Thursday, March 05, 2015

Australia's net foreign debt approaches $1 trillion, trade figures show

When John Howard left office and handed over to the Rudd/Gillard circus, there was ZERO Federal debt

The latest official trade figures show Australia's net foreign debt has hit a new record and is approaching $1 trillion. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows net foreign debt grew to $924.8 billion in the December quarter.  That is 4 per cent higher than the prior quarter's debt of $886.8 billion.

"Our high level of foreign debt represents a risk - if export income was to dry up it would constitute a problem," CommSec chief economist Craig James said of the figures.  "But exports continue to rise, resulting in our debt servicing ratio improving to the best levels in almost 30 years."

Today's data also suggests that Australian economic growth data due out on Wednesday could be better than expected.

The ABS figures show net exports will add 0.7 percentage points to the gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the three months to December.  That is better than the 0.6 percentage points economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected.

The current account deficit in today's figures was also better than had been anticipated, falling from a revised $12.13 billion in the September quarter to $9.59 billion.


Police investigate Save the Children "whistleblowers" over Nauru abuse report

Whistleblowers or liars?  Lying comes easily to the Left.  They NEED lies.  Reality is too inconvenient

Child protection whistleblowers who alerted the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to child sexual abuse, violence and self-harm on Nauru are being investigated by the Australian federal police.

Guardian Australia has discovered the AFP has been asked by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to investigate Save the Children staff who anonymously wrote a submission to the commission’s inquiry, outlining cases of sexual and physical abuse of children, and acts of self-harm.

Submission 183 said: “We believe that the children have been subjected to multiple violations of their human rights and wrongdoing from multiple parties.

“Unfortunately, due to confidentiality clauses that have been imposed on us by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, we are unable to provide our full names and … titles … However, we believe the evidence that will be submitted will validate the statements that we are making in this submission.”

The submission detailed specific allegations – including names and dates – of sexual abuse of child detainees, violence and bullying of children, suicide attempts by children and medical neglect.

Appended to the submission as evidence of its claims were more than 100 working documents from Nauru, including minutes of meetings, incident reports, intelligence notes, and email correspondence.

Submission 183 was made public by the AHRC, but the appended documents were not.

The commission’s inquiry, which attracted more than 200 submissions, has been intensely controversial since its report, The Forgotten Children, was launched in February.

The report is excoriating of both Labor and Coalition administrations for their policies and practice of detaining children.

The commission was refused permission to visit Nauru. It relied on first-hand professional accounts such as submission 183, and testimony from detainees. The commission found: “Children on Nauru are suffering from extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress.”

Tony Abbott has rejected the report as partisan, and a “transparent stitch-up”.

The AFP confirmed to the commission it was investigating the author or authors of submission 183 over the attached working documents.

Police are investigating a suspected breach of section 70 of the Crimes Act, concerning “disclosure of information by commonwealth officers”. A single disclosure carries a penalty of up to two years in jail.

Guardian Australia sought access to the suppressed documents attached to submission 183 under freedom of information laws, but was refused access. Guardian Australia was told by the AHRC the release of the documents would prejudice a police investigation that was underway.

The AHRC said: “In oral submissions from the Australian federal police they have confirmed there is a current investigation into the unauthorised disclosure of the documents attached to submission 183.”

“The department and the AFP submit, and I accept, that disclosure of the documents would … prejudice the investigation”.

The immigration department told the AHRC the documents’ release would “attract media attention” leading to a “real risk that material witnesses may be discouraged from volunteering information”.

The immigration department confirmed to Guardian Australia the AFP investigation was commenced at its request.

“As the AFP is currently investigating this issue, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time,” a department spokeswoman said.

A spokesman said Save the Children was aware of the AFP investigation and would cooperate fully with police inquiries.

“The Forgotten Children report confirms Save the Children’s view that prolonged, mandatory detention of children has profound and devastating impacts on their physical and mental wellbeing. Our staff remain firmly focused on doing everything in their power to minimise such harm, to the extent possible in the circumstances,” the spokesman said.

The AFP confirmed to Guardian Australia it had “accepted the matter for investigation” and that the investigation was ongoing.

According to the AHRC, the attached documents withheld included: Transfield Services incident investigation reports; the identities of confidential intelligence sources within the detention centre, and; “Wilson’s case notes dealing with a number of ongoing issues in relating to bullying, racial tension, allegations of assault by a member of staff, sexual assault harassment and intimated and specific threats to public safety”.

Transfield Services said the public release of documents detailing its operations and conditions on Nauru would reveal personal details of detainees and compromise its ability to keep order.

“We are concerned that the disclosure of such documents may lead to incidents of protest and riots as disclosure of such material may also enable others to use the information to the detriment of the good order of the operations of the regional processing centres,” it said.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the government was obsessed with shutting down voices of dissent, instead of addressing the issue of child abuse.

“This is just another case of the Abbott government shooting the messenger. Witch-hunts and cover ups won’t keep the children on Nauru safe from harm.”

The AFP is regularly asked to investigate leaks of information from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.


Israel to blame for Australia's rise in anti-Semitism: Margolyes

Obviously a Leftist -- in good historical company.  Karl Marx hated Jews too  -- even though he was one

Jewish actress Miriam Margolyes says that anti-Semitism is rising in Australia and Israel is to blame.  Ms Margolyes’ comments, which sent “Miriam” trending across Australian Twitter accounts, came in response to a question from an audience member during the ABC’s Q&A program.

Speaking in the wake of the #IllRideWithYou campaign which supported Muslim Australians following the Sydney siege, questioner Erin Gordon asked the show’s panellists why Australian Jews had not seen the same levels of support.  “Who would ride with us, the Australian Jews if we were to travel in particular areas of Sydney and our religious clothing?” she said.

“Anti-Semitic attacks have risen 35 per cent in the past year and physical incidents 200 per cent. Why is there this precedent, yet we have received no widespread support from the general public?”

Ms Margolyes, who was raised in a Jewish household, said it was an uncomfortable truth, but people “don’t like Jews” due to the actions of Israel.  She said the “appalling treatment of the Israelis towards the Palestinian and the settlements that have been built in contravention of the United Nations rulings “ had led to an increase in anti-Semitism.

“We have to just keep fighting about it and demand that we are given the respect that all citizens should enjoy and a sense of safety that all citizens should enjoy,” she said.

Her views were disputed by Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who said he defended Israel’s ability to “secure itself against some very hostile neighbours”.

Mr Frydenberg, also Jewish, said that instead some anti-Semitism was being driven by “hate media”.  “People are being taught very young that Israel is always the source of all bad in that part of the world,” he said.

Their comments follow a number of anti-Semitic incidents in Australia, including the distribution of flyers calling for “White Australia” to “wake up” throughout Sydney.

Anti-Muslim sentiment and widespread racism was also discussed, with panellist Trisha Jha speaking on her discomfort following the Cronulla riots in 2005.

Ms Jha, a policy analyst for the Centre for Independent Studies, said the riots were a good example of where racism comes from.

“That’s fundamentally from hatred,” she said.

“I know that it was something I felt uncomfortable about for many years as being visibly different.

“I think that the kind of fear that [the questioner] was discussing, the kind of fear I have felt is something that only our fellow Australians can kind of smooth away. I think that's something that Australia needs to work on.”


Greens introduce bill to ban fracking in South Australia

The Greens have tabled a bill that would ban fracking in South Australia, despite also instigating a parliamentary inquiry tasked with gathering scientific evidence about the merits of the mining practice.

SA Greens leader Mark Parnell successfully introduced the motion for a parliamentary inquiry into fracking in the south-east of SA in November 2014, receiving backing from the Liberal Party.

The purpose of the inquiry is to gather scientific evidence about the potential risks and impacts of fracking in the region and then make recommendations to Government about whether it should be allowed.

ABC Rural has been told those recommendations are "a long way off" but on Wednesday the Greens tabled a bill that would enforce an immediate ban on all fracking in the state and also give landholders the right to "say no" to coal and gas mining on their land.

Greens Senator Penny Wright rejected the suggestion the bill was merely symbolic.  "We're working very hard to get support," she said.

"At the moment in states across Australia there currently aren't any legal rights really to protect [farmers'] land, to protect their water rights and essentially we know this is about protecting the climate as well.

"We're really keen to see some of those people who know that this is wrong stand up with the Greens and support this bill."

When asked about the Greens' evidence that fracking would have adverse effects on the state, Senator Wright referred to interstate and overseas examples.

"Some countries, like France, have actually banned fracking outright," she said.  "Others have moratoriums in place, because there's mounting evidence that there's an unprecedented level of risk to water and food supplies by this particular practice and there's so much scientific uncertainty."

The pre-emptive bill raises questions about whether the Greens will back recommendations that arise from the parliamentary inquiry in the south-east.

"The validity of the findings will depend on the terms of reference and the quality of the evidence that we hear," Senator Wright said.

"Ultimately the proof of the pudding will be in the eating and the quality of the report and the degree to which it's influenced by some evidence and not others.

"Certainly the jury's out on that particular inquiry but we can't ignore the fact that there is evidence coming from the rest of Australia and internationally that there are real concerns."


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