Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Abbott not fond of sharks

And the Greenies are furious.  A Greenie is a type of shark, after all.  They're just as anti-people

The Abbot government has been accused of backing away from its international obligations on animal conservation after it declared it would opt out of protecting five shark species.

Australia is submitting a "reservation" to ensure a recent international listing granting protection status to three species of thresher shark and two species of hammerhead does not take effect in Australian waters.

Humane Society International has described the move as an "unprecedented act of domestic and international environmental vandalism".

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals gave new protection status to 31 migratory species at a conference in November.

The listings were agreed to by consensus, with Australia among the countries present for the talks.

But the government has had a change of heart and is seeking to opt out of co-operating with other countries to protect five of the shark species, arguing that Australia already has sufficient protections in place and the listing would have unintended consequences for fishers.

Alexia Wellbelove, senior program manager at Humane Society International, said the government was responding to complaints from recreational fishers who catch and release the sharks, and commercial fishers who can accidentally trap them while hunting for other fish.

If the five shark species were given international protection status, Australian laws would kick in, making it an offence to kill, injure, take or move the species in Australian waters.

The listings were due to take effect next month.

"We just think it's really unbelievably disappointing because Australia has always led the way on shark conservation and this is really a step backward," Ms Wellbelove said.

"It's a very sad day for protection of the marine environment if we take the easy road and opt of these things, rather than taking steps to protect our domestic waters."

In a letter to Human Society International, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said Australia already had "strong domestic measures in place" for the five shark species in question but this did "not negate our support for international action related to these species, or for shark conservation more broadly".

Nine other migratory species given listings at the convention can be found in Australia and the protection status will apply.

Mr Hunt said Australia was seeking a reservation for the five shark species because a listing would have unintended consequences for fishers as a result of Australia's laws being tougher than required by the convention.

"Not doing so could see recreational fishers being fined up to $170,000 and face 2 years in jail, even when fishing in accordance with their permits," he said.

"There are still strong measures in place to protect thresher and hammerhead sharks in Australia and these will continue.

"The Australian government will continue to actively participate in shark conservation under the convention as a signatory of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks, and through $4.6 million funding for shark research and conservation activities."


Our great stories need a place in the classroom

By Brian Johns, the former managing director of the ABC, SBS and publishing director of Penguin Books Australia

As a child I was not given "children's" books. During our weekly visit to the local School of Arts Library in Cairns, my mother steered me to the "serious" adult section.

It wasn't until later that I discovered the delight and joy of gems like Mem Fox's Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, Pamela Allen's Who Sank the Boat and Libby Gleeson's Amy & Louis.

These books resonate with our children (and us) because they are surprising and engaging reads written by superb storytellers and brought to life by talented illustrators.

These books and many more have been given a new lease of life through the ambitious new website, Reading Australia, which was started when it became obvious to me and others that Australia's great books were barely getting a look-in at schools. Somehow our books had dropped off the reading lists of most teachers.

I couldn't fathom that a child could go through school without walking hand-in-hand with our literary treasures. After all, if a love of literature hasn't started at home with the bedside story, then the classroom is surely the next touch point. That's not to say schools aren't doing a great job, but our homegrown stories reflect our natural surroundings, and what makes us who we are.

So a few heads got together to find out what was missing. As it turns out, many books were out of print, but more urgent than that was the availability of resources for teachers.

To solve the problem, the not-for-profits Copyright Agency, the Australian Society of Authors and the major English and literacy educator associations have all worked hard to create resources for teachers to bring Australian stories back into the classroom.

As teachers are preparing to return to school, they can now source 62 curriculum-linked resources for books, plays and poems for kindergarten to year 12 at Reading Australia. Essays responding to the works from writers such as Germaine Greer, Malcolm Knox and Geordie Williamson bring deeper perspectives to the texts for young adults.

Some of the books teachers and students are rediscovering include new classics, such as Oscar-winner Shaun Tan's The Arrival and Jeannie Baker's Mirror, as well as old favourites such as Miles Franklin's My Brilliant Career and Ruth Park's Playing Beatie Bow.

President of the Australian Literacy Educators Association, Robyn Ewing, reviewed all of the junior primary resources and praises the fact they are written by teachers from across Australia. This geographic spread recognises the knowledge and insight teachers have about what will switch children on to reading.

She says: "Quality literature can and should be a centrepiece from which teachers can build students' reading, writing and language skills".


They're killing off Tom!

But he's not going away, the sports betting brand headed by a fourth generation Aussie bookie in a slick suit and a smile, is about to become a piece of history.

The move has been on the cards for a while. British betting giant William Hill bought in 2013 for a reported $34 million. But the business has continued to trade under the name, with the son of leading horse trainer Gai Waterhouse continuing to front the business for promotional purposes.

William Hill has also since acquired major Australian sports bookie Sportingbet, and the iconic Centrebet, the Alice Springs-based agency which in the 1990s was the first global betting agency to dream up the idea of betting on elections and reality TV shows.

William Hill announced today that it will launch its global betting brand in Australia, replacing its three existing brands, Sportingbet, and Centrebet.

Sportingbet will be the first to be rebranded, changing to William Hill ahead of the upcoming Autumn Racing Carnival and the 2015 NRL and AFL seasons. The rebranding of Centrebet and to William Hill will follow in “due course”, a company spokesman said.

But young Tommy won’t be left out in the cold. Since last year he has been CEO of William Hill Australia and will continue in that role.

“The change to William Hill will give us a recognised and respected international brand with which to compete at the highest level in Australia’s competitive market,” he said today.

“It will also allow us to work much more closely with global racing and sporting bodies and provide our Australian customers with more diverse betting opportunities,” he added.

Founded in 1934, William Hill brands itself as “The Home of Betting” and is the UK’s biggest bookie.


Vast waste by Victoria's Labor government

Spending a billion to get nothing

Andrews Government faces massive compensation bill to axe East West Link. Mr Andrews said the consortium contracted to build the 6.6km road would be refunded for any work it had done on the project before it was cancelled by Labor.

But he would not say what further compensation would be paid to the East West Connect consortium, saying negotiations were ongoing.  “There are issues around costs that have been incurred, and we were very clear about, it’s appropriate to refund people costs that have been incurred,” he said.

“That’s a usual practice, whether you are building a house worth two or three hundred thousand dollars or a much bigger project.”

Mr Andrews said he couldn’t say how much taxpayers would have to pay in total to scrap the contract for the project.

“It would be inappropriate for me to put a number on it. We are going to work through these issues responsibly, carefully... I am not going to run a commentary on it.”
Mr Andrews was asked whether the government would consider legislating to invalidate the contract and avoid compensation. “I wouldn’t rule that out,” he said.

He said the previous government had left Labor a “mess” to deal with, and should “hang their head in shame”.

“Having said that we need to work through, and we are, the mess that has been left to us.”

The premier said he had a clear choice on whether to break his promise on scrapping the “dud” East West Link or deal with the contract signed by Premier Denis Napthine.

“I will not break the commitment I made before November 29th,” he said.  “We are not building this project, it is a dud project.”

Deputy Premier James Merlino told 3AW today: “There will be a settlement reached with the consortium, there was always going to have to be.”

But he refused to reveal more details including possible financial costs, saying: “I’m not going to conduct negotiations over the airwaves.”

The Herald Sun can reveal that key members of the consortium that signed the contract to build the Link want at least $1.2 billion to walk away from the dumped project.

Banks and superannuation funds that financed the deal are leading the hardline push.  But they are at odds with partner and construction giant Lend Lease, which is understood to be taking a more cautious approach for fear a fracas may dent its chances for future government jobs in Victoria.

It’s understood that Lend Lease favours a settlement amount in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Herald Sun can confirm that, in the wake of weeks of frantic negotiations with the consortium, there is a dawning acceptance within the Labor Government that it will have to write a taxpayer-funded cheque to rip up the contract for the 6.6km road.

The Government has engaged businessman and former MCG Trust chairman John Wylie and gun Arnold Bloch Leibler lawyer Leon Zwier to help it argue its case.

Mr Wylie was heavily involved in complex government business cases such as the privatisation of Qantas and of the state’s power industry.

Uncertainty about the looming cost to taxpayers of compensation poses problems for Budget planning.

It could also embarrass Mr Andrews, who repeatedly said the contracts — signed by the Napthine Government in September — were worthless.

Four days before the election, he said: “Be very clear about this: there will be no compensation paid.”

Mr Andrews revealed in September that he planned to dump the $6.8 billion toll road and said then he expected “some modest compensation”.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said Labor only had itself to blame for the scale of the compensation payout.

“Labor knew their claim that (East West Link) had no binding contract was wrong. It will now cost $1 billion to scrap a roadway that Melbourne needs,” Mr Guy said on Twitter today.

The consortium that won the contract for the $6.8 billion toll road includes Lend Lease, French group Bouygues, and Spanish company Acciona.

A complex network of institutions, including local and international banks and super funds, financed the deal.

A source said CEOs of the major partners, including from overseas, came to Melbourne before Christmas, and “made clear they would be pursuing their legal rights as contained in the contracts’’.

This was understood to relate to the sum the group believed it would be owed.


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