Saturday.

Officers plan to extradite the accused on a flight back to Cairns tomorrow in a key breakthrough into the death that has shattered the tight-knit far-north tropical tourist haven of Mission Beach.

Lead investigator Acting Inspector Kevin Goan said detectives pounced on the alleged offender over fears he was about to move on.  Police had been tracking his movements ever since he was released from two days in police custody last Monday.

NSW Police homicide squad detectives had Ngwira under surveillance as a team of Queensland detectives waited on DNA and forensic tests, a post-mortem, CCTV footage and witness statements.


More background

JO LA Spina was alone and asleep by herself when she was brutally slain in a “targeted” attack.

Police yesterday revealed the 26-year-old rafting guide was in an upper bedroom of a Bingil Bay townhouse south of Cairns and had not been ­“intimate” with anyone on the Good Friday night she was killed.

Spoken of by friends as sweet, pure and a beautiful soul, her murder has sent shock waves through her tight-knit rafting crew.

On the night of the attack, La Spina and a group of friends had dinner, went dancing, lit a campfire on the beach, and walked back to the nearby townhouse to sleep, but just hours later, evil struck.

Police will only say the suspect is a “dark-skinned male”.

Deeper background

To say her death has rocked the small community is an understatement as they grieve for the former Tully State School student, who came from a well-known and respected local farming family.

She went to Blackheath and Thornburgh College in Charters Towers for high school, graduating in 2005, then lived in Cairns and Townsville before coming back to Feluga, where her family live, to work as a photographer for rafting company Raging Thunder.

“She was a likable, bubbly, friendly girl,” Acting Insp. Goan said.

Nauru to put five year limit on stay of refugees

Asylum seekers on Nauru who are found to be refugees have been told they will be resettled on the island for five years where they will be given work rights and the opportunity to establish their own businesses.

A document leaked to the Guardian from the Nauruan government says people found to be refugees will be resettled for a maximum of five years where they will have working rights. The maximum settlement period leaves it likely refugees will need to be resettled in a third country such as Cambodia, which is also looking likely to sign a deal with Australia to accept refugees.

The decisions on whether asylum seekers have been found to be refugees will be handed down in the "coming weeks" the document said. There are currently 1177 people in detention centres on Nauru.

The government will also support refugees wanting to establish their own businesses, if the type of business "does not already exist in Nauru", but only for a maximum of five years.

"You will need to apply for a business licence from the government of Nauru and the process for this will be explained to you by your settlement case worker," the document says.

It comes as Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told Fairfax Media he was trying to expand the "club" of nations willing to take refugees, regardless of their economic capacity, suggesting that Cambodia was a step closer to taking refugees as a resettlement country once the temporary resettlement deal has expired on Nauru.

"Without mentioning names, when you have a country that’s willing to be engaged in it, an experienced country that is willing to sponsor it and a third country that is a signatory country like Nauru that is also party to all of this ... That would seem to be a positive thing and something that should be encouraged," Mr Morrison said last week.

But the Interior Minister of Cambodia, Sar Kheng told the Phnom Pehn Post that nothing had been decided, and negotiations were still on the table.

“As of now we have not decided yet,” Kheng told reporters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. “It is being [considered], but no decision has been made at all.”


Education Minister Christopher Pyne: set universities 'free' to create a US-style system

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has given his strongest sign yet the Abbott government will extend taxpayer funds to for-profit universities in a bid to cultivate a US-style college system in Australia.

In a speech to a London think tank on Monday night, Mr Pyne said a new wave of deregulation was needed to stop Australia's universities falling behind the rest of the world.

The speech follows the release two weeks ago of the Kemp-Norton review, which recommended federal funding for private universities, TAFEs and other non-university higher education providers.

Although Universities Australia initially warned the idea represents a "huge gamble" with potentially "devastating consequences", some of Australia's most influential vice-chancellors support the proposal. They include the University of Melbourne's Glyn Davis, the University of NSW's Fred Hilmer and La Trobe University's John Dewar.

TAFEs and the private education sector have also welcomed the review.

While not announcing the government's official response to the review, Mr Pyne strongly hinted the government would adopt the recommendation in the May budget.

"I can assure you unreservedly that the Coalition government will continue to take steps to set higher education providers free, provide them with more autonomy and challenge them to map out their futures according to their strengths," he said.

"We are at risk of being left behind. We need a renewed ambition and it must be bold … Our answer will be, above all, to set our universities free."

Regulation by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency would ensure that quality is maintained, he said.

Mr Pyne said he was alarmed only one Australian university, the University of Melbourne, is in the top 50 in the world, according to the latest Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings. While seven Australian universities went backwards in the rankings last year, Asian universities are storming up the leader board. Eight of the top 10 were US universities.

"We have much to learn about universities competing for students and focusing on our students," he said. "Not least, we have much to learn about this from our friends in the United States."

Mr Pyne said the US college system offers students more choice, encourages competition and foments a culture of philanthropy.

Mr Pyne did not outline how the government would fund the expansion of Commonwealth-supported places to the private sector. One option would be backing the elite universities' call for a deregulation of university fees so students in high-quality, high-income degrees pay more for their education. Another would be reforming the student loans scheme to recover outstanding debts from students who move overseas or who die, as recommended by the Grattan Institute.

Professor Dewar said: "I don’t think the sector has anything to fear from more competition in the market."

But he said universities – which conduct research as well as teach – should receive more government funding than teaching-only colleges.

"There should be a recognition that universities have costs above and beyond our counterparts in the private sector," he said.


Ben and Jerry's ice cream hurting reef: Qld govt

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has been hauled over the coals by the Queensland government for supporting WWF’s "propaganda" save the reef campaign.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell wants Australians to boycott the American company, saying they’ve damaged the reputation of the reef and jeopardised jobs and tourism dollars.

"Another company has signed up to the campaign of lies and deceit that’s been propagated by WWF," Mr Powell said.  "The only people taking a scoop out of the reef is Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever.  "If you understand the facts, you’d want to be boycotting Ben and Jerry’s."

The minister says he’d be writing to parent company Unilever to express concerns and brief them on the truth.

Earlier this month, Ben and Jerry’s withdrew popular flavour Phish Food because of its allusion to fishfood, as a way of drawing attention to the potential damage to the reef.

They also embarked on a road trip around parts of Australia, giving out free ice cream to highlight their concerns over damage to the reef.

They say the reef is at serious risk of destruction from intensive dredging and dumping, mega-ports and shipping highways.

The brand has championed environmental causes in its 35-year history, including opposing drilling in the Arctic, and says it’s a proud supporter of WWF’s campaign.

"Ben & Jerry’s believes that dredging and dumping in world heritage waters surrounding the marine park area will be detrimental to the reef ecology," Australia brand manager Kalli Swaik said.  "It threatens the health of one of Australia’s most iconic treasures."

The Queensland and federal governments in January approved the dumping of three million cubic metres of dredge spoil in the marine park and World Heritage area to enable the Abbot Point coal port expansion.

The government says 70 per cent of the spoil is expected to settle on the seabed.

WWF fears spoil could get caught in currents and smother or poison reefs just 40km away.

CEO Dermot O’Gorman says Ben and Jerry’s involvement reflects the concern of people around the world about how the reef is being managed.  "Ben & Jerry’s’ tour is a timely reminder that the world expects the Queensland and Australian governments to lift their game," he said.

UNESCO is due to meet in June to consider the Australian government’s progress in improving the management of the reef.

It’s due to decide this year or next whether to list the reef as a world heritage site in danger.


Monday, April 28, 2014

The madness of child protection policy in Australia

In December 2013, the Abbott government announced plans to take adoption out of the 'too-hard basket' and make it easier for Australian parents to adopt children both locally and from overseas.

The chief barrier to more local adoptions is the anti-adoption culture in state and territory child protection authorities. Legal action is almost never taken to free children for adoption, even for children who languish in Australia's ever-expanding out-of-home care (OOHC) system with little prospect of safely returning home.

Instead, the orthodox policy advice routinely given to state and territory governments is that too many children are 'in care' because child protection services need to be re-structured away from 'statutory' child removal towards providing 'less-expensive' prevention and early intervention social services to reduce entries into care.

It is a myth that the child protection system focuses too heavily on statutory intervention, and that children are too quickly removed into care without supporting families.

New financial data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show that in 2012–13:

* Family support/preservation services accounted for at least 17.1% of the $3.8 billion national expenditure on all child protection services, compared to statutory (29.6%) and OOHC (53.3%) services.

* Real (adjusted for inflation) national expenditure on 'intensive family preservation services' (designed to prevent imminent child removals) grew by 316% between 2000–01 and 2012–13 (from $73 million to more than $300 million).

* This was almost one-third higher in relative terms than the still substantial increase in spending on out-of-home care (228.3%), and nearly twice as fast as the still substantial growth in statutory service expenditure (166.3%).

Child protection data for 2012–13 show that Australia's OOHC system remains under siege due to rapidly increasing spending on OOHC and increasing numbers of children in OOHC. Since 2000–01, the total real national expenditure on OOHC has more than tripled and the total OOHC population has more than doubled due to endlessly prolonged efforts to reunite children with their dysfunctional families.

High levels of 're-reporting' and 're-substantiation' of cases of child abuse and neglect, plus high levels of 'instability' (unstable placements) for children while in care, mean that increasing numbers of children are being damaged by the very child protection system that is meant to protect them

The bottom line is that increasing numbers of children are still ending up in OOHC despite the additional funding Australian governments are pouring into family support/preservation.

The 2012 Report of Protecting Victoria's Vulnerable Children Inquiry (the Cummins report) found no evidence that the larger sums spent by Victoria on 'prevention' had protected children and stopped child maltreatment. Despite 'increased investment' (spending on intensive family preservation services increased by almost 900% since 2000–01), this strategy failed because 'high levels of re-reporting and re-substantiations over the lifetime of Victorian children' showed no 'marked change in Victoria in the incidence and impact of child abuse or neglect or overall outcomes for vulnerable children taken into out-of-home care.'

Nevertheless, the orthodox policy advice remains influential. The Newman government is implementing the major recommendation of the 2013 Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry (the Carmody report), which recommended increased spending on prevention and early intervention services to re-structure a child protection regime that allegedly 'focuses too heavily on coercive instead of support strategies.' This is despite the inquiry's (confusing and contradictory) final report establishing that the Queensland child protection system was heavily focused on family preservation-and was the reason for children lingering longer in care and blowing out the size of the OOHC population.

Australian child protection policy continues to resemble Einstein's definition of madness-doing the same thing and expecting a different result. The Abbott government needs to be aware that flawed family preservation policies and practices are the root cause of the systemic problems in the child protection system. To end the madness, the states and territories must be directed to take more timely statutory action to permanently remove children from unsafe homes and provide them with safe and stable homes by adoption by suitable families.

The Abbott government can provide national leadership and take adoption out of the too-hard basket by setting national child protection performance targets, including boosting the number of local adoptions from care to the equivalent of more adoption-friendly countries within the next 10 years.

National adoption targets would encourage other states and territories to emulate the prospective pro-adoption regime recently legislated by the NSW government, which is designed to significantly increase the number of adoptions from care by mandating strict time limits within which realistic decisions are made about the feasibility of restoration. Once it is determined that a child cannot safely go home, application will be made in the Supreme Court for an order to free that child for adoption by his or her new family.

If Australian children in care were adopted at the same rate as in the United States, there would be around 5,000 adoptions from care each year nationally instead of the current figure of less than 150.

The Abbott government's also needs to be aware of to the way the US adoption rate has been lifted by the Clinton administration's Adoption and Safe Families Act 1997, which rewards states that increase the number of adoptions from care with additional federal funding for social services.

Similar incentive-based funding arrangements (as an enhanced means of distributing existing federal funding for family and community services to states and territories) should be considered in Australia.


Mandate on ethanol fuel costs drivers dearly: study

NSW'S E10 unleaded fuel mandate is a "debacle" and is costing the state's motorists millions, according to an international study.

The Texas Tech University research found motorists had a "significant aversion" to the ethanol blended product.

With the push for E10 reducing the availability of regular grade unleaded, motorists had instead flocked to the more expensive premium petrol because of concerns about E10's potential engine damage as well as fuel efficiency.

"The effect was so pronounced that premium grade gasoline became the No.1 selling grade of gasoline," said the report's authors Michael Noel and Travis Roach.

The mandate was a debacle which had cost motorists "$345 million and counting", said Professor Noel, from the university's department of economics.  That figure calculated the price difference between regular unleaded and premium.

"In 2010, one out of every three consumers forced off of regular switched to premium instead of E10," Professor Noel said.  "Now six out of 10 consumers are. It is costing more and more for less and less."

While the mandate is hurting motorists, the push to premium is a win for petrol retailers.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission research, Australian fuel retailers enjoy an average profit margin of 3.69¢ a litre of premium fuel sold, compared with 1.77¢ a litre of regular unleaded petrol.

Greens MP John Kaye said the mandate was not working for consumers or the environment.  "Motorists who had been using regular unleaded have been faced with the choice of a fuel they don't want and a fuel that is much more expensive," Dr Kaye said.

"While per litre it [the E10 price] looks better, you have to burn more of it to cover the same distance, and you get more air pollution and more CO2 emissions.

"There's no evidence that requiring motorists to use ethanol blended fuels has any net greenhouse gas gain or much in the way of air quality improvement."

Service Station Association senior manager Colin Long said E10 needed to be cheaper if the government wanted more people to buy it.

But the NRMA's motoring and services director Kyle Loades said motorists were switching to premium unnecessarily.


Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support Agency employees given perks just for turning up to work

PUBLIC servants paid to hand out pension and welfare benefits have scooped tens of millions of dollars in perks as taxpayers brace for hip-pocket pain from the Abbott Government’s Budget razor gang.

Human Services department employees, who work for Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency, have been given thousands of dollars in lump sum payments simply for turning up to work to help them cope with public service restructures.

The payments are part of a raft of perks that include extra cash to help with school holiday child care, double time for working Saturdays and an extra day off over Christmas.

Human Services, which includes Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency, delivered almost $150 billion in payments in the past financial year. It is one of the busiest government departments, and in 2013 shed almost 2100 jobs but in the same period, it promoted 693 staff.

The bulk of the pay increases – 279 – promoted staff up to $67,000, however, four staff were promoted to SES Band 1, which pays up to $190,000, and five staff rose to the ranks of SES Band 2 on an annual salary up to $240,000.

Those not promoted were eligible to receive hundreds of dollars in special productivity and major reform payments negotiated for Human Services staff. The latest was paid seven months ago.


* Productivity payments of $650 in September 2012 and September 2013 for employees at or above their maximum salary level for their classification for achieving targets and showing leadership

* Major Reform Payments in 2011 and 2012 worth $500 each in recognition that staff experienced structural change

* School holiday care allowances of up to $16 a day for a child or $163 a week for all children for a maximum of eight weeks where both parents work. The perk requires approval from the Department Secretary

* An extra public holiday on the first business day after Boxing Day

* Up to $600 to an affected employee if a Human Service office relocates in the same city

* Up to $800 under the Household Establishment Allowance if an employee is promoted or reassigned to another locality

* Double time for working overtime for more than three hours on a Saturday

* Salary sacrificing for public transport to and from work


ALP schemes ‘beyond bureaucrats’

THE federal bureaucracy is ­incapable of managing complex programs such as the National Rental Affordability Scheme, ­according to Labor senator Mark Bishop, who has criticised the Rudd government’s implement­ation of the scheme.

Senator Bishop said the bungled introduction of the flagship Rudd-era social housing initiative and the home insulation scheme showed federal bureaucrats were incapable of designing and rolling out complex programs.

“I am now satisfied there is a serious deficiency in the design of programs,’’ he said.

“It (the public service) is comprised of intelligent men and women, but you are talking about billions of dollars and the design of the scheme is very complex and they don’t have the experience or the ability to do it.”

Responding to revelations in The Australian that the rental scheme rollout had been a fiasco in his home state of Western Australia, Senator Bishop said the necessary leg work had not been done when Kevin Rudd took the scheme to cabinet in 2008.

The Australian revealed last week that two firms in Western Australia that received more than half of that state’s subsidies — Questus and Yaran — had built a fraction of the 3000 homes promised.

The West Australian fiasco comes after revelations that the scheme had been exploited by developers and universities to build student accommodation.

Senator Bishop, the second ALP parliamentarian to criticise the $4.5 billion scheme, said he had to question the point of it when it was used to house “10,000 rich Chinese students”.

“It was my understanding that the scheme was designed to help low-income earners into afford­able housing,’’ he said.

“I was never aware that its purpose was to provide housing for foreign students at major-league universities.’’

Senator Bishop, who will leave parliament on June 30 when his Senate term expires, chairs the Senate’s economics references committee, which is inquiring into affordable housing in Australia.

He acknowledged ministers were responsible for the flaws in these programs too, but saved his harshest condemnation for the federal bureaucracy.

“It seems to me the ability to properly design programs that are so complex is something the public service doesn’t really have the capability or expertise to do,’’ he said.

“Their expertise is in policy development but not in terms of program design involving billions of dollars of commonwealth money.

“With the links to tax and superannuation, it is very complex.’’

The $4.5bn NRAS scheme was introduced in 2008, but its viability was damaged from the start because the Australian Taxation Office took more than two years to rule on the tax status of investments discouraging large-scale private-sector investment, Senator Bishop said.

“When Rudd took it to cabinet a lot of the work hadn’t been done,’’ he said.

“Commercial developers and investors had to wait two or three years for the tax ruling. I can remember being lobbied on that many times. That put the development of the scheme three years behind.”

The problems in Western Australia centre on Yaran Property Group, which secured more than 1100 incentives in the third round of the program but has built just 82 houses with them, according to the latest federal figures.

Senator Bishop said by this stage there was a “political imperative” from the government to speed up the progress under the scheme and, as a result, it appeared to have handed large blocks of incentives to firms unable to execute projects to the degree promised.

He said major audit firms had been engaged to check applications under the current fifth round of the scheme, but this needed to have been done a lot earlier.

He said the government needed to redesign the scheme, shutting out the federal public service and incorporating advice from developers and investors.

“The existing scheme needs to be re-engineered. It needs significant private-sector input into that review,’’ he said.

Earlier this month, fellow Labor backbencher Kelvin Thomson backed calls for a revamp of the scheme after The Australian revealed the extent to which it had been “gamed” by universities using the $10,000-per-annum subsidies to build vast unit blocks to lure foreign students to their campuses.

Tanya Plibersek, the architect of the NRAS scheme and former housing minister, declined to comment on Senator Bishop’s views.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Debate? Not When You Can Silence your critics

Writing in Quadrant, Mervyn Bendle took to task the new breed of historians who seem bent on destroying the Anzac Legend. One of his subjects, rather than the debate the issues he raised, reacted by demanding that the essay be removed from public view. Alas, such arrogance is entirely typical.  Bendle was Senior Lecturer in History and Communications at James Cook University, where he taught a course on war and remembrance, but resigned in 2012

I can confirm the Leftist hegemony in Australian universities.  I taught in two of them and I too eventually got fed up enough with the environment there to resign, even though I had tenure  -- JR

A prominent professor at the Australian National University has sought to suppress a recent Quadrant article I wrote critical of the negative academic attitude towards the Anzac Legend. Professor Joan Beaumont, of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, emailed the editors of Quadrant and Quadrant Online, claiming that her book Broken Nation had been “distorted, misrepresented and misread” by Mervyn Bendle, in his article “The Military Historians’ War on the Anzac Legend”  in Quadrant‘s April edition.

“It does Quadrant no credit to publish such prejudicial reviews, and I request that you withdraw it from the web”, she told the editors. She insisted that she has “no issue with reviewers engaging critically with my book”, but believed that I had not done this.

My Quadrant article discusses her book in the context of a broader appraisal of the anti-Anzac campaign centred on the ANU, the Australian Defence Force Academy, and the Australian War Memorial. It follows up earlier articles dating back five years detailing this campaign”.

See: “The Intellectual Assault on Anzac”
“Anzac in Ashes”
“How Paul Keating Betrayed the Anzacs, and Why”
“Lest They Forget To Sneer”
“Gallipoli: Second Front in the History Wars”

Taken together, these reveal the systematic assault on the Anzac Legend undertaken by Australian historians leading up to the centenaries of the outbreak of the Great War and the Gallipoli campaign. These historians have made it quite clear that they wish to destroy the Anzac Legend.

I wasn’t surprised at Professor Beaumont’s reaction, as I imagine it’s easier for her to seek the article’s suppression than face up to addressing the issues it raises. I feel compelled to note that Professor Beaumont’s first reaction was to demand my article be withdrawn from the public view, not to debate the questions raised in my article. Alas, many Australian academics prefer to suppress criticism rather than engage in free and uninhibited exploration of ideas and their validity. In my experience they resent attempts to hold them to account and always try to avoid discussions that might reveal inadequacies, mistakes, prejudices and ideological commitments.

The simple fact is that academics take refuge in their exalted status. They don’t feel any need to justify themselves — nor is there very much in the way of pressure to do so, as academic history in Australia has become a closed shop. Indeed, when it comes to considering ideas outside the narrowly “acceptable” range, the profession is hermetically sealed. Prof Beaumont might be more used to dealing with robust discussion, and more prepared to confront my criticism of her work, if the history profession in Australia wasn’t so stitched up and insular.

Beaumont’s is typical behaviour and I have experienced it before. Academics attacked me over articles I wrote for Quadrant and The Australian discussing their sympathetic attitudes towards terrorism. They refused to debate the issues and instead mounted a determined attempt to have me sacked and also threatened legal action. One even threatened physical violence

See “Hijacking Terrorism Studies”
“Terrorism and the Rise of Radical Orthodoxy”
“Radical pacifists deny a murderous reality”

They wanted me to apologize to them and to have all the copies of Quadrant recalled and pulped! I was able to detail all this in a submission to the Senate Inquiry into Academic Freedom, which was included in their report. This eagerness to resort to threats rather than academic debate in these types of dispute reflects the excessively comfortable situation of Australian academics.

It is undeniable that the Humanities, Arts, and the Social Sciences in the universities are dominated by a leftist intellectual monoculture, which everyone is expected to agree on if they want to survive. Academics review each other’s books, give favourable referees’ reports to each other’s’ grant proposals and academic articles, give scholarships and jobs to each other’s graduate students, and generally perpetuate the same leftist orthodoxy.

Academically, it’s incestuous and stultifying — and that critical mass of like-mindedness and intolerance of dissent has now turned its attention to destroying the Anzac Legend,  doing everything in its power to achieve this. The last thing they want to hear is criticism.

My grandfather was an Anzac who fought at Gallipoli and in France, and Australians of his generation and later made a pledge very nearly a century ago that must be honoured and redeemed.

As a nation we declared, ‘Lest we forget’. We should now be allowed to honour these centenaries without constant sniping from an anti-Anzac elite of obsessive academic leftists.


Loons and ratbags to run Labor

Miranda Devine

BILL Shorten was right about one thing yesterday. It wasn’t Tony Abbott who threw the Labor Party into opposition, it was the Australian people.  Problem is, Shorten still hasn’t figured out why.

Delivering what was billed as a historic, reforming speech in Melbourne yesterday the Labor leader declared he was going to rid the party of union domination and open it up to the “grassroots”.  He vowed to transform Labor into a “membership-based party”.

That sounds all noble and democratic but what it means in practice is handing the party over to the lunatic Green Left.

For all his talk about a new moral purpose, Shorten was just drawing from the old well of politically correct poison which has brought his party to its knees.

More affirmative action to increase numbers of women MPs was a clue.  So was the fact Shorten raised “the rancour over the recent Western Australian process (which) shows that in the future we need a method that provides a local voice.”

That “rancour” between Labor running mates Joe Bullock and Louise Pratt in Western Australia over Labor’s abysmal results in the latest re-run Senate election encapsulates Labor’s dilemma.

Bullock, who won Labor’s only Senate seat in WA, is a socially conservative member of the powerful shoppies union, which is headed by the outgoing right-wing faction leader and social conservative Joe De Bruyn.

Pratt, No. 2 on Labor’s Senate ticket, is an openly lesbian gay rights activist and Labor staffer, backed by the left-aligned United Voice union, who has been involved in Labor politics since her student days.

The pair are typical of the Labor Party’s increasingly schizophrenic nature.

Pratt and her union have been attacking Senator Bullock as an old homophobe since it became clear she wasn’t going to win the sixth Senate spot in WA.

Smearing him as a homophobe and bigot is a classic tactic of the dictatorial intolerant Left to shut down someone with opposing views, or someone who simply gets in your way.

Conveniently lost in all of the excitement over Bullock’s supposed homophobia were the killer truths he imparted.

He branded the Labor Party’s membership “mad”, and warned uncoupling from the common sense “ballast” of the unions would leave Labor open to every “every weird lefty trend that you can imagine, and there’d be no party left.’’

That is the inconvenient truth about the past six disastrous years. Labor saddled Australia with two hopeless prime ministers, who left a trail of destruction that will take decades to repair.

On climate policy they were wrong and deluded to try to lead the world. Cosying up to the Greens was a mistake. The only industry they boosted was people-smuggling.

Yet there has been no mea culpa, no soul searching, or apology. Just business as usual, as if making Labor membership a one-click process on the internet will save the party.

Of course the union movement is sick too, but instead of embracing the royal commission into corrupt unions as an opportunity to clean house, Shorten railed against it as a “star chamber”.

The fact is that, in the struggle for the soul of Labor, no one has clean hands.

In the end, the Left is using union corruption scandals for factional advantage to seize power for themselves.

Their beloved “grassroots” is code for GetUp style fringe-dwellers who will ensure the party remains unelectable.

Labor’s WA Senate result last month, the worst in its history, will be the new normal.

Really, if Labor wants to go further down that path, they should recruit Scott Ludlam as leader. At least he knows what he believes in.


Clive Palmer is right about government waste

SO-CALLED billionaire Clive Palmer threatens to do the Abbott Government a favour: kill its “Direct Action” plan to fight global warming.

Not such a buffoon, after all.

“Direct Action has been made up so the Liberal Party can ... make out they are doing something when they are doing nothing,” scoffed the populist, who commands four senators the government could need. “We’ll be voting against Direct Action, whatever form it’s in.”

Excellent, and if the government had any brains it would let Palmer win this one. Reluctantly, of course.

That’s not just because Palmer is right: Direct Action would waste $3.2 billion to make no difference to the world’s temperature.

But Palmer is in fact offering more than to save the Government money. He’s also offering to save it from the kind of embarrassment that dogged every one of Labor’s own green schemes.

Have the Liberals learned nothing from that colossal waste?

Its Direct Action will hand most of that $3.2 billion to whatever green carpetbaggers persuade it they’ve got some you-beaut scheme to cut our emissions on the cheap.

Uh-oh. Last week Environment Minister Greg Hunt was enthusing over schemes for “drying, gasification and then capture” of emissions for use with “algal energy”.

See, such green grants are exactly what got Labor into trouble; first, because governments are terrible at picking winning technologies; second, because if those schemes were sound, they wouldn’t need a handout; and, third, because “saving” the planet persuades politicians they shouldn’t quibble about mere money.

That’s why every one of Labor’s green power schemes was a dud.

Take its promised geothermal plant. In 2009, the Rudd government gave Geodynamics a $90 million grant for a project to pump water on to hot rocks deep underground to generate steam for a turbine,

Geodynamics shareholder Tim Flannery, later Chief Climate Commissioner, claimed it was “relatively straightforward technology” but wells instead clogged and the site flooded.

More than four years later, Geodynamics’ share price has dived from 88c to just 7c with no commercial plant to show for it.

The wave generator dud was sillier. In 2004, Oceanlinx got a $1.21 million grant for a prototype generator using wave energy. It now rusts off Port Kembla beach.

Oceanlinx then built a bigger generator. It sank three months later.

Yet in 2012, the Gillard government gave Oceanlinx another $4 million for a wave generator off South Australia. That sank last month and Oceanlinx is now bust.

Solar power proved little better. In 2008 the Rudd government spent $1 million on South Australia’s Umuwa solar power station for our “clean energy future”. It is now mothballed.

In 2011 the Gillard government announced a $464 million grant for Queensland’s Solar Dawn solar farm. The project was later abandoned.

In 2011 the Gillard government announced a $300 million grant for a solar farm in Moree. The grant was withdrawn when private investors refused to join in.

On it went.

The green waste under Labor was astonishing.

In 2009 the Rudd government gave $1.7 billion for its Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships program, to bury carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired electricity plants. But the technology is too expensive and not one large-scale carbon capture plant in the world is in commercial operation. Labor later slashed its grant by $500 million and the Abbott Government scrapped the rest.

The Rudd government’s $2 billion free insulation program — also sold as a way to cut emissions — was a bigger political disaster. Much rorted, it was scrapped after four installers were killed.

LABOR’S Green Loans program was also hurriedly cancelled in 2011 after costs blew out, much of it on dodgy home energy assessments. Labor’s solar hot water rebate scheme was scrapped, too, after yet more bungling, rorts and blowouts. Then there’s the carbon tax, an $8 billion-a-year hit on the economy that has killed jobs without making any detectable change to the temperature it’s supposed to lower.

Add the equally useless renewable energy target that forces us to use expensive “green” power at a cost to the average family of $102 a year.

And for what? The world’s temperature has not risen for 16 years, anyway.

This is all about the politics of seeming — seeming to be good by seeming to do something that only seems to make a difference to what only seems to be problem.

Palmer is right. It’s all for show and must go — not just the carbon tax and Labor’s $10 billion clean energy fund, both still protected by Labor and Greens senators, but the government’s Direct Action, too.

We need the money and the government surely does not need the grief.


Hard line on boats paying off: Morrison

NO people-smuggling venture had succeeded in landing asylum seekers on Australia for more than four months, the government says.

In the latest update on Operation Sovereign Borders, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday that vigorous border protection activities was deterring illegal boat arrivals, even into the post-monsoon period when weather conditions usually improve.

Mr Morrison said the practice of turning back unauthorised boats remained in effect.

"Anyone seeking to enter Australia illegally by boat will be faced with the same policies those who previously attempted illegal entry met," he said in a statement.

Mr Morrison said no one had reached Australia since December 19 and that continued this month. But 3351 on 47 boats arrived in April 2013 under the former Labor government.

The latest Operation Sovereign Borders operational update says there are now 1281 in the processing centre on Manus Island and 1177 on Nauru, making a total of 2458.

Another 1405 remain on Christmas Island. During the last week, eight asylum seekers were transferred to Nauru.

Seven unauthorised maritime arrival transferees were voluntarily returned to Iran.

Since Operation Sovereign Borders started on September 18, 220 asylum seekers have voluntarily returned to their home countries.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Anzac legend survives sneering sabotage

Piers Akerman

SOME of our younger veterans from East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict eras are concerned their stories are still submerged in the flood of memoirs from WWI and WWII. Their concern is understandable — but the tide is turning.

Friday they will march at the head of the Anzac Day procession through Sydney, and elsewhere, reminding us that those remaining veterans of earlier wars, and those who died in those conflicts, also defended our nation and its culture with the same vigour of purpose.

Next year there will be fewer WWII survivors at the muster and, with the draw-down of forces from Afghanistan, more of the newly-returned servicemen and women filling the ranks and acknowledging the thanks of a grateful population.

Despite the efforts of the legions of left-wing detractors who poured scorn and denigration upon the RSL and the Anzac tradition in the 60s and early 70s, new generations of Australians have made the effort to discover for themselves the Anzac legend and the values it represents.

The handful of pilgrims who once trekked to the chilly shores of Anzac Cove 50 years ago has swollen to such an extent that attendance has been subjected to a necessary ballot to ensure the ceremony is manageable and respectful.

That is one in the eye for all the protesters and propagandists who sneered at Anzac Day as an excuse for an orgy of drunken self-pity.

There are many reasons put forward for this dramatic reversal of Australian opinion but it is most likely that the left-wingers in the media who once claimed Anzac Day was an irrelevance were just wrong (as usual) and listening to themselves or the leftist views of mono-cultural ABC presenters bent on pushing the anti-Western views of their socialist comrades.

Importantly, the film Gallipoli, directed by the publicity-shy Peter Weir and co-written with very public playwright David Williamson, seems to have played a critical role in introducing post-baby boomer Australians to Anzac and defeating the misinformation fed through the Labor-led teachers union.

Weir, who had visited the Dardanelles four years before making the film, revealed in a speech to Washington’s Centre for Australian and New Zealand Studies in 2001 that the initial drafts of the script tried to include the referenda on conscription (defeated twice) but struggled with so much material.

He said the breakthrough came after reading historian C.E.W. Bean’s seminal work and his description of the battle at The Nek, on the heights above the beach. It was, he says, a disaster.

According to Bean, there was an inexplicable mistake in the synchronisation of watches held by the forward troops and those responsible for naval and land bombardment intended to blast the Turks out of the opposing trenches.

The shelling ended seven minutes before the planned 4.30am assault and the Turks were ready when the Anzacs appeared.

“The first line, which has started so confidently, has been annihilated in half a minute; and the others, having seen it mown down, realised fully that when they attempted to follow they would be instantly destroyed. Yet as soon as the first line had cleared the parapet, the second took its place … and exactly two minutes after the first had gone, without hesitation every man in the second line leapt forward into the tempest,” Bean wrote.

“Mate having said goodbye to mate, the third line took up its position.”

And there was to be a fourth line. “With that regiment went the flower of the youth of Western Australia, sons of the old pioneering families, youngsters — in some cases two and three from the same home — who had flocked to Perth at the outbreak of war with their own horses and saddlery. Men known and popular, the best loved leaders in sport and work in the West, then rushed to their deaths.

“Gresley Harper and Wilfred, his younger brother, the latter of whom was last seen running like a schoolboy in a foot race.’’

That tale from Bean’s Official History was to become the storyline of Weir’s film.

Some of the younger generation of moviegoers introduced to the Anzac story via Weir’s film may have gone to see the young stars Mel Gibson or Mark Lee but they emerged with a sense of the binding tradition that we, young and not-so-young, honour today.


Piers doesn't completely understand the popularity of ANZAC day among the young but I think I do.  It is popular because lots of people like to feel continuity with their past -- and traditions enable that.  But the Left have ripped many of our traditions to shreds so it is only a very strong tradition like ANZAC day that has survived.  So young people flock to one of the few  national traditions they have left.  The monarchy  is another such tradition and polls show big support for that among the young too  -- JR.

Starfish disease a hope for the Great Barrier Reef?

Even though seastars are the great enemy of the reef, the Greenies won't deliberately transfer the disease to Australian waters.  It would take away one of their scares.  But it could spread naturally.  We may get lots of yummy mussels out of it too.

Starfish have been mysteriously dying by the millions in recent months along the US west coast, worrying biologists who say the sea creatures are key to the marine ecosystem.

Scientists first started noticing the mass deaths in June 2013. Different types of starfish, also known as sea stars, were affected, from wild ones along the coast to those in captivity, according to Jonathan Sleeman, director of the US Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center.

'The two species affected most are Pisaster ochraceus (purple sea star or ochre starfish) and Pycnopodia helianthoides (sunflower sea star),' he wrote in a statement in December.

The sunflower sea star is considered among the largest starfish and can span more than a meter in diameter.

The most commonly observed symptoms are white lesions on the arms of the sea star. The lesions spread rapidly, resulting in the loss of the arm. Within days, the infection consumes the creature's entire body, and it dies.

Entire populations have been wiped out in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington state, in the Salish Sea off Canada's British Columbia as well as along the coast of California. The mortality rate is estimated at 95 percent.

'What we currently think is likely happening is that there is a pathogen, like a parasite or a virus or a bacteria, that is infecting the sea stars and that compromises in some way their immune system,' Pete Raimondi, chair of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told AFP.

Then, the creatures become more susceptible to bacteria which is "causing a secondary infection that causes most of the damages that you see.'

A barometer of sea health

The 2013 phenomenon has not been observed solely along the West Coast; a smaller outbreak also killed East Coast sea stars last year.

Previous cases were believed to be associated with warmer waters -- sea stars have sensitive skin and prefer cooler water -- but this was not the case in 2013.

And when the die-offs happened previously, the geographic span of the infections was much smaller, and far fewer sea stars were affected.

In 1983, an epidemic nearly wiped out the Pisaster ochraceus from tidal pools along the southern coast of California.

Another, smaller die-off in 1997 may have been caused by warmer waters in an El Nino year, scientists said.

Sea stars are important because 'they play a key role in this ecosystem on the West Coast,' Raimondi said.

Sea stars eat mussels, barnacles, snails, mollusks and other smaller sea life, so their health is considered a measure of marine life on the whole in a given area.

When sea stars decline in number, 'the mussel population has the potential to dramatically increase, which could significantly alter the rocky intertidal zone,' according to Sleeman.

While sea stars make up an important component of the base of the ocean food chain and are considered a top predator, they are in turn eaten by other starfish, shorebirds, gulls, and sometimes sea otters.

In an effort to find out what is causing the mass deaths, scientists are collecting reports from the public, taking specimens to the lab for analysis and doing genetic sequencing to find out whether a toxin or an infection may be to blame.


Raising tax revenue just to throw it away is no answer

From troubling deficit figures in recent budgets, to dire predictions of blowouts in health and ageing spending in the intergenerational reports, and Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson's warning of threats to our living standards, all signs are pointing to the upcoming budget as a crucial juncture for Australia's fiscal future.

It is now a cliche to say government must make "tough decisions" to solve Australia's short- and long-term budget sustainability problems. For many, such as former Treasury secretary Ken Henry, the Grattan Institute, and Greens leader Christine Milne, this is code for tax rises.

The solution to ending inefficient and wasteful spending is not to raise more money to throw away. It's to prioritise spending in the right areas and improve the efficiencies of government programs.

Indeed, raising taxes isn't a tough decision at all. There has hardly been a shortage of new or increased taxes in recent years. The previous Labor government introduced the mining tax and the carbon tax, increased the Medicare levy to help pay for the national disability insurance scheme and imposed an interim tax after the Queensland floods. It also increased excise on alcopops and tobacco.

Meanwhile, the Coalition won a solid majority at the last election despite supporting the NDIS levy and promising to raise company taxes to pay for its gold-plated paid parental leave scheme.

But raising taxes fails to address either the cause of the current budget deficits or the factors driving our future fiscal crisis.

Our budget problems have been largely caused by increased spending.

Over the past 10 years, real spending has outgrown gross domestic product by approximately 15 per cent, while real health spending alone increased by nearly 70 per cent in the decade to 2011-12.

We've also seen a steady increase in benefits for middle-class families through family tax benefits, childcare payments and education support.

In addition, the previous government committed to expensive new programs (such as the disability scheme and Gonski reforms) beyond the forward estimates.

Much of the recent increase in spending has been inefficient – for example, the pink batts fiasco – while wasteful spending in other areas, such as the billions provided in corporate welfare, has proceeded mostly unchecked.


Curbing this rampant government expenditure is even more important in the longer term. The burden of financing the increasing health costs of our ageing population will fall on a smaller proportion of workers.

Raising taxes on those workers only exacerbates the pressure on the system and further slows innovation and productivity growth.

Beyond the economic costs of higher taxes, increasing the tax take without bridging the intellectual chasm between the ever-increasing demands on government and what people are willing to pay for can only ever be a stop-gap arrangement. The solution is not getting people to pay their fair share but determining what the role of government should be.

The European experience of debt and deficit makes clear that a broad-based entitlement system cannot be funded by taxes on millionaires and the super-rich alone. It is the middle class that bears the increased tax burden and, according to the attitudes towards taxation measured by the 2012 Per Capita tax survey, the middle class have no desire to pay more tax.

Roughly half of respondents with a household income between $40,000 and $80,000 felt they paid too much tax, while 40 per cent said they paid about the right amount. For those with a household income between $100,000 and $150,000, more than 60 per cent felt they paid too much tax. Almost no one (1.2 per cent) thought they paid too little tax.

Yet there is also incredible resistance to reducing middle-class welfare, as objections from Labor, the Greens and others to recent proposals to introduce a modest Medicare co-payment show.

This suggests the real problem of the age of entitlement is not the truly needy but rather the relatively well-off who believe they pay too much tax, yet are owed government support.

Australia can maintain a welfare safety net for the truly needy and have the benefits of a low-taxing small-government system that encourages continued economic prosperity.

However, we can't do both and have an interventionist government providing widespread middle-class welfare. That isn't merely undesirable, it is unsustainable.

Instead, the path to sustainable government involves ending taxpayers propping up higher living standards for the relatively well-off.

This year's budget will be a success only if it starts this difficult process to save the nation's finances. Calling for tax rises instead is taking the easy way out.


No tears shed for backward taxi industry

Low cost 'taxi' service a danger to the public, furious taxi council says

Would you pay a random person to taxi you around? I did and this is what happened

The biggest business story today isn’t on the business pages. (Well, it wasn’t until now.) It’s Ben Grubb’s coverage of Uber’s disruptive technology threatening the very powerful, very well-connected taxi industry and the predictable reaction from those with billions of dollars to lose.

Following Grubb’s coverage of how Uber allows people to circumvent the highly regulated taxi monopoly with its layers of rent-seekers, the next step will be a test of the New South Wales Government’s integrity: will the new premier side with the consumer, competition, innovation and improved productivity  – or the vested interests of the industry incumbents and the government’s own existing revenue streams?

A very large amount of money is at stake. Using Deloitte Access Economics figures prepared for the Taxi Council (and therefore in keeping with the rich tradition of such commissioned consultants’ reports), there were 5,647 plates just in Sydney last year with each plate worth the better part of $400,000. Call it $2.2 billion. Then there’s Cabcharge, the biggest of the networks, with a market capitalisation of $480 million. Deloitte says annual NSW taxi revenue is $1.3 billion, there are 17,500 direct equivalent full time jobs and the industry generates $1.15 billion “in total value added” to the NSW economy. It also notes that the NSW government itself is the biggest lessor of taxi licenses with 600 under lease, providing the treasury with $20 million in annual revenue.

But it’s not just the money – it’s the connections. The taxi industry around the nation has specialised in ingratiating itself with both sides of politics. As a small public example, the industry’s heavyweight champion, Reg Kermode’s Cabcharge, donated generous six-figure amounts to Labor and Liberal alike, as has the Taxi Council. Cabcharge board and management appointments have had the occasional government flavour - Neville Wran the most obvious when he became a director with a gift of 250,000 shares. Coincidentally, Cabcharge has received gifts of effectively free taxi plates from the NSW government.

Interestingly, there’s family history for Premier Baird in those free Cabcharge plates. When his father, Bruce Baird, was Transport Minister in the Greiner government, he refused a department recommendation to gift the plates. When the Carr government was elected, they were handed over with all the attendant windfall profit.

Uber’s model of internet-enabled “ride sharing” threatens a lot of investment. Cabcharge’s share price has already been on the slide thanks to the snail’s-pace change to its 10 per cent surcharge on credit cards. (Another example of the industry’s power? The card companies – Visa, Mastercard, American Express – haven’t been game to take action over that unjustified surcharge after the Reserve Bank of Australia empowered them to do so.)

It’s predictable that the first reaction is to have taxi drivers complaining about unfair competition, but as various studies, such as Professor Alan Fels’ Victorian review have shown, the drivers are people most exploited by the industry structure. If there was greater clarity about where Uber intends to take its system, there’s every chance taxi drivers would be better off outside a system that’s constructed primarily to justify the price of the artificially created and maintained government licences.

Someone briefly wanting to hire a driver with a car should be a simple and reasonable basis for a business transaction, but it’s been turned into an inflated monster. I’m sure Deloitte’s effort for the Taxi Council didn’t mean to paint a picture of stuffed system, but try this:

“The NSW taxi industry operates under a co-regulatory model, where the NSW Government sets the standards, stipulates maximum fares, and issues licences and accreditations. The networks monitor and assist the Government in enforcing industry standards for operators, drivers and vehicles. The NSW Government also has a team of inspectors in the field monitoring compliance.”

And the government decides how many plates are issued, in consultation with the industry, of course.

Cabcharge and others who have taken the risk of investing in licences and a market that exists at the whim of government are far from alone. Google is one of the investors in Uber, putting US$250 million into the company last year as part of a transaction that valued it at US$3.6 billion. Google of course has played a major role in disrupting another old industry – newspapers. New technologies do that – but newspaper publishers can’t go running to governments demanding protection from that change.

Cutting out the layers of middlemen and women in the personal transport business would represent a considerable productivity gain. Those gains would come at the cost of the incumbents. Stopping Uber’s evolution would come at everyone else’s cost.

Standby for sob stories about people who have bought taxi plates and now risk losing some of their capital due to competition and new technology. If anyone cares, there are sob stories about people who invested in video rental shops, in lawn mower repair businesses, in newspapers. Anyone expecting to make a profit from an investment has to accept that there is a risk that they won’t.

The industry claims there are risks for drivers and passengers stepping outside its stranglehold, but there are risks staying in it.

So what’s the call, Mike Baird? Make a stand on free market principles and what’s best for the state and consumers, resisting the power of the taxi industry as your father did – or serve the vested interests of a powerful minority?

The comments piling up beneath Ben Grubb’s story appear a reasonable reflection of what the electorate thinks.


All power to the outsiders

Australians are increasingly making it clear that the major parties need to do better. To make their voices heard they have employed a very useful political resource — minor parties and independents.

While most adults competent to vote are not single-issue fanatics or extremists of any sort, many will admit that every now and then they vote for a minor party or an independent “to send a message”.

Voting for a minor player in this way is a valuable form of political speech. It tells your preferred party you’re unhappy without defecting to their enemies. And depending how the minor party vote is distributed, this form of protest can be quite articulate.

Thanks to our system of preferential compulsory voting few votes are wasted. Unlike the great democracies of Britain and the US, in Australia a vote for a third, fourth or even 20th candidate is not throwing your vote away. Like salmon swimming home against the tide, most votes will eventually find their way back to a viable candidate or group.

Occasionally a small party will win a seat, leading to cries of “unrepresentative” and demands to reform the voting process. There will be outraged examples given of this or that candidate being elected on some amount less than 1 per cent of the vote. Nobody will point out how few first-preference votes are cast for the individuals on a major party senate ticket. Or how few people can even name all the members of the major party upper house ticket they voted for.

Indeed, many senators and upper house members are placed directly by their parties without facing the electorate at all. Casual vacancies for these positions are decided by a handful of political insiders without any consultation with the voters whose “quota” they are exercising.

The proposal by ALP president Jenny McAllister to allow party members to choose the Senate and upper house tickets directly as the Greens do would be a major improvement for democracy.

At the moment the tickets for both Labor and Liberal are determined by a smaller group of people than vote for the Sex Party. Claims by the ALP party office that 800 conference delegates choose the party’s candidates are disingenuous, given the recommended order of candidates on the ballot against factional and seniority con­sid­erations is subject to intense negotiations before the conference. So while some micro parties are utterly unrepresentative, candidates from the major parties can be just as much of an unknown quantity to voters.

As the majors whip up concern about micro parties and independents in Western Australia, we should be sceptical that they have our best interests at heart. It may seem silly or even anti-democratic to allow sports lovers and sex enthusiasts a seat at the table but whatever the talent, ideas or philosophy of these minor players, they do one job much better than the majors: they provide a place to park your vote when you’re sick of being taken for granted. By themselves, it’s true, most of these candidates can’t claim to represent more than a small number of voters. But the combined votes of all these small parties and candidates add up to a lot of people who don’t feel like endorsing the government or opposition.

It has been said the collecting together of all these diverse minor candidates’ votes through preference deals makes any resulting winner suspect because of the tiny number of first-preference votes. Maybe so. But it’s still true a large number of voters have been clear that they don’t want to endorse business as usual.

While it has been pointed out by some commentators that independents provide an excellent receptacle for a protest vote, it’s less often celebrated that independent members can make a strong contribution to good government.

As a policy adviser, I worked regularly with independents in the NSW parliament to secure their votes for bills. I also dealt with them daily as assistant to the leader of the house. I found independents Tony Windsor, Peter Macdonald and Clover Moore courteous and intelligent, and committed to their electorates.

Over 10 years in the house I worked with Shooters including the gentlemanly John Tingle, an MP committed to A Better Future for Our Children, an Outdoor Recreator, country independents and Christian Democrats.

While not all were candidates for Australian of the Year, most were the equal of their average major party adversaries.

In some cases the independents even outperformed their major party colleagues in delivering value for NSW. Under the Greiner government independents had a balance of power.

John Hatton, Moore and Macdonald negotiated four-year parliamentary terms, a referendum on independence of the judiciary, the creation of a parliamentary estimates committee and whistleblower protection for public servants.

Hatton led the campaign, supported by Labor, for the royal commission into the NSW Police Service exposing corrupt elements in the force including Chook Fowler, Trevor Haken and “the laugh”.

Like most people, I struggle to see Wayne Dropulich in the shoes of Hatton. It’s also true that Hatton, like Moore and Macdonald, had a large popular vote so the kinds of changes that would exclude the Sports Party would likely not deny the world another Hatton. But that depends entirely on how the reforms are done.

Following the so-called “tablecloth ballot” of 1999, NSW parliament created laws to make it much harder to form a minor party.

One can argue a group of people should genuinely represent a large group before they run a candidate. But it’s also true that under these rules more members will be part of a block of party votes and fewer will be voting issue by issue according to research and conscience.

As a staffer I spent hundreds of hours talking to independents, trying to win their support for particular bills on the merits. For Labor, Liberal and the Greens I met the single representative who would instruct their party colleagues how to vote.

Many of the independents were eccentric but fewer than you might think were lazy, stupid or out of touch with community attitudes.

Their presence promoted intellectual and ethical discipline because they ensured there was always a handful of votes that had to be won with argument and community endorsements.

Changes to the current rules will likely not be designed to raise the bar intellectually or ethically but to protect the existing oligarchy.

This oligarchy, of course, now includes the Greens, who have reportedly complained about micro parties “gaming” the system.

It makes me recall Bob Brown’s comment: “We’re not here to keep the bastards honest — we’re here to replace them.”

The political oligopolists accuse the little guys of dirty tricks and maybe they’re not undeserving of all criticism. But we need to keep a close eye on how the incumbent political class set the rules for their competitors.

The Greens themselves grew from small beginnings as a micro party. Pirates and Liberal Democrats represent significant constituencies in other countries and may one day have a legitimate future here too.

That should be for voters to decide — not the present political elites.


Thursday, April 24, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is pleased that we seem to have a responsible government at last

Treasurer Joe Hockey outlines areas facing cuts in May 13 budget

JOE Hockey has stepped up his argument for urgent cuts to major spending programs in the May 13 federal budget, declaring that all Australians will carry the burden of reform.

Revealing key findings from the Commission of Audit into federal finances, the Treasurer has warned that deep cuts will be essential to balance the budget.

Mr Hockey used a speech in Sydney tonight to outline some of the audit findings as well as his ambition to scale back the deficit and post a surplus by at least 2024.

Seeking to manage expectations when he releases the four-volume Commission of Audit report next week, Mr Hockey said some of the 86 recommendations would be rejected outright and others given “further consideration” over time.

The report would be a “useful framework” rather than a “quick fix” to be adopted in full, the Treasurer said.

“There will be difficult decisions, but all Australians must help to do the heavy lifting,” Mr Hockey told a forum hosted by The Spectator magazine in Sydney.  “It will not be acceptable for a few to make the major sacrifices on behalf of the rest of us.

“The fiscal consolidation program that we reveal in the budget will establish a clear path back to a surplus of 1 per cent of GDP by 2024.  “But I want to emphasise that the May budget will not be the end of our efforts, it will only be the start.

“There will be numerous cases where our policy principles can only be implemented over time. Not every decision crucial for budget repair will be made on budget night. However, we will make a significant start.”

One key finding in the Commission of Audit is the scale of government spending, which has risen over 40 years from around $6000 per person to over $15,000 per person when adjusted for inflation, Mr Hockey said.

Mr Hockey said the Commission of Audit report would be released on May 1.

The Treasurer argued for major spending cuts on the basis that outlays will spiral out of control without hard action now.  On current trends, assuming no cap on spending, outlays will swell to 26.5 per cent of GDP by 2024.

Much of this would come from the 15 largest spending programs, which are also the fastest growing.  These include the age pension, the disability support pension, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, aged care, education, hospitals, foreign aid and the national disability insurance scheme.

“To put it simply – our biggest costs are also our fastest growing,” Mr Hockey said.

Tax receipts will not grow fast enough to make up for spending burden, according to a “business as usual” scenario that forecasts big deficits in every year to 2024 and possibly beyond.

“It is a recipe for disaster to never even get to surplus despite having a foundation of 32 years of continuous economic growth, which would arguably be the longest continuous period of growth anywhere in the world since the Second World War,” Mr Hockey said.

The Treasurer’s message came with new figures on the likely load on taxpayers who will gradually move into higher tax brackets as inflation increases their salaries but the government is unable to afford any tax cuts.

An extra 3 million taxpayers will have taxable income above the $80,000 threshold in ten years from now according to the audit commission scenario, lifting their marginal tax rates from 37 to 45 cents in the dollar.

Turning his sights on individual spending programs, the Treasurer named the age pension and aged care as key concerns as the population grows older and young workers have to bear the burden of large welfare programs.

Mr Hockey appeared to question the value of the tax concessions offered to superannuation – worth more than $30bn last year – by noting that most retirees fall back on the pension anyway.

“Despite spending billions of dollars in taxation benefits for superannuation, by 2050 the ratio of Australians receiving a full or part pension will still be around four out of five,” he said.

“On top of this, aged care is now the eighth largest category of spending. We spend more on aged care than we do on higher education or child care.

“And the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is the tenth largest category of spending. Nearly 80 per cent of the Scheme’s expenditure is attributable to concessional recipients.”

Mr Hockey made it clear each of these would be tackled in the budget because of the looming impact of the ageing population.

“So the policies must be changed, either now or more dramatically in the future.”


Bob Hawke and Paul Keating’s brutal verdict on the Rudd-Gillard years

BOB Hawke and Paul Keating have given a blistering assessment of Labor in power under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and warned that retrograde policies, ineffective communication, divisive class warfare and a lack of conviction will keep the party out of office if not urgently addressed.

The two former Labor prime ministers have urged the party to undertake radical reform to ­reduce the power of unions and factions, steer policy back to the centre ground and heed the ­lessons of the often chaotic and dys­functional Rudd-Gillard gov­­ern­ments. They argue that Labor must undertake structural reform to curtail union influence over policy, candidates and the party organisation.

For the first time, the two Labor elders say the party must slash the 50 per cent weighting given to unions at state confer­ences — a reform Bill Shorten this week ignored. “The reality is that the unions are now only a small percentage of workers,” Mr Hawke said. “They should still have a right to be affiliated with the party but they should not have an undue influence.”

He wants the 50 per cent quota for union delegations to conferences reduced. “I think that’s an undue weighting in the world in which we live today,” he said.

Mr Keating said: “I’ve always been in favour of a much more representative Labor conference structure, reflecting the participation by earnest people truly interested in the Labor Party rather than the blocs of people at conferences representing union members. As the level of unionisation has dropped in the workplace, so too should the representation at conferences drop.”

The exclusive interviews with the two former Labor prime ministers, Mr Hawke (1983-91) and Mr Keating (1991-96), are included in a new book, Rudd, Gillard and Beyond, published next week. Mr Keating said the party’s membership had become so “limited” and “confected” that it was unrepresentative of the community. As the authority of members has diminished, he said the power of party officials had increased. This had been “brutally bad” for Labor.

He said party officials have “an unerring sense of what they believe is right” and “lord it over the parliamentary party” to get their way. “The rot had set in to the federal organisation of the Labor Party when the state party secretaries raised their reasonably ugly heads” in the 1990s.

Mr Keating said the last Labor government struggled to define its purpose in a compelling narrative and failed to balance the political and policy work needed for successful long-term governments. “Kevin’s government was doing reasonably badly reasonably quickly,” Mr Keating said.

He argued that the global ­financial crisis “gave the government purpose” and it responded appropriately.  “After the crisis, or the immediacy of the crisis, it started fraying again.

“There was a sense of urgency which guided the big reform agenda in the 1980s and ‘90s. We knew what we wanted to do. We wanted to create a modern, efficient, outward-looking economy. You have to conceptualise the big reform ideas into a framework.”

Mr Keating said he told Mr Rudd in July last year, after he returned to the prime ministership, that Labor had to reclaim the model of governance that he and Mr Hawke had pioneered in the 80s and 90s.

“That was a model which ­fostered economic growth, which put a high premium on social ­equity and justice, which fathomed a way of us, as Australians, tying ourselves competitively to the East Asian economic renaissance,” he said. “What happened is that the public had fallen out of love with the Labor Party organisationally and as a government, Rudd’s demise being part of that, but they hadn’t fallen out of love with the model.”

Mr Hawke is critical of Labor for promulgating class warfare for political gain and criticised the development of the mining tax. “That sort of class-warfare rhetoric never resonates with me,” he said. “The simple truth about good government is that you need to have good relations with both sides of an industry, workers and business, not just one side.”

Mr Keating also spoke about the need for party leaders to win support from voters and work with business and unions to implement a reform agenda that was in the national interest. “We had to be able to garner the authority of the caucus and the wider Labor Party and trade union movement to make these kind of changes,” he said.

The problem Labor often had, Mr Keating said, was a lack of belief. “Leaders proselytising policies without deep inner belief in the end fail. Policies can’t be picked up like pretty boxes at a gift shop. They have to come from the innards of the politics.”

Both former prime ministers said the party was failing to recruit candidates with a diversity of life experience. “The organis­ational leadership has always got to look around for the people who are different and who have talent, spot it and help them through the party,” Mr Keating said.

Assessing the Rudd-Gillard legacy, Mr Hawke said the party needed to be “brutal” in its assessment and acknowledge that they “didn’t deserve to win” the September election. “They just distracted themselves with internecine strife.”

Mr Hawke said it was inevitable Mr Rudd would be toppled by Ms Gillard in 2010 “because he just wanted to run so much of things single-handedly” and a reaction against that was inevitable.

Both said that despite the many problems, there were policies that Labor could be proud of after six years in government. While Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard “deserved to lose”, Mr Hawke said, they “achieved a lot of good Labor things”.

But Mr Keating said it was wrong for Ms Gillard to challenge Mr Rudd for the leadership.

“I don’t think Kevin Rudd should have been replaced in 2010,” he said. “Leaders often have low to mid-points in a term. The party, I think, should have stuck with him through that.”


What a load of Brit: UK-born killer Barry Whiteoak wins ‘racist’ compensation case

A CONVICTED murderer and rapist has won damages after a tribunal found he was racially discriminated against in jail — because he is British.

Taxpayers funded the six-year marathon which cost up to $100,000 and prompted a NSW Legal Aid review of similar foreign-born cases that are pending.

Barry Whiteoak’s victory after he was stripped of prison perks like opportunities for day release for being a British “lawful non-citizen” won him $500 in compensation which will go straight to the Victims Support Fund for victims of crime.

Whiteoak, 66, has been ­behind bars since 1983 when he stabbed and strangled nurse Noreen Hannon in September 1983of that year.

At the time he forced himself into the 25-year-old nurse’s flat he was already on parole for a 1980 rape, a crime he committed while on parole for indecently assaulting a woman at knifepoint in 1978, seven years after he arrived from the UK.

Ms Hannon’s then-boyfriend, Michael Maher, said yesterday “the whole thing is crazy”.

“It is an absolute disgrace when people who have genuine cases can’t get Legal Aid but these guys can,” Mr Maher said.

“He is a serial rapist and murderer who should have no rights in prison, never mind the right to bring this case and we have had to pay for it.”

NSW Legal Aid boss Bill Grant said: yesterday pledged to review similar cases on his books. “We will be reviewing the utility of cases like this to see if they are appropriate ways of spending scarce Legal Aid resources.” CEO Mr Grant said.

It is understood that Legal Aid initially funded the case ­because it involved “a fundamental legal principle” but the loophole had been closed even before the case got into a tribunal.

Whiteoak ’s life sentence for murdering Ms Hannon was redetermined to a minimum of 15 years in 1994. He had been refused bail a number of times until in August, 2008, the Department of Immigration cancelled his permanent residency visa, ­ensuring his deportation back to his native Yorkshire.

Whiteoak launched his ­racial discrimination case in December, 2008, after Corrective Services imposed a blanket ban on lawful non-citizens like himself being classified a C3, which allows them to apply for day and work release and other perks.

“It is discrimination because the policy decisions are treating me differently to what an Australian citizen is treated,’’ Whiteoak told the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

He argued the decision to cancel his permanent residency was “based solely on the fact I am a British subject in jail and not my offensive behaviour’’.

The convicted killer asked the tribunal to “use all the powers available ... to persuade and or force the Corrective Services to change (my) classification back.’’

After a number of hearings, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which now incorporates the ADT, ruled this month that Corrective Services had racially discriminated against him under the Anti-Discrimination Act.

EVERY time Yorkshireman Barry Whiteoak has been freed from an Australian jail he has claimed a new victim.  He arrived as a 20-year-old and, by the age of 27, was behind bars for an indecent assault at knifepoint in which he told his victim: “It would be easy to carve you up.”


New NSW Premier criticised for not agreeing with the left's social agenda

The left media has jumped to the conclusion new NSW Premier Mike Baird is unusual because he married young and doesn’t agree with their pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, anti-Christian agenda.

Baird is the son of former Howard era Liberal MP Bruce Baird who was previously a NSW Government minister.

But don't let the surname fool you. They are quite different men.

Have a read of a few of the profile pieces published on Baird in the last few days and notice the common theme.

The Guardian’s Bridie Jabour:

He voted against allowing same-sex couples to adopt in 2010, opposed a stem cell research bill and was one of the members of the legislative assembly to vote in favour of “Zoe’s law”, which opponents have seen as a threat to abortion laws in NSW.

..his opposition to same-sex marriage is on the record. .. he said: "I don't in any way see that as a degradation or a reduction in rights for those who are choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle. But for me, marriage [is] a man and a woman and I think that preserving that, and the legacy and history of that, is important."

A Fairfax got the same dot points:

…another potential minefield for Baird as Premier - his conservative social values.

Asked if he ''still believed that homosexuality is a lifestyle decision'' Baird was left visibly stunned. The question served as a reminder that attention will be drawn to Baird's conservative position on issues such as same-sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research.

Phillipa McDonald of the ABC has similar concerns:

While he says little of his conservative views, the new premier is on the record as being against same sex-marriage, and he has voted against against embryonic stem cell research.

How his religious views will play out in practise in the state's top job will be watched closely by many.

Mr Baird says he lives by a mantra of integrity, passion and results. Among those he looks up to are William Wilberforce, who was a driving force for the abolition of slavery; Martin Luther King Jnr; and the former and longest-serving NSW governor, Sir Roden Cutler, who was awarded a Victoria Cross for bravery.

Conservative or even Christian values might not sit well with some – but they still are shared by a majority of people in this country – just maybe not in the majority of newsrooms.


Urban war zones Fairfax won't cover...

If you buy that Left wing rag they call The Age (Fairfax) don’t expect to read about stuff they don’t want you to read about. Particularly if it’s to do with Islamic “refugees”. Riots are happening right outside The Age’s front door, but still no reporters available. Have they an allergy to anything Islamic? 

From a regular reader:

Hi Larry.  Just wanting to know if anyone else witnessed and experienced the mayhem on Sydney Rd Brunswick on Easter Saturday. We were out celebrating for Easter when it we decided it was time to head home so weren't so tired for Sunday mass. The 4 of us just left the restaurant and were heading down Sydney Rd towards COBURG when we passed through Albion St and noticed red & blue lights and thought may have been a booze bus or minor accident.

The closer we came we noticed a big gathering of over 180-200 if not more Black Africans angry as hell armed with weapons such as broken glass bottles batons baseball bats and  metal bars and a machete. We just saw packs of 70 and more chasing each other of equal numbers, was quite frightening for my fellow passengers thinking this was in Africa or some Arab land.

We did see quite a few Lebanese Muslim youths running away. Well over 200 and more Black Africans on the side we were on so we decided to do a u turn because the car was going to get damaged. Why wasn't this reported on media? Is it just to cover up how really bad the problem is in Melbourne and with Muslim African Arabs.

From another reader: Hi Larry,  I keep wondering who has gagged our media and government to such an extent that they won’t report Islamic immigrants doing the most heinous of crimes because it will put them in a bad light. I don't know what’s going on with the Sudanese people but even the cops in QLD are worried as their numbers are growing and they have absolutely no respect or fear of our laws. Again this was blocked from being reported on New Year’s Eve.

But Fairfax and the ABC are all over any story where an Islamist is attacked!