Friday, May 22, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG mocks the Labor party's financial credibility

'Nope, nope, nope': Tony Abbott says Australia will not resettle refugees in migrant crisis

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said "nope, nope, nope" to Australia offering resettlement to any of the thousands of migrants caught up in south-east Asia's refugee crisis.

"I'm sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door," Mr Abbott said on Thursday.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have provoked an international outcry for pushing boats carrying Rohingya and Bangladeshi asylum seekers back out to sea.

On Wednesday, Malaysia and Indonesia backed down from their stance and said they would temporarily allow thousands of people to come ashore - on the condition that international agencies repatriate them within a year.

At a media conference on Thursday, Mr Abbott said Australia would not be offering resettlement.  "It's a refugee and humanitarian program which has been modestly expanded because we have stopped the boats and we are not going to do anything that will encourage people to get on boats." 

Mr Abbott said resettling any of the refugees would encourage the people smuggling trade.  "If we do the slightest thing to encourage people to get on the boats, this problem will get worse, not better."

He said Australia was happy to offer assistance to Australia's neighbours in south-east Asia in other ways, including through humanitarian work "inside Burma because part of the problem is the difficulties that some ethnic groups face inside Burma".

But he said there was "no future for anyone in encouraging the people-smuggling trade". "Australia will do absolutely nothing that gives any encouragement to anyone to think that they can get on a boat, that they can work with people smugglers to start a new life.  "I'm sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door."

The United States has said it will take refugees as part of international efforts to deal with the crisis.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor supported regional resettlement as a general principle.  "But where there is an unfolding humanitarian crisis in south-east Asia, Tony Abbott's 'not my problem' approach is disappointing. There's no doubt there's terrible violence happening in parts which are affecting the Rohingya people."  He called for the government to "engage" on the issue.


The wide-ranging influence of genetics

The Left long denied the influence of genetics but now simply ignore it.  The study below is therefore powerful evidence of just how wrong they are.  Hans Eysenck, a considerable student of genetics, once said to me, "It's ALL genetic".  He was of course making a conversational statement to a colleague rather than a precise scientific one but the present study does confirm one sense of what he said:  ALL traits have a substantial genetic component. And the writer below makes the correct and important point that the 50/50 split observed is only an average and that the genetic contribution varies from trait to trait.  So the findings do not overturn the usual finding that IQ is about two thirds genetic

It's a question that dogged scientists for close to a century and Queensland researchers say they have the answer.  When it comes to health, in the age-old battle of nature versus nurture… It's a draw.

University of Queensland research fellow Dr Beben Benyamin worked with scholars at the VU University of Amsterdam to review almost every twin study completed globally in the past 50 years.

After analysing studies of more than 14.5 million twin pairs across 17,804 traits from 2748 publications, they found variation for human traits and diseases was 49 per cent genetic (nature), and 51 per cent due to environmental factors (nurture).

The Queensland Brain Institute researcher said the draw was expected but he was pleased to be able to put a number on the variation and surprised by how similar an influence each aspect had.

"Most of the reviews have been for specific traits, like people are interested in studying one particular disease and review all the twin studies for one disease," he said.  "But this is I think is the first one to review everything about all disease and all twin studies that are available at the moment."

The influence of nature and nurture is actually a complex interplay rather than a simple either/or and is far from equal across all traits and diseases.

The risk for bipolar disorder was about 70 per cent due to genetics and 30 per cent due to environmental factors, Dr Benyamin found.


Echo chamber of anti-government outrage

For an insight into the regrettable yet predictable lack of intellectual curiosity at the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster, you only needed to listen to about 15 minutes of ABC Sydney’s local radio last week.

Following Joe Hockey’s second budget, ABC’s 702 radio station in hosted three journalists on its regular journos’ forum to discuss the budget. Instead of a debate, the forum became an echo chamber where like-minded journalists emoted over entitlements and displayed scorn for Australians who fund the ABC to the tune of more than a $1 billion a year.

It’s bad enough the ABC hab­itually ignores its charter obligation to present news and information in an accurate and impartial manner, a reasonable quid pro quo for receiving taxpayer funds. It’s bad enough that last week Leigh Sales on 7.30 and Emma Alberici on Lateline used their taxpayer-funded platforms to launch aggressive, bad-mannered and partisan attacks when interviewing the Treasurer and Finance Minister respectively.

And it’s just as bad that Lateline’s other host, Tony Jones, can’t imagine a difference between the recklessness of the Rudd government’s stimulus spending and a narrowly targeted tax deduction for small business.

It’s even worse when the national broadcaster invites a panel of three journalists to discuss these and other measures — and all three are in wild agreement with each other’s contempt for budget reforms.

The conversation on 702’s journos’ forum about new tax breaks for small business went like this: The Sydney Morning Herald economics columnist Ross Gittins, the ABC’s Alberici and BuzzFeed News’ Mark Di Stefano all agreed with each other that people are too dim to understand the new measure. Gittins said: “I met people who think ‘oh the government’s going to give you $20,000’ ... there’s no free gifts”. Alberici chimed in with: “Well, look, I have to say I agree with Ross entirely … it’s been beaten up in a way because people don’t understand how the tax system, how a deduction works.” And Di Stefano, who laid claim to providing news to Tony’s tradies, said: “They’re our people as well. It’s very funny because I totally agree with Ross and Emma.”

Was it beyond the wit of those at the ABC to find a journalist who might suggest that most of the men and women running the two million small businesses in Australia probably do understand a tax deduction? A more curious journalist might have suggested that if these small-business owners have purchased anything for their business in the past, they have likely claimed a deduction against income. The new budget measure is not complicated. If you are a small business with turnover of less than $2 million, you can claim an immediate deduction against earned income for items up to $20,000 used in the business. Instead, the forum exposed how contempt for voters such as Howard battlers and Tony’s tradies grows among the so-called progressive set when a Coalition government is in power.

There was more chorus-line chatter when it came to the government’s policy to halt the double-dipping of paid parental leave. Gittins agreed with Alberici and Di Stefano agreed with both of them.

Alberici was more concerned with pointing the finger at this newspaper than considering the unfairness of a two-tiered system where most people can’t access what entitlement-rich ABC employees can access.

“Look, I am one of those people that the — let’s call it for what it is — The Australian newspaper calls out for being a higher-earning public servant who takes advantage of the so-called double-dipping, or the rort, or the fraud,” she said. In fact, no one here has accused Alberici of double-dipping. As she said, the scheme wasn’t available to her when she had children.

During the forum, Alberici uttered “outrageous” no less than five times. Her outrage over the PPL changes was no substitute for a wider debate.

Was it impossible to find a journalist who might have pointed to the fundamental inequity in a system that sets up two classes of recipients: the first class can access two tranches of PPL, the generous PPL package of at least 12 weeks full paid leave if, for example, they are public servants plus $11,500 under the government’s 18-week minimum wage paid leave system? The other class, with no access to workplace PPL, can access only the government scheme.

As The Australian’sJudith Sloan pointed out last weekend, it’s estimated that of the 80,000 recipients who access both PPL schemes, 60,000 are in the public service. In the ABC’s echo chamber of outrage, there was no mention of the fact, as a nation, we are spending more than we are earning. Not one of the journalists uttered the word deficit, only this mocking reference from Gittins: “Somebody has dreamt it up, somebody in fin­ance has said, ‘We can save a couple of bob, minister.’ ” Damn those finance types and their obsession with fiscal responsibility.

A different-minded journalist also might have pointed out, in the context of a discussion about women and work, that the government is pumping an additional $3.5bn into childcare over the next five years so that low-income families will receive 85 per cent subsidies for childcare costs.

Perhaps it is indeed beyond the imagination of those at the ABC forum to ask searching questions around inequity and deficit challenges of the budget. Certainly the host of the journos’ forum, Kumi Taguchi, didn’t think to inject these issues into the talk. And that’s the core problem so often evident at the ABC. It’s as if no decent, morally upright person could possibly hold a view different to the orthodoxy of ABC journalists.

While it is certainly not the role of the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster to advance a government’s reform agenda, it most certainly is its role to deliver good, intellectually curious and honest journalism, to offer up different points of view and present news and information in an accurate and impartial fashion.

ABC groupthink is exacerbated when those who host the major news and current affairs programs are the same people venting their opinions on any number of the ABC’s opinion platforms, be it the journos’ forum, the Drum, Insiders or elsewhere. If you want to be a commentator, go ahead and commentate. If you want to host serious news programs, do that. But pick your poison. When you nail your colours to the mast, for example, by declaring that one or other government policy is outrageous, it pollutes your ability to deliver news and information in an accurate and impartial manner.

More important, it undermines the ABC’s ability to meet its charter obligations and that taints the legitimacy of the ABC as a taxpayer-funded broadcaster.


Commonwealth Bank Targeted by Greenies

The Commonwealth Bank has been targeted by climate campaigners for the second day in a row, as anger over its support for the fossil fuels industry grows and protesters start to move to more direct and disruptive actions.

A group of around nine protesters are currently ‘occupying’ a Commonwealth Bank branch on the corner of Market and George in the Sydney CBD, after performing a similar action in Melbourne yesterday that saw the bank’s headquarters interrupted for nine hours.

Police are on the scene, although customers are still doing business inside the bank. A spokesperson on form the bank declined to comment on whether the branch would shut.

The actions are part of an escalating campaign against the bank, which is lining up to assist coal company Adani fund a massive expansion into Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

This week’s protests have been led by, a global climate group dedicated to reversing emissions, and co-founded by environmentalist and activist Bill McKibben.

350’s media coordinator Krista Collard, who is watching the protest from outside, told New Matilda the bank was the only of the ‘big four’ to be publicly named dealing with Adani, and that it had failed to engage with community concerns about the Indian company’s Queensland projects.

“We have been trying to talk with Com Bank for years now and basically every time members of the public, members or concerned residents bring this up, they’ve been shielded from talking to anybody that has any decision making power,” Collard said.

Meetings with the bank have taken place but “our concerns have not been taken seriously,” she said.

Aside from concerns about damage to the Great Barrier Reef from the world's largest coal port, which Adani plans to construct at Abbott Point near Mackay, climate campaigners have warned an expansion of mining in the Galilee would be a disaster for global efforts to limit temperate increases.

Along with Artic oil and the Alberta tar sands, Queensland’s coalfields are seen as a key battleground for the fight to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

While other banks have distanced themselves from the projects, environmental campaigners are concerned that if Adani is able to secure domestic credit it will trigger further international investment.

The company has defended the impact exporting and burning Galilee coal will have on the Great Barrier Reef by arguing the world is on target for a 3.1 degree temperature increase regardless of whether the coal in the Galilee is left in the ground or extracted.

In response to questions, a spokesperson for the Commonwealth Bank said the organisation recognised its role in addressing the challenge of climate change.

“In that regard we have invested in more than 170 renewable energy projects in the wind, solar, hydro and landfill gas power sectors,” they said.


Jeep again

MOMENTUM is building for a national “lemon law” to protect owners of dodgy cars, with a key federal senator declaring support for increased examination of “vehicle manufacturer conduct”.

After last week’s story which revealed how Jeep had finally relented and replaed a faulty car after one family’s exhausting battle, we were inundated with other horror stories

The worst of them featured the Sifniotis family say their Jeep Grand Cherokee’s steering locked — while in motion — in August last year, five months after purchase.

In a September email the dealer said it had fixed what it called “a wiring concern”. But in November, while Mary Sifniotis was doing 100km/h on the M5, it happened again. She says she had to stop the car to unlock the steering wheel.

This, and 15 other less significant faults, led her and husband Con to request a refund. They had no success so contacted me after last week’s story.

A Jeep spokesman said the steering wheel locking again was only raised by Mr Sifniotis last week. Emails suggest this is not the case.

The Sifniotis have had access to a loan car at Jeep’s expense. However, they say they have also spent $12,000 on another car, because they do not want to drive the Jeep.  “My wife is too scared to even look at it, let alone sit in it or drive it,” Mr Sifniotis said. He said they believe the “vehicle is not roadworthy”.

The family intends to pursue a refund through the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

However, Jeep wants to conduct further testing on the vehicle.

Following the unprecedented response to last week’s column — and ahead of an official review of existing legislation — our probe of the case for a lemon law reveals:

* influential but rarely-heard-from crossbench senator Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party wants the review to consider “greater consumer protection … in the area of motor vehicle sales and repairs”;

* the highly regarded Consumer Action Law Centre wants a law that defines a lemon as “a vehicle that has been repaired at least three times by the manufacturer or importer and the vehicle still has a defect or if the vehicle is out of service for 20 or more days in total due to a defect;

* the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is “actively investigating … vehicle manufacturer conduct in the context of consumer guarantee obligations” and is “increasingly concerned about reports of consumers having difficulty with their new cars”; and

* there is no evidence that any new car owner has obtained a refund or replacement using the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), introduced in 2011.

Consumer Action CEO Gerard Brody said in the ACL review it would also argue for a switch in the “onus of proof” for at least the first six months of ownership.

“The trader should be required to prove that the goods are of an acceptable quality rather than this burden sitting with the consumer,” Mr Brody said. “We find that recalcitrant traders repeatedly repair cars and say they are working when they aren’t. This requires consumers to complain and complain and end up at the tribunal which can mean they give up.”

The federal minister responsible for consumer affairs Bruce Billson revealed the ACCC investigation yesterday. Of the existing law, he said: “If you buy a motor vehicle and it has a major failure, you have the right to choose between a refund or a replacement product. While not called a ‘lemon law’, consumer guarantees can provide similar redress.”

That said, the review of the ACL later this year “will be an opportunity to test how well the law is working and to see if changes are needed”.

Top consumer group Choice’s spokesman Tom Godfrey said the ACL review was timely.

“Too often we hear of consumers being driven into the aftermarket and given the run around by dealers when they seek redress,” Mr Godfrey said. “Some consumers are wondering how car companies are getting away with off-loading lemons”.

Other stories from Jeep owners

Not new

SIMON, who asked that his surname not be used due to his occupation, says he wasn’t told his new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee had been damaged and repaired. He wants a refund and, while Jeep hasn’t agreed, it is “more than happy to work with (him) to reach a suitable outcome”.

Noisy engine

LAURA Puig and Jim Chitsos say they have taken their 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee back 14 times in six months for a noisy engine. Jeep says it is a “commonplace characteristic” of that engine and claims the owners “attest to this”. The owners disagree and still want a refund.


PETER Curran says his 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8 has many problems including a ticking sound from the engine and faults with the side mirrors. Jeep says “all required repair work has been carried out under warranty”. Mr Curran says this is not the case and he still wants a refund.

Won’t start

MATTHEW Good says his 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Blackhawk fails to start. It happened in November, February, April and May. He says there have been failed attempts to fix the fault and he wants a refund. Jeep told Public Defender last night it would contact the customer.

Unable to tow

KARL Boos says his 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee cannot safely tow a three-tonne caravan and that he has a statutory declaration from an expert to this effect. He says the vehicle is not fit for a normal purpose and wants a refund. Jeep said last night it would get in touch with the customer.

Water Pump

COURTNEY Murray had her 2012 Jeep Patriot serviced regularly but not by Jeep. A week after the warranty ran out, Jeep had a special on servicing. Jeep found the water pump was leaking but wouldn’t fix it because it didn’t do all the servicing. Now it is “happy to work with this customer”.

Leaking roof

CORY McMillan found his 2013 Jeep Wrangler’s roof was leaking. He says he took it to get fixed and Jeep said keep driving it until new seals came in. During the recent storms water got in, causing extensive damage. Jeep said it wouldn’t fix it. Now it says it’ll repair it as “a standard warranty claim”.


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