Thursday, May 28, 2015
For his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has just drawn TWO cartoons -- one about homosexual marriage in Ireland and another about returning Jihadis.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 'dismayed' at Australia's treatment of asylum seekers
To be criticized by Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein is an honour. What does this Pharisee have to say about the human rights of women in Muslim countries? Matthew 7:3-5 refers
The United Nations' top official on refugees has slammed Australia before an international audience, saying he is "dismayed" by the country's treatment of asylum seekers in detention in the context of the accelerating migration crisis in south-east Asia and Europe.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raâad Al Hussein, told the Human Rights Council overnight in Geneva that he was "alarmed" by the current migration crises, calling on countries to put human rights first and to approach the issue "far more" comprehensively.
"The paramount concern of all actors must be the human rights of the people who have embarked on their desperate voyage out of fear and need," he said.
This year more than 1050 people have died at sea after fleeing from Myanmar and Bangladesh, while more than 1800 have died in the Mediterranean, Mr Hussein said.
"I am also dismayed that in Australia, people on boats intercepted at sea are sent to detention centres where conditions are inadequate," he said.
"In the first quarter of this year, 25,000 people have set out to sea from Myanmar and Bangladesh – some fleeing persecution in Myanmar, and others fleeing the poverty that besets both countries."
He said a "large proportion" of them were stateless and refugees in need of international protection and that people smugglers had violently abused and robbed many people who were attempting to leave their countries.
"As the special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar told the council in March, Rohingya people in [displacement] camps have told her that they had only two options: 'stay and die' or 'leave by boat'," he said.
Daniel Webb, director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said an urgent humanitarian crisis was unfolding and Australia should do more to help.
"A wealthy, developed and fundamentally decent nation like Australia should be part of the solution. Instead, we're being called out on the world stage as part of the problem," he said.
"While the UN is urging countries to respect international law and share responsibility, Australia is breaching international law in order to shift it."
This is not the first time Mr Hussein, who is a Jordanian prince, has criticised Australia for its treatment of asylum seekers.
In his maiden speech as Commissioner for the UNHCR in September, he said Australia's policy of offshore processing of asylum seekers and intercepting and turning back vessels was leading to a "chain of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and possible torture following return to home countries".
Last week when asked whether Australia would offer resettlement to any of the thousands of migrants caught up in south-east Asia's refugee crisis, Prime Minister Tony Abbott replied "nope, nope, nope".
In March, after a UN report found that Australia was violating the rights of asylum seekers on multiple fronts, Mr Abbott said he was "sick of being lectured to by the United Nations".
"I really think Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations, particularly, particularly given that we have stopped the boats, and by stopping the boats, we have ended the deaths at sea," Mr Abbott said.
"The most humanitarian, the most decent, the most compassionate thing you can do is stop these boats because hundreds, we think about 1200 in fact, drowned at sea during the flourishing of the people-smuggling trade under the former government," he said.
Australia's dependence on China just went up a notch
New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that not only is China our most important trade partner, it’s also on the brink of becoming number one for investment as well.
It was back in 2007 that the value of two-way trade with China overtook Japan but, as of a couple years ago, Australia’s investment links with China had yet to budge.
In 2011 and 2012, two-way investment -- Chinese investment in Australia plus Australian investment in China -- rose by $13.5 billion. That was less than 10 per cent of the increase with the US, historically our most important source and destination of international investment.
But what a change 2013 and 2014 brought.
Earlier this month the ABS said that two-way investment with China leapt by $71.3bn. This was just a whisker under the $75.6bn recorded with the US and accounted for 30 per cent of the increase with all countries.
And get this -- it wasn’t just because China upped its investment in Australia. Nearly half (44 per cent) was due to a big jump in Australian investment in China.
In fact, last year Australian investment in China topped Chinese investment in Australia by more than 40 per cent. You don’t hear about this amid the shrill cries that China is buying the farm and the family home.
But with the continued opening of China’s domestic capital markets to foreign investors, official interest rates more than double ours and its stock market on a bull run, it’s not surprising that more and more Aussies are snapping up Chinese assets.
What does all this mean?
Fundamentally, it’s a good news story.
Treasurer Joe Hockey was right when he said in the recent Federal Budget that Australia would benefit from its major trading partners, led by China, growing at a faster rate than the global average. It’s better to have investment links with faster growing economies as well.
The catch is, that if Australia’s exposure to China wasn’t already sky high, it certainly is now. That makes the forecasts of Chinese growth found in the budget papers all the more crucial.
The Commonwealth Treasury sees China expanding at between 6 to 7 per cent for the next three years. While this is in line with what the IMF and World Bank are saying, some think it’s too rosy.
After all, real estate investment in the year to April was up just 6 per cent. That’s the slowest rate of growth since early 2009 when China was in the midst of a GFC slump. The growth in industrial production is at GFC lows too.
But this is looking for Chinese growth in the wrong place. Its economy has moved on: no longer does growth rely on making even more T-shirts and building more roads, now it’s about online retailing and peer-to-peer lending.
Last year, the secondary sector led by manufacturing and construction, contributed 43 per cent of China’s growth. Services delivered 52 per cent. And in the first quarter of this year, services were responsible for 55 per cent. The trend is clear.
China’s ‘new normal’ growth of between 6 and 7 per cent overall, means 8 per cent in the services sector. That pace hasn’t slowed over the past three years.
Earlier this week, HSBC said that its Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was stuck in contraction. But as far as crystal balls go, better to gaze into the services PMI.
Throughout 2015, that has not only been in expansion territory but steadily strengthening as well.
A lot has changed in China and in Australia’s economic relationship with China in recent years. But the big truth remains the same: we’re far better off being exposed to China than any other major economy.
More solar panel subsidies die
Waste of money in Spain, USA, Britain and Germany and now Australia. Aussie solar panels suck money from the poor and hand it to the rich
The cost of climate-change-inspired subsidies to boost the installation of rooftop solar systems has forced consumers who don’t have solar panels (the poor people) to pay $14bn to the rich people who do, but the Aussies are coming to their senses.
With 1.4m households having solar panels, Australia has the highest proportion in the world of households with solar panels, but the ill-advised subsidies that allowed them, plus presumably their marketing, outweigh any good they do by $9 billion. Unbelievable.
A report on the electricity market by the Grattan Institute think tank reveals that solar feed-in tariffs, which over-pay owners of solar panels for the power they supply to the grid, have created “a policy mess”. Well, that’s hardly surprising, considering the subsidies were the only financial reason to instal the things.
Anyway, it wants pricing reforms. The electricity price does not increase at peak times, so consumers who don’t have solar panels subsidise those who do, even though solar owners place the same strain on the distribution network. That’s because peak use of power usually occurs in the early evening when (surprise) the sun goes down.
While solar panels have cut emissions they have proved very costly—the equivalent of a carbon price of $170 a tonne. Emissions could have been reduced more cheaply and fairly. The Australian carbon price right now sits at $13.95 a tonne. The electricity regulator will require those with solar panels to pay more than before, so the installation of new solar panels in most capital cities will no longer be profitable.
Climate sceptics have been asking about discrepancies in the economics of solar panels for years. We still have questions about their carbon footprint, but they become moot as solar panels are killed off by economics.
Solar panels are fine in deserts, coral atolls and yachts, but they’ll never securely run a household or a steel mill—especially at night.
Gas exploration licence extension not ruled out by NSW Premier after court overturned suspension
New South Wales Premier Mike Baird has not rule out extending Metgasco's drilling licence in the state's north, after a court overturned the State Government's attempt to suspend it.
In April, the Supreme Court lifted the suspension of the gas company's licence to drill a test well at its Rosella site near Bentley.
The suspension was imposed a year ago amid allegations of inadequate community consultation. But the court found the Government had acted improperly, overturning the decision and awarding costs to Metgasco.
The Government has now confirmed it will not appeal against the court ruling, but Metgasco has pushed for an out-of-court compensation settlement and a possible four-year licence extension.
It also wants police protection at the drilling site at Bentley, which has previously been hindered by months of protests and blockades.
Mr Baird said the Government is in talks with Metgasco, but will not confirm what options are on the table. "I'm not going to rule anything in or out now," Mr Baird said. "What I will be saying is we are happy to negotiate directly with them. "We have a buyback scheme that sits there across the state at the moment and we are talking to all players about that."
Metgasco's managing director, Peter Henderson, said the Government's decision not to appeal came as no surprise. "We had a very strong court position," he said.
"Had the Government appealed the decision, it would have sent a terrible message to industry in New South Wales and would also have wasted public funds. "We were confident that had it been taken to appeal, we would have won again."
Public servants banned from wearing ugg boots, onesies
Ever thought about wearing ugg boots to work? How about a onesie?
If you work at the Immigration Department, your time has run out. The department has a new dress code and comfort dressing is out.
"There are certain things that wouldn't constitute professional business dress and that would be things like jeans, thongs, ugg boots and so on," the department's Jan Dorrington told a Senate committee.
"I couldn't imagine that many people would be rocking up to work in ugg boots," asked Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
"Ah, you'd be surprised, Senator," Ms Dorrington replied. Her boss, department secretary Mike Pezzullo, quickly agreed, revealing how he came to learn about the onesie.
"At one point Ms Dorrington came to me with a number of matters that had arisen and I was asked to, if you like, rule or make a determination around something called the wearing of onesies," he said. "I didn't even know what a onesie was and I was shown pictures of such garb."
Queensland Liberal Senator Ian MacDonald was keen for Mr Pezzullo to share his newfound knowledge. "Tell me what it is so we all know," the senator said.
"Ah, I had to put it out of my head very quickly, Senator," Mr Pezzullo replied. "I guess in the old days you would have called it a boiler suit of some description."
So far no-one has been disciplined under the new rules. Mr Pezzullo said he did not think they were "draconian" but rather about "basic professionalism".
For the record, the Macquarie Dictionary describes a onesie as: "A loose-fitting one-piece suit, usually of a stretch fabric, gathered at the wrists and ankles and loose at the crotch." [i.e. an adult baby suit]