Thursday, April 16, 2015

Detention centre guards suspended over social media posts

It seems that those who see the most of our mostly Muslim illegals like them the least.  I wonder why?

Eight guards from Nauru detention centre have been suspended over a possible breach of their employer’s social media guidelines.

The members of the “emergency response team” at Nauru, who were hired on the basis of their cultural “sensitivity”, have been stood down pending an investigation into their social media use.

Some promoted the Reclaim Australia movement and some posted anti-Islam slurs online.

The Nauru guards also posed with Pauline Hanson, the controversial former federal MP and One Nation founder who has long called for immigration restrictions, after she spoke at the rally in Brisbane on 4 April.

A former employee for Transfield subcontractor Wilson Security told Guardian Australia the guards’ online posts provided a glimpse of the mindset of ex-defence force personnel who “frequently referred to asylum seekers in their care as ‘the enemy’ ”.

This included Facebook posts of material comparing Islam to Nazism, accusing companies from Cadbury to Krispy Kreme of supporting terrorism by having products certified as Halal, and the embrace of the slogan “infidels” through T-shirts and tattoos.

A spokesman for the detention centre operator Transfield Services, which employed the men, said the matters were “very concerning and not at all what we expect of our staff”.

It follows Transfield’s suspension on Monday of another guard at the Manus Island detention centre who posted links to Reclaim Australia and the boycott halal movements on Facebook.

The rally was one of a string of nationwide events protesting the influence of Islam in Australia, conflating the religion with violent extremism and provoking counter protests by self-described anti-racist groups.

One of the guards, Simon Scott, posted the group photo with Hanson on his Facebook page with the comment: “What more can I say.”

Another guard, Graham Motley, a veteran of a Royal Australian Regiment task force that mentored soldiers in Afghanistan, commented under the post: “Royal Australian Infidels”.

Two others in the photo, Beau James and Dann Connors, sport T-shirts bearing the word “infidel”.

Another guard, Harley Levanic, revealed on Facebook his new neck tattoo bearing the same word. James commented on the picture: “Welcome to the gang… Well done old son. Looks awesome.”

A day before the rally, James, tagged a post likening Muslims to Germans who enabled the rise of Nazis through inaction, with the comment: “See yas tomoz boys!!! Bring your pitch forks.”

Another guard, Simon Scott, posts on the same day: “Let me know when we are meeting in the city. I need someone to help me with a bag of ammonium nitrate.”

Last week, Connors posted about a visit to the Lindt cafe in Sydney where a siege in December 2014 ended in the deaths of self-proclaimed jihadist Man Haron Monis and two hostages. Scott responded: “Did you smell dead joondie in there?” “Joondie”, derived from the Arabic word for soldier, is a slang term used by Australian defence personnel to refer to the Taliban.

Last month Scott endorsed a boycott on Halal products, saying: “Don’t be UnAustralian and buy these products. Let the filthy sub human genetic Islamic filth have it.”

Seven of the eight men suspended – Levanic, James, Connors, Scott, Graham Motley, Cody Allen, and Alan Hartley – are understood to be former military personnel.

Motley served in Afghanistan as part of a mentoring task force led by the 8/9th battalion, Royal Australian Regiment from Brisbane. He told the Toowoomba chronicle in 2012 that the work had given him a better understanding of Afghanistan culture.

The eighth is Jamie Scannell, whose comment on the Hanson photo was: “Pauline Hanson’s Protection Team. Great photo boys.”

Connors and Hartley both posted on Facebook before the rally urging people to attend.

The team is trained in riot control but also called in to deal with “incidents” in the Nauru centre, from self harm to disputes between asylum seekers.

Many of the asylum seekers on Nauru are Muslims from the Middle East and parts of Asia.

In a job advertisement last year for “offshore security specialists” including emergency response officers, Wilson Security said that “successful applicants will ... be culturally sensitive” while those “with (foreign) language skills are highly regarded”.

A spokesman for Transfield Services told Guardian Australia that all eight men were stood down while the company investigates whether they were in violation of a new social media policy.

“These matters are very concerning and not at all what we expect of our staff,” the spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said it expected “service provider staff to act appropriately and with integrity in all their dealings with the people in their care”.

“Inappropriate use of social media channels will not be tolerated, particularly if it involves offensive material,” she said.


Blunt honesty cut through Labor’s single-issue grandstanding

Janet Albrechtsen memorializes Peter Walsh, who has just passed away aged 85.  In that he genuinely cared about the welfare of the people, he was a real oddity on the Left

Watching the Labor Party today raises the question: where is the next Peter Walsh? Walsh was finance minister in the Hawke government, and his cut-through common sense, his scorn of special interests and lazy thinking, his exposure of empty claims about “social justice” and his determination to break our addiction to entitlements rightly places him in the pantheon of political giants.

That there is no sign of the next generation Walsh in Labor’s ranks might explain why Liberal politicians delivered the finest tributes to him. When retiring from the Senate, former finance minister Nick Minchin described his predecessor as the best finance minister this country has seen. Coming from Minchin, a very fine finance minister in the Howard government, it was high praise indeed. Former Liberal senator Fred Chaney was equally gracious last week, saying Walsh would be accepted as finance minister by both sides of politics.

If only that were true. Given the poor treatment dished out by Labor to ALP stalwart, Martin Ferguson, following his honesty about bad Labor policy during the recent NSW election, it’s unlikely Walsh would be embraced by Labor today.

Walsh skewered poor policy from his own party with common sense honesty rarely seen in Canberra. He described the greatest beneficiaries of the Whitlam government as “those who gained ­sinecures in an expanded public sector and the white-collar middle class in general. It delivered few positives to Labor’s lower paid, working-class constituency and big negatives in the form of high inflation and rising unemployment”.

Likewise, Walsh had no qualms in exposing the hypocrisy of the Labor Party’s attachment to protectionism and its rejection of consumption taxes. High tariffs are hidden consumption taxes, he said, pointing to the higher priced clothing and footwear which hit the poor harder than the rich because the proportion of income the poor spent on clothes and footwear was three times higher than for those in the highest income bracket.

Born in the WA wheatbelt town of Kellerberrin, Walsh’s understanding of economics was rooted in real-life common sense and close readings of classical economists. In his 1995 book, Confessions of a Failed Finance Minister, Walsh was contemptuous of the “self-interest disguised as public interest policies” put up by some unions and the party’s bourgeois Left.

With pinpoint accuracy, he targeted the “sheltered workshop of Victoria” trying to set up a workers utopia on a foundation of power sharing with unions. Walsh challenged the featherbedding of the Northern Territory with skyrocketing intergovernmental payments, double dipping of pension payments by federal politicians, and staffing levels at ACT schools (directly funded by the federal government) which far exceeded that in other states — even higher than Victoria and South Australia where “supine governments had abdicated policy control in favour of teachers’ unions”.

Walsh’s intellectual honesty was destined to collide with Labor’s growing attachment to green politics. Following the Franklin Dam controversy, he was scathing when Labor decided to lock away even more forests: “A Labor government knowingly put southern Tasmanian blue-collar workers — living in an area which already had unemployment rates between 20-24 per cent — out of work, not for any valid environmental reasons but to appease bourgeois and middle-class trendoids in the gentrified suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.”

Prior to Labor’s 1982 biennial federal conference, it was Labor policy to repudiate existing, legally binding uranium contracts. Walsh recalls the courage and bravery of South Australian Labor MP Norm Foster. Never heard of him? Foster was expelled from the Labor Party in 1982 for siding with a Liberal bill to indemnify Roxby Downs investors against the sovereign risk of a Labor federal government repudiating uranium contracts.

Wrote Walsh: “Foster was an old fashioned Labor man, blue-collar working class, intelligent, principled and courageous … One Norm Foster is worth more to the Labor Party than a few hundred bourgeois left single-issue zealots.” As Walsh might say, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews could learn something from that history — but probably won’t.

Now more than ever, Labor needs a Peter Walsh to neuter the woolly-minds and cheap stuntmen in Labor’s ranks, Left and Right. That both federal Labor senator Sam Dastyari and Walsh made headlines last Friday was truly unfortunate for the former. The contrast was scorching. Chasing headlines over tax avoidance with empty rhetoric, unsubstantiated allegations and no sign of a smoking gun, Dastyari told The Australian Financial Review he likes a bit of “showmanship” and “vaudeville”.

Yet to score a single run on the political scoreboard, Dastyari made the amateurish error of thinking he can mimic the flair of the Hawke government with none of its substance. Imagine what Walsh would make of Dastyari, the young gun lauded by many as the future of Labor. In fact, it’s worth asking what Walsh would make of Canberra politics more broadly. Surely he would rebuke the Abbott government for constantly complaining that reform is hard — witness Treasurer Joe Hockey’s whiny interview on Monday in the AFR. Equally, Walsh would chide his own party for completely disengaging from serious economic debates.

And Walsh would likely direct a few caustic jibes at the political squabble over the mandated 20 per cent renewable energy target. Labor wants 33,500 GWh by 2020. The Abbott government wants 32,000GWh. Business screams for certainty. Aside from bickering over 1500GWh, all sides of politics are wedded to a feel-good policy that has led to higher electricity prices with no discernible effect on reducing climate change — the very thing it was introduced to do.

It’s not hard to guess what Walsh would make of the union movement’s recent name and shame campaign against small businesses that can’t open on public holidays because of ridiculously high penalty rates. Walsh exposed Labor romantics who saw unions as natural proselytizers for the Brotherhood of Man as just that — romantics. “Unionists in secure employment have always preferred higher unemployment to lower wages,” he wrote.

While Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is right to laud Walsh’s book as a compelling manual for finance ministers today, the book should be compulsory reading for every politician who thinks their overriding role is “do something”.

When castigating his own side for caving into Green demands at the expense of working class Australians, Walsh recounted this joke: “Why do behavioural psychologists use lawyers instead of rats for laboratory experiments? Because there are some things rats will not do. Likewise, there should be some things politicians will not do.”


Victorian government settles East West Link deal for $339m

Green/Left anti-roads zealots hit the pockets of Victorians hard

Victoria has actually sunk up to $900 million into the dumped East West Link, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy says.

The state government announced a $339 million deal to axe the $6.8 billion road project this morning.

Mr Guy said as well as the $339 million already spent by the East West Connect consortium and the $81 million in finance costs, another $400-$500 million has been spent by the state government. “These sunk costs by government include land acquisitions, project development and bid costs,” Mr Guy said.

The decision was economic vandalism that would set back Australia’s fastest growing city, he said.

“There will be no major infrastructure project underway in Victoria for years.” Former treasurer Michael O’Brien said the state government spent $190 million in 2013/14 on land acquisition and project costs, with another $290 million set for 2014/15.

The Federal Government slammed the deal with the East-West Link consortium not to build the road as “an obscenity’’ that will cost 7000 jobs.

The Victorian government this morning announced it had brokered a deal with the companies involved in the project, taking on a $3 billion credit facility while the road’s proposed builders walk away with $339m in already incurred costs.

A further $81 million in fees will be absorbed by the state government, after it was spent to set up a credit facility to borrow the project costs.

Federal Social Services Minister Scott Morrison described the payment as “an obscenity” when there were more pressing community needs, such as combating youth homelessness.

“For the Victorian government to spend $420 million to pay to a company not to build a road is an obscenity, and Bill Shorten is linked up with that obscenity in his support for Daniel Andrews’ decision on this,” Mr Morrison said.

“Taxpayers in Victoria and right around the country, when there are so many more worthy needs, would just be shaking their heads.”

The Prime Minister said he was dismayed by Victoria’s decision to not proceed with the project, accusing the Labor state government of damaging investor confidence in Australia.

“The Victorian Government’s decision to abrogate contractual responsibilities sets a dangerous precedent for future projects and threatens further investment in much-needed infrastructure in our country,’’ Tony Abbott said in a joint statement with Jamie Briggs, the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure.

“Australia can’t afford to discourage private investment in infrastructure because government alone cannot afford to build the infrastructure that our country needs. There is no alternative to the East West Link in Victoria. The East West Link is the only major shovel-ready project in Victoria. It is the only answer to easing Victoria’s traffic congestion.

“The Victorian Premier has today destroyed 7000 jobs. And the Victorian Government’s actions today mean that Melbourne’s daily traffic gridlock simply gets worse.

“Victorians should feel let down by Daniel Andrews who promised before the election that no compensation would be paid.

“The tearing up of this contract damages Victoria’s reputation as a place to do business — as has been proven by revelations this week that the French and Spanish Governments have made direct representations of concern to Victoria.’’

The Victorian Premier said the deal would mean Victorians pay no compensation and legal opportunities for the consortium to seek compensation through the courts has been extinguished.

“This concludes the matter,” Mr Andrews said. “This extinguishes any claims for the future.”

The group has already been handed and spent $339m on design and pre-construction, including buying a number of properties which the government will now own.

Mr Andrews said the costs could not be recovered, but the government will review it to see if there has been any overspending within it. A further $110m held in cash by the consortium has not been spent and will be refunded.

Mr Andrews said Victoria would benefit from a $3bn credit facility established for the road project (with the $81m in fees already incurred) which would now be used for the Melbourne Metro rail project.

The government also released a redacted version of the East West Link’s contract and confirmation from Treasury that the total cost of the road’s eastern section would have been $10.7 billion over 30 years.

Treasurer Tim Pallas attacked his predecessor Michael O’Brien for having the “insufferable arrogance” to lock Victoria into the contract when it could have been held over until after last November’s election.

He pledged Victoria would maintain its AAA credit rating in next month’s budget.

Mr Andrews said he accepted there would have been serious consequences for Victoria’s business reputation if his government had followed through on its threat to use legislation to kill the contract, but said that had never been his first preference.

“It was always preferable for us to negotiate in good faith and to reach a good faith outcome,” he said. “That is exactly what we have done.

“As part of the settlement there is no compensation for profits forgone, no compensation for any losses that might have been incurred or will be in the future and this notion of opportunity cost all of those matters are settled once and for all as part of this agreement.”

He revealed the government is now planning to introduce legislation that would block future governments from signing significant contracts close to an election without bipartisan support, saying the Napthine government had recklessly rushed into a project “in an act of complete vandalism”.

Asked if the government would consider building the western part of the link — considered by many to be the most vital part of the project — Mr Andrews said he would not rule anything out and further infrastructure announcements would be made in the weeks ahead.

The Australian Industry Group welcomed the end of uncertainty surrounding the East West Link contract, said the group’s Victorian director Tim Piper.

“The completion of an agreement on the East West Link ensures a crisis of confidence in Government contracts has been averted,’’ he said.

“Ai Group welcomes the agreement being reached as it had the potential to cast a pall over the Victorian economy. The sanctity of these contracts is vital to business and the uncertainty around this deal had sent a terrible message to industry, both locally and around the world.

“Ai Group had not supported the contract being rescinded but it is important that both the Government and industry are now able to move forward with certainty. The Victorian Government needs to act quickly to get other projects under way in Victoria, to utilise the skills available and boost the economy.

“The way is now clear, to enable the Government to pursue its projects and regenerate confidence. This should be the end of such contracts being breached.’’

Greens MP Ellen Sandell said the hefty compensation could have been avoided if the Labor government had opposed the East West Link earlier.

“If the Labor Party had come out and opposed this project earlier on rather than flipping and flopping with their position we could have avoided over $300 million of taxpayer funds going to the consortium,” Ms Sandell told reporters. “But it’s a good outcome overall.”

Greens senator Janet Rice said Victorians should “savour this win for the community” and urged the federal Coalition to fund metropolitan public transport.

“Victoria’s traffic woes are never going to be solved by more and more polluting toll roads. The fact is that the only way to reduce congestion is to give people the choice of fast, frequent, affordable, reliable and safe public transport,” Senator Rice said.


Wot?  No global warming?

BoM Does science for once

Australia is now just one step short of declaring it faces a drought-inducing El Nino. The Bureau of Meteorology has moved its fortnightly El Nino Southern Oscillation tracker to the alert phase, meaning there is now at least a 70 per cent chance an El Nino will develop during the year.

The alert phase is the final step before the BOM declares the existence of an El Nino, a weather phenomenon that includes a warming of waters in the tropical central Pacific Ocean - which tends to lead to below average rainfall in winter and spring in eastern Australia. Vast areas of inland Queensland and NSW, western Victoria and southern South Australia are already in drought.

The BOM had its ENSO tracker at alert from October 2014 to January but dramatically reduced the chances of an El Nino to less than 25 per cent after a cooling trend was observed in the Pacific around Christmas.  [They were tasken by surprise. How surprising!]

In its latest fortnightly ENSO Wrap-up, issued on Tuesday, the BOM said Pacific ocean temperatures are warming while trade winds that normally push moist air towards Australia and weaker than normal.

"Tropical Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures are now just shy of El Nino levels. Large areas of warmer-than-average water below the surface are likely to keep these waters warm for some time," it said.

"This increases the odds of atmospheric factors coming into play, and hence further warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean."

All international climate models monitored by the Bureau indicate El Nino thresholds will be reached or exceeded by June.

But the BOM warned ENSO predictions can be less accurate in autumn than at other times of the year.


Sydney Airport refuses envy-driven Labor Party billboard

Sydney Airport is refusing to display a billboard that denounces tax evasion by multinational companies.  The airport claimed the proposed Labor billboard would contravene its policy on political advertising.

But the Labor Party, which tried to hoist the "pay their fair share" message on General Holmes Drive, was given a different explanation from APN Outdoor, owner of the billboard.

The party was told that Sydney Airport's objection was not political but that it would cast multinationals in a negative light for business travellers arriving at Kingsford-Smith.

Correspondence obtained by Fairfax Media shows an APN Outdoor employee clearly stated that the issue hinged on a perceived smear on multinationals.

"The issue was less that it was political but that the creative addresses foreign multinationals in a negative light, and because it is placed near the airport it's not the ideal location for that sort of message," APN Outdoor said in an email sent to an intermediary that had booked the billboard.

But APN Outdoor chief executive Richard Herring said on Wednesday that the issue was Sydney Airport's policy on political advertising.

After being shown the email, he said that a "junior employee" had presented their own interpretation but that explanation did "not represent the position of APN Outdoor or Sydney Airport".

The ALP, which had used the same billboard on General Holmes Drive during the NSW state election campaign, had planned to reuse it as part of a snap campaign to capitalise on public anger at corporate tax evasion launched on Saturday.

Executives of Google, Apple and Microsoft conceded during public hearings of the Senate inquiry into corporate tax dodgers last week that they paid hardly any company tax in Australia despite earning billions of dollars in sales.

A spokeswoman for Sydney Airport insisted that the proposed message conflicted with an airport policy on political advertising.

The airport allows political messages to be displayed during election campaigns but, she said, the "concessionaire must not display any advertisement containing obscene or offensive material or any material with political, religious or racial overtones" outside campaign periods.

Mr Shorten said: "We need to be talking about this important issue, not censoring debate.

"It is not fair that Australians work hard and pay tax while big multinationals get to play by different rules. It is not fair that Australian businesses are paying more tax in Australia than big multinationals."

Sydney Airport Corporation has maintained in recent years that it complies with all its tax obligations, but a Fairfax Media investigation found in 2013 that the airport, which took on high levels of debt after being sold to Macquarie Bank in 2002, paid no company tax in the decade between 2003 and 2013.

The company has argued that its "flow-through" structure, similar to a stapled property trust, passes the tax obligation on to investors.

Last year it was revealed that Sydney Airport had paid $69 million to the ATO to end an audit that raised questions over deductions claimed on billions of dollars' worth of redeemable preference shares used to finance the business.


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