Friday, January 13, 2017

Shell Australia blames Victorian government for rising gas prices

Australia has heaps of natural gas in the ground but the Green/Left want to keep it there for their usual disruptive reasons

The head of oil giant Shell's Australian multibillion-dollar operations has laid the blame for the east coast gas squeeze squarely with the Victorian government, declaring that rising prices caused by the state's ban on onshore gas will take a direct toll on jobs.

Deflecting criticism that Queensland's LNG industry is to blame for the difficulties being experienced in the east coast gas market, Shell Australia chairman Andrew Smith pointed instead to "short-sighted political decisions" such as Victoria's, which is keeping much-needed gas in the ground.

"Victorian manufacturers have a right to be angry about the gas supply situation, but their anger should be directed toward the Victorian government," Mr Smith told The Australian Financial Review.

"It is the Andrews government's ban on onshore gas production that will lead to price hikes to Victorian manufacturers – and this will cost jobs in Victorian factories."

Victoria's Acting Resources Minister Phil Dalidakis rejected the idea the moratorium is impacting prices.

A surge in demand for gas on the east coast was always expected because of the start-up of Queensland's $70 billion LNG export industry, which shipped its first gas to Asia in late 2014 and is still ramping up production. But at the time those plants were conceived, there was little suggestion that governments including Victoria, NSW and the Northern Territory would erect hurdles to the development of plentiful onshore gas resources.

Undeveloped gas

As it is, the squeeze has caused difficulties for industrial gas users to access competitive sources of gas, with some pointing the finger at the Queensland LNG industry. One of the three monster LNG export plants on Gladstone's Curtis Island is owned by Shell, which also holds half of the biggest chunk of undeveloped gas on the east coast, through the Arrow joint venture with PetroChina. Some manufacturers have reported a doubling of prices for their gas supplies within the last 12 months.

Last November the Victorian government introduced legislation to permanently ban all onshore unconventional gas exploration and development, and extended a moratorium on conventional onshore gas until 2020. The move triggered a $2.7 billion damages claim from explorer Lakes Oil, which had ambitions to tap the "vast potential" of its acreage in the onshore Otway and Gippsland Basin for conventional gas.

Lakes had loose accords to supply gas from its Wombat field to food manufacturer Simplot and chemical maker Dow Chemical, and Lakes chief executive Roland Sleeman said that were it not for the four years lost through moratoria Lakes believed it could have been in production already.

"There is no justification at all for the actions they are taking," Mr Sleeman said, describing the ban and moratorium as "ridiculous".

But Mr Dalidakis insisted that the moratorium on conventional gas drilling "will not impact on gas prices in the short-term" and the ban wouldn't have any immediate impact either because there were no proven or probable unconventional onshore reserves in the state.

"What has impacted on local gas prices is the east coast Australian gas marketplace, as the domestic market is competing against the LNG export markets to Asia, making it difficult for local gas users to secure new or longer-term contracts," he said.

Infrastructure costs

Yet Mr Smith said Queensland's coal seam gas industry would not even have been developed without the scale of the LNG export market to offset the huge infrastructure costs.

Unless the Victorian drilling ban is reversed, "all Victorian gas customers will be paying the price of gas in Queensland plus the hefty expense of pipeline access to transport the gas more than 1000 kilometres south," Mr Smith said, adding the impact would be felt by Victorian families, manufacturers and small businesses.

Spot prices for gas in the east coast market are increasingly being set by the "netback" cost of gas for LNG production in Queensland plus the cost of transportation, which is understood to be around $3 a gigajoule down to Victoria, about a third of the state's wholesale gas price on Wednesday.

Just one of Lakes Oil's permits in Victoria is thought to hold about 11 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas and Mr Sleeman said that unlocking only several hundred billion cubic feet of that would be "a gamechanger" as producers would be competing, bringing prices down.

"You've seen that happen in Western Australia when there's more gas than the market needs, people compete and they are prepared to compete potentially down to their cost of production," he said.


Pauline Hanson criticises Waleed Aly while pushing for a ban on Muslim immigration

PAULINE Hanson has criticised The Project co-host Waleed Aly after his showdown with multi-millionaire Dick Smith. The entrepreneur last night appeared on the show to defend his support for the controversial One Nation leader.

Ms Hanson said: “I don’t bother watching him. I think he’s very one-sided and biased in his opinion, he’s not interested in listening to any real debate in this.  “I think he’s rude. Do I really care what his opinion is? No.”

The comments come as Ms Hanson pressed for a total ban on Muslim immigration telling we are seeing a “worldwide revolution” after “appeasing the minorities for too long”.

“When a religion is so incompatible with our culture and our lifestyle we then must have a close look at it,” Ms Hanson told  “The people in our society are feeling the impact of Muslim immigration and the way they’re expanding their numbers in Australia.”

She said President-elect Donald Trump’s win proved “people feel the governments aren’t representing them, their needs and their real concerns”.

Meanwhile, Mr Smith reiterated his criticism of Aly, telling the presenter and academic doesn’t “understand basic economics”.

Mr Smith said he “didn’t understand” the point Aly was trying to make when the pair clashed during the fiery segment on the The Project.

The former Australian of the Year appeared on the program after publicly throwing his support behind Ms Hanson, saying he is aligned with her tough immigration stance and other policy positions.

While Mr Smith clarified that he doesn’t support Ms Hanson’s stance on Muslims, he used his interview on The Project to declare Australia’s population growth should be limited.

Mr Smith said he had no personal issues with Aly — “I think I’ve probably spoken to him before” — but blamed his interviewer’s “misunderstanding” on education.

The Project did not respond when approached by

The patriotic entrepreneur said he had been pleased with the reaction to his decision to back the One Nation leader, and that the feedback he received had been “all positive”.

“There’s the odd person who will say ‘Pauline Hanson’s a racist’ and put you down, but here is an Australian who was a fish and chip shop proprietor who’s got through to the senate totally through hard work and democratic means, you can’t but admire that,” he said.

“I don’t agree with every single point just as I don’t agree with every single point of Malcolm Turnbull ... she’s now dealing with the Prime Minister of Australia and I admire her for that.

“What the intelligentsia do is chant ‘racist’ to any person who isn’t as educated as they are and I believe that’s wrong.”

Ms Hanson maintains there is growing grassroots support for her political party due to her strong stance on issues she believes Australians feel have been neglected by the major parties.

“We’ve been appeasing the minorities for too long, and people want change, people want leadership and they want someone with vision,” Ms Hanson told

Ms Hanson tweeted overnight that she would “continue to push for a ban on Muslim immigration” and urged the public to revisit her party’s policies.

Those policies include calling for an inquiry or Royal Commission to determine if Islam is a religion or political ideology, stop further Muslim immigration and the intake of Muslim refugees and banning the Burqa and Niqab in public places.

“What I’m saying about banning Muslims is Muslims from very heavily dominated practising countries who have no regard for Christianity and our culture and our way of life. The pure fact is, if you look at these women that get around in their full burqas they are very staunch Muslims who have no, I don’t believe will ever assimilate into our society or respect our culture and Christianity,” Ms Hanson said.

Ms Hanson praised Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s comments last month in which he blamed former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser for current problems with radicalisation and gang violence. “The reality is Malcolm Fraser did make mistakes in bringing some people in the 1970s and we’re seeing that today,” Mr Dutton said.

Ms Hanson said Mr Dutton was “spot on” in his criticism, and claimed the Fraser government “started this by opening up the flood gates from people from Lebanese Muslims to come out to Australia.

Ms Hanson said the Lebanese community “are actually very much supportive of me, saying ‘we lost our country, we don’t want it to happen here in Australia’.”

When asked how she would directly change the law to ban Muslims from entering the country, Ms Hanson said: “What I’m going to have to do is try to talk some common sense to the other members of parliament, to Peter Dutton to the Prime Minister.  “This is a debate we need to have, that’s what I’m saying.

“I can say these things but I think Australians have a right to be included in this debate. We have never had a debate on immigration. We have never had a debate on the numbers. We have never had a debate on where they come from and this is what we need to have. I’m going to have that debate.”


Perth woman claims Centrelink hounded her for $26,000 debt but she was owed $5k

Still it goes on

The bungled Centrelink debt-recovery controversy has again come under fire with a Perth woman claiming she was hounded to pay back more than $26,000 she allegedly didn't owe.

The Turnbull government is in the midst of trying to recover $4 billion believed to have been incorrectly paid to welfare recipients using Centrelink's new automated data matching system.

More than 17,000 debt notices were sent out by the Federal government over the Christmas break, with hundreds of people around Australia complaining they were wrongly hounded for repayments. 

Following the litany of complaints, Commonwealth Ombudsman Colin Neave said he would investigate the automated data-matching processes being used to check welfare recipients' eligibility for some Centrelink payments.

It came on the back of Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, Senator Nick Xenophon and Labor calling for the system to be shut down.

Perth woman Claire Etheridge said she was shocked when a letter from Centrelink claimed she owed $26,274.

"It had been a very stressful time," she told Radio 6PR on Wednesday morning.

"Having to deal with that and making complaints to Centrelink and getting calls at 6.30 in the morning because they didn't take the time difference into account from over east.

"I would get text messages from Centrelink saying they were going to call me that day, but they never did.

"I took time off work and I fought it... it was an absolute shambles."

A Perth woman claims Centrelink said she owed $26,000. © Provided by WAtoday A Perth woman claims Centrelink said she owed $26,000. After battling red tape for weeks, Ms Etheridge then got another letter from Centrelink saying she actually owed just $180 for an overpayment of Newstart Allowance from 2011.

She refused to believe she had any debt and, after numerous calls and complaints to Centrelink, it turned out she was actually underpaid and owed close to $5000.

"I'm glad I had to go through that but I don't wish it on anybody because it was an absolute debacle," she said.

"The reason I came forward is because I don't want other people to accept they actually owe money."

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge told Fairfax Media on Wednesday the system "wasn't flawed". He said despite the ongoing controversy, the system would not be shut down.  ​"I don't accept that the system is fundamentally flawed," Mr Tudge told Fairfax Media.


Grieving widow’s nightmare to get $150 a week from Centrelink

WHEN Lucy Johnson’s* husband died suddenly after a cardiac arrest in September, her whole world fell apart. Not only did she have to arrange his funeral and sort out his affairs, she was broke.

The 55-year-old turned to Centrelink for support, and her problems got worse.

Mrs Johnson was forced to spend months returning to the agency’s office in her small town just west of Sydney, which repeatedly mislaid her paperwork.

“I was in and out once or twice a week,” she told “It became so complicated. They were the most unhelpful. It could be an hour and a half wait.

“The dealings with them were so terrible that on literally every occasion I went there, I was sent away with another form to sign. Every time I handed forms in, they seemed to be misplaced and I had to queue up again.”

Bill* died in September aged 58, and had no life insurance because he was considered high-risk. It took two months for his widowed spouse to receive backdated bereavement allowance, during which time she had to rely on her extended family for money.

Four weeks later, the allowance ran out and she had to return to apply for a “mature age” Newstart support while she looks for work, which is just $150 a week.

“My husband and I worked and were self-sufficient for 30 years,” said Mrs Johnson, who retired from her job in aged care two years ago because of back problems, and began doing bookwork and accounts for her husband’s transport business. “I’ve come for a little assistance. I don’t want Centrelink to support me for the rest of my life.

“I was frustrated and angry. If I had been a dole bludger, it would have been easier. They should treat people with a little more dignity.”

Mrs Johnson is still seeing a grief counsellor after she went into shock following her husband’s heart attack at their home.

“Myself and my sons watched him die at the ICU,” she said. “I was medication-free before my husband died. Now I have acute anxiety, stress ulcers and stomach problems. I was in hospital twice, it was too much. At the same time, I was dealing with Centrelink.

“They tend to want to flip you off to the next queue so someone else can deal with you.

“I went to the doctor’s surgery and broke down. I couldn’t handle it, it was too distressing. Every time I walked out I felt like reaching for the anxiety tablets. I told the doctor, I can’t take any more.

“None of them have any empathy. The way Centrelink treat people, particularly in this situation when a husband unexpectedly dies, it’s much harder than it needed to be. And it’s not over yet.”

The welfare agency has been heavily criticised recently for sending out thousands of inaccurate debt letters, and for being inefficient, confusing and disorganised with an out of date IT system.

Vulnerable Australians say they have spent hours queuing at offices and waiting on the phone, with 60 per cent of callers in 2015-16 not reaching a human.

Mrs Johnson eventually contacted her local MP, Susan Templeman for help her situation. But the trauma of the past few months has left her distraught, like many others who have been wrung out by the system.

The public sector union says standards have dropped to unacceptable levels following thousands of job cuts in the Department of Human Services, with the scandal over the debt recovery system piling on more pressure. The CPSU warned the public will suffer as staff struggle to cope.

“There’s a perfect storm of work coming, with this debt recovery scheme likely to be just part of the problem,” assistant national secretary Michael Tull said on Tuesday.


May God help these cotton wool kids

Kevin Donnelly

IT doesn’t surprise that private schools are spending millions on wellness centres because students are stressed and lack resilience. It also doesn’t surprise that one of the fastest growing activities in primary schools is teaching meditation and mindfulness.

According to the latest Mission Australia survey, close to 22,000 young Australians rank mental health issues among their top three concerns.

And according to Beyond Blue, one in four young Australians aged between 16 and 24 has experienced a mental health issue some time in the past 12 months.

Instead of optimism, confidence and resilience it ­appears that more and more young people are suffering insecurity, anxiety and stress.

Why are so many students and young Australians at risk and unable to cope, and what’s to be done?

The first thing is that parents have to stop wrapping their children in cotton wool. Free-range children are a thing of the past and long gone are the days when kids were allowed to take risks.

Trampolines now have safety nets. Instead of walking or riding a bike to school children are chauffeured by a parent, and reprimanding or punishing a child is now politically incorrect and equivalent to child abuse.

Many children are so spoilt and indulged that at the first sign of not getting what they want, they collapse in tears or manufactured rage. The Asian tiger mums are far from perfect but at least they discipline their children and teach them the benefits of application and hard work.

Progressive, new-age education is also to blame as teachers are told that nurturing self-esteem and making sure all are winners are more important than teaching children to be competitive and to overcome adversity.

For many years it was forbidden in Australian classrooms to grade students 10 out of 10 or A, B, C, D and E (where E meant fail). Instead teachers had to use meaningless ­descriptions such as consolidating, not yet achieved and ­satisfactory.

Instead of optimism, confidence and resilience it ­appears that more and more young people are suffering insecurity, anxiety and stress.

Compared with top performing Asian education systems, where students regularly face high-risk tests and exams, the first time Australian students are pressured is at Year 12. And even then, each year more and more Year 12 students are ­applying for special consideration as a result of the stress and anxiety caused by the fear of being ranked in terms of performance and not doing as well as expected.

Growing up during the ’60s when at primary school we loved to play British Bulldog and Stacks on the Mill. Such games have long since been banned as too dangerous even though they taught us to overcome fear and that there was nothing special about a sprained wrist or a grazed knee.

A number of local councils are also getting rid of monkey bars and swings because of the risk that children might be hurt. Add to that the fact that in many junior sports no one is allowed to keep the score and it’s understandable why many children lack ­resilience and the will to succeed.

The American author ­Joseph Campbell, who helped to inspire George Lucas to produce Star Wars, argues that children must learn about the archetypes, myths and fables that teach how to deal with challenges and loss and how to overcome adversity.

Tales such as the Iliad and the Odyssey, where the hero overcomes fear and doubt, teaches children, especially boys, to be resourceful and brave. Norse legends such as ­Beowulf and stories like Queen Boadicea should also be compulsory reading.

Unfortunately, such traditional legends and stories are now considered old fashioned and students are more likely to be fed a diet of contemporary stories about dysfunctional families, teenage substance abuse and gender confusion and dysphoria.

Even though religion is often sidelined and ignored, it’s also true that Christianity provides an anecdote to anxiety and depression. Stories such as David and Goliath ­illustrate how ingenuity and faith can beat what appear to be insurmountable odds.

Believing in something spiritual and transcendent also counters the emptiness and sterility of secular ­society’s focus on commercialism and self-interest.

No amount of social networking on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram can replace the very human need for a deeper and more lasting sense of fulfilment.


Why Australian voters want to ‘drain the swamp’ in Canberra

AUSTRALIAN voters are so fed up with entitled members of parliament and their excuses for using taxpayers’ cash they are seeking to drain the Canberra swamp of career politicians, a prominent electoral expert has warned.

Drawing on shocking results from his recent research that showed Australian voter satisfaction at a record low, ANU political professor Ian McAllister told the latest controversy surrounding sidelined Health Minister Sussan Ley’s use of taxpayer funds was exactly the sort of behaviour by politicians that’s stirring an electoral revolt.

The embattled MP has been stood down from her senior parliamentary position while taxpayer-funded trips to the Gold Coast — where she bought a luxury investment property and attended social events — are being investigated.

While the government is seeking a quick fix to the growing scandal, Professor McAllister warns the issue at hand goes deeper than a few suspicious taxi receipts and questionable trips to Queensland’s resort capital.

When a politician is busted taking advantage of their position, be it hitching a ride on a chopper, double-dipping on tax deductions, or chauffeuring their pets around the countryside, we hear cries to rein in spending and make pollies more accountable.

But Prof McAllister says voters outrage is over their representative’s behaviour rather than the system that facilitates it.

“The real problem is not the legal framework. The problem is there’s a lot of discretion. The real issue is this demand for a cultural change so that you get more politicians that are directly interested in serving the public than their own careers,” he said.

The Australian Electoral Study, led by Prof McAllister and published ahead of the new year showed Australians were more dissatisfied than ever with their political representatives. It’s a phenomenon that has been spreading around the world — crystallised by the election of Donald Trump to the most powerful office in the US. And it is slowly rearing its head in Australia with the protest-driven election of inexperienced parliamentarians like Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer.

“Australia would be one of the leading countries with the proportion of politicians that we have who spend their careers in the political system, and it’s becoming very clear that people don’t want and won’t stand for this,” he said.

“There’s a real disaffection with career politicians and a lot of it seems to come back to entitlements, using money in particular ways, this grey area where people in power have flexibility in the way they use money, travel, things like that.”

Prof McAllister says voter dissatisfaction has been building significantly since 2007, but the 2016 data, which used the same questions and methodology the significant survey of 3000 Australians has relied on for more than four decades, he “thought there was a mistake in the software”.

“There was no mistake, there’s something going on,” he said.

“There’s clearly a disaffection there which is being indicated.”
Australian voters are keen to “drain the swamp” in Canberra, like Donald Trump supporters in the US.

Voters in the US backed president-elect Trump’s aim to “drain the swamp”, a catchy slogan that translated to ridding the political system of entitled career politicians, and Prof McAllister said Australian voters have indicated they’re keen to do the same.

There is some difficulty, however, with Australian voters quickly turning on the alternative politicians they elect out of protest, meaning we tend to end up with the same brand of major party politicians the electorate claims to despise.

“The government needs, both sides of politics need to enforce better behaviour amount their members and that’s tough — you’ve got a lot of people in government and you can’t regulate them all the time so you have a lot of flexibility and discretion,” he said.

“The longer term issue is how do you get different sorts of people into politics, that is a much bigger ask. That involves institutional change to politics.”

Prof McAllister said the government’s grip on economic management was also to blame for voters’ dissatisfaction, and explained the resounding reaction to entitlement scandals like Ms Ley’s.

“We talk about people’s distrust in politicians, but what all of this is over is really a lacklustre economic performance,” he said.

“There’s a significant proportion of people out there who are having their pensions cut, their super cut, having these things they’re used to taken away and they’re feeling under economic pressure and children at school and mortgages and things, then they see this behaviour among politicians.

“That’s what’s driving it. If people were feeling very prosperous and the economy was growing, if politician took a trip to the Gold Coast they wouldn’t care. That’s at the back of it as well.”

Ms Ley has maintained she has done nothing wrong as details of her taxpayer-funded trips continue to emerge, and the opposition bays for her scalp.

Revelations she bought a $795,000 luxury apartment from a Liberal National Party donor during an official visit to the Gold Coast in 2015 have been followed by details of claimed travel costs to the popular holiday spot for New Year’s Eve celebrations in 2013 and 2014.

Fronting the media on Monday, Ms Ley said she was “confident that the investigation will demonstrate that no rules were broken whatsoever”.

The longtime public servant, who has represented the rural NSW division of Farrer since 2001, risks joining a growing list of Australian political figures who were undone by travel claims that didn’t stand up to public scrutiny.

Former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop’s decades-long political career came crashing down in 2015 after she repaid more than $5000 over chartering a helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser, and was revealed to have claimed flights to attend the weddings of two former Liberal MPs.

Another former scandal-plagued Speaker, Peter Slipper, had to pay back $17,285 over a decade including $7000 in family travel perks.

Labor Senator Sam Dastyari was forced to resign from the frontbench last year after having an education company with links to the Chinese government foot the bill for a travel charge he “didn’t want to pay” after exceeding his parliamentary travel budget.

When parliament resumes, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be under pressure to act on a proposal to scrap travel entitlements for retired MPs and their families which they are currently entitled to under the Life Gold Pass Scheme. It was a Bill the parliament didn’t have time for last year.

The will also face a renewed push to clean up entitlements for federal politicians with at least two senators pledging to push for changes when parliament resumes.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale and crossbencher Nick Xenophon have vowed to reintroduce legislation to overhaul the rules around expenses.

In an interview with ABC radio, Mr Xenophon said he wanted an independent watchdog to oversee the disclosure of claims and enforce harsher penalties for those who exploit the rules.

“I’d like to think that there’ll be a keener interest on the part of my colleagues on both sides from the major parties to consider this seriously because clearly what they’ve done to date doesn’t work,” he said. “This is why so many Australians hate so many politicians.”


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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