Monday, September 21, 2015
Was Sir Joh corrupt?
Only "sources" say so. I can make up "sources" too. My "sources" say the story below is an invention. Joh was a great backer of building generally so to find that he backed a particular project proves nothing. Note that the only person named below -- and the key to the whole story -- is Huan Fraser -- who is now dead. Convenient?
LATE Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was set to receive a multimillion-dollar bribe on the eve of his being ousted by the National Party in late 1987, according to sources.
The pay-off, from a South Korean construction company, was contingent on the approval of a major high-rise building in Brisbane.
The so-called 107-storey "world's tallest building", Central Place, to be erected at the corners of Ann, Turbot and Edward streets in the City, was subject to a special act of Parliament.
For years Bjelke-Petersen tried to push the approval through the Executive Council, but met with harsh opposition from his backbenchers.
In a partyroom meeting in late 1987, the National Party's member for Springwood Huan Fraser - having learned of the supposed payment to Bjelke-Petersen from a business contact - confronted the premier.
The payment was rumoured to be around $20 million, held in a Hong Kong bank account. The business contact told Fraser: "You back the old guy (Bjelke-Petersen) on this. It's a bloody good payout for him if it (the Central Place project) gets through. The old bloke's got nothing."
An incensed Fraser stood up in the partyroom meeting and said to Joh: "I know there is a bloody big payoff to you coming as a result of this. You're a corrupt old bastard and I'm not going to cop it."
Bjelke-Petersen said Fraser didn't know what he was talking about. Fraser threatened to raise questions about the project with the media, before the Premier suddenly left the room. It was to be Bjelke-Petersen's last partyroom meeting.
"The place was in turmoil," said one source who was at the meeting. "He (Sir Joh) made a desperate attempt to get it through because there was a payment. He was putting to the partyroom a corrupt deal and involving all of us."
In desperation, Bjelke-Petersen set about reshaping his Cabinet to get the development deemed a special project under the Co-ordinator-General's Act and ultimately approved. He asked for the resignation of five ministers, including Mike Ahern and Bill Gunn, claiming the move was related to loyalty issues.
Ahern refused to resign, and challenged Bjelke-Petersen for the leadership of the party. Ahern won comfortably, ending Bjelke-Petersen's 19-year reign as premier.
"(Bjelke-Petersen) had to reshape the Cabinet to get it through," one source said. "If he didn't, the government was not likely to accept the Executive Council Minute. It was a matter of high criminality."
The day after his resignation, Bjelke-Petersen was still pushing for the Central Place project. "The government must honour its word and its pledge and its undertaking, otherwise its reputation goes," he said.
The new premier Ahern responded: "The Queensland government will decide about the world's tallest building, not Citizen Joh."
Within a year, the project was dead.
The smoke and mirrors surrounding the anti-coal campaign
Coal divestment is the new black. Following the Anglican Church and others, the most recent organisations to jump onto the trend are Newcastle Council (despite the city being built on coal) and the University of Sydney. Both are withdrawing their investments from coal or other organisations that fund coal.
But like many fads, it doesn’t seem to be built on sound facts. It is more based on doing what others are doing to avoid the feeling of being left behind.
Let us look at the facts. Firstly, divestment probably won’t have a substantial impact on Australia’s coal production. Sydney University has an investment fund of about $1.4 billion, while Newcastle Council has $270 million. But the big banks reportedly have $36bn invested in coal, and the Future Fund has recently indicated it will continue to invest its $117bn in non-renewables.
Even if most of Australia’s investors engaged in divestment, there are so many other potential investors around the globe that it is hard to see any dramatic impact on the industry. And good luck to the divestment campaigners convincing investors in less democratic countries to stop funding Australian coal.
Despite this campaign, the official forecasts are for substantial increases in Australian coal production. The Department of Industry forecasts our coal exports will increase by 1.2 per cent per year to 2050. This is an increase of 54 per cent on today’s production.
To reiterate: coal production is predicted to grow by an enormous amount, not decline. And the Department also states that coal accounts for about 64 per cent of Australia’s electricity generation, and is forecast to remain at about this level by 2050.
The divestment campaign also needs to face the inconvenient predictions about coal demand, including that India has plans to almost double its coal production by 2020, and most new electricity stations under development in India are expected to be coal-based. The Department of Industry assesses that it would be “exceptionally challenging” for India to reduce its use of coal-fired electricity (to limit greenhouse emissions). The International Energy Agency’s 2014 World Energy Outlook forecasts global coal demand increasing by 15 per cent by 2040 (in its central scenario).
Not a ringing endorsement of the divestment campaign, which seems likely to having similar success to King Canute’s command that the tide stop coming in.
Of course, official forecasts might be wrong, and around the globe by 2050 we might all be using solar panels and Tesla batteries. But this would be driven by the lower cost of these alternatives, not the divestment campaign.
Nevertheless, let us humour the divestment campaign for a moment and assume it causes a decline in Australia’s coal production. Unfortunately for the campaign, what is most likely is that production would simply increase overseas shifting from Australia — which has high environmental standards — to other countries where environmental standards are often lower.
World coal production would remain about the same, environmental outcomes would worsen, and Australia would lose substantial export income. The value of Australia’s coal exports are expected to be $37 billion in 2014-15. It is hard to see how this is an improvement. Of course, the divestment campaign could also try to stop coal expansion elsewhere, but (again) good luck trying to do this in less democratic countries.
Surely the divestment campaign is about reducing global coal use, not moving coal production to other economies. So let us (further) humour the divestors, and suppose that it does cut the worldwide use of coal. The campaign would no doubt argue that this would help human health.
The World Health Organisation has argued that there will be 250,000 deaths per year due to global warming in 2030. This is a very large figure, granted. But there are larger figures. The WHO has also estimated that indoor smoke from open fires and stoves caused 4.3 million deaths per year in 2012. Coal plays an essential role in replacing these cooking sources.
While we should never base decisions solely on lives lost versus lives saved, it is clear that the use of coal could easily be a net saver of life. And this isn’t count the innovations that can limit the greenhouse emissions of coal, or help avoid deaths from a warmer climate. It also doesn’t count the important impact of coal in reducing human poverty. So much for the ‘human life’ argument.
The divestment campaign also misses the patronising nature of its stance. Many of the campaigners would be strong opponents of Western imperialism. But they are perfectly happy to imply (or even state explicitly) that developing countries are bad global citizens for using coal. The campaigners would consider it is wrong to tell countries such as India and China what to think or believe, but it is good to tell them what fuels to use. The hypocrisy should be self-evident.
If they are truly concerned about the use of coal in India and China, the campaigners should persuade those countries to reduce their use, rather than lecturing them from a distance. However, that would require genuine effort, rather than mere trendsetter posturing.
Canning victor Hastie Australia's newest MP
6% is just a normal by-election swing -- JR
The Liberals have held onto the West Australian seat of Canning despite a six per cent swing against the government, days after Tony Abbott was ousted by Malcolm Turnbull.
Former SAS captain Andrew Hastie comfortably won Saturday's by-election triggered by the death of veteran Liberal Don Randall following predictions of a much closer contest before the Turnbull leadership coup.
Mr Hastie, 32, thanked both Mr Abbott and new Prime Minister Turnbull for their support as he vowed to stand up for Western Australia in Canberra and to tackle the ice scourge.
Conceding defeat, Labor candidate Matt Keogh noted some 'massive swings' across Canning as he thanked supporters for a noble fight that slashed Mr Randall's near-12 per cent margin.
'We may have lost the battle of Canning but we did win the first war - we did get rid of Tony Abbott,' he said on Saturday night.
Mr Hastie dismissed the significance of Monday's dramatic federal leadership spill to the by-election. 'This campaign was always about the people of Canning and their concerns,' he said. 'It is quite clear the people of Canning don't care about Canberra politics or tricky games.'
Mr Turnbull tweeted his congratulations to Mr Hastie for a well-deserved win as he prepared to reveal his new ministry in Canberra on Sunday.
The by-election was initially considered a referendum on Mr Abbott's leadership but then touted as a measure of the new prime minister's appeal.
'The truth is, we will never know what the result would have been if there hadn't been a change,' Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Sky News on Saturday. 'The change, by all accounts, has been well received in the community.'
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said it was a most impressive outcome and emphasised Mr Hastie's military background, saying he not only fought for his beliefs, he had been prepared to die for them.
Nutty new health rating
You might have noticed a funny-looking new label on some items at the supermarket. No, not that squiggly iPhone barcode nobody uses. It's the Health Star Rating label, which the Abbott government was unable to prevent the Department of Health bureaucrats from developing, although they did manage to make the labels voluntary rather than compulsory.
The Health Star Rating system gave quite a hostage to fortune by making its slogan so blunt: 'The more stars, the healthier the choice. Simple.' Unlike most advertising slogans, this one is a factual statement, the truth of which can be verified -- or not.
ABC Fact Check has now done just that, and it turns out the Health Department marketing team would have been better off picking a vaguer slogan.
Fact Check highlights odd discrepancies, like liquorice confectionary scoring higher than plain yoghurt. Some brands of potato chips score higher than Pink Lady apples, some frozen pizza scores higher than Nutri Grain cereal.
Nutritionists blamed these anomalies on two main flaws. The first is the byzantine way the ratings are calculated. 'Fruit content' can earn points toward a higher rating, even when the 'fruit content' in question is so refined and stripped of fibre and vitamins that it's not much healthier than straight syrup. Some fruit juices with high sugar content have been rejigged to achieve 4-star ratings in just this way.
The second flaw is more broadly conceptual. There just isn't a simple way to rank the healthiness of radically unlike foods. Is hummus healthier than a hard-boiled egg? That's like asking whether ice cream is more delicious than pizza - it's not a fair comparison. The question is practically meaningless unless the foods can be put in the context of the rest of an individual's diet. It's certainly too complex to be boiled down to relative star ratings.
The range of food available in an average supermarket is just too diverse to be ranked along a single axis of 'healthiness.' That's why there is little hope that revising the algorithm will ever produce a Health Star Rating system that can honestly claim 'the more stars, the healthier.'
The value of our Federal constitution
Pickering, a cartoonist, gets it right below
Recently, the idea of changing our Constitution is back in favour. People are no longer happy with the royals. Not that we don’t love their weddings and babies and all but they’re just not…..you know……Australian. On top of that, the aborigines aren’t getting a mention.
Before you go rushing in to change this document however, allow me to ask a question. Do you actually know what the Constitution is? Do you know why we have one? I ask this because it is an incredibly important document and if people understood its purpose, they might not be quite so keen to fiddle.
Throughout history, human societies have been divided into two parties, the rulers and the ruled. Most of the time, the rulers shout “Jump” and the rest of us ask, “How high?” Remember how communism seemed like such a great idea? Remember how some maniacal dictator always turned up and spoiled everything just when it looked so promising?
Unfortunately, that is the normal state of affairs for humans. In any group, the toughest, meanest most sadistic individual usually becomes the leader. He gets there and stays there by violence and intimidation. Everyone else follows his orders or else.
Throughout history, few nations even had a constitution. The nutcase in charge just did pretty much whatever he wanted, just like they did in communist countries. Even today, most countries’ constitutions were written by the current leaders and probably won’t outlast their rule.
Exclusively in history, one group of nations managed to wrest control and hold their rulers accountable to the will of the people. It is no coincidence that the citizens of all of these countries speak English. These nations of the “Anglosphere” developed constitutions which protect their citizens from psychopathic individuals who would normally become rulers.
The Australian, UK and Canadian Constitutions are all quite similar. Even the American Constitution shares the same basic principles and leans heavily on the English Bill of Rights. Our countries have parliaments which make laws.
Some of these MP’s probably go cheerfully enough. There must be plenty however, who don’t want to go. What stops these people from abolishing elections and remaining in power as Hitler did?
It is the constitution which tells MPs what laws they can pass and how they can pass them. So why not rip up the constitution and pass the law anyway? Why not just take over and order the army to kill anyone who objects? Our generals wouldn’t do that right? Well the current ones probably wouldn’t, but it’s always easy to find some who would. Then, any soldier not following orders would be shot. With the army onside, all opposition can be quickly and ruthlessly suppressed (read “murdered”).
Great plan. It worked well for Hitler so why not for Kev or Julia or Tony. No more whinging when you loot the treasury to rebuild your house. No common citizens daring to question your helicopter expenses.
Think they wouldn’t do it? Think again. These people look on us as economic units to be bled for their own pleasure. So why don’t they?
The simple answer is “because they can’t”. The people who wrote our Constitution were not fools. Parliament does not command the army; our founders knew they had to give that job to someone else. This was not an easy decision. Who else do you give that job to? The Parliament might corrupt them or buy them out with favours.
Our founders needed to find someone who couldn’t be bought out or corrupted by offers of power or prestige. Someone without a personal axe to grind. They came up with the Royal Family. They gave them plenty of money, palaces and prestige. In as far as it is possible; this made them extremely difficult to corrupt.
That is why the Queen of England (through her representative the Governor-General) is ultimately in charge of our armed forces. If Tony Abbot decides to set himself up as a dictator, he will have to persuade the Queen to go along with it or else find himself removed by the army. The great thing for Aussies is that we don’t even have to pay for this service, the Poms do.
Of course there is always the remote chance that Charles and Camilla might decide to take over Britain and Australia. The problem for them is that Parliament is in charge of all the civil institutions such as the police, the courts and the bureaucracy. In this unlikely event, there would basically be a civil war with a good chance that the instigator would end up with their head on a spike.
That is why the Queen is not allowed to enter the British Parliament without permission. When she knocks on the door once a year to open parliament, she is forced to wait for ten minutes before being allowed in. This brilliant system has protected us for centuries. Two separate powers who restrain each other with “mutually assured destruction”.
“So why don’t we learn this at school,” I hear you ask? It is because our leaders hate the Constitution. They want to tear it up, set fire to it and throw it in the bin. Then they will be free to ride roughshod over you and your family and help themselves to whatever they damn well please.
Of course we could rewrite the Constitution. It is tempting to think that we are much smarter today than people living centuries ago. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We are lazy, pampered, spoilt, naïve and inexperienced. Please don’t take that the wrong way, I love you all dearly. It’s just that we haven’t the experience of those guys. Oh sure we have Google and You Tube and information coming out of our wazoos. Sure we can build smart phones and fly to the moon. Thankfully however, we have no knowledge of things that really matter.
We don’t know what it feels like to see our neighbour arrested and burned at the stake - for attending the wrong church. We don’t know what it feels like for our leaders to confiscate our house and throw us destitute on the street. We don’t know what it feels like to be locked up indefinitely without a trial.
None of us in the Anglosphere have experienced these kind of things. If we do, it will likely be because our rulers have persuaded us to make changes to our Constitution. Even the most benign changes, if not worded correctly, can invalidate entire sections without our realising.
The people who wrote these documents were geniuses who had been to hell and back. Every clause, every comma and full stop was hotly debated and tested over a period of centuries. The people who commissioned these documents did so after periods of awful calamity. They knew the importance of the task they had. They employed geniuses deliberately because they knew nothing less would suffice. They put men like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams on the job.
In 1998, John Howard initiated a constitutional convention to debate changing the Constitution and Australians were invited to vote for people to attend. I well remember that one of the successful candidates was a footballer. “Oh yeah, Bazza went great against the panthers last week so let’s get him to rewrite the Constitution”. WTF!!!! Are you people serious?
This of course, is exactly what our leaders want. They don’t give a fig about Aboriginal recognition or making sure our Head of State is an Australian citizen. They want the Constitution neutered so they can ride roughshod over you and your family’s right to exist.
Let me give just one small example. When Tony Blair came to power he took it on himself to abolish the heredity peerage. Sounds like a great idea right? Why should someone rule over us just because he was born into some fancy aristocratic family?
So instead of some British blue blood, he appointed Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi from Pakistan. These people will look out for the UK more than some British born aristocrat right?
Lord Ahmed killed a man by running him over in his gold plated Jaguar while texting on his mobile phone. Although he never seemed to show much sympathy for his victim, he was a huge financial contributor to the Labour party. Because of that, he became a part of the British Government for life (and would still be there had his anti-Semitic rants not been so extreme as to have him removed).
A few years ago, Geert Wilders was invited to address the house of Lords and warn them of the dangers of radical Islam, it was Lord Ahmed who threatened to bring 10,000 raging Muslims onto the streets of London causing the Government to have Geert arrested and deported for “threatening community harmony” before he could deliver his warning.
Not that I think Lord Ahmed is all bad. As a chilling lesson to Muslim-hugging lefties everywhere, he recently started a campaign to raise 10 million pounds to have Tony Blair indicted for war crimes.
Wanting an Australian as Head of State is a fair call and I understand that. Who could have Australian interests at heart more than a true born Aussie citizen? Yet consider this. Not wanting a Pom as Head of State may be considered as patriotic but how long will it be before voting for an Australian is considered racist? If you are uncomfortable with the British Queen as Head of State then how would you feel about some bloke from Somalia or Bezerkestan waving at you from Government House?
Of course you could do what the Americans did. They clearly wrote into their Constitution that Heads of State must be American born. How is that working out for them? Hmmm.
Mucking around with things you don’t fully understand is foolish. Mucking around with something as important as the Constitution without a really good reason is insanely dangerous.