Friday, January 01, 2016
Authorities swoop on 60 tonnes of Victorian baby formula bound for China
Rising demand meets inelasticity of supply. It should be a good export opportunity but you cannot suddenly get cows to give more milk. In a free market most of the formula would go to China -- with Australian mothers having to use their inbuilt baby food or make up their own formula from fresh bovine milk. My mother did both
AUTHORITIES have seized 60 tonnes of baby formula and milk product bound for China.
A Herald Sun investigation uncovered details of the baby formula seizure, as supermarkets continued to ration purchases for Victorian parents.
People have been buying infant formula by the car-boot load from a factory in Clayton to send overseas. They are loading their cars with boxes of popular brands Aptamil and a2 Platinum from the Clayton warehouse.
A warehouse employee confirmed they were selling it on to contacts in Asia. "We have a company and we sell the product," she said. "They (the baby formula) are going overseas."
A spokesman for Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce confirmed the Department of Agriculture stopped a major shipment from Melbourne in November.
The Department of Agriculture did not reveal why the shipment of formula and milk powder was seized, because of the continuing investigation.
"The department is investigating a number of recent allegations about noncompliant consignments being exported, but is not able to comment further at this time," a departmental spokesman said.
"The role of this department is to ensure . goods exported comply with the (law), meet foreign government requirements, (and) are safe and accurately described."
Rowville resident Yvonne Skroubelos, who has been feeding nine-month-old son Dion the popular Aptamil formula, said customers should not buy it to export overseas.
"For my next child I want to make sure there is not going to be a shortage, and I think it is a major concern for any mother," she said. "The baby formula is for mothers to buy in Australia. "It's not fair that they are able to ship it off to China."
Demand in China for Australian infant formula has skyrocketed since 2008, when melamine contamination in milk in China saw six babies die and 300,000 fall ill.
A tin of Bellamy's Organic, which sells for $25 in Australia, can cost $84 in Shanghai.
Turnbull flags sweeping reform following union royal commission as unions urge caution
The Turnbull government has flagged sweeping new laws to tackle trade union corruption after a Royal Commission found the labour movement was riddled with "widespread" and "deep-seated" misconduct.
The final report by Commissioner Dyson Heydon referred key union figures including the disgraced former Health Services Union Kathy Jackson and Victorian Labor MP Cesar Melhem to prosecutors for possible charges. But it made no adverse finding against Labor leader Bill Shorten, who was head of the Australian Workers Union when it committed a series of breaches detailed in the report.
Labor and the unions swiftly dismissed the report as a political witch-hunt, saying that the cases highlighted by Mr Heydon were isolated and did not represent systemic problems among union officials.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash strongly indicated that many of the report's 79 recommendations would be adopted by the government in the form of new laws, amounting to a significant tightening of union regulation.
"If its recommendations are substantially adopted, if the lessons of this report are learned, the trade union movement will emerge much stronger," Mr Turnbull said.
Describing the report as a "watershed moment" for unions, Mr Turnbull vowed to make union reform an election issue if the Senate blocks new laws.
Senator Cash said the report showed that "the existing laws … are not adequately protecting the hard-working union members and they have not been effective in dealing with and stamping out the blatant misconduct and alleged criminal behaviour".
Opposition workplace spokesman Brendan O'Connor said criminal behaviour by unions should be dealt with by police. The Commission by contrast was a "politically motivated witch-hunt", he said, pointing to Mr Heydon's acceptance of an invitation to speak at a Liberal Party function – a revelation that led to unsuccessful calls for his resignation.
Labor has proposed its own union governance reforms but the Coalition says these are too weak.
In a blistering assessment of the state of unions, Mr Heydon – a former High Court judge - concluded the Commission had likely uncovered only the most egregious examples of misconduct.
"These aberrations cannot be regarded as isolated. They are not the work of a few rogue unions, or a few rogue officials. The misconduct exhibits great variety. It is widespread. It is deep-seated. "It would be utterly naïve to think that what has been uncovered is anything other than the small tip of an enormous iceberg."
He said it was clear there was room in the union movement for "louts, thugs, bullies, thieves, perjurers".
Mr Turnbull backed this view, saying that while most union officials worked "honestly and capably" for their members, the misconduct found in the report was "not a case of a few rotten apples spoiling the whole barrel".
Mr Heydon's report refers 45 individuals for possible criminal charges or civil action, including the AWU, which it accuses of a raft of breaches including receiving tens of thousands of dollars in secret payments from companies while not pursuing the best deals for members in workplace negotiations.
A number of companies have also been referred to police and prosecutors, including engineering firm John Holland Pty Ltd, food grower Chiquita Mushrooms and Winslow Constructors Pty Ltd.
As well as calling for a new union watchdog, Mr Heydon recommended tougher penalties for misconduct by officials, stricter rules about financial disclosure by unions and new civil penalties for unions that don't keep proper records.
As a starting point, the government will introduce a toughened bill to create a union watchdog in the style of the corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, as recommended by Mr Heydon. A previous, weaker version of that law has already twice been rejected by the Senate.
It will also bring back a bill to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission to oversee workplace relations in the building industry. The Senate has already rejected that bill once.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kate Carnell said the commission uncovered "serious issues endemic in the trade union movement that warrant a serious response from politicians from both sides and on the crossbenches".
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said rejected claims of "widespread unlawful corrupt conduct within the union movement".
He said unions were willing to discuss reform with the government but called on Mr Turnbull to "allow some time and space for these discussions to occur, and not try and rush through any kind of legislation in the first part of next year".
He said if there was an "enormous iceberg" of misconduct then a 21-month Royal Commission that grilled 505 witnesses should have been able to find it.
Trade union royal commission: Rogue CFMEU officials placed on hit list
ROGUE CFMEU officials have been put on a hit list because of systematic violence, threats and corrupt behaviour.
Royal commissioner Dyson Heydon outlined a bold plan in his final report to attack the heads of militant unions.
In an unprecedented move, Mr Heydon stopped short of banning entire unions, instead recommending that officials found to have engaged in unlawful behaviour be stripped of their roles.
“Cancelling the registration of the whole union may have a disproportionate effect on union members who have not been involved in illegal activity,” the report found.
“To deal with the particular cultural problems within the CFMEU, Commonwealth and state Parliaments could enact legislation prohibiting a class of CFMEU officials determined by the Parliament from holding any office in any registered organisation or branch for a specified period of time.”
Mr Heydon made his recommendations based on a litany of allegations of bad behaviour from the CFMEU heard by the commission.
The final report details “widespread” misconduct within the CFMEU and other unions including the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Health Services Union (HSU).
Mr Heydon said the union probe had uncovered evidence of unlawful conduct within the CFMEU including physical and verbal violence, threats, secondary boycotts and contempt of court.
He recommended Parliament consider expelling officials that are not “fit and proper persons” from holding office in any registered organisation or branch.
The report comes just weeks after Victorian CFMEU officials John Setka and Shaun Reardon were charged with blackmail by the royal commission taskforce. Yesterday’s report referred several officials from other state branches for investigation.
CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan said the proposal to ban some union bosses set a dangerous precedent. “There is nothing surprising in the report, which is in lock-step with the Liberal Party on industrial relations,” he said. “The union has no time for corruption. When we have had corruption in our ranks we have dealt with it and we will continue to deal with it.”
In NSW, construction industry figure George Alex and CFMEU official Darren Greenfield were also referred to police for investigation.
Commissioner Heydon found there was a “substantial body of documentary evidence” including text messages which exposed dodgy payments, bribes and perjury.
A charity associated with the CFMEU in the ACT was also referred to authorities and may lose its status over allegations it diverted funds for non-charitable use.
Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie lashed out at the Government and called for the union to be abolished. “Two-thirds of the inquiry’s energy was focused on allegations of misconduct, corruption or criminal behaviour by members of the CFMEU,” she said. “I can’t understand why Liberal Party members ... continue to oppose my call for the CFMEU to be deregistered?”
Australian Muslims sent $500,000 to Indonesia to fund terrorism
A terror financing investigation has uncovered about $500,000 in Australian cash sent to Indonesia to arm and train extremists and support their families.
A joint investigation between Australia and Indonesia found the cash was raised and transferred by an Australian man identified only by the letter L.
The money was collected from donors in Australia — some of whom may not have been aware their money was to be used to fund terrorism.
The details were confirmed by Agus Santoso, the deputy chairman of Indonesia's financial tracking watchdog, the Financial Transactions and Analysis Centre (PPATK).
"The one in Australia is a local Australian, not an Indonesian who is living in Australia and sending money to Indonesia," he said.
"The money was used for: one, to recruit people; secondly to fund training; thirdly to buy weapons, and the fourth is to give livelihood for the terrorists' family because the money goes to support the families of the terrorists who died."
Around 200 Indonesians are believed to have gone to Syria to fight for the Islamic State militant group, with at least 60 of them killed.
PPATK chairman Muhammad Yusuf said some of the Australians who donated may not have realised their cash was going to fund extremism.
"It could be when it happened, from the perspective of the donor; it was meant for charity not for terrorism," he said.
Indonesia says the Australian cash may have been used to support local terror networks, such as the group of alleged extremists arrested a week ago.
So far, 11 people have been arrested across Java and accused of plotting attacks on the nation's minority Shiite community, Christians and possibly even westerners.
They were arrested by special forces from Indonesia's anti-terror body Densus 88.
Mr Santoso said information from Australia's counter-terrorism financing watchdog AusTrac was crucial to uncovering these Indonesian networks.
"We really appreciate the cooperation with AusTrac and the AFP. It revealed the terrorism network between Australia and Indonesia, the network has been revealed, and we have handed over the case to Densus 88 to follow up," he said.
Indonesia is still on a state of heightened terror alert, with particularly tight security for the nation's New Year celebrations.
Almost 50 charged over street fights in Aboriginal community
Almost 50 people are facing criminal charges after several street fights broke out in a far north Queensland community.
Extra police were sent to Aurukun on western Cape York amid rising tensions between families and clan groups in the town of 1200.
People threw pieces of wood and steel during several street fights on Monday, damaging businesses, homes and a patrol car, police say.
A shop was burgled and two cars stolen. However, no one was injured.
Nine people faced Cairns Magistrates Court via videolink on Wednesday and a further 40 are due to face court in the coming days, ABC radio reports.
Police say tensions have since eased in the community.