Sunday, July 12, 2015

Antarctic blast begins to bite: Heavy snow falls in southern states, 90km/h blizzards set to batter NSW and drivers urged to stay off the roads as temperatures plummet to lowest in 15 YEARS

At mid-afternoon in Brisbane on Saturday it was 22 degrees!

Emergency services are on high alert as the Antarctic blast is beginning to hit the southern and eastern coast of Australia and people have been warned to batten down the hatches ahead of the worst of the storms overnight and into Sunday.

Damaging 'blizzard intensity' winds of 90km/h in NSW are causing havoc across NSW, and snow is also falling in South Australia and Victoria as conditions worsen.

NSW Police has appealed for all drivers to take extra care on the roads, as thousands of families return home after the school holidays. The warning calls for people to avoid 'risky behaviour'.

A State Emergency Service spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia people should avoid travel all together if possible, as roads become potentially deadly in 'icy conditions'.

It also advised people to move cars undercover, put away or secure loose items at home and be aware of falling trees and power lines.

The freezing front began to roll across the country on Friday afternoon, delivering conditions not seen in 15 years, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Temperatures are expected to fall to zero or below across large parts of Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania, with bitterly cold winds and hail also forecast. Snow is predicted to reach as far north as Queensland, after already falling across Victoria, South Australia and NSW.

The snow spread is forecast to reach further north than it has since 2000.

Sydney and Melbourne can expect average low temperatures of 8 degrees for the weekend, while Canberra will be hit with a freezing 4 - but it could feel as cold as -1 due to the wind chill.

Brisbane will likely end the weekend soaked, with heavy rain predicted across most of the state, in addition to potential snow in areas of higher-elevation. [Didn't happen.  A few light showers only]


Stand up and be counted on electoral roll fraud

WHILE NSW Labor MP ­Noreen Hay stands aside as NSW Opposition whip pending the outcome of an Australian Federal Police investigation into allegations of electoral roll fraud, it might be an excellent time to conduct a wider ­inquiry into electoral fraud across the nation.

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) is to conduct two new inquiries, with submissions closing next week, but the terms of reference seem to deliberately avoid electoral roll fraud.

The first inquiry will deal with electoral education, the second with behaviour at polling places and ­campaigning activities.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has performed woefully for years. Lex Stewart, the president of Australians for Honest Elections, ­estimates there may be at least 200,000 false enrolments on the electoral roll.

He said the integrity of the roll had worsened over the years and was now in a state of crisis. It is almost 20 years since the AEC stopped making home visits to physically check claims of residence.

Stewart said four reports by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) in 2002, 2004, 2010 and 2014 pointed to the poor state of the roll and the potential for ballot papers to “go missing”.  The 1370 lost in the WA Senate election were merely “the tip of the iceberg”, he said.

With the roll in disrepair and without checks, massive voting fraud could easily occur and change the outcome of a federal election.

Apart from the potential for people to switch electorates in order to give their votes greater weight in marginal seats, there is the capacity for false enrolments to gift political parties with hundreds of thousands of dollars in electoral funding.

If the JSCEM is to hold an inquiry, it should make it meaningful.
The concerns of the ANAO ­deserve to be addressed and the public needs to be assured their votes will count and will not be discounted because of voters rorting elections.


Australian bureaucrat wears Confederate-themed shirt -- gets prize

Australia is not America

THE decision of a senior Northern Territory bureaucrat to wear a Confederate flag to a recent dinner was totally inappropriate, Senator Nova Peris says.

MARK Coffey, the NT manager in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, won best dressed man at the annual Central Australian Beef Breeders dinner on Saturday in a shirt emblazoned with the Confederate flag, the American Civil War emblem linked to white supremacy and racism.

"We're trying to move on from those days, we're trying to build a more inclusive country.... I think wearing that - I call it a costume - you have to think you're going to draw criticism, and rightly so," Ms Peris said.

SOURCE (Nova Peris is black)

ABC-SBS Asian soccer war costs public extra $700,000

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Malcolm Turnbull has demanded that ABC managing director Mark Scott and SBS chief executive Michael Ebeid explain why the two public broadcasters went head-to-head for the free-to-air broadcast rights to soccer’s Asian Cup.

By competing against each other, the broadcasters increased the cost to taxpayers by about $700,000.

SBS submitted a bid of about 700,00 to broadcast the games, which begin in Australia in January, but the public broadcaster has been told its bid was unsuccessful.

The ABC, while still in final nego­tiations, is understood to be the successful candidate, with a proposed payment for the free-to-air broadcast rights of up to $1.4 million.

Mr Turnbull told The Weekend Australian he has asked the ABC and SBS to explain why they engaged in a bidding war, especially given the need for them to become more efficient.

“The efficiency study of the ABC and SBS identified five key areas that may lead to significant operational efficiencies or savings, the first of which was that the two broadcasters look for opportunities for greater co-operation, while retaining their separate and unique programming identities,’’ Mr Turnbull said. “In this instance, it appears taxpayers have been the losers by this advice being ignored. I have asked the two CEOs for an explanation.”

The ABC dominated headlines for a week when it implied its program Lateline could face the axe due to budget cuts but, as The Australian revealed on Friday, it is paying Google thousands of dollars for lead position on search terms such as “politics news”.

On Tuesday, it outbid its commercial rivals to buy a Google search ad for Gough Whitlam’s death.

Commercial media organisations were infuriated by Mr Scott’s use of taxpayer funds to drive traffic away from their news sites, which, unlike the government-funded broadcaster, rely on subscription and advertising revenue for survival.

Opposition communications spokesman Jason Clare called for an investigation into the practice but the ABC’s director of audience and marketing, Leisa Bacon, said the broadcaster had an obligation to have its content seen by as many people possible.

She denied the ABC was spending $10,000 a month on search engine marketing, saying the figure was closer to a 10th of that.

Mr Scott, who has refused a longstanding interview request with The Weekend Australian, is likely to be grilled on the Asian Cup and the buy-up of Google search ads when Senate estimate hearings are rescheduled.

The Weekend Australian understands that SBS, long considered the home of soccer, was disappointed to miss out on the cup rights.

Fox Sports, owned by News Corp Australia, publisher of The Weekend Australian, holds the overall rights to the Asian Cup, the region’s biggest soccer tournament. Football Federation Australia and Fox Sports are likely to grant the free-to-air rights to the ABC because of its national audience.

“Soccer has got a lot of momentum at the moment, so allowing a new audience at the ABC to see this with international teams playing is a good thing for football and for our country,” a source close to the negotiations said.

“It would help the momentum football already has.”

The SBS bid of $700,000 was a break-even assessment of the revenue and advertising the event could return to the public broadcaster. SBS and Fox Sports declined to comment yesterday.

An ABC spokesman said it would be proud to show key games. The Asian Cup was an international event that will reach a large, diverse audience.

“No deal has yet been signed for the Asian Cup, however, we can say discussions with the FFA and Fox Sports have been conducted in good faith and there has been no bidding process for the event,’’ he said.

The Asian Cup Australia is already receiving funds, from the federal, Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victorian governments.


'Just go': Former Labor chief calls on Bill Shorten to QUIT

Bill Shorten should resign in the wake of his appearance before the trade union royal commission, a former ALP national secretary says.

Bob Hogg's call comes after it was revealed the opposition leader only declared on Monday a $40,000 donation made by labour-hire company Unibilt in 2007.

'Bill, do something for the ALP. It is simple. Just go,' Mr Hogg wrote on social media on Wednesday night.

Nine Network's political editor Laurie Oakes also told breakfast show Today that this could be the end for Mr Shorten, as the Federal Labor leader is 'so down in the dumps anyway, so down in people's estimation, he couldn't afford what happened yesterday'.

Mr Shorten, the former Australian Workers Union Victorian and national secretary, fronted the unions royal commission in Sydney on Wednesday. He is expected to appear again on Thursday.

Mr Hogg attacked Mr Shorten in an open letter on social media hours after the inquiry, which revealed the Federal Labor leader failed to declare a company's donation to his 2007 election campaign until this month.

'Dear Bill - is the concept of conflict of interest beyond your understanding?' Mr Hogg wrote, Fairfax Media reports.

'Really?' he continued. 'His campaign director was paid for by a company whose employees were covered by Bill's AWU, and therefore, as union members, deserved their interest to be protected to the maximum.

'The payment wasn't declared until Bill was reminded eight years later: a real lapse of memory, sloppy book-keeping or a hope no-one would notice. Take your pick.'

While Mr Oakes says yesterday's inquiry has done some damage for Mr Shorten, he predicts the opposition leader will 'still lead the Labor party into the next election'.

'People are saying there is no smoking gun being revealed at the commission… he's bruised but he'll get over it,' Mr Oakes said on Thursday morning on Channel Nine.

'Sure, this royal commission is a political exercise, there's no doubt about that. But the point is, is it effective? Well it's aimed a fair bit of damage already and he's due in the box again today.'

Yesterday, after arriving more than two hours early and swearing an oath on the Bible, Mr Shorten faced a series of questions from senior counsel Jeremy Stoljar about the staff involved in the 2007 campaign which propelled him into federal office.

In late 2006 or early 2007, Mr Shorten met with labour hire company Unibilt boss Ted Lockyer and the-then AWU national secretary asked whether the company could provide a research officer, Lance Wilson, the commission heard.

Mr Wilson was put on the books of Unibilt as a 'research officer', but Mr Shorten told the commission he actually acted as his 'campaign director' in his run for the Labor-held seat of Maribyrnong.

Mr Stoljar told the commission the total amount paid by Unibilt came to $40,000, with a further $12,000 written off by the AWU. It was a $50,000 plus job.

Asked whether he declared the donation to the Australian Electoral Commission, Mr Shorten said: 'It has come to my attention that the declaration hasn't been made until very recently.'  Asked how recently, he said: 'In the last few days.'

Mr Shorten said he had signed an official declaration in early 2008 that did not mention the donation. 'What I did once I saw all the royal commission papers, I went back and I have sought legal advice, worked out what needed to be done and I have now completed that,' he said.

Not declaring an election donation is a criminal offence carrying a maximum 12-month sentence.

Mr Stoljar continued to quiz Mr Shorten on whether the company - which was negotiating an enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) with the AWU - had used the donation of the staff member to seek favour.

'Not to my knowledge at all,' Mr Shorten said, denying he was involved in the EBA negotiations.

'Isn't that a situation in which you're using your position as national secretary to gain an advantage for yourself, namely a full-time campaign worker?' Mr Stoljar asked.

'Absolutely not,' Mr Shorten replied.

Mr Shorten asked the commission to keep secret the name of a female part-time staffer who also worked on his campaign team in 2007.  The woman was paid by the AWU's national office, the commission heard.  'She has asked me not to reveal her name in this royal commission, but I am happy to write it down for you,' Mr Shorten said.  'Sometimes being mentioned in the commission can embarrass people, even when they are perfectly innocent.'

Mr Stoljar proposed the woman be described as 'the mystery person'.  But Mr Shorten objected, saying she should be described as the 'second campaign worker'.


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