Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dancing to a union tune in the senate

THERE’S a long-held view that lunacy prevails across the nation from Melbourne Cup Day to Australia Day.

The antics of erratic PUP senator Jacqui Lambie, Motoring Enthusiast Ricky Muir, independent Nick Xenophon, independent (formerly DLP) John Madigan and Labor’s Sam Dastyari would seem to confirm this.

In an extravagant example of populist grandstanding, this combination (backed by the Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson) managed on Wednesday to retrospectively undermine small financial advisory businesses across the country and prop up the huge trade union super funds and the big banks which would otherwise have had their activities reined in.

So much for Lambie, Muir, Xenophon, Madigan and Whish-Wilson’s claims to be champions of the little people, society’s underdogs.

As for Dastyari, who propped up former MP Craig Thomson and was allied to the notorious NSW ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid, he remains a tool of the union movement.

Hundreds of thousands of older Australians rely on superannuation for income and many more will in the next decade as the baby boomers take retirement.

Most depend on the big banks and the big industry funds for their retirement advice but, unbeknown to them, the bank and super fund advisers have merely been peddling their own institutions’ financial products — not looking across the marketplace for the best investments that would work for their customers.

Their loyalty has not been to the punters but to their own bosses — self-interest wins every time.

The Coalition went to the election promising to take on the vested interests — the union funds and the banks — empowering retirees and also strengthening the case for independent financial advisers.

The Labor legislation then in place favoured the banks and the big union superfunds which, naturally, were loaded with highly paid union stalwarts.

The superfunds have paid Labor back generously — even to the extent of bankrolling a left-wing website The New Daily with an initial $3 million to launch the beast and a further $3 million to keep the non-performing Labor propaganda site afloat.

Technically it was possible to change the status quo by regulation — and the senate had voted twice to do so before the amendments took effect on July 1, 2014.

It was these amendments to the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) legislation that the senate voted to disallow on Wednesday after heavy lobbying from Industry Super Australia and the big banks.

Labor, the Greens, Lambie and the two independents have now undone provisions which would have ensured the requirement for financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients remained in the legislation in full.

They have removed the ban on conflicted remuneration — the bar on incompatible commissions — and they have added to the tangle of red tape that those attempting to come to grips with their retirement incomes have to deal with.

Nationals senator John “Wacka” Williams, who has been relentless in his pursuit of reckless and criminal financial advisers who have ripped off consumers, provided a good analogy when he argued for retirees and against the wreckers during the debate.

He said the big problem in financial advice is what is called “vertical integration”.

He asked the senators to imagine he was Ford salesman who has been approached by a male customer with a wife and six children who needed a vehicle.

If, he said, he had the obligation to sell a vehicle that was in the customer’s best interests he might find he didn’t have the right product but he would try and sell the customer a Ford — because he was working for Ford.

“I would not say to you: ‘Go down to Toyota. They have got a Tarago, it seats eight, it is a good safe vehicle, it is economical. That would be the best vehicle for you’. I am working for Ford: they pay my way; I am going to try to sell you a Ford.

“That is what happens in the financial planning industry. The big six — the big four banks, Macquarie Private Wealth and AMP — basically run the industry.

“Their planners work for them. And it is likewise in the financial industry when you wish to invest your money or your self-managed super fund or whatever.

“They are going to tell you to invest in one of their products — but it may not be the best product in your case or in your circumstances.”

It’s not that difficult to understand. The banks and the big super companies offer their advisers a wage and their advisers offer their companies’ products.

The Greens are innately contradictory and illogical. It’s easy to understand why they would vote against a consumer friendly measure.

The PUPs supported the amendments, but Lambie has now broken with them — and her vote is one of childish spite.

Labor was rewarding the unions again. More could have been expected of Xenophon and Madigan.

At least you know who to hold responsible for increased super charges, added red tape, and the destruction of small independent financial advisory companies


IMMIGRATION Minister granted broad new powers

Scott Morrison has been granted broad new powers to cancel visas to non-citizens who commit crimes.

IMMIGRATION Minister Scott Morrison has been granted broad new powers to cancel or refuse visas to non-citizens who commit crimes in Australia.

THE Senate on Wednesday passed legislation that broadens the existing grounds for not passing a character test and lowers the threshold for the cancellation of temporary visas for non-citizens.
Labor supported the bill, but urged the immigration minister to use his new powers as outlined by the legislation.

Assistant immigration minister Michaelia Cash said the federal government had low tolerance of criminal behaviour by non-citizens.

"Entry and stay in Australia by non-citizens is a privilege, not a right," she told the chamber on Wednesday.

"The Australian community expects that the Australian government can and should refuse entry to non-citizens or cancel their visas if they do not abide by Australian laws."

A person can now fail the character test if there's a "reasonable suspicion" - not a conviction - for involvement in crime gangs, people smuggling, genocide, war crimes, torture or slavery.

Anyone who has one or multiple jail sentences adding up to 12 months - down from two years - or has an adverse ASIO assessment of child sex charges can also fail automatically.

The minister can cancel or refuse a visa to anyone who fails the character test.

The Australian Greens opposed the legislation, warning it gave unprecedented powers to the minister and risked breaching fundamental human rights.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young described it is as another "power grab" by Mr Morrison.

"Why on earth he thinks he needs more powers is beyond me," she said.

"Give him an inch and he'll take a mile."


Queensland racks up smallest deficit in seven years

Under conservatives

THE Newman Government has chalked up the smallest fiscal deficit since 2006-07, the latest Report on State Finances has revealed.

The predicted deficit for 2013-14 shrunk from more than $6 billion to $2.58 billion after the Government kept a lid on expenses and received $1.5 billion in disaster funding earlier than expected.

“Despite the good outcomes in this report, the changes we’ve made are just the beginning of the work that needs to be done,’’ Treasurer Tim Nicholls said.

“Our expenses are now under control but at the same time we’ve been able to dramatically reduce surgery waiting times, we’ve eliminated the long wait dental list, we’re building new schools and upgrading roads.

“The debt level remains a problem for us with debt per person still at the highest level of any state and it’s clear that even with the most prudent financial management we can only make small inroads into that debt.

“Our Strong Choices plan is the next step in significantly reducing the debt and funding the job-creating infrastructure our growing state needs.”

Meanwhile, Premier Campbell Newman has described his government as a “grown-up” one with more to do in his final ministerial statement to State Parliament for the year, and potentially his last before the next state election.

In an address aimed squarely at voters, Mr Newman told the House while not every decision his government had made had been easy or popular, he believed all had been necessary.

“We are all working relentlessly together to take this State forward, to give Queenslanders everything they deserve and expect from a grown-up State Government,” he said.

“We are working hard for Queenslanders, and I stress today the job is not complete.

“Some of the actions we have taken have been difficult and I acknowledge some have not been easy for many people in our community.

“But all have been necessary. Necessary to deal with the challenges we face as we rebuild Queensland, as we position our state so we can face the years ahead with confidence, with strength and the ability to seize the opportunity of a better future for all Queenslanders.”

It comes a week after an exclusive Galaxy poll conducted for The Courier-Mail revealed that while Mr Newman’s personal approval rating had improved, Labor has gained ground on the LNP since the last survey in August.

The parties are now locked neck-and-neck ahead of next year’s election — 50-50 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis.


Fact check: Chris Bowen scaremongering on return of old-style commissions for financial advisers

The claim: Chris Bowen says the Government's changes to financial advice laws will bring back the type of commissions that encouraged financial advisers to recommend risky investments.

    The verdict: The proposed changes will only apply to some forms of general advice. They do not bring back old-style commissions.

Commentary around the Federal Government's proposed changes to financial advice laws suggests the financial planning and advice industry is about to return to the bad old days when retirees lost their life savings in dodgy investments that paid big commissions to their advisers. But is that really the case?

In 2011, the former Labor government introduced the "Future of Financial Advice" (FOFA) reforms after a series of financial collapses. It turned out that many investors were given inappropriate advice by financial advisers who were motivated by big hidden commissions.

Some in the industry suggested Labor's reforms went too far and in response, the Coalition promised during the election campaign to amend FOFA. In January 2014 the Abbott Government released draft legislation and regulations for consultation, and on March 19 it presented revised legislation to Parliament. The process has since been paused for further consultation.

Labor opposes the changes. On March 25, Opposition treasury spokesman Chris Bowen told Parliament that the original reforms had been introduced in response to collapses such as Westpoint, Trio and Storm Financial.

"The commissions being paid for the advice to invest in Westpoint amounted, on average, to 10 per cent of the amount invested," Mr Bowen said. "And this Government thinks that's just fine. This Government wants to bring back laws which would enable that to happen..."

Will the Government's proposals allow the reintroduction of the type of commissions that were paid to advisers who recommended Westpoint and Trio investments or advisers employed by Storm Financial?

    The claim: Chris Bowen says the Government's changes to financial advice laws will bring back the type of commissions that encouraged financial advisers to recommend risky investments.
    The verdict: The proposed changes will only apply to some forms of general advice. They do not bring back old-style commissions.

General and personal financial advice

There are two types of financial advice - general and personal. The difference between them is that general advice is given without taking into account the client's objectives, financial situation or needs.

A regulatory guide issued by the corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), requires that in the case of general advice, the adviser must warn the client at the outset that they are giving general advice and that "the advice has been prepared without taking into account their objectives, financial situation or needs". The guide says that the advice will automatically become personal advice if the adviser considers the client's relevant circumstances when preparing and giving that advice. ASIC says the adviser "cannot avoid this by giving a general advice warning".

Many situations fall under the general advice description, ranging from general discussions with bank customer service staff to product brochures and advertisements.

Phil Anderson, the chief operating officer of the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA), one of the two largest associations of financial advisers, says that general advice could be telling a customer that "typically younger superannuation fund members will invest in shares as they generate the highest long term returns".

A spokeswoman for AMP, which operates one of the largest financial advice networks in Australia and New Zealand, suggests that general advice could even "be Shane Oliver [AMP's chief economist] talking about market conditions".


Friday, November 28, 2014

Children in detention: protesters harass the people solving the problem

A passive-aggressive civil disobedience movement has been underway in Australia for months with activists occupying the offices of federal Coalition ministers and refusing to leave. They demand to be arrested. They use social media to demonstrate their civil sacrifice.

The occupiers have started carrying children's soft toys, as a signal of their noble intent.

They think that caring about children in detention is self-evidently good and pure and noble. Members of the Uniting Church have been foremost in the more sanctimonious aspects of these displays.

The occupying movement is called Love Makes A Way. However, when it really mattered, when the problem of children in detention was getting out of hand, when nearly 2000 kids were locked up and others had drowned at sea, when the federal Labor government was opening detention camps all over Australia, then announced a hell-hole in Papua New Guinea, there was no occupying movement, complete with soft toys.

It wasn't until the problem was being solved, and the peak number of 1992 children in detention, reached in the middle of 2013, had been slashed in half by the incoming Coalition government, that the sit-ins started.

Yet there were no sit-ins while Labor was opening detention centres in Inverbrackie, Pontville, Wickham Point, Curtin, Scherger, Yongah Hill, Blaydin Point, Darwin Airport Lodge, Berrimah House, Adelaide, Brisbane and Port Augusta, after filling Christmas Island, which it had called a "white elephant" to overflow.

Thousands of beds were installed, thousands of strands of razor wire were installed, 50,000 people were placed in detention, including 8000 children. No government offices were occupied by church activists.

The Coalition government then quickly stopped the flow of undocumented arrivals, and started closing detention centres, and reduced the number of detained children by 75 per cent on Christmas Island, and by more than 50 per cent in the rest of the system, and is preparing to release the rest of the children into the community when required legislation has been passed.

Labor and the Greens created a problem which simply did not exist when Labor won power in 2007. Their moral grandstanding led directly to the deaths of more than 1000 people, the incarceration of 50,000, the re-emergence of a gouging people-smuggling trade, a quagmire in the Australian legal system, and a $10 billion burden on the federal budget.

Because the electorate was profoundly opposed to the idea of open borders – the tacit policy of the Greens that they refuse to admit – the Labor government had to institute the worst-of-both worlds, a deterrence policy and an enormously expensive admissions process which let most undocumented arrivals into the country anyway.

So why was this national disgrace not a matter of civil disobedience? Why is the government – which released close to 1000 children from detention – being condemned for a problem it did not create and is quickly solving?

So far the offices of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, federal ministers Scott Morrison and  Julie Bishop, assistant ministers Michaelia Cash and Jamie Briggs, along with the office of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, have been occupied.

Those who are occupying offices and demanding to be arrested are presumably not idiots. They must know that the placement of hundreds of children into care is a large-scale bureaucratic process. It takes months, and most of the children speak no English.

Caring about children in detention is laudatory. The activists of Love Makes A Way are to be commended for caring and for doing something about it. But I find their belated, selective, passive-aggressive, toy-brandishing, arrest-me, social-media grandstanding to be nauseating. The people who are busy solving the problem are being harassed and blamed.

Labor was hopelessly wrong on this issue both coming into power and going out. It mocked the Coalition's policies to solve the problem. The electorate did not. So successful has the Abbott government been in stopping the boats and reducing the numbers in detention that it has ceased to be an issue of national debate.

The antics of what I regard as Hypocrisy Will Find A Way – which just happens to be targeting a conservative government – affords an opportunity to look at the numbers and commend the federal government for staunching, defusing and dismantling the national detention disgrace. It has done so with quite remarkable speed, given how overwhelmed the Rudd-Gillard government was in fixing the mess it so methodically created.


Controversy over foreigners buying Australian real-estate

After all the hearings and submissions, the House of Representatives Economics Committee Report on Foreign Investment in Residential Real Estate boils down to this sentence on page 86:

"Conflicting evidence has been received by this inquiry, although on balance it is the committee's view that the benefits of foreign investment outweigh the negatives."

It might seem a little odd that this bottom line doesn't feature in the "four key findings that translate into 12 practical recommendations" listed in committee chair Kelly O'Dwyer's introduction to the report, but followers of Yes, Minister  - the British documentary series on the nature of government – would not be surprised.

There is a need for politicians to be seen to be doing something about "barbeque stopper" issues, particularly if such an issue is in danger of becoming socially divisive, is being whipped along by the government's tabloid media of choice and is causing some angst in the government's electoral heartland.

So it is with the suggestion that "foreigners" (code word for "Asians") are invading Australia not via leaky boats, but through real estate agents – buying up vast tracts of Australian housing, pushing affordability through the roof, pricing "real" Australians out of the market and thus denying them their birthright of the Great Australian Dream.

Ms O'Dwyer doesn't spell it out quite that clearly in her introduction, but she goes close:

    "Owning your own home is part of the great Australian Dream. For many it represents the opportunity to build a future, it represents connection with community and security for family.

    "Buying into the Australian Dream doesn't come cheap. According to a recent International Monetary Fund, the current ratio of housing prices in Australia to average incomes is 31.6% above the historical average.

    "Is it any wonder then, that many Australians now worry that home ownership may be out of reach for them, for their children, or for their grandchildren? At the same time, Australians worry about rental and interest costs, and their impacts on the cost of living.

    "There is no one simple explanation for the decline in housing affordability – although lack of land supply, underdevelopment, state planning laws and regulations, local council red tape, and stamp duty and tax arrangements likely all play a part.

    "Over the years, however, many in the community have asked the question – what role does foreign investment play in residential real estate?"

And so, to be seen to be doing something and in keeping with the sage advice of never holding an inquiry without knowing what it will find, Joe Hockey commissioned an inquiry, giving O'Dwyer's committee the task of doing something.

The four key findings amount to the discovery that the government lacks  detailed knowledge about just how much real estate is owned by whom and that the Foreign Investment Review Board probably has not been enforcing the existing perfectly adequate rules.

So, the recommendations include for the establishment of a national register of land title transfers to include citizenship and residency status of all purchasers – something the Nationals and Alan Jones have been after for some years.

(And such a register could make for interesting reading for all sorts of reasons for all sorts of people if it insists on drilling down to beneficial ownership.)

The committee wants FIRB to have access to Immigration Department information on the departure of visa holders, to be across all foreign purchases and to enforce the existing rules.

To finance this large increase in FIRB's workload, the committee proposes a user-pays application fee of $1,500 for foreign purchases. The Parliamentary Budget Office suggests that would raise about $159 million over four years.

O'Dwyer's introduction manages to include the standard few gratuitous swipes at the previous Labor governments, corrects speculation about free trade agreements having an impact on residential impact and supports the adequacy of our existing regulations.

So there, something has been seen to be done, foreign buyers should be reassured as the nation needs their investment to encourage more building and the real conclusion about the impact on housing affordability is what everyone already knew – maybe a little at the margin, but not enough to worry about it.


Green Party leader trying to hang on to renewable energy target

Greens leader Christine Milne has reached out to key crossbench senators to try to save the renewable energy target.

Senator Milne has sent three personalised letters to RET fence-sitters Jacqui Lambie, Nick Xenophon and Ricky Muir, detailing the impact scaling back the target would have on their states.

In one letter, she appeals to fellow Tasmanian, Senator Lambie, to help drive investment in renewable energy or face "economic pain, higher unemployment and social dislocation".

Senator Lambie has pushed for hydro to be included in the RET, claiming the target disproportionately affects Tasmanians - who predominantly run on hydro-electricity.

"I fear you have been misled by industries that have a financial interest in destroying Tasmania's emerging industries," Senator Milne writes.

The government wants to slash the target of 41,000 gigawatt hours to about 27,000, claiming that figure will represent 27 per cent of energy use by 2020 instead of the bipartisan level of 20 per cent.

Senator Milne's letters, obtained by AAP, follow a crossbench plan to include existing hydro and solar projects in the RET.

The proposal - spearheaded by Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm - would mean no significant new investment in renewable energy would be needed to meet the target.

It comes amid industry uncertainty prompted by a breakdown in major party negotiations.

Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer - with two Senate seats - is committed to maintaining the target, leaving Senator Muir and Senator Xenophon as crucial votes to pass the proposal if the government signs on.

Senator Milne claims including existing hydro in the target would cost households and would not reduce emissions nor drive new investment - a key aim of the policy.

"In other words, it would be all-pain for no gain," she writes to Senator Muir.

The Clean Energy Council believes the proposal would hand $13.5 billion to existing hydro power at the expense of much of the planned $14.5 billion of investment in new large-scale renewable energy.

Senator Milne has requested meetings with each senator next week.


Iced coffee cops:  Victorian police are captured on video sipping drinks while parked in a No Standing zone

Two police officers have been left red-raced after apparently being filmed enjoying an iced coffee on an outdoor table while their marked police car is parked in a No Standing zone.

The two officers from Victoria Police were filmed by a disgruntled member of the public, who then decided to embarrass the officers by posting the clip on Facebook on a page called 'Victoria Police Corruption'.

The video, which was taken on Hawthorn Road Caulfield North, in Melbourne's inner south-east, has already garnered over 230,000 views since it was uploaded 21 hours ago.

The home video shows the two officers sitting at an outdoor table sipping drinks at a café, having parked their car within walking distance to their table, in a No Standing zone.

Clearly upset with the officers' misconduct, the Facebook member uses his phone to film the unlawful act, hoping to name and shame the officers involved in the incident.

'Nice place for lunch,' the man filming the video says, taunting the officers with his camera.

'Parked in a No Standing, you’d give us a ticket for that wouldn't you.' he says, repeating it when he gets no response from the officers. The police officers give the man the cold shoulder, not acting up for the camera.  

'Wouldn't you constable' the man says, referring to the parking ticket,  as he zooms in on the officers name tag.

'Did you get my name?,' the constable asks, as the man decides to turn off his recording device as the policeman answers him back.

As the Daily Mail understands, police vehicles may park in No Standing zones in emergency situations.  Police officers also need to be in close proximity to their car, should an emergency arise.

The Facebook group 'Victoria Police Corruption' states that they are: 'An open platform for documenting police news, misconduct, brutality and abuse of power'  'The practice of Police investigating Police needs to end' the page says.

Over 1,200 people commented on the post, with the majority of commenters siding with Victoria Police in this situation.

Victoria Police told Daily Mail Australia, that all employees are 'required to park police vehicles legally at all times, unless exempt from doing so.'

'An exemption is available under the Road Rules Victoria Regulation Act 2009 for drivers of emergency vehicles. Information on exemptions is available in part 19 of the act,' they said.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tony Abbott not happy about gay marriage bill, says senator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BHP Billiton’s short-lived climate cuddle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Muslims defend the Halal-for-money racket

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

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

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

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

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

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

The site declares in respect of Flora products:

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

In relation to Golden Circle products the site states:

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

The site claims this about Smiths Chips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Freya Newman Escapes Conviction For Exposing Secret Frances Abbott Scholarship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 26, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says that the ABC is cutting rural programs to slight the National Party


Three current articles below

ABC to cut more than 400 jobs

More than 400 people are set to lose their jobs at the ABC as the public broadcaster seeks to offset federal government funding cuts.

Managing director Mark Scott says close to 10 per cent of the ABC's ongoing workforce "face potential redundancy as we adjust our activities over coming months".

"We regard the changes as vital to securing the long-term health of the organisation but I acknowledge that is no comfort to those who will lose their positions."

The Abbott government has slashed $254 million from the ABC's budget over the next five years.  SBS has also been asked to find $53 million in savings over the same period.

Thousands of protesters held rallies against the cuts in Sydney and Melbourne at the weekend.


Turnbull slams Mark Scott over ABC cuts

Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has launched a scathing attack on ABC managing director Mark Scott, accusing him of using funding cuts to drive his own agenda.

The coalition party room meeting, held earlier today in Canberra, devoted the majority of its time to criticising Mr Scott’s handling of the $254 million cut delivered to the public broadcaster last week.

Mr Turnbull, who previously had been a staunch defender of Mr Scott’s performance, said the programming cuts announced Monday had nothing to do with efficiencies and there were plenty of alternative options that would not have affected content.

Mr Scott was “using this opportunity as a cover to do things he has wanted to do for a long time,” Mr Turnbull told the party room meeting.

He also said the ABC had an “obsolete business model” and had been “a worker’s collective for quite some time”.

Other coalition MPs described the decision to cut programmes such as Radio National Bush Telegraph and close a number of regional bureaux, as a purely political move.

One MP said the ABC needed a stronger regional and rural voice on its board, a suggestion to which Mr Turnbull agreed.


ABC has flab to cut

When Louise Evans joined Radio National, the staff were like free range chickens, wandering around at will, pecking at this and that, content that laying one egg constituted a hard day's work.

By Louise Evans,  a former manager at ABC's Radio National

"Good luck trying to change anything around here, there are too many lifers."  This was the advice given to me when I started as manager at ABC's Radio National last year.  It seemed like a dream job. I love the ABC and relished the opportunity to help steer RN.

But having previously worked as a journalist, foreign correspondent, editor and managing editor at lean, efficient and editorially robust media companies including Australian Associated Press, Fairfax and News Corp for over 20 years, I was shocked by the culture, waste, duplication and lax workplace practices exercised in some pockets of Radio National. I was even more shocked by the failure of the executive to want to do anything about it.

One problem, as one insider pointed out, was the so-called lifers, a pocket of predominantly middle-aged, Anglo-Saxon staff who had never worked anywhere other than the ABC, who were impervious to change, unaccountable, untouchable and who harboured a deep sense of entitlement.

They didn't have a 9-5 mentality. They had a 10-3 mentality. They planned their work day around their afternoon yoga class. They wore thongs and shorts to work, occasionally had a snooze on the couch after lunch and popped out to Paddy's Market to buy fresh produce for dinner before going home.

They were like free-range chickens, wandering around at will, pecking at this and that, content that laying one egg constituted a hard day's work.

They knew they couldn't be sacked or officially sanctioned because there was no appetite among the executive to make waves, take on the union or make a case for any more redundancies. So the lifers just thumbed their nose at any attempt at performance management. Managers came and went, but they were there for life.

The RN budget was another shock. It was predominantly tied up in wages for 150 people. There was precious little budget to do anything new or innovative and you couldn't turn any program off, no matter how high its costs and how poor its audience share and reach.

The executive would pander to the whims of celebrity presenters because they gave the ABC "edge and credibility", yet would take for granted journalistic giants like Fran Kelly and Geraldine Doogue who present world-class programs.

While online rules the media world, trying to get some RN producers to repurpose on-air content for online was like pulling teeth. Plus the systems they were using were archaic, due to a failure to invest in efficient, integrated content-management systems that worked across divisions and on multi platforms, especially on mobile devices.

There was also blatant waste. Taxi dockets were left in unlocked drawers for the taking and elephantine leave balances had been allowed to accumulate. When programs shut down for Christmas, staff would get approval from their executive producers to hang around for a week or two "to tidy things up". One editor asked for his leave to be cut back by a week because he'd need to pop into work during the holidays to "check emails".That constituted work.

Yet attempts to tighten basic oversight of taxi use and leave, controls that are the norm in the corporate world, were frowned upon by the ABC executive and actively discouraged as "not the main game".

Programming and content generation was another shock. While other media organisations live and die by their ratings, circulation and readership figures, some ABC programmers considered ratings irrelevant. Some producers strongly resisted editorial oversight and locked in segments that lacked editorial rigour and relevance. So the weekly Media Report went to air discussing foreign press freedoms while hundreds of Australian journalists were being made redundant just down the road.

The ABC can be leaner and remain editorially strong and independent as ABC's NewsRadio proves. With less than 20 per cent of RN's total budget, NewsRadio employs brilliant broadcasters including Sandy Aloisi and Marius Benson and produces 5000 hours of robust original content each year that reaches a bigger national weekly audience than RN.

That's why these ABC budget cuts announced by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull are not just necessary but vital to the ongoing health of the corporation.

Pockets of the ABC have been allowed to get too fat, flabby, wasteful and unaccountable.

The doors have to be prised open so that the winds of change that have swept through media companies around the world can reinvigorate our ABC.

The same efficiencies and workplace practices that are the norm in corporate Australia need to be front and centre at the ABC so that it remains a strong, independent voice that is both editorially robust and reflects who we are - a culturally, geographically and socio-economically diverse nation that doesn't believe anyone is entitled to a job for life at the taxpayer's expense.


Australia: More Bureau of Meteorology shenanigans

(BOM:  "The Australian Climate Observations Reference Network – Surface Air Temperature (ACORN-SAT) dataset has been developed for monitoring climate variability and change in Australia. The dataset employs the latest analysis techniques and takes advantage of newly digitised observational data to provide a daily temperature record over the last 100 years")

The BoM ACORN SAT project has reconstructed Cobar temperature data commencing with an obviously invalid adjustment

This is the second episode in the Cobar ACORN-SAT series examining BoM adjustments to the CDO [Climate Data Online] temperature data – here I start to look at adjustments to minimum temperatures. The 1st episode looked at maximum temperatures.

A list of ACORN adjustments to Cobar data is here and you can see the first min adjustment listed is 1st Jan 1972 meaning the adjustment factor applies to all data earlier than that. You will see it is labelled as “Statistical” meaning there is no evidence for it in station diaries or admin records but it derives from computer driven comparisons sifting data differences from multiple stations as far away as Parkes and Hillston – see map. In this case of the 4th adjustment the following stations data was used.

Making the chart of Cobar annual minimum temperatures compared to ACORN-SAT my eye was caught by the adjustment starting in 2006 and affecting all earlier years which I have marked with a blue 6.

That is unlisted in the ACORN-SAT documentation and is substantial at about -0.4 degrees C. The slight mismatch between Cobar Met Office and ACORN from 2007-2013 is due to rounding differences because I have made my ACORN annuals by averaging a year of daily data which I leave as produced by Excel with multiple decimal places.

The next adjustment to look for is at 1971 where I have the blue 4, which is the 4th adjustment in the ACORN list and is listed at -0.49 degrees C. The increased departure of ACORN cooler than Met Office to about -0.9 is obvious on the chart.

Examining this adjustment in greater detail I have made a chart comparing Cobar MO and ACORN version with nearest neighbours Bourke, Wilcannia and Nyngan. The average difference between the 1971 & 1972 readings for these 3 stations is +0.2 at Cobar MO, +0.4 at Bourke PO, +0.4 at Nyngan, and -0.4 at Wilcannia, an average for the 3 Cobar neighbours of +0.13, not very different from the +0.2 that we know happened at Cobar Met Office.

But instead of leaving the higher quality Cobar Met Office readings well alone – what does the BoM decide to do with their adjustment #4? They take off 0.49° making the 1971-1972 difference now 0.7 – greater by 0.3 than any of the neighbours. Presumably the BoM justify this by their computer driven comparisons with sites as distant as Parkes.

If the reasons for an adjustment can not be seen in nearest neighbours then it must be an exercise in fantasy to search for a reason in a cherry picked array of more distant stations which are all of poorer quality than Cobar Met Office.

It is interesting to check the differences in annual minimums between Cobar Met Office and Cobar Airport which are only about 7 or 8 km apart. You might expect them to be very similar and in lockstep – not so from the chart.

Note the BoM never refer to Cobar Airport data in ACORN-SAT – but we are free to check it out.

First there is no evidence here of a step or jump around 2006 – 2007.

While there are such wildly varying and apparently random differences between these two very adjacent sites – what on earth can the BoM learn by comparing Cobar with Parkes – or indeed any other station in their adjustments list.

These are the sort of unsafe foundations that pro-IPCC climate science is based on.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Coalition to act on watchdog’s behaviour over asylum inquiry

THE Abbott government has “great concerns” about the behaviour of Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs and will “take the matter forward”, ­according to Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Josh Frydenberg.

And Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the HRC’s ­inquiry into children in detention “risks being a complete waste of taxpayers’ money” in the wake of controversy over how it was ­established.

Appearing before the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee last week, Professor Triggs revealed she had decided to hold the inquiry early last year, but delayed it because of what she claimed was the possibility of an early election.

After initially denying she ­discussed it with the then Labor government, she admitted under questioning that she had raised it separately with two Labor immigration ministers.

Speaking on Sky News’s Viewpoint, Mr Frydenberg said “what deeply concerns” the government about the president’s evidence was the “revelation that there were political considerations taken into account” before Professor Triggs decided to delay the inquiry.

“Those revelations — one, that there were political considerations about delaying the inquiry and, two, that there is now revelations that she had spoken to two senior Labor ministers — are also of great concern to the government.”

Referring to “contradictions in the evidence”, Mr Frydenberg also said: “It is going to be up to (Attorney-General) George Brandis to take this matter forward, but there are many questions that need to be answered.”

Speaking on 2GB radio, Mr Morrison said the HRC “did nothing” while boats were arriving under Labor and that as a result the inquiry was a “wasted opportunity”. But he would not be drawn on Professor Triggs’s future.

“She is appointed by the ­Attorney-General and there are some pretty strict conditions which apply to someone departing their role in such a position and it involves serious misconduct issues and things like that. That is really a matter for the Attorney-General.”

Professor Triggs is less than halfway through a five-year term.

The two former Labor immigration ministers Professor Triggs said she briefed have declined to reveal what was said. Chris Bowen said the HRC typically updated him on its activities, but he did not confirm or deny the inquiry into children in detention was raised.

Tony Burke said he sought a meeting with Professor Triggs “principally for the purpose of ­discussing my plans to prioritise the removal of unaccompanied ­minors from detention” and to provide and receive updates on ­activities.


Looming poll will shed light on what voters think of leaders with thuggish mates

The possibility that Labor might win next weekend's Victorian election is more worrisome than usual. There are two aspects which could set an unhealthy precedent for Victoria and maybe later for NSW Labor – which has a former union boss as its leader who will be contesting next year's NSW election.

The first is the CFMEU's control over Victorian Labor and its record of intimidation, thuggery and links to unsavoury individuals. With Labor using its numbers in the Senate to protect the unions and the CFMEU running Victoria, no one should be in any doubt that union militancy could be difficult to handle. We have had this problem before in the 1970s and 1980s when militant union behaviour was a major concern of key trading partners like the Japanese and Koreans.

The second is the declared policy of Victorian Labor leader Daniel Andrews to tear up large infrastructure contracts. A government decision to refuse to honour legally enforceable contracts is clearly a case of sovereign risk.

Regardless of the fact that polls suggest Labor is just ahead I still find it hard to believe that the Victorian Coalition will lose. The idea that Labor is going to win seems contrary to common sense. Then again, I never thought that Jeff Kennett was going to lose either back in 1999.

Premier Denis Napthine is a good man: the polls show he is well liked by the electorate; he has been a solid and dedicated Premier. There have been no real scandals despite the determination of many in the media to find some; he has sensibly managed the State's finances and wisely promoted Michael O'Brien as Treasurer; his infrastructure proposals will be good for Victoria and his key Ministers are streets ahead of Labor's union hacks.

In contrast, it's hard to see what Labor offers and its record when last in office was poor. Victorian taxpayers will be paying for Labor's mothballed desalination plant for decades, Labor's main policy seems to be 50 railway crossings to improve traffic and Andrews is the most left wing leader Labor has ever put up in Victoria. Andrews was anointed by the hard line CFMEU and he now turns a blind eye to the ongoing thuggery and intimidation which is the well-known trade mark of his CFMEU sponsors. The CFMEU is an embarrassment to Andrews but he can't do anything about it. And CFMEU supporters are becoming more brazen than ever; so much so that only a few days ago, the Melbourne Herald Sun reported that "Underworld figure Mick Gatto has told Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews not to break links with controversial CFMEU John Setka". When a political figure is getting advice from people like Gatto it's obvious Labor has a big problem with its choice of mates.

Andrews has said that a CFMEU member will be the new Planning, Major Projects and Infrastructure Minister. Mr Andrews sees no conflict of interest in his Minister's close association with the CFMEU despite the fact that the CFMEU is inextricably involved in his portfolio. Or maybe he has been told to turn a blind eye. Or maybe he is too weak to stand up to the CFMEU. Either way his position is scandalous.

In addition, Labor has publicly confirmed that it will break existing contracts for the East West road project despite the fact that the proposal has strong public support (around 60 per cent in recent polls). The combination of CFMEU cabinet influence and a diminution of Victoria's reputation on sovereign risk will be a blow to Victoria.

The third risk of a Labor government is that it would be a big spender as were the recent Labor governments of Steve Bracks and John Brumby. The facts speak for themselves, as reported by the Menzies Research Centre using ABS and other publicly available data.

Under Bracks and Brumby, the number of public sector employees grew by 52.4 per cent compared to the population increase of 16.7 per cent. By comparison, Labor governments in NSW from Carr to Keneally increased the public sector by 25.69 per cent.

Over the same Labor period, the average annual increases in wages were 7.7 per cent for Victoria and 6.2 per cent for NSW under Labor. By comparison, wage growth with Coalition governments was 3.3 per cent under Greiner, Kennett wages expenditure actually fell by 1.7 per cent and the John Howard increase was a mere 0.6 per cent.

And if you thought that the extra public sector workers were there to boost front line services, you would be wrong. From 2001 to 2007, when Labor was running nearly all the state governments, the ABS classification of "government administration" increased by 8.5 per cent compared to education (2.5 per cent) and 2.3 per cent for health and community services.

Victorian Labor has become too close to the CFMEU and tearing up contracts cannot be acceptable for either Liberal or Labor voters in NSW or Victoria. If Victorian Labor loses, on these two issues particularly, they will deserve what they get.


Australian Wind Industry in a Tailspin as Senate Sets Up Inquiry Into the Great Wind Power Fraud & Cross-Benchers Lay Out Plans for the LRET

(LRET = Large-scale Renewable Energy Target)

STT recently covered a motion proposed by cross-bench Senators Leyonhjelm, Madigan, Day, Xenophon; with the support of the Coalition, through their Deputy Government Whip in the Senate, STT Champion, WA Senator, Chris Back to establish a wide-ranging inquiry into the wind industry in Australia. It gives us much pleasure to report that the Senate voted to establish the inquiry, as moved by David Leyonhjelm on Monday.

Sure, it was a close-run thing, but many a grand final has been won by a single kick.

Predictably, the wind industry, its parasites and spruikers have gone into a tailspin – wailing about the dreaded malady of “uncertainty” – of the kind that everyone else gets to face on a daily basis in every aspect of life and business – but from which the wind industry must be protected at all times.

But the Senate inquiry is just the beginning of the wind industry’s many woes.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is amused by the Leftist rage over cutbacks to the ABC

Australian astronomer, Michael Brown,  says science is not about debate, people are too stupid to judge

Michael Brown, recipient of taxpayer funds for astronomy, tells us that science is not about debate because people are not smart enough to judge the winner. He doesn’t list any evidence to support his faith in climate models (he’s just part of the herd following the consensus pack). Nor does he have any serious scientific criticism of the NIPCC climate report. But he uses plenty of names, baseless allusion, and innuendo. In the article ”Adversaries, zombies and NIPCC climate pseudoscience” in The Conversation he resorts to a group smear (with the help of the taxpayer funded site) in the hope that people won’t listen to those who disagree with him. Apparently he can’t win a fair and open debate, so he’s doing what he can to stop one.

If science now has “Gods” who are above question, it’s not science, it’s a religion. A scientist who says “I’m right because I’m a scientist” is neither right nor much of a scientist. Brown is acting like a self-appointed High-Priest of the Climate Doctrine.

The NIPCC report is more balanced, more comprehensive, and more accurate than the politically-guided tome from the IPCC . It contains hundreds of peer reviewed references put together by independent scientists. In his reply to it, Michael Brown tells us all we need to know about the intellectual state of Australian science, and the value of The Conversation.

This is the face of the Church of Global Warming.

How low can Brown go?  How about “zombies”, “aliens”,  and “pseudoscience”? As an unskeptical scientist (and we all know what that means), it appears Brown hopes to win through name-calling and “seeding doubt” about the motivations of people he disagrees with. Skeptical scientists are “skeptics” (always in quotes to imply they’re fakes) who are “bankrolled” (he’s blind to the evidence about the financial truth too).

For evidence Brown cites a consensus study that mixes up 0.3% with 97%. He likes the IPCC political-consensus approach. This is post-modern science (or post-science, science) forget radiosondes, just poll government appointees.

All the other evidence Brown lists is superficial and irrelevant. He claims: “there is remarkably good agreement between models of climate change and the temperature data.” Then offers as evidence the utterly banal and correct predictions of the “last 50 years” while ignoring the devastating failure in the predictions of the last 20 years that matter.

Modern science is broken — Astronomy in Australia is a small community and  illogical, unscientific people have already been promoted to influential positions. I could ask where the decent astronomers are, and why aren’t they protesting, but because Brown’s activism is so strong, so unscientific, and unequivocal, I expect those who disagree with him would choose to stay silent.  They wouldn’t know whether their next grant will be reviewed by him, but they know that if it is, and they are a vocal skeptic, it won’t help them. After a rant like this, why would anyone expect equal treatment?

This Heisenberg-like state of uncertainty (will or will he not be a reviewer for my application/proposal/paper? and will or will he not be biased if he thinks I am a zombie/denier/anti-science?) is enough to bring people in line. Welcome to the stifling blanket of self censorship.

Ode to the stupid: According to Brown, those who question the mantra of the IPCC are not just speaking their mind, they are using a pseudoscience “ploy” to fool the people (who are too dumb to realize).  These evil mercenary skeptics want you to think we need to debate complex, costly plans that are dependent on our knowledge of the weather. (Imagine that!) Luckily for us, Brown is here to correct the dumb engineers, doctors, and lawyers who are unconvinced a solar panel in Melbourne will help stop a flood in Bangladesh.

The call for adversarial debate is a variant of the debate ploy, a common pseudoscience tactic. At first glance having two teams present competing positions seems entirely reasonable, but this approach only works if the intended audience can effectively assess the arguments presented.

Who is the pseudoscientist using a ploy to fool the public? The geologist who tells us that this warming is not unusual, or the man who has no evidence, and a profoundly unscientific and patronizing belief that only the anointed can speak their mind?

How’s this for reasoning: According to Brown, adversarial debate failed once with Einstein’s theory of relativity (the audience were not able to get the right answer in 1920 on one of the most difficult and ground breaking scientific advances in centuries). Cue the High-Priest, therefore and verily says he, adversarial debate is always a waste of time and science can only advance if the populace lets politicians annoint Gods in each subject (and everyone bows to them).

No dissent will be tolerated, or we will call you a “zombie”!

Brown manages a few paragraphs of sciencey looking talk, but the papers he supposedly debunks are irrelevant to all the main NIPCC claims. The papers he cites as supporting him don’t have any evidence that the IPCC assumptions were correct.

Zombie Science: The Zombie in the room here is the dead science being revived endlessly by Brown and the IPCC, despite the evidence that climate models are based on flawed assumptions, which we know from 28 million weather balloons, 3000 ARGO buoys, 800,000 years  of ice cores, and 30 years of satellites.

Unlike Climate Gods, real scientists list real evidence. When theory clashes with data, the real scientists discard the theory.

Unlike government funded propaganda sites, we unfunded bloggers would never publish such a religious rant and call it “science”. We have standards.

We taxpayers want our money back. Let The Conversation compete in the free market.

Monash University may want to teach its scientists what science is and how to reason. Do Monash approve of this anti-science behaviour? Is this what they teach the students? Can someone ask the Dean?

If Monash don’t have good answers, the questions ought go to the Minister for Education. Why are tax dollars supporting university “science” which is so unscientific?

Send your questions to The Dean of Science at Monash, and or to The Minister for Education, The Hon Christopher Pyne MP, which not only funds Monash, but through Monash and other universities, The Conversation.

The ARC needs to start funding real scientists and stop funding religious activists.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Time to Govern Right, Mr Abbott

By James Allan, Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland.

A few suggestions that will better your chance of re-election: Drop that Labor-lite approach to attacking the deficit, stop funding your enemies and, on a related note, strip Malcolm Turnbull of responsibility for the ABC and let Scott Morrison muck out the national broadcaster's billion-dollar stable

abbott w bookAt some point the Coalition needs to realise that Labor will agree to nothing that it doesn't already want to put in place.  "Compromise" for them will amount to allowing through what they would otherwise want, and nothing more.  So, to deal with our ballooning deficit, Labor will always agree to more taxes.  In fact it's a bonus for them, as the Coalition will take the blame.

My take on this is summed up in the old saw:  `When you're helping to dig your own grave, the best thing to do is stop digging.'   That means that no matter what the short-term consequences, Mr. Abbott and the Coalition need to stop with the tax increases.  No matter what.  I'm sick of them, and I'm pretty sure most readers of this site are sick of them.  And those tax hikes won't do anything more than fiddle at the margins of our blowing-out debt and expanding deficit.

The Coalition ought to keep making the case for spending cuts.  Again, and again, and again.  If they can't get those cuts through the Senate, well, the deficit will go up.  And it will keep going up until the next election.  Meantime, you bring all the resources of government to bear on educating the public.

Likewise, while you're doing that you also stop pretending that you're a Labor-lite government finding Mickey Mouse ways to increase taxes.  And you ditch any new massive spending commitments.  That is my very kind and nice way of saying `Get rid of the idiotic and incredibly expensive Paid Parental Leave (PPL) Scheme. For Labor, the PPL is the gift that keeps on giving. Labor has absolutely no ideas on how to cut spending.  So their only halfway-plausible reply is, `We will get rid of the PPL when we win the election.'

And I believe they will.  So does everyone.  This policy is one that will cost huge political capital to get through and then will go as soon as Labor's next win.  Worse, my guess is that most Coalition voters - and all of those worried about our fiscal position as a country - want it ditched.  Now.

The other thing that this Coalition government might usefully do is to start taking on its critics.  By that I mean the groups whom they fund to attack them constantly.  The ABC most obviously springs to mind.   Mr. Turnbull has to go as the minister in charge of this billion-dollar-a-year vessel, a hopelessly port-canted ship whose crew looks uncannily like the Green Party at prayer - if you count Gaia-worshipping, carbon-tax genuflecting, hard-left dissembling as praying.

Here's what I think would gain Mr. Abbott a lot of credit from Coalition voters who are, thus far into his term, somewhat disappointed at the way his right-of-centre instincts have been muted since coming to power: the Prime Minister should transfer the ABC to the ministerial portfolio of Scott Morrison.  Take it away from a favoured Q&A guest and give it to someone who recognises problems and doesn't shy from solving them.

Were he to do that, I am betting ABC Managing Director Mark Scott would find the gumption to hire at least one right-of-centre person (host or producer) for at least one of the broadcaster's big-ticket current affairs shows.

Why?  In my view it's about psychology and in that sense a parallel with stopping the boats.  If you believe someone is committed to stopping you, and will do what it takes to change your behaviour, you submit.  That's why the boats have stopped and why I don't think any future Labor government will be able to mimic that success.

The same goes for the ABC. No one in that organisation has any real belief that Malcolm Turnbull will try to make them live up their statutory obligation to be impartial.  But bring in Mr. Morrison and the perception would change overnight.

On the other hand, Mr. Abbott can continue to travel the same road as Britain's David Cameron, alienating   his core supporters with every latest step in the wrong direction.  It's not working out at all well for Mr. Cameron.  So, Tony, please stop digging.


Australia's 'most corrupt politician' is finally charged

One of the most corrupt politicians in Australian history - former state minister Eddie Obeid, known as "he who must be obeyed" - will finally be prosecuted after an inquiry found he lobbied colleagues over leases for restaurants without revealing that his family owned them.

Mr Obeid and fellow minister Ian Macdonald, who has also been charged, practiced corruption in the state of New South Wales that was "on a scale probably unexceeded since the days of the Rum Corps [a colonial-era corps that had a monopoly on the liquor trade]", a corruption inquiry heard in 2012.

Mr Macdonald, known as "Sir Lunchalot", has been charged over the granting of a lucrative mining licence but may face further charges after receiving the services of a prostitute as apparent payment for assisting a property developer. The prostitute, named Tiffanie, told the inquiry the encounter was so repulsive she wanted to vomit.

Mr Obeid has previously dared prosecutors to charge him and appeared defiant outside his sandstone mansion in Sydney. Branded "The Godfather" by the media, he has insisted he is the victim of a political witch-hunt. "I'm innocent in every instance," he said.

"I have no concern whatsoever that in a court of law we'll be able to fight the evidence, and I'm very confident."

Mr Obeid, 71, a long-serving Labor MP in the New South Wales state government, was born in Lebanon and worked in Sydney as a taxi driver before taking control of a local Arabic newspaper. He served as an MP from 1991 to 2011, while he and his family built up a sizable portfolio of businesses and properties. During his time in parliament, he became a factional kingpin and exercised influence over numerous MPs and ministers, who relied on him for their positions.

"[He] treated the state as his personal fiefdom," historian Ross Fitzgerald wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald in August.

Mr Obeid's influence is said to extend to his small hometown of Matrite in north Lebanon, where he reportedly owns a $US1 million palace.

A corruption inquiry in June found that Mr Obeid "misused his position as an MP" and sought to lobby other MPs and public servants for favourable decisions affecting his family's restaurant leases in Circular Quay, a popular harbour-side tourist district. He could still face charges over other corrupt dealings investigated by the inquiry.

Mr Obeid said the corruption inquiries were "nothing but sham inquiries".



Springborg announces Queensland Health reform that guarantees timely surgery

LAWRENCE Springborg will today unveil an Australia-first reform to Queensland’s health system, guaranteeing every patient receives their surgery within the recommended time.

Patients will be sent to an alternative public hospital or to the private system if their local health service cannot treat them on time, under the Queensland health minister’s new plan.

The Patient Guarantee, which mirrors health systems in Scandinavia, where Mr Springborg recently visited, comes after the number of “long wait” patients – those waiting for surgery beyond recommended times – plummeted in Queensland from 6500 to 533 in the latest official figures.

The opening of new hospitals with greater capacity, an influx of federal funds, and major system redesigns instigated by the Newman Government combined to reduce the long wait list.

Mr Springborg told The Sunday Mail the long wait list was likely to be eliminated by the end of the year, opening the way for patients to be guaranteed their surgery on time.

“By the end of this year, we will have virtually zero, so we will have recalibrated the system,’’ he said. “The obligation then is for [health and hospital boards] to ensure they give every single patient their surgery on time.

“If they don’t, the obligation is for them to arrange that surgery so the patient has it on time at another public or private hospital.”

It will mean category one cases, in which specialists deem a patient’s condition to be at risk of worsening or becoming an emergency, will receive surgery within 30 days.

Category two cases, where the patient experiences pain or disability but it is unlikely to become an emergency, will receive surgery within 90 days, as recommended under nationally recognised treatment times.

Non-urgent category three patients, where the pain is minimal, will be operated on within a year.

Mr Springborg said there would be cases in which patients did not receive surgery within the recommended times, when specialists deemed that there were mitigating medical reasons for an operation not proceeding.

“The only exceptions will be those people who are not ready for care – and there are a small number of those – or you have a specialty where there is not enough capacity in the system to do it on time,’’ he said.

The Patient Guarantee is expected to be “cost neutral”, with the 16 health and hospital service areas to pay for patients sent elsewhere – including to the private sector – from existing budgets.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Why left feminists don't like kids

"Biffo" (Former ALP leader Mark Latham) has a go below. There have been shrieks of protest from feminists over this article  but I think he is pretty right.  I am impressed by and agree with his child-orientation --  and his past as a Leftist leader should earn his words serious consideration among Leftists.  He is a perpetually angry man but I think that, at the end of the day, he does have a heart.  I think he is a man I would like to meet.  I am sure his wife never has a dull moment with Mark around

I love a social experiment, so last Saturday, I broke the habit of a lifetime and read the agony-aunt pages of The Sydney Morning Herald. I should have done so years ago, as an exercise in political awareness.

It nearly knocked me off my chair, as I confronted the core arguments of left-feminism. The inner-Sydney writer Lisa Pryor said the only way in which she can cope with "raising two small children while studying medicine full-time" is through "caffeine and anti-depressants".

Apparently, this is her standard answer whenever anyone asks: "How do you do it all?"

I felt depressed myself, at the thought of a Fairfax columnist describing one of life's great responsibilities, the raising of infant children, as requiring "neurochemical assistance".

Why do people like this have children in the first place? How will the children feel when they grow up and learn that they pushed their mother onto anti-depressants?

The sadness of these circumstances is aggravated by a broader political point. A major part of left feminist campaigning has involved the demonisation of children.

You know the refrain: men have rigged the rules of society by dominating the workforce, while women are left with the agony of domestic duties, the nightmare of raising kids.

Women in western Sydney with no neuroses

It's widely assumed that home-based life is pathetically menial. So much so, in Pryor's case, that only a cocktail of little red pills and caffeine-overload can ease the burden.

Yet, in truth, this is a political hoax. Women I speak to in western Sydney, who have no neuroses or ideological agenda to push, regard child-rearing as a joy. Financially, if they can avoid work, that's their preference.

Home life gives them the freedom to pursue their recreational interests and bond with the most important people in their lives, their children.

Other than for money, why would anyone want to commute and toil long hours for businesspeople?

With only 2 per cent of Australian men serving as the primary carers of their children, the left-feminist orthodoxy has been allowed to dominate the political debate. Men have been sucked into thinking that work life is inherently superior to a life raising children. From a male perspective, alternative views have not been aired.

So let me explain another experiment. What happens when an opposition leader quits politics, decides that he hates the prospect of working for other people and becomes the primary carer of his three children?

In my case, the results, for nearly a decade now, have been splendid. Sure, there's the odd hiccup and flash of frustration in full-on parenting, but the rewards are immense.

Left feminism is akin to a psychoneurotic disorder

My lifestyle has never been more satisfying. Whether it's my daughter's smile, my eldest son's Aussie irreverence or the belly laughter of my youngest son - these are my anti-depressants, every hour, every day. What is Pryor going on about?

I'm sure I'm just as busy as her: looking after a huge native garden at home, cooking gourmet meals for my family, pursuing a few business interests, writing books and The Australian Financial Review columns and, most crucially, preserving time for my children's homework, conversation and love. When I explain this reality to my male friends, they are incredibly envious. Each of them wants to swap places.

But the inner-city feminists know little of this. They spend a lot of time complaining, ostensibly on behalf of other women, yet their real priority is themselves. More often than not, they don't like children and don't want to be with them. They use political feminism as a release valve, trying to free themselves from nature's way.

Thus left feminism is akin to a psychoneurotic disorder: externalising personal feelings of distress and deficiency into the demonisation of children.

This is why people in the suburbs, especially women, distrust the likes of Pryor. Their political agenda is seen as unrepresentative and self-serving. At a personal level, it's also cowardly: popping pills as an easy way out, instead of facing up to the responsibilities of adulthood.


Vic Labor to review homosexual adoption

SAME sex adoption could be on the cards if Labor wins next Saturday's Victorian state election.

OPPOSITION leader Daniel Andrews says legislation that unfairly discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Victorians will be identified and changed under a proposal to put equality at the heart of the government's agenda.

Adoption laws will be reviewed with a view to allowing same sex adoption, while laws that facilitate employers to discriminate based on sexuality will also be amended, Mr Andrews said.

"When one person faces discrimination, it lessens us all," he said. "This is a problem we must face together.

"I'll never tolerate homophobia in my party room and I'll never water down our laws to allow discrimination."

Mr Andrews said a dedicated cabinet role would be introduced as well as a government ministerial advisory committee.

"Equality will be back on the agenda under Labor, so Victoria can be prouder, fairer and safer," Mr Andrews said.


Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens asks if it's too hard to hire and fire workers

BUSINESS groups have backed suggestions by Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens that it is too hard to sack workers.

But the Coalition Government, still smarting over the backlash to John Howard's Work Choices laws, refused to be drawn into the issue.

In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia this week, Mr Stevens admitted his comments might get him into trouble.  "I think these questions are increasingly being asked and it's about whether our overall business environment is conducive enough to risk taking and innovation," he said.

"Whether we are doing enough to develop the relevant competencies and capabilities for the modern world.

"The question might include ones like, how easy is it to start a business if the business fails, as many do, particularly small ones? Is it easier enough to try again?

"How easy it is to hire employees, and I know I'll get in trouble for saying this, but how easy it is also to let the employees go if those don't work?  " Because if it's too hard to let them go then it's too hard to hire them to begin with," Mr Stevens said.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland spokesman Nick Behrens said the Reserve Bank Governor had hit the nail on the head.

"Queensland employers are actively steering clear of employing individuals because of the difficulty in terminating employment," he said.  "In short the Fair Work Act is now holding back employment because businesses are just not prepared to take the risk of hiring someone who turns out to be wrong person for that organisation.

"Some businesses are also citing that if they are uncertain about a person and it's a lineball decision then they will use the end of probation period to separate ways.

"That is because it is so difficult to get rid of an employee after their end of probation duration they err on the side of caution and do not proceed with the employee. It's just not worth the risk.

"If you have the likes of Glenn Stevens now weighing in to the debate on workplace relations, a person who never comments publicly on these types of issues, we know that we have serious problem on our hands."

The Government refused to comment yesterday.  But Opposition employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor leapt on the comments, trying to tie the message to the Coalition's deeply unpopular WorkChoices campaign, launched about eight years ago.

"Before the election, Tony Abbott promised he wouldn't touch workers' conditions.  "Instead, we have seen this Government returning to the dark days of WorkChoices with its plans to attack penalty rates, wages and workplace safety.  "The Abbott Government would like to see a rise in precarious employment, Labor does not."

The Productivity Commission is reviewing workplace laws - including penalty rates and unfair dismissal - but pledged any changes would be introduced in its second term.


Human Rights Commission chief Gillian Triggs drowning in her own evidence

Lying old bag covered up for the Labor Party on boat arrivals before the Federal election

THE future of Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs is under a cloud after a disastrous appearance before a Senate committee, during which she contradicted her evidence about the political considerations of delaying an inquiry into children in detention. Under questioning, Professor Triggs revealed she had decided an inquiry was necessary early last year but did not act until after the federal election because she feared it would be "highly -politicised" and "very destructive".

And after denying she raised the matter with Labor before the election, she later admitted discussing it with two former immigration ministers, Chris Bowen and Tony Burke. It is understood the Abbott government and the minister who oversees the -commission, Attorney-General George Brandis, have lost faith in Professor Triggs.

Her position appears untenable. She is less than halfway through a five-year term and under the commission's act can only be dismissed for "mis-behaviour" or serious breaches of standards.

She has promised to release a "detailed chronology of events". The "facts and evidence will speak for themselves," she said in a statement.

In February, the commission came under fire from the government for announcing an -inquiry into children in detention four months after the election of the Coalition - and after people-smuggling boats had started to abate.

More than 800 boats, 50,000 asylum-seekers and 8000 children had arrived in the six years under Labor. The commission had previously investigated the issue in 2001 - under the Howard government.

When questioned about the new inquiry's timing, during the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday, Professor Triggs's explanation was exposed as changeable and contradictory.

Professor Triggs claimed that after her -appointment in mid-2012 she -focused on the issue of children in detention and, as the arrivals continued, had decided to hold a fresh inquiry by February last year.

But she didn't - and she has now justified that delay with electoral considerations. "The fact that an election was imminent had been announced by the prime minister in I think about March," she said, "so we knew it was going to be very soon, and of course we didn't know exactly when."

Yet in an unusual step, on January 30 last year, then prime minister Julia Gillard had announced the election date for September 14 - so at the time there was no speculation.

Professor Triggs told the hearing it would have been "very destructive" to hold the inquiry in the middle of the election year. "Well, it would have been very destructive to the then government," interjected Liberal senator Ian Macdonald

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has challenged Professor Triggs's justification.

"For a position which is supposed to be free of political influence," he said, "it was puzzling to see Professor Triggs justify not holding an inquiry in mid-2013 as `we were moving into an election -period', yet described this issue as having caused `serious concerns' in December 2012, well before any election was called."

Further committee exchanges about her consultation with both the Labor government and the incoming Coalition government were also revealing.

Liberal senator Barry O'Sullivan pressed her on whether she briefed Labor about her intentions for an inquiry. "I certainly did not discuss that as far as I recall with the minister," she said.  But as questioning continued her answers changed to "I don't recall" and then that her "discussions with the minister are private".

Then, under sustained interrogation, she revealed she had in fact spoken to two Labor immigration ministers.  "I have discussed the possibility of an inquiry with minister Chris Bowen and with minister (Tony) Burke," she revealed.

Professor Triggs initially said the discussion with Mr Burke had occurred during the election caretaker period but later retracted. After the election Professor Triggs did not raise the matter in discussions with the Coalition or mention it in a letter outlining her agenda. The government was informed of the inquiry four months later via a letter from Professor Triggs.

"Australians will form their own judgment about just how fair Professor Triggs has been," Mr Morrison said.