Thursday, September 01, 2016

Australia's 'ticking fiscal time bomb' is untenable

This cannot be stressed enough

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said the word “debt” 30 times in his speech last week discussing the economic and fiscal outlook for Australia.

It was a dire warning on the future for the nation, the budget, and Australia’s fiscal future if the current settings are left as is.

That focus would be welcomed by Annette Beacher, TD Securities head of Asia-Pacific research, who wrote in a note on Tuesday that “Australia’s fiscal position is becoming increasingly untenable, even if current debt and deficit metrics remain low by global standards”.

She said that even though offshore investors usually utter “disbelief that any country with such low metrics could be at risk of losing its AAA rating” the trouble is there is a clear trend deterioration in these metrics over recent years.

That, and the dangerous reality that “the government is borrowing record amounts to consume, not invest [is] a ticking fiscal time bomb”.

Such is the way this new parliament is shaping up. Even as it just begins Beacher says the Australian government is likely to borrow at least “$A100b per year bond program for the next three years (at least) as reformist fiscal policy is stonewalled by populist politicians”.

Beacher says something must be done because the Australian government has little to no control over nominal GDP growth and national income which are heavily influenced by Australia’s terms of trade, themselves influenced by global forces.

The correlation between terms of trade and nominal GDP growth over the last twenty years is 91% she says. That renders any notion of the RBA targeting nominal GDP instead of inflation “misguided”, Beacher says.

But the real concern along with “persistent fiscal deficits is the structural break in government expenditure as a share of GDP” because the “Abbott-Hockey Liberal National government gave up on expenditure restraint (circle in chart above) and spending has been consistent with past recessions ever since”.

“How would this play out if a recession actually occurred?” Beacher asked.

This is a problem for Morrison who almost exclusively among his colleagues has continually tried to articulate a cogent reason, including strategies, for reining in Australia’s enduring fiscal issues.

But Beacher says:

    The now one-seat majority of the LNP government in the Lower House, combined with an assorted array of ‘personalities’ in the Upper House (Senate) guarantees that passing any meaningful savings measures will be difficult. Whilst trimming expenditure is a priority for the government, the populist Senate is far more likely to reject savings measures, ruling them out as ‘unfair’.

It all means the federal treasurer warning that Australia’s debt position could blow out to a trillion dollars does not ring as hollow as such a headline grabbing statement sounds at first pass.


Anti-Semitism of the progressive churches

Hal G.P. Colebatch

One of the nastiest perversions of Christianity in the world today – the attempted demonisation and isolation of Israel –has been carried out by, among other bodies religious, a German Protestant Church, under, naturally, the World Council of Churches.

One would think a German church, of all things, would hesitate before sticking a toe in the filthy pool of anti-Semitism. Anyway, its Australian equivalents are some way but not all that far behind.

The WCC and liberation theology in general, Catholic and Protestant, have been singing a bit smaller since the fall of the Soviet Union, but are still with us, with hatred of Israel replacing their previous leit-motif of anti-anti-Communism, while their attitude to the almost daily Islamic atrocities remains conciliatory,

Australian academic Bill Rubinstein, writing in last October’s Quadrant, pointed out that attacks on Israel and ‘Christian Zionism’ (ie pro-Israel evangelical churches) have become the No. 1 cause of progressive churches in much of the Western worlds, in some cases trumping even homosexual marriage.

Rubinstein comments ‘the Presbyterian Church of the USA is simply obsessed with its deep hostility to Israel. Not towards, say, Saudi Arabia, where no Christian may set foot.’ In North Africa Boko Haram and other Islamic groups murder Christians wholesale – the Christian death-toll may be in six figures for the last few years -without a word of reproof from liberal clerics. The WCC’s silence is as loud now as was its silence during the Cold War regarding the Soviet Gulag.

The same double standards prevail in the equivalent Australian churches, particularly sections of the Uniting Church which attack Israel ceaselessly, but say virtually nothing about the murderous intolerance of the Islamic countries and societies or Islamc terrorism in the West.

The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the WCC invited member churches and civil society organisations to join together in 2014 for a week of anti-Israel advocacy and action. PIEF supports the virulently anti-Semitic BDS movement, aimed at marginalising and de-legitimising the State of Israel, and ignores the atrocities committed by Palestinians against Israelis. Isis likewise does not seem to appear on the progressive Christian radar, despite crucifying Christian girl captives who refuse to convert.

Either spontaneously or in obedience to the diktats of the WCC, the Uniting Church in Australia has placed a ‘prayer for peace’ online which, while trying at first to give an impression of even-handedness, contains the unprayerful words: ‘In July, 2011, the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly Standing Committee resolved, on behalf of the Assembly, to join the boycott of products produced in the illegal Israeli Settlements within the Palestinian Territory of the West Bank.’

The WCC helped publish a book Christians and Muslims: The Dialogue Activities of the World Council of Churches and their Theological Foundation which demands the West ‘abandon its pro-Israeli attitude.’ The latest clerical anti-Israel campaign turns upon allegations that it is stealing ‘Palestinians’’ water. To a student of religious history it may bear some resemblance to the medieval anti-Semitic libel of Jews poisoning water.

On Ash Wednesday, the WCC and its subsidiaries launched a campaign, ‘Seven Weeks for Water’ at a (German) Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, with anti-Israel activists in attendance, including someone called the Co-Coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network (an absence of a sense of the ridiculous in its titles is one of liberation theology’s distinguishing characteristics). Israeli sources say there is a ‘water crisis’ in Arab areas but that this is due to backward agricultural methods, wastage, and failure to provide adequate infrastructure. This was also the impression I received when visiting. Israel leads the world in dry-land farming techniques.

There is also the question of how far the Palestinian Arabs’ own leaders are responsible for keeping their own people as ‘victims’ for international propaganda.

Something called the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace (PJP – how quickly one gets lost in the jungle of acronyms!), was launched in 2013 by the WCC Assembly.The Ecumenical Water Network (EWN), in 2008. The WCC’s press center advertised its Seven Weeks for Water campaign as a ‘pilgrimage of water justice in the Middle East, with specific reference to Palestine.’

Meanwhile, a woman Member of the Palestine Legislative Council, Abu Bakr, has been sheltering within the council building in Ramallah since President Abbas ordered her arrest. Her crime? Blowing the whistle on the financial corruption of a cabinet minister closely associated with the President. She claims that the minister has been privately selling water to Palestinians and has illegally taken more than $200,000 from the Palestinian budget. There has not, of course, been one word about this from the WCC.

The WCC, associated ecumenical movements, and the web of organisations and relationships between them defy an organisational chart, or accountability, unlike government corporations which are, in Western countries, subject to parliamentary or other scrutiny, or private corporations which must publish balance-sheets and be accountable.

The PJP and the EWN are closely interlinked. The intent of launching the Seven Weeks for Water campaign was made plain by General Secretary of the WCC, Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, in his Jerusalem church sermon: ‘As the WCC’s Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace is focused on issues of the Middle East, particularly in this year, we hope your stories and struggle for justice and peace will become the stories and struggle for the churches around the world. May this Lenten season help us to reflect on these issues more deeply. May the Seven Weeks for Water during this Lent help us to highlight the water crisis in Palestine …’

Mr Dinesh Suna, the Coordinator of the EWN wrote on his Facebook page: ‘The IRG meeting of the WCC’s PJP started today at Bethlehem. To set the tone of the discussion we went to listen to stories of struggle to end occupation of Palestine by Israel’ (‘Struggle’? Suicide bombings, perhaps? Knifings of women and children?). ‘It was quite a touching moment for us to hear these stories…’

Any doubt whose side the WCC and the progressive churches are on now? While the progressive churches are losing membership hand-over-fist, in Australia, America and Europe, the demographically young, and very often pro-Israel, evangelical churches, are flourishing. The formation of the Australia-Israel Association in WA in 2014, held at an evangelical church, drew an overflow crowd.  [Real Christians love Israel]


Australian conservatives trying to rein in Green spending

And the pips are squeaking

Australia's clean energy research efforts are heading for "the valley of death" if Parliament passes the Coalitions's omnibus package of cuts, according to leaders in the sector

Hundreds of researchers around Australia, including dozens at both the Australian National University and the University of NSW, will be faced with the dole queue if cuts to Australia'™s renewable energy research agency are passed by the Parliament, according to one of the sector's pioneers.

Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull will have a tough time in Parliament getting its savings bill through with opposition from all sides.

Deep cuts to the funding of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, contained in the Turnbull government's omnibus "œbudget repair" bill before the Parliament this week, is an "existential threat" to clean energy innovation in Australia, Professor Andrew Blakers says.

Professor Blakers of the ANU is a world leader in renewables research and he says many of his colleagues nationwide will lose their jobs if the government gets its bill through Parliament and advances that would deliver major economic benefits to the country would be lost.

The ANU and the University of NSW are world leaders in solar energy research with PERC solar cells, now the commercial standard globally with more than $9 billion in sales, invented by Professor Blakers and his colleague Martin Green at the NSW institution.

ARENA was established in 2012 by the Gillard government and abolished by the Abbott government in 2014.

The agency received a stay of execution in March 2016 but Coalition policy now wants to strip $1.3 billion of funding from ARENA and merge its funding role with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which expects to see a financial return on money it invests in research.

The Clean Energy Council has published a briefing paper that likens de-funding ARENA to "plunging into the clean energy valley of death".

ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht​ told Fairfax that existing commitments would be met even if Parliament agreed to back the Coalition's cuts.

"The proposed reduction in ARENA's uncommitted funding will not affect existing commitments," Mr Frischknecht said.

"Projects currently receiving ARENA funding will continue to receive funding and ARENA will continue to oversee ongoing contract management and knowledge sharing outcomes for these projects."

The office of Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg did not respond before deadline on Tuesday to a request for comment and Labor says it has not arrived at a position on the ARENA cuts.

Professor Blakers said the decision, if passed, may mean the end of Australia'€™s clean energy research effort and said both sides of politics would shoulder the blame.

"€œThere is an existential threat to renewable energy research, innovation and education in Australia," Professor Blakers said.  "€œIf ARENA is dismantled, then many people would lose their jobs including dozens at ANU. "œIn the longer term, Australia's leadership in solar energy would vanish.

"After the fiasco involving CSIRO climate scientists, we now have a potential fiasco in mitigation of climate change."

The research leader called on the Labor Party not to just "wave through" the proposed cuts. "œIt appears that the ALP might wave through a change to the ARENA Act, which would allow the end of ARENA granting," Professor Blakers said.

"€œFor 30 years there has been a renewable energy funding agency in one form or another in Australia. "€œThis has led to phenomenal success in generation of technology and education. "The worldwide silicon solar cell industry owes its existence in large measure to Australians who were supported by grants from government renewable energy agencies.  "Billions of dollars of benefits have accrued to Australia."


Prison treatment of unruly black youth criticized

The prison officers were clearly just trying to shock him into co-operativeness

SHOCKING footage from ­inside Brisbane Correctional Centre shows a 17-year-old being confronted by seven ­officers and put in restraints including a spit mask — a ­practice Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said was not used in Queensland.

On remand for offences including break and enters and robbery, the teenager was placed in a barren cell because the adult prison’s “boys yard” was already overcrowded.

He appears in the footage — obtained exclusively by The Courier-Mail — to be yelling before prison officers enter his cell, but does not become violent or resist and there is no suggestion he spat.

The prison officers put him in handcuffs attached to a body belt to restrict his movement, placed the spit mask over his head and left him alone in the cell for an hour.

CCTV footage of the teenager being placed in a spit mask.
Prison reports suggest the Aboriginal teen, Jarrod Clayton, was restrained because he pressed the emergency intercom without reason and was warned about the same thing the previous day.

He had earlier sworn at officers and kicked his cell door.

His treatment was the subject of a complaint of excessive force that was eventually dismissed on the basis of insufficient evidence.

After a similar incident in a Northern Territory youth detention centre was made public, Ms D’Ath said the treatment of the offender was appalling and “spit hoods ... are not used in Queensland”.

In any other state Clayton would have been in a juvenile detention centre, with Queensland alone in the country in treating 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system.

The Prisoners’ Legal Service uncovered the February 2013 video during an investigation into the teenager’s treatment during the term of the former Newman government.

Director Peter Lyons said the actions were “extreme and degrading”.  “This is a classic example of what happens when you place a 17-year-old in the environment of an adult prison,” he said.

The face mask, body belt and handcuffs “cannot be seen as being reasonably necessary” to stop him pressing the intercom button, he said.

“The use of multiple restraints and abandonment of the juvenile while restrained and hooded amounted, in our opinion, to punishment unlawfully administered by the corrective services officers.”

Barrister and Youth Advocacy Centre chairman ­Damien Atkinson said the video “looks horribly routine, as if they have done it many times before”.

“What you can see is prison officers don’t have a lot of skills for dealing with young people, and the time we have them in custody is being ­wasted,” he said.

Mr Atkinson has lobbied successive governments to bring Queensland in line with other states and treat 17-year-olds as juveniles.

“The State Government says we don’t put Queensland children in spit hoods. But here’s a child and here’s a spit hood. Everyone in the Queensland public treat 17-year-olds as children and they belong in the youth justice system.”

Clayton had never before been in detention including juvenile detention.

He had been arrested for break and enters, and armed robbery and car thefts and was using the drug “ice” at the time of his crimes.

Before being transferred to the prison he had spent 16 days in the watch-house so was not drug-affected on his arrival.

Prison reports show officers regarded him as highly disruptive and repeatedly took disciplinary action against him in the month before resorting to the spit mask.

“Prisoner Clayton has no respect or regard for other prisoners or staff,” reads one incident report from January 2013.

Another report from two days before the mask incident says he was “showing increasing signs of aggression”.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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