Friday, June 12, 2015
Conservative Australian PM wishes he could have further reduced wind power growth
Tony Abbott says the government has done its best to slow the growth of wind power, but has to continue subsidising the sector because of the Senate.
Describing wind turbines as “visually awful” and noisy, the Prime Minister said the government wanted to further reduce its support for the renewable sector.
“What we did recently in the Senate was ... we reduced the number of these things that we are going to get in the future,” he told 2GB radio.
“I would frankly have liked to have reduced the number a lot more, but we got the best deal we could out of the Senate, and if we hadn’t had a deal … we would have been stuck with even more of these things.”
Mr Abbott said he was aware of concerns raised about the potential health impact of wind turbines that are the subject of a Senate inquiry.
Yesterday, Liberal Democrats senator for NSW David Leyonhjelm compared the wind industry to big tobacco for brushing off concerns about the health impact on those living near turbines.
“It is ... well established that inappropriate levels of infrasound, regardless of the source, cause adverse health impacts,” Senator Leyonhjelm wrote in The Australian.
Mr Abbott said he accepted the argument. “I do take your point about the potential health impact of these things; when I have been up close to these wind farms not only are they visually awful but they make a lot of noise,” he said.
Mr Abbott said the government had inherited the renewable energy target (RET) policy from the Howard government, which established the program in 2001 to encourage growth in renewable energy.
“Knowing what we know now, I don’t think we would have gone down this path in this way, but at the time we thought it was the right way forward,” Mr Abbott said.
“What we have managed to do, through this admittedly imperfect but better than the alternative deal with the Senate, is reduce the growth rate of this particular sector as much as the current senate would allow us to do.”
The Australian Wind Alliance said the comments exposed the government’s true intentions on the Renewable Energy Target.
“These comments are extraordinary. Our Prime Minister has just admitted to setting out deliberately to destroy a viable industry in Australia, one that could provide jobs to many Australians, investment to regional communities and new income to farmers,” national co-ordinator Andrew Bray said.
Liberals kiss farewell to PM Tony Abbott on homosexual marriage
A SLEEPING giant is rising within Coalition ranks. For some conservatives in the party room who have always supported Tony Abbott and helped secure him the leadership, the issue is a deal-breaker.
They are furious at what they see as an orchestrated campaign, with his blessing, to sneak a change to the Marriage Act through parliament. “When I told my preselectors I believed in family values I meant it,” says one. “It’s the most fundamental issue in the Liberal Party and for the parliamentary party to change it will cost us dearly.”
With numbers in the Coalition party room running more than two to one against changing the definition of marriage, some conservatives say they will withdraw their support from Abbott if he “doesn’t hold the line”. “If he takes us to a conscience vote he may as well pack his bags, (because) the damage is done,” says one.
They do not see a socially conservative prime minister who buries his convictions as a statesman devoted to democracy, but a traitor.
More sanguine marriage traditionalists are not so critical of Abbott, understanding it is a difficult issue for him to adjudicate, considering the strongly held views in the party.
But they, too, warn that MPs and senators aren’t just going to sit back and say ‘Yes sir’. “We will be more organised and connect more”, said one, “because it’s on”.
The appearance of assistant treasurer Josh Frydenberg on the ABC’s Q & A last week, endorsing gay marriage and claiming it was “inevitable”, had a galvanising effect.
Frydenberg may have been surprised by the slapdown he received from colleagues. He was told, publicly and privately, that he had stepped “way beyond” the mark.
For those around the PM, the imperative has been to make the issue go away, and with polls suggesting community support for same-sex marriage as high as 72 per cent, it seemed a no-brainer.
The plan was for the party room first to agree to a conscience vote on the issue, then to vote on whatever bipartisan bill comes up.
With the “marriage equality lobby” estimating they need just 14 extra votes in the lower house, a Liberal Party conscience vote becomes a proxy vote for gay marriage.
It is also a bob each way for MPs who want to keep their preselectors happy but don’t want to be targeted as moral troglodytes within polite society.
Alex Hawke, for instance, who represents one of the Liberal party’s most conservative seats, Mitchell, can push for a conscience vote while telling his constituents that he voted against same-sex marriage.
But he’s fooling no one. “As far as the party room is concerned, the issue of a conscience vote is irrelevant until there is a firm proposition of what any change to the Marriage Act would look like,” says one traditionalist.
Ironically enough, parallels are being drawn with the ETS battle in 2009 that catapulted Abbott to the Liberal Party leadership.
Back then, Malcolm Turnbull ignored his party room’s opposition to the Emissions Trading Scheme proposed by the Rudd government.
He decided that he knew better what was in the party’s best interests and lost the leadership by one vote.
If Abbott disappoints them on gay marriage, the hardliners in the party won’t be turning to Turnbull, who supports “marriage equality”, but to Social Service Minister Scott Morrison, who doesn’t.
Morrison has let it be known he doesn’t want to be the “poster boy” for traditional marriage, and has been urging calm behind the scenes.
But, in letters to constituents, he has firmly stated his position as: “supporting the current definition of marriage as a voluntary union for life of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. … For me this is ultimately about a child’s natural right to a mother and father … I believe my responsibility is to be faithful to the principles and convictions I hold on this matter.”
Morrison’s position is in tune with Liberal grassroots, especially in multicultural electorates where everyone from Hindus and Sikhs to Muslims, Copts, Maronites, Anglican Africans and Filipino Catholics oppose changing the definition of marriage.
Behind the scenes, the PM is being told the sense of inevitability and momentum on the issue is a “myth”. And he is being urged to hold a non-binding plebiscite so the Australian people can decide.
Just as was the case in the republic debate (another “inevitability” that did not come to pass) the result of any plebiscite would depend on the questions asked.
A number of options are being canvassed. “Do you support marriage equality” could be one.
“Do you support traditional marriage between a man and a woman” might be another.
Another could be the “French option” in which the Marriage Act is changed to a Civil Union Act, allowing the state to register a legal union between same-sex or heterosexual couples, leaving churches free to conduct marriages according to their own beliefs.
The point is that the debate on same sex-marriage has only just begun, and it is presumptuous for anyone to think there is only one option on the table which will be ushered through.
Everything from the status quo through civil union to the full monty should be considered. And, in the end, the Australian people should decide.
Religious leaders write to PM on homosexual marriage
Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton has joined with 38 leaders of Christian and other religious groups in signing a letter to the Prime Minister urging him and the parliament to uphold the true meaning of marriage. Mr Shelton said such a demonstration of support from Australia's faith communities for man-woman marriage and the rights of children it protects was a welcome development in what has been largely a one-sided debate. "It is so important our nation does not sleep-walk into a legislative change to the definition of marriage without considering the consequences," Mr Shelton said.
The letter, signed by Catholic and Anglican Archbishops, as well as 36 heads of many other denominations including Pentecostal and orthodox churches, senior rabbis from the Jewish community and leaders from both the Sunni and Shia Islamic communities, expresses 'grave concerns' regarding 'Bills that have or will be introduced into the Federal Parliament to change the definition of marriage in Australian law'. It says the definition of marriage in the current law (the Commonwealth Marriage Act of 1961), which describes it as “the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life” reflects a truth deeply embedded across diverse communities, faiths and cultures.”
"To uphold marriage as the mutual love of a man and a woman, open to the gift of children, is not bigotry or prejudice. At many times throughout history, and sadly still today in some places, people with same-sex attraction have suffered injustice. This is to be deplored." the letter says. "We should do more to ensure that our brothers and sisters who are same-sex attracted are treated with the dignity and respect owed to every human being. But this does not require the further deconstruction of marriage as traditionally understood." The leaders say "Australia’s definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman is consistent with that of the vast majority of world nations, who represent over 91 per cent of the global population.”
“To date, only 21 of the 193 member states of the United Nations have changed their legal definition of marriage to incorporate same-sex unions. For the sake of children and to encourage men and women to commit to one another and to their offspring, marriage between a man and a woman has always been given the special recognition and support of the state." the leaders say. "Any adult person can love and care for a child. But, as a couple, two persons of the same sex are not able to provide a child with the experience of both mothering and fathering." The letter says overseas experience has shown redefining marriage will have consequences for everyone 'as the truth about marriage becomes increasingly a truth which cannot be spoken'.
It speaks of 'legal vulnerabilities' for the millions of Australians who do not wish to see marriage redefined and the fact that in many overseas cases, expressing such belief has resulted in vilification and legal punishment of individuals and institutions. "This violates not only freedom of religion, but also the rights of conscience, belief and association, and the right of parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs. The experience of these countries which have redefined marriage demonstrates that attempts to address these concerns through legislative “exemptions” have proven to be worthless." the leaders say.
"We urge you and your fellow Members of Parliament to uphold the law of the Commonwealth of Australia regarding marriage as the union of a man and a woman and to continue to support the common good of our community by supporting true marriage." It ends with a request for a meeting with the Prime Minister and MP's to further discuss the issue.
Afghan man who beat his 14-year-old sisters with a TREE branch for talking to an older man on Facebook is granted Australian citizenship
An Afghan man who beat his younger sisters with a tree branch for talking to an older man has been granted an Australian citizenship.
The man, in his 20s, was charged at Mildura Magistrates Court - in north-west Victoria - with intentionally causing injury to his sisters who were both 14 years old at the time in 2013.
His charges were dismissed after he underwent a three-month, court-ordered diversion program, with the magistrate satisfied with his participation.
The man, who was granted permanent residency in 2009, said he had hit his sisters with a stick because they had been having a 'sexual' conversation with an older Afghan man on Facebook.
The circumstances surrounding the incident were set out in documents submitted to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, with the man seeking to have the decision to reject his citizenship application overturned.
A delegate for the minister did not approve the man for citizenship in 2014 because he was not satisfied the applicant was 'a person of good character' due to the 2013 incident.
The man explained he was angry with his sisters when he discovered they had been chatting online with the older Afghan man. Young girls talking to older men is frowned upon in Afghan culture.
'When we arrived home the girls went to their bedroom. I went outside and got a branch from a tree. I came back inside and hit them both with the branch,' the young man said. 'After a while I went back inside and my sisters were crying.
'I was cross because we came here for a better life, to have education, achieve, find homes and provide better. 'I did not want my sisters to be having relationships with older Afghan men and get married at an early age.'
The next day the girls' teacher reported the incident to police after seeing bruises on their arm, leading to the charges against their brother.
The two teenagers said their brother was the head of the family as their father was dead and he had 'kept them safe'. One of them said he had only hit them once and it was with a small stick.
A friend of the applicant told the tribunal the young man had helped him settle in Australia and had 'done everything for his family'. The friend added the man was 'a patient, caring person' and he had not seen the applicant display anger nor did his sisters appear to be afraid of him.
The tribunal's senior member Rodney Dunne ruled in the Afghan man's favour and granted him citizenship, saying: 'In looking at the evidence as a whole, I am satisfied that [the man] is now a person of good character.'