Friday, June 22, 2018

Largest income tax cuts in Australian history pass the Senate

I have often noted how any innovation that crops up in one country of the Anglosphere tends to be followed quite quickly by similar innovations in other Anglospheric countries.  This is an example of it.  An acknowledged part of the inspiration for this was the recent big Trump tax cuts in the USA

The Turnbull government has secured a major political victory after pushing its landmark  $144-billion income tax package through the Senate.

Less than a fortnight before the first round of cuts were due to come into effect, the Coalition's negotiator-in-chief Mathias Cormann locked in the votes of crossbench senators One Nation and Centre Alliance to see the cuts through the upper house by 37 votes to 33.

The tax cuts are the broadest income tax reform package ever passed by the Parliament and will affect all taxpayers earning more than $19,000.

The government is celebrating after the Senate approved the budget promise to progressively cut income tax over the next seven years.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the changes were "the most comprehensive reform of personal income tax in a generation. It rewards and encourages enterprise, it encourages and enables aspiration," he said. 

Notices will now be issued by the Australian Tax Office to thousands of businesses advising them to increases the upper threshold for the 32.5 per cent marginal tax rate from $87,000 to $90,000 from July 1.

The step is the first in a sweeping overhaul of the income tax system - voted on with less than 20 minutes of debate given to Labor and the Greens in the final session - that will see seven major changes to Australia's taxation system over the next decade.

Under the changes the 37 per cent tax rate will be eliminated altogether by 2028, putting 90 per cent of all taxpayers on the flat tax rate of 32.5 per cent for every dollar they earn between $40,000 and $200,000.

"As workers earn more and get more opportunities, or do extra shifts, they will not be penalised for that," said Treasurer Scott Morrison.

Over four years,  taxpayers earning up to $125,333 a year will get a $530 bonus after filing their tax return. This offset will indefinitely increase to $645 a year from 2022, but only for taxpayers earning up to $67,000 a year.

The final stage is targeted at high income earners, raising the threshold for the 45 per cent marginal tax rate from $180,001 to $200,001 from July 1 2024.

Labor and the Greens argued against the package, warning it would lock future governments into unprecedented tax cuts that would not come into force until another two elections had taken place.

"This is one of the most shameful, disgraceful days that I have seen in my time in this Senate," said Greens leader Richard Di Natale. "One hundred and forty billion dollars ripped out of public revenue, taken out of our public hospitals, public schools and infrastructure because you want to ram this bill through without any scrutiny."

Labor has pledged to repeal the cuts if it wins the next election, putting it on a collision path with workers earning more than $120,000. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has promised to strip benefits from high-income earners to deliver more generous cuts to workers on low and middle incomes.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said Labor believed in responsible budgeting. “We do not believe in locking in unaffordable promises, six and seven years in advance.”

One Nation and the Centre Alliance had voiced repeated concerns about the package. Just days before the package passed they joined Labor in arguing it should be split into three stages before backflipping to deliver the government the votes it needed.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson confirmed she did not ask the government for anything in return for her support for the cuts, but said she would continue to push for the government to fund 1000 apprenticeship places.

"I'm going to take credit for this as well because I was one of the senators that actually has supported this," she said.

Once all components of the signature budget measure are in place, the total cost will dwarf former treasurer's Peter Costello's final tax cuts. Based on the 2007-08 budget papers, those would be worth $10.4 billion in 2018 dollars.

A Parliamentary Budget Office costing of the policy revealed the cuts would surge from $360 million next year to cost more than $24 billon a year by 2028.

Government senators were muted in their celebration of the landmark bill passing, filing out quietly after  Senator Cormann shook hands with crossbenchers.


Labor's lack of aspiration hurts the poorest

Sacrifices the good of the nation on an altar of class war

It's official. The Labor Party has now forgotten – or is simply apathetic towards – the aspirational class of Australians that Labor treasurer Paul Keating created in the 1980s by modernising the Australian economy and creating opportunity for working class people.

A generation later, modern Labor dismisses this as trickle-down neo-liberal economics that just benefits Malcolm Turnbull's rich banker mates. Bill Shorten doesn't actually believe it: as a political opportunist he simply senses that there are more votes in economic populism, class envy and abstract grievances than in actually improving people's real lives.

This new attitude was summed up by Labor's Tanya Plibersek – whose career has relied on well-paid taxpayer-funded jobs in universities, the bureaucracy and politics – saying that "honestly, this aspiration term, it mystifies me".

The deputy leader of the Labor Party – herself an aspirational daughter of Slovenian immigrants who has worked hard, became dux at her school in Sydney's Sutherland Shire and became a minister of the Commonwealth – argues for the notion that the government should impose punitive taxes on people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and modestly improve their lot in life.

It is this attitude that sums up the rotten core of modern Labor: its complete dissociation from the people it is meant to represent. Instead most of its MPs are humanities graduates from universities where the world is taught through a prism of abstractions: inequality, neo-liberalism, power relations, capitalist superstructures, socialism and gender constructs.

Labor parties of the past, with representatives actually drawn from the people the party purports to represent, were concerned with practically improving the lot of people they represented.

 This disconnect reflects the findings in a new Centre for Independent Studies report that nearly 60 per cent of Millennials reckon capitalism has failed and government should expand. Almost two-thirds think ordinary workers are worse off than 40 years ago.

Try telling that to Bob Hawke and Paul Keating whose economic liberalisation laid the foundation for Australian household per capita incomes to grow, in real terms, by two-thirds since the 1990s, while barely increasing income inequality.

To advance its absurd new class war, Mr Shorten and Labor have resorted to the outrageous political lie that a doctor on $200,000, earning five times the amount as a cleaner on $40,000, will get 16 times the tax cut. How unfair! In fact, the doctor who earns five times as much as the cleaner actually pays 13 times more tax than the cleaner.

Labor resorts to fake news by repeating and repeating that they would pay the same tax rate under the Turnbull government's tax scales to apply from 2024. Those scales would include a flat 32.5 per cent tax rate to apply every extra dollar earned between $40,000 and $200,000. But the $18,200 tax-free threshold means that the doctor would end up paying 30 per cent of total income in tax, while the cleaner would pay 11 per cent of total income in tax.

In Parliament yesterday, Labor kept hammering example after example of workers earning around $45,000 who would get a tax cut of $10 per week, while a millionaire would get $7000 a year extra from an "arrogant and out of touch" government led by Mr Turnbull. In the world of modern Labor it isn't good enough that poor people do better, but the wealthy should be taxed more and more through bracket creep in order to bend the world to fit its Green-left undergraduate-level preconceptions about equality and social cohesion.

The outrageous lie here is that the Labor-Green snake oil of greater redistribution would end up hurting the less advantaged. Lower marginal tax rates, coupled with a removal of Australia's penalty tax on company profits, would drive incentive, business investment, productivity, the tax base, jobs and wages.

But Labor doesn't believe in aspiration and doesn't want Australians to keep more of their money. Instead, a Shorten Labor government would simply slow the whole place down, leaving less money for Labor monuments, lower incomes, and hurting the poorest that it claims to represent the most. Fairness will turn out to be least fair on those Labor claims need it the most.


Baby products maker fined by ACCC for misleading 'organic' claims

A lot of organic claims are shonky.  Think:  If an organic farmer sees his crops being devoured by a swarm of insects, is he just going to stand and watch or is he going to reach for the spray?

The company behind popular baby shampoos and body washes, Gaia Skin Naturals, has been fined for making misleading claims that its products are organic.

Gaia has been fined for describing some baby products including a Natural Baby bath and body was as organic.

Gaia described its Natural Baby bath and body wash, baby shampoo and baby moisturiser as pure, natural and organic, but the products contain two synthetic chemical preservatives.

The company paid a $37,800 fine after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued the company three infringement notices over the alleged false or misleading claim.

While companies do not legally need organic certification to label their products ‘organic’, ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said businesses must make sure they are not misleading or deceiving customers with that description.

“Businesses making organic claims must be able to substantiate those claims,” she said.

The commissioner said the ACCC was concerned about what a consumer would understand when they looked at the label of a product.

"Organic is a premium claim, designed to tell consumers ‘this is organic’, and often attracts a premium price," Ms Court said.

"We were concerned that the use of the word organic says to a consumer, at a minimum, this is an organic product and this doesn't contain any chemicals.

"In these products, there were a couple of synthetic chemicals, and that is sufficient to say this representation is misleading."

The company’s Natural Baby products are stocked throughout Australian supermarkets and chemists, including Coles supermarkets, Chemist Warehouse, Priceline, Terry White Chemists, and are also sold at Toys R Us.

The products contain the preservatives sodium hydroxymethyl glycinate and phenoxyethanol, which are considered safe and commonly used in cosmetics and skin care products.

Ms Court said the infringement notices issued to Gaia over the baby products did not mean the products were not safe to use.

"This is not about saying this product dangerous at all," she said.

"Companies that want to use descriptors like organic or free-range need to make sure their products generally conform to what consumers understand that to mean.

"We think to consumers that means it doesn’t contain synthetic chemicals."


The US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council leaves ally Australia in an awkward, lonely position

It was close to midnight in Geneva when Nikki Haley got to her feet in Washington and announced that the United States was pulling out of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

If there were any Australian diplomats still up at that hour at the council's headquarters in Switzerland, they would have been watching with dismay. Their lives are about to become more difficult.

The announcement from the US ambassador to the UN surprised no-one. Donald Trump's lieutenants have made it clear they hold the council in contempt, accusing it of "chronic bias" against Israel.

Ms Haley declared that the council's "disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel" was "clear proof that [it] is motivated by political bias, not by human rights".

She also pointed out that many countries with appalling human rights records — including Venezuela, China and Democratic Republic of Congo — are comfortably ensconced in the council.

Australia actually has plenty of sympathy for both of these arguments. But the Federal Government maintains that whatever the council's flaws, quitting the field achieves nothing.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop issued a terse statement this morning, making it clear she'd urged her US counterparts to stay, but to no avail.

"It was our strong preference for the US to remain a member of the UNHRC and I had made this known to senior members of the Trump administration" she said.

The Foreign Minister's frustration is understandable.

The Trump administration's decision to pull up stumps could put our officials in Geneva in an excruciating position. Particularly when it comes to Israel.

Last month Australia and the US were the only two countries on the council to vote against an independent investigation into the killing of Palestinians in Gaza. Both argued that the inquiry's terms ignored the role Hamas played in inciting the violence.

And like the US, Australia believes that the council's preoccupation with Israel is steeped in anti-Semitism.

But the debate over Gaza will inevitably flare up again as the council forges ahead with the investigation. There will be more resolutions on Israel, and more votes.  But this time, the United States won't be there.

If Australian diplomats hold the line, we could be the only country on the council voting against further investigations into Israel, or opposing resolutions condemning their conduct.

That leaves us terribly exposed, in the heart of a bitter and emotionally charged debate about one of the world's most intractable conflicts.

Israel's opponents normally focus their fire on the US and Israel itself, but if they're out of the room then the anger coursing through the debate will inevitably be redirected towards us.

The consequences of that are difficult to predict. But we'd rather not find out.

Our best hope will be to convince some of the 14 countries that abstained on the last vote to join us in the trenches, but that's an uncertain bet at best.


No witches, no death and no religion: Author says children's books are being dumbed down because politically correct parents are REFUSING to read their kids traditional fairy tales

Children's book publishers are losing the plot with the growing presence of political correctness, an Australian award winning author has warned.

Former Children's Book Council of Australia award winner Elizabeth Fensham is the second author this week to raise concerns about children's books being sanitised and dumbed down.

The Sydney-born author told The Daily Telegraph she believes language in children's books is being oversimplified, which could impact on young readers. 'If it was going to be absolutely terrifying, I can see editors saying 'no, don't do that,' Ms Fensham told the publication.

'We need beautifully written books for kids and we shouldn't be frightened to use complex words.'

Internationally best-selling British author Geraldine McCaughrean sparked the debate earlier this week when she criticised publishers for vetoing complex language in children's books in her acceptance speech after winning the Carnegie Medal, the UK's oldest children's book award.

'We master words by meeting them, not by avoiding them,' Ms McCaughrean said after receiving the children's literature award.  

'With a book that's going to be sold into schools you get a list of things that are unacceptable – no witches, no demons, no alcohol, no death, no religion. It really does cut down what you can write about.'

Ms McCaughrean, who has written more than 160 books, said there was now a range of topics that are no longer considered acceptable for young readers.

'It's extraordinary because in pre-school you can read fairytales in their original form and some of them are really scary and dark. 'But you go to junior school and all of a sudden the fairy tales that you read in school have been sanitised and cleaned up.'

Ms Fensham believes there are truths for children to learn from in more traditional dark fairytales.

'Stories like Hansel and Gretel resonate with you for your entire lifetime,' she told The Daily Telegraph.

'I often think of it and wonder if that story emerged from the grimness of the real-life famine that would have besotted Europe, where children would have been sent out because there wasn't enough food in the house and people would have eaten children


Tony Abbott steps up attack on Malcolm Turnbull's climate plan

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told Liberal and Nationals MPs that Australia must do its part to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as his predecessor Tony Abbott led another attack on the issue in the Coalition party room.

Mr Turnbull held the line on the government’s pledge to cut emissions by 26 per cent by 2030 under the National Energy Guarantee, against vocal concerns from six Liberal MPs, including Mr Abbott.

At one point Mr Abbott claimed he was “misled by bureaucrats” over the cost of the emissions cut he helped decide as Prime Minister in 2015, which was taken to the United Nations climate talks in Paris that year.

The skirmish is another stage in the federal government’s painful internal debate on energy and climate change, in the face of objections from conservative MPs including Mr Abbott, backbencher Craig Kelly and former ministers Eric Abetz and Ian Macdonald.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg defended the National Energy Guarantee against the criticisms and cited support from industry executives to assure backbenchers the plan would succeed.

Labor is attacking the guarantee for cementing cuts that it regards as too weak while Mr Abbott and his colleagues argue the targets are too ambitious, adding to the obstacles to an agreement in Federal Parliament.

Mr Abbott challenged Mr Frydenberg to address concerns aired by Tomago Aluminium chief Matt Howell about the unreliability of renewable energy sources and the fact that its battery system would only last minutes when the smelter in NSW needed power for hours.

Mr Frydenberg replied by telling the meeting he had spoken to Mr Howell before the Coalition party room meeting and could assure MPs the Tomago chief supported the guarantee.

Mr Frydenberg also cited support for the guarantee from steelmaker BlueScope and mining giant BHP Billiton, according to government MPs in the room.

In a revival of earlier disputes within the Coalition, Mr Abbott expressed concern about the 26 per cent target despite the fact his government signed off on the commitment in 2015 in a decision cleared with the Coalition party room at the time.

Mr Abbott argued in the meeting that the target was “aspirational” but Mr Frydenberg said this was not the case, quoting the former prime minister’s own words from three years ago.

In September 2015, Mr Abbott said: “Unlike some other countries which make these pledges and don’t deliver, Australia does deliver when we make a pledge.”

Fairfax Media was told that Mr Abbott warned about the cost of meeting the target and said he may have been “misled by the bureaucracy” about the full implications of the Paris commitment.

When Senator Macdonald questioned why Australia had to reduce any emissions, Mr Turnbull responded by emphasising the need to ensure the guarantee delivered on the targets agreed in 2015.

Mr Turnbull told the meeting that Australia had to “do our bit” to reach the target.


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

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Plastic bag ban at Woolworths' starts today in Queensland

I was there yesterday on the first day of the new regime so I was given a free re-usable plastic bag -- made in Germany, curiously.

It was a bit thicker than the condemned bags but not by a lot. But I suppose that if you keep re-using it, it would cut down on waste. 

I will probably keep it in my car and dutifully re-use it as intended.  If I forget it on some days I will simply leave my goods in my shopping trolley and wheel it out to my car and load my stuff into the boot. I do that most days already and I keep bags in my boot anyway.

Supermarket giant Woolworths will ban single-use plastic bags at all stores across the country from today, as Queensland prepares for a state-wide ban to take effect next month.

From July 1, 2018, retailers will no longer be able to supply single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags less than 35 microns in thickness.

The bags will be banned at all Woolworths stores from today, while Coles will follow on July 1.

Over 3.9 billion plastic shopping bags are used in Australia every year and the majority go to landfill.

They take years to break down, and many end up in the environment polluting oceans, rivers and beaches.

Similar laws already exist in other parts of the country including South Australia, the ACT, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Western Australia and Victoria will also ban plastic bags this year, leaving New South Wales the only state where lightweight plastic bags will be allowed.

Which bags will be banned?

Single-use plastic bags
Degradable and biodegradable lightweight plastic shopping bags
Which bags will not be banned?
Garbage bags
Bin liners
Bags for food such as fruit and vegetables
Nappy bags
Dog poo bags
Department store plastic bags

What happens if I forget to bring my own bags? You can purchase thicker plastic bags at the big supermarket chains, including Coles and Woolworths for 15 cents. Other foldable bags and freezer-type bags will also be available for purchase.

But to avoid a fee, the best thing to do is keep your reusable bags in the car or in your hand bag. You can also bring your own plastic bags to all shops.

What happens if someone breaks the rules? Retailers found to be supplying the banned bags face a $6,300 fine.

National Retailers Association chief executive officer Dominique Lamb said retailers had taken to the bag ban with "gusto".

"We're seeing new recyclable bags with new branding … we are seeing all different types of bags appearing in the market and so far we've had quite a positive response to the change."

She said some small businesses were concerned about the change but generally they were embracing it. "They're really keen to get this right and to make sure they don't find themselves captured in the sense of being fined," she said.

What should I do with my plastic bags at home?
You can take the plastic bags you have stored in the cupboard or under the sink to the shops with you and use them to carry your groceries home. Or you can recycle them at the bins situated in some stores.

But if you use them for other things like bin liners, over time you will have to change that habit too.

Not everyone is happy with the move to go plastic free. Logan resident Rodney Black said he was annoyed by the ban and was not convinced it would do much. He has been hoarding the bags in his shed to use as bin liners.

"We use plastic bags well, we use them more than once usually," Mr Black said. "Eventually we'll be forced to buy plastic bags for certain kitchen rubbish bins."


Solar farm to integrate pumped hydro storage facility in Australian first with $500m loan

Pumped storage is a good idea in theory but when you realize that it involves building TWO dams you get an inkling of the fact that it is a hugely expensive way to provide electricity.  But the good ol' taxpayer is generous

Australia's first renewable energy project to combine solar energy and pumped hydro storage will receive half a billion dollars in funding.

The Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) is planning to provide $516 million for the Kidston solar project near Georgetown in far north Queensland. It will be one of the largest loans made by the NAIF.

Once built, the project will be the first in Australia to combine solar energy and pumped hydro storage.

Genex Power executive director Simon Kidston said the loan was a significant step for the company as it develops the project's second phase — a 250 megawatt pumped storage hydro project that's fully integrated with an expanded solar farm.

"So what we're seeking to do is use the hydro as a giant water battery," Mr Kidston said. "All of the energy from the solar farm is used to pump the water from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir, then we can release that water and generate power at peak demand."

Mr Kidston said it took the NAIF just six months to assess the company's application for a loan. "They did take their time to understand the risks, understand the opportunities," he said.

"I think they worked through in a very methodical and professional way, so full credit to NAIF for that."

The funding is subject to several conditions, including due diligence and a cost benefit analysis.

State-owned energy corporation Powerlink is planning a 125-kilometre transmission line to run from the Kidston Solar power project, 200 kilometres west of Townsville, to connect with the national grid at Mt Fox.

Landholders have previously raised concerns about potential biosecurity issues during construction, as well as the impact on cattle station management.

Genex Power is also in discussions with banks about providing the rest of the funding needed for the project.

Mr Kidston said once complete, the project will provide reliable energy to the country. "Pumped storage hydro is the most efficient mature technology to store energy, and integrating this with solar and potentially wind over time, we can deliver the holy grail of renewable which is dispatchable reliable energy," he said.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad welcomed the announcement but criticised the Federal Government for the time it has taken to deliver NAIF projects for Queensland.

"Five billion dollars was announced in 2014 under NAIF and this would represent less than 20 per cent of that money out the door," Ms Trad said.

NAIF chief executive Laurie Walker said the project would provide substantial benefits to Northern Australia.

"NAIF sees the project as important for the transition of the market to lower emission renewable energy sources," she said. The NAIF would provide a long-term debt facility for more than twenty years, at concessional interest rates.


A new/old route to university enrolment

The ATAR is nationally-based evaluation of High School achievement.  It is a percentile score given between "less than 30" up to 99.95 (in a minimum increment of 0.05) which denotes a student's ranking relative to their peers upon completion of their secondary education. For example, an ATAR score of 99.0 means that the student performed better than 99% of their peers. 

The True Reward program admits students to Western Sydney University, a "new" university.  It considers students based on their HSC score, not their ATAR. It appears to be a less scientific evaluation of High School Performance, much like old-time reliance on unweighted exam results

Knowing he was doing his best, Shawcross felt confident he would perform well in his exams, particularly those for the subjects he was most passionate about – legal studies and history – but not entirely sure he would attain the ATAR score needed for the degree he really wanted: the Bachelor of Policing (Leadership Program) at Western Sydney University (WSU). WSU is the only university in metropolitan Sydney to offer the degree.

To give himself the best chance of fulfilling his ambitions, Shawcross applied for a place under WSU’s True Reward initiative, an early offer program that considers students on the basis of their HSC score rather than their ATAR. The program is unique in NSW and generated more than 1900 student enrolments in 2018, its inaugural year.

“The ATAR scaling process can be confusing and not always a true reflection of students’ performance in individual HSC subjects,” says Angelo Kourtis, vice president (people and advancement) at WSU.

“As a result, we believe talented and capable students are missing out on receiving an offer to the degree of their choice. At Western Sydney University we believe in the unlimited potential of every student and the importance of rewarding hard work. In our opinion, the current ATAR scaling system does not support this broadly enough.”

Kourtis says the True Reward program has been in development for a number of years. The university looked closely at its current students to determine the link between their performance at university and the related subjects in the HSC. It conducted a comprehensive analysis of students who maintain a grade point average necessary to successfully complete their degree, correlating this with subject band performance in the HSC.

“Our early offer program not only gives HSC students the chance to plan their futures early, but also considers the results that truly matter. We believe this is the first step towards a more transparent entry system that will set more young people on the path to success, and the future they have worked hard for and deserve,” Kourtis says.

Shawcross won the place he wanted on the basis of his HSC achievements: Band 6s for his strongest subjects: legal studies, ancient history, modern history and studies of religion, and Band 5s “for all the rest”.

Shawcross is now at the end of his first semester and looking forward to exploring his future career options. “I have always wanted to do something that involved the legal system,” he says. “And in policing, there are a lot of different avenues you can go down.

“I’m not exactly sure which area of policing I want to go into yet, riot squad or bomb squad or tactical response or even prosecution. The paths are all very interesting.”


Fifteen more Aboriginal children removed from families in Tennant Creek area following rape of toddler

Note the silence below about where the kids were sent.  They  were almost certainly sent to WHITE foster families.  And some fool will call that racist.  The Left just cannot digest the fact that Aborigines are NOT equal in important ways

Since the rape of a two-year-old girl in Tennant Creek in February, 15 other children have been removed from their families by child protection workers, the Department of Territory Families has revealed.

During parliamentary estimates hearings in Darwin on Wednesday, the minister and department CEO outlined the state of child protection and what efforts were being made to improve what they said were antiquated systems that had been underfunded by successive governments.

The Northern Territory Children's Commissioner found in her report released last month that the child had been at foreseeable risk of harm which could have been managed or mitigated.

Colleen Gwynne's report found there had been 35 domestic violence incidents recorded against the parents, including eight aggravated assault convictions for one of them, and more than 150 recorded interactions with police.

The toddler and her four siblings had been the subject of 16 years of investigations into physical and sexual abuse and neglect in the lead-up to the rape.

The two-year-old girl and one of her siblings were removed from their mother's care by the Department of Child Protection South Australia on April 5.

Territory Families has learned from the incident and was working to review cumulative notifications against whole families dating back years in an effort to prevent another such incident occurring, CEO Ken Davies said.

"We have responded in terms of the cumulative harm and doing some deeper analysis of some of the case histories we've been looking at, and we have responded," he told the hearing.

"We have taken additional children into care since that incident as a consequence of the lessons learnt, 15 in fact [in the Barkly region].

"We've taken the lessons learnt very, very carefully, we're working very closely in terms of our relationship with the Aboriginal health service there … to get advice and support around early intervention and support for families."

He said that removing a child was the last resort, but the safety of the child was the priority.

In Tennant Creek in the nine months to March 31 this year, he said there had been 1,515 notifications to the Department, 578 child protection investigations, and 181 substantiations, which was an increase of 10 per cent.

Seven additional staff have been added to the town's office.

Independent Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley — a former Country Liberals Party minister overseeing child protection — asked the leadership of Territory Families why no-one had been disciplined or sacked over the failure to remove the two-year-old girl after years of notifications of abuse.

"It's about passing the pub test, isn't it, it's about perception," she said.

"Although you might not think it's necessary — a symbolic gesture, someone being suspended or in some way experiencing some sort of retribution as a result of this child's life being damaged forever — the wider public might think that."

The community wanted to see a penalty paid by paid poor judgement and a failure in the system, Ms Lambley said. "You're the ones responsible for the system, unfortunately it has occurred under your watch.

"When I was child protection minister I was lucky this didn't happen to me."

The problem was a systemic one rather than the fault of any individual case worker, Territory Families Minister Dale Wakefield said. "The decisions were made over long periods of time by multiple workers, therefore it really is a systems response we need to focus on," she said.

Mr Davies said the staff at the Tennant Creek office were also traumatised by the alleged rape.

"There haven't been specific consequences to an individual child protection worker because it was a very, very difficult context that team was operating in," he said. "There were huge community challenges, problems with alcohol, problems with service delivery.

"It was a community in crisis and it wasn't my place, in my opinion, to go and find an individual child protection worker and sack them."

But Ms Lambley rejected that, saying the buck stopped at the top.

"This is being played out on a national stage, you've got the Prime Minister who's being held to account this week for not turning up to Tennant Creek and not taking responsibility, [but] here we have the departmental executive of the Department of Territory Families saying no-one's to be held accountable, it's a systems failure. "Well, you guys are accountable, each and every one of you."


Commentary seldom gives Trump an even break

By CHRIS MITCHELL, a recently retired editor of "The Australian", well-known for his mockery of global warming

In 1989 when Frank Devine, former editor of the New York Post, was a newish editor-in-chief of this paper he asked me to arrange something we had never done in our daily editorials: he wanted to include a picture of the Berlin Wall and endorse president Ronald Reagan’s 1987 Berlin speech, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

It was an important lesson: presidents can change history and editors need to be alive to the power of political outsiders to drive that change. Many people have compared Reagan to US President Donald Trump. Bret Stephens, formerly of The Wall Street Journal but now at The New York Times, wrote a piece published here in The Australian Financial Review last Thursday saying Trump was no Reagan.

Sure, Trump is from another, brasher era. Where Reagan was a B-grade movie star, Trump is a reality TV icon. Yet both were Washington outsiders and both used force of personality and personal relationships to try to tear down what previous administrations had seen as facts of life. As Stephens wrote, “The Cold War didn’t need to last forever. The sec­urity paradigms that defined it weren’t immutable laws of history.”

People with long memories will recall how vicious the progressive media was about Reagan, who they treated initially as a buffoon. They mocked his challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev and ridiculed his plans to build a “star wars” missile defence shield that would have forced a financially strapped Soviet Union to respond.

The liberal media was wrong. Reagan and his ally, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, proved strong individuals could change history. The Soviet Union disintegrated. This was not a small rogue state like North Korea. It was a giant of 390 million people that included the Baltic states, the Caucasian states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the east European countries of Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, and Soviet Central Asia.

So here’s the thing. When Trump faced down “Little Rocket Man” last year he was threatening “fire and fury” against a state with nuclear weapons, but only a fraction the size of the colossus Reagan and John F. Kennedy before him had faced down. Trump’s threats worked, and Korean peninsula denuclearisation is now possible. What to make, then, of media reaction to last week’s summit in Singapore between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un?

This paper’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan, no US-style left-liberal media type, was rightly cautious about what Trump might be giving away, especially in pledging to abandon joint military exercises with South Korea. It is in Australia’s interests that the US-led alliance system remain strong in the Pacific and South Korea is a key part of it. But Sheridan made another point: “Part of the problem with much analysis is that people approach it as pro or anti Trump.”

Just as they did with Reagan and Thatcher. The Pacific alliance has not solved the North Korean problem. Neither Kim nor his father, Kim Jong-il, or grandfather Kim Il-sung has ever been brought to heel by sanctions. Presidents since Bill Clinton have expended enormous effort and money to try, unsuccessfully, to prevent the hermit kingdom from acquiring nuclear weapons. Barack Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, at least partly for his efforts to settle the North Korean issue. Yet he warned in 2016 that North Korea remained the world’s most intractable problem.

The North conducted its first successful nuclear test under Kim Jong-il in 2006 (after withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 2003) and now probably has 20 warheads and missiles capable of travelling 13,000km. It is unclear whether they would be capable of carrying a nuclear payload that far.

No serious editor will want to be proved wrong in declaring Trump a failure or a success before either becomes clear. Yet as people gravitate to news they agree with, newspapers reap rewards for commentary that really is no better than last week’s puerile attack by actor Robert De Niro, who received a standing ovation for saying two words: “F..k Trump”.

This paper’s associate editor Chris Kenny, who visited North Korea when a staffer for former foreign minister Alexander Downer, wrote about Trump’s strategy last Thursday, arguing Trump could not receive a fair appraisal from most media. Trump was a dangerous warmonger last year when he threatened Kim Jong-un but is soft on dictators this year for giving Kim a place at the negotiating table. Surely decades of failure of talks and refusal to meet Korean leaders should suggest to a normal person (not of the foreign policy establishment) that a different course might be worth exploring.

Some commentators were even silly enough to point out the North Korean media had trumpeted the summit as a win for Kim. They would, wouldn’t they, given they are state controlled. And the US needs a partner to deal with so a positive reaction in Pyongyang is crucial to preserve Kim’s leadership. The media’s Trump derangement is just as bad in discussion of Trump’s business dealings with Russia and special counsel Robert Mueller’s examination of potential involvement by parts of the Trump campaign in Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Which brings us to Sarah Ferguson’s three-part series for Four Corners. The first two episodes have been entertaining even if they have revealed nothing new.

The program has left itself wriggle room by airing background material on key players that runs counter to the prevailing narrative on the Russia story. Except so far for one person, and it is the one Ferguson has used as an honest broker, former Obama national intelligence director James Clapper. Whether discussing Trump’s attempted property dev­elopments in Moscow in episode one or the role of low-ranking Trump staff George Papadopoulos and Carter Page in episode two, Four Corners really should have pointed out some facts about Clapper’s role in the affair. He is accused of leaking the discredited Christopher Steele dossier about Trump to CNN, then lying to congress about it. Ferguson admitted her main source in part one, Trump property development associate Felix Sater, has been a 20-year informer for the FBI and intelligence source for other agencies. Part two also admitted Papadopoulos and Page were junior staff with almost no influence.

While Twitter took all this to be incriminating, I thought it raised an obvious question: how is some big-noting and financial cadging by staff on the periphery of the campaign the “story of the century”, as the series has been branded?


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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fine unis for caving on free speech: Senator Paterson

An online comment on the story below is as under:

"I’d be happy to see Western Studies that examined the pros and cons of our culture. But it’s up to the unis, especially if the funding is privately sourced and comes with strings attached"

It's a very unbalanced comment: Why should it be up to the unis?  The unis are heavily Leftist so can not be assumed to make a balanced judgment.  Censorship is the way of the Left -- as we have seen.

And what is wrong with privately funded courses?  The premier American universities are all privately funded.

And what in life does not come with strings attached?  They are usually called "conditions" and there are conditions on all sorts of funding both in academe and elsewhere.  There were in fact very few "conditions" on the Ramsay offer and none of them were ideological

The comment is just bigotry.  It certainly does not pass as serious debate. Very lightweight stuff

Liberal senator James Paterson has called for universities to face fines for failing to uphold free speech, claiming that financial penalties would go some way to preventing the “administrative cowardice” behind the Australian National University’s decision to scrap plans for a course in Western civilisation.

As debate continues around the university’s contentious withdrawal from negotiations with the Ramsay Centre, Senator Paterson said ANU was not alone in ­caving to pressure from “ideological interest groups” and it was up to the federal government to ensure that universities’ financial interests were aligned with “upholding values of intellectual freedom, free speech and viewpoint diversity”.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who oversees the university sector, which will receive $17 billion in government funding this year, did not rule out the proposal.

“With funding for higher education at record levels, taxpayers and the broader community rightly expect that our universities uphold the values and standards of free speech and academic freedom,” Senator Birmingham said.

“I welcome debate and ideas on how our universities can be further held to account for upholding the expectations placed upon them by taxpayers and students.”

In an opinion article in The Australian today, Senator Paterson also takes issue with ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt’s claim that his decision to withdraw from negotiations with the Ramsay ­Centre resulted from concerns over academic autonomy, pointing out that the university does not have a stand-alone policy dedicated to upholding free intellectual inquiry.

This was despite amendments to the Higher Education Support Act in 2011 requiring universities to have a policy around upholding free intellectual inquiry.

Senator Paterson refers to an audit of university campuses conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs last year that found only eight of Australia’s 42 universities have such a policy.

“ For all its talk of academic freedom, the ANU is not among them,’’ he says. “Clearly, the existence of this ­requirement isn’t enough to counteract the pressure that university administrators face from the angry minority hell-bent on ­enforcing their ideological hegemony.

“Only imposing real, financial consequences will bring an end to the kind of administrative cowardice that was epitomised in the ANU’s decision to cancel their proposed course on Western civilisation.”

Senator Paterson is the latest politician to criticise ANU, which has previously accepted donations from the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Iran, to fund its Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies.

Institute of Public Affairs ­research fellow Matthew Lesh, who conducted the latest free-speech-on-campus audit, said the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency had failed to enforce the legal requirement that universities have a policy that upholds free ­intellectual inquiry.

“It is time that TEQSA put Australia’s universities on notice that their social licence and billions in public funding depends on upholding free intellectual inquiry,” Mr Lesh said.


Gender-specific words like mankind and tradesman are BANNED at Australian universities

Western Australia has now caught the virus already well-known in the Eastern States

Using gender-specific language could see some university students failing assessments under an increased push to stamp-out stereotyping on the basis of sex.

Universities around Perth have developed 'inclusive language' policies for students and staff to follow where words such as mankind are ditched in favour of terms like humankind.

Curtin University students face being penalised if they use words deemed to contain bias or discriminatory language, Perth Now reported. 

'While it is possible that a student may fail an assessment or be subject to actions under the student charter or misconduct provisions, our preference would be to work with students to educate them on the use of inclusive language,' Jill Downie, the university's Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic, said.

Curtin University's Inclusive Language Procedures policy says students and staff must take reasonable steps to 'avoid stereotyping on the basis of sex; age; race; colour; national or ethnic origin; marital or relationship status'.

At the University of Western Australia, the Equal Opportunity Advisory Committee has developed non-discriminatory language guidelines for students and staff to use.

It provides a list of descriptions that should instead be used, such as tradesperson instead of tradesman, humankind as an alternative for mankind, quality of work or work skill for workmanship and artisan or craftsperson rather then craftsman.

Murdoch University has its own 'Non-discriminatory language guidelines' which students are advised to refer to when piecing together their assignments.

Examples of gender inclusive language include flight attendant instead of air hostess and chairperson instead of chairman.


Frydenberg caves in — renewables have beaten common sense

This may sound strange but the renewable energy industry — I prefer to call it the unreliable energy industry — is overjoyed by the public discussion about the need for new coal-fired electricity plants to be built here.

The rent-seekers — the owners of wind farms and solar installations — know there will be no investment in coal-fired electricity, certainly not in terms of new plants. Even investment in maintaining or extending the lives of existing coal-fired plants is rationed.

New coal-fired plants are unbankable, given the policy settings. They cost a lot, their economic lives are too long and the risks are too high.

The only scenario in which a new high-efficiency, low-emissions plant can be built — and plenty are overseas — is government ownership. Even then, the delay before commissioning would be three to five years. There are no circumstances under which the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull will agree to the government building, owning and operating a HELE plant.

As for Labor, it doesn’t even know what a HELE plant is; its intention is to head in the nonsensical direction of 50 per cent renewables (globally, wind and solar account for 8 per cent of electricity generation) and a higher emissions reduction target.

So why are the renewables players so excited about the ongoing discussion of investment in new coal-fired plants that will never happen? It diverts attention from the main game, which is the definition of reliability that will apply in the new policy framework, the national energy ­guarantee.

They also are seeking to have other features of the final design favour renewable energy, including the restrictions on the use of carbon offsets, both local and international, to meet the emissions reduction target. There is even a possibility that there will be no allowance for offsets in the final version.

While Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg feels pleased with himself that he has secured reasonably broad support for the national energy guarantee — there are a few exceptions — everyone knows that it will come down to the detail. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the latest iteration of the guarantee was released last Friday at 5pm.

Let me outline three key weaknesses in it. They are: the lack of a defensible definition of reliability; the way the emissions reduction target is put into effect; and the use of offsets. (I apologise for the technical nature of some of this discussion — it’s unavoidable.)

The most appropriate way of defining reliability — supply meeting demand when and where it is required — is to map out scenarios in which renewable energy sources plus other sources will not be able to meet the needs of the market and to identify the back-up arrangements that can be relied on. It can’t be an averaging process; extremes must be considered.

Note, for example, that extended wind droughts can occur; witness Germany and Britain recently. It also can be cloudy for extended periods. These back-up options include battery, pumped hydro, gas peaking or even diesel generators.

They may be uncommon events, but because Australia’s electricity grid is self-contained (we can’t import electricity from other countries, as is the case in Europe) we must plan for them.

One of the papers released last Friday simply states that “a reliable system is one with enough energy (generation and demand side participation) and network capacity to supply consumers — this implies that there should be enough energy to meet demand, with a buffer known as reserves”. A key carve-out is “demand side participation”.

The game that the renewable energy sector is playing is to define the scenario for which back-up is required on terms that suit it. Instead of meeting demand when and where it is required, its preferred alternative is to assume that demand is managed down (all big industrial users are expected to reduce their use of power as well as some households) before there is any need to provide back-up.

In this way, the renewable energy industry will be able to point to a motley collection of diesel generators and a few batteries (which provide power for a few hours at most), which will allow the retailers to meet the reliability requirement under the terms of the national energy guarantee. It’s a neat trick because it avoids the expensive exercise of providing or contracting for true back-up

This sort of demand management is Third World stuff and the clear danger is that these big users will just power down forever, particularly as they are also being told they have to provide back-up themselves. They have made it very clear that they cannot rely on renewable energy. So when contracts expire, they will simply shut up shop and relocate overseas.

When it comes to how the national energy guarantee will work, demand forecasts will be made out to 2030. The renewable energy industry will seek to have these forecasts low-balled because this will accelerate the exit of older baseload coal-fired plants as well as reduce the need for back-up.

These demand forecasts will then translate into an abatement number by 2030 (the reduction in tonnes of CO2) and from this an emissions intensity target will be calculated. It will be of the order of 0.4 per megawatt hour, which knocks out all coal, and gas will be used only as a peaker. The national energy guarantee is effectively an emissions intensity scheme.

An abatement trajectory will have to be set for the decade, but the minister already has ruled out back-ending the emissions reduction task even though it would be very sensible to wait to see what the rest of the world does. Note that last year global emissions rose by 1.6 per cent. There may be some scope for small overs and unders from year to year, but this doesn’t really address the problem.

Having made our commitment to the Paris climate agreement and fallen into the trap of not subtracting the emissions of energy-intensive exporters as other nations have — the target would be 21 per cent to 23 per cent, rather than 26 per cent to 28 per cent, if we had done this — the best way forward is to allow retailers to acquit their emissions reduction requirements by buying carbon offsets.

These can be local — Australian carbon credit units (think local carbon farming) — and international. Either way, it is a far cheaper way of making our contribution to emissions reduction than through the labyrinthine national energy guarantee. (We will have to stop calling it the National Electricity Market; it simply won’t meet any definition of a market given the heavy-handed regulation, excessive direction and high penalties.)

The bottom line is the renewable energy industry has won. And this includes the big three vertically integrated players since they are heavily invested in renewables but will be able to milk their baseload assets in the ­interim.

Prices may be plateauing at the moment, but they will continue their upward path soon. Liddell will close in 2022, but it is in such a shocking state of disrepair its output will be unreliable in the meantime. The grid is regularly close to breaking point now. Large-scale, energy-intensive plants will close across time, leaving an economy dominated by the service sector and government. We will have thrown away one of our greatest sources of comparative advantage: cheap, reliable electricity.


Identity politics hijacks tragic tale of woman’s death

The all-pervading fashions and virtue-signalling of identity politics can dangerously warp our public discussions.

They can distract from the particular and propagate blame and guilt where it does more harm than good. We dare not speak about the Islamist extremist motivation of some murderous crimes because of fears this will slur all Muslims. Yet when a man rapes and murders a woman we shame all men. This is not only a useless intervention; it is deleterious and divisive.

When a brutal, random and sickening murder happens, there are only two identities that matter: first, the unfulfilled life of the victim who has been visited upon by unspeakable horror and robbed of everything — every relationship, success, failure, joy and memory they were going to experience. And we seek the identity of the perpetrator, who must be apprehended for the sake of our safety and justice.

The rape and murder of 22-year-old Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne last week shocked the nation. So it should. Spare me the day that such an atrocity would not spark community outrage and shared responses. But some have overlaid identity politics on an emotional response in an unhealthy way. Prominent people have argued women should walk the streets unconcerned about their safety; that Western civilisation accepts violence against women; and that male culture is somehow to blame. Greens MP Adam Bandt told parliament we must “change men’s behaviour” and Malcolm Turnbull agreed, saying we need to “ensure that we change the hearts of men to respect women”.

These are trying times. Friends and family are mourning; a city is reeling. But we must always be capable of dealing with the reality around us. And even though there is no suggestion the victim was doing anything at all that would have increased her risk, we must maintain the ability to remind our women and men to avoid risks. Monsters live among us; disturbingly they always will.

Not all men shoulder these obscenities, just as not all women carry the shame of a murderous mother. We already teach our boys respect for women as they watch it lived around them. The way we show and share our love is not to spit blame and guilt widely. Like families, communities look out for others and remind each other to take care.


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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is overjoyed at the thought of the ABC being abolished

Budget bonanza: Free hampers gifted to new parents to ease cost of living

Baby boxes originated in Finland and were widely used by the Finnish government to help impoverished mothers amid the difficult economic circumstances immediately after WWII. Finland is now of course a prosperous country but Finnish mothers still look forwad to getting their box.

The practice has been much imitated in other places in the UK and the USA but usually seems to be discontinued after a time on cost grounds.  It is argued that the mothers could be better assisted in other ways.  But while it lasts it should be popular and the package described below does seem well thought-out

EVERY baby born in NSW will receive a free “lifesaving” hamper containing a sleeping bag, wrap, nappies, change mat and children’s book to help ease the burden on new parents.

Valued at around $150, the “baby bundle” is part of a $157 million parenting package to be unveiled on Tuesday when Treasurer Dominic Perrottet hands down the last state budget ­before the election in March.

With polling showing cost of living dominating voter concerns, relief for families is set to be a key theme of the budget, which will also focus on funding key infrastructure projects.

The hampers, which also include washable breastpads, a thermometer, sanitiser, toothbrush and nappy rash cream, are meant to encourage parents to read key health messages contained within the package, covering topics such as dental care, breastfeeding, child-proofing a home and a child’s key developmental stages.

The sleeveless sleeping bag is ­designed to help reduce the risk of bedclothes covering a baby’s face, a contributor to sudden infant death syndrome, while the children’s book is aimed at encouraging parents to start reading to their babies from the very beginning of their lives.

The items will be in addition to the child health and development “blue book” that has been handed out to new parents since 1988.

Around 90,000 babies are born in NSW each year.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the baby bundle was designed to encourage parents to consume important health messages.

“It will not only help reduce some of the initial costs faced by new ­parents, but it will also support positive health and development outcomes for babies and their families,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Other measures in the parenting package will include funds to expand the Newborn Bloodspot Screening program, with NSW becoming the first state to test for the life-threatening disease Congenital Adrenal ­Hyperplasia.

The government will also allocate $9.3 million for 100 new midwives, $4.3 million to pay for more nurse home visits, $5 million towards childhood cancer research and $2 million to improve play spaces for children in, mostly regional, paediatric wards.

Pregnant women and mothers with severe mental illness will also benefit from $1.1 million funding towards increased specialist peri-natal and infant mental health services.

The package will include $2.2 million for the Tresillian parent advice organisation to establish five Family Care Centre Hubs across regional NSW and the government will fund an update of its booklet Thinking Of Having A Baby. There will also be a $1.5 million boost to improve transport for pregnant women who need higher levels of care.

Mr Perrottet said cost of living is a key theme of the budget, which had shifted its focus to invest in people.

“Smaller investments can sometimes make a real difference in ­people’s lives, such as this baby-care bundle,” he said. “We want to make sure parents get the help they need in a heartbeat, which is why we are ramping up mental health services, midwife numbers and home visits.

“As we know, those first few days, while joyous, can also be tough.”


Treasury finds $10bn hole in Shorten’s retirees plan

Bill Shorten is facing a $10 billion black hole in his key savings plans to axe franking credit refunds for retirees, with a Treasury study confirming Labor had failed to calculate the expected changes in investment strategies among ­people hit by the tax changes.

The Treasury modelling, based on a two-month external review of the policy, revealed investors and retirees were likely to change their behaviour, resulting in $1bn less revenue being collected over the budget forward estimates than the opposition had banked on.

This immediate shortfall rises to a $9.9bn black hole over the 10-year period with Treasury calculating the policy would raise $45.8bn rather than the $55.7bn Labor claimed.

The modelling suggested ­people with larger refunds and self-managed super funds were likely to shift their investments into other income streams, ­including foreign equities.

The discovery of the funding shortfall in one of Labor’s key tax measures comes as the opposition this week will be forced to decide whether to back the government’s full $140bn 10-year income tax plan or face accusations of denying low-income earners a tax break from July 1.

As parliament resumes today for the final sitting fortnight ­before the July 28 by-elections, the government is expected to force a vote on both its income tax cut and company tax cut plans as well as passing key national security legislation.

The government will refuse to buckle to Labor’s demands that it separate the tax component for high-income earners, leaving the crossbench to break the impasse when a Senate committee on the tax plan reports back today, with debate due to begin immediately.

The opposition’s own tax and spending measures will be ­exploited by the government following the release of the Treasury costings of Labor’s franking credit policy. The modelling that would form the basis of Treasury’s ­advice to Labor if it won government was conducted externally by Treasury with independent ­advisers. It found that Labor’s budget projections had not taken into account significant behavioural changes.

It puts Treasury at odds with the Parliamentary Budget Office, which also provided costings for Labor’s policy, which the opposition has refused to release.

The behavioural modelling found self-managed super funds would rebalance portfolios away from franked dividend-paying shares to “other forms of income to compensate for the fall in after-tax returns on shares in the ­absence of refundability”. These were expected to include fixed-­income assets, property trusts, managed funds or offshore equities.

“The main mechanism by which individuals are expected to respond is through rebalancing their portfolios away from franked dividend paying shares,” the report said.

The report said it assumed the behavioural response increased with SMSF wealth to reflect ­factors such as the quality of ­financial advice. “This response increases over time to reflect ­investors’ shift away from investments previously attracting refunds in favour of alternative investment strategies,” it said.

Labor had originally claimed that its policy to abolish franking credit refunds would amount to $59bn in savings over 10 years, which the government claimed was a tax grab on retirees.

Mr Shorten was forced to ­rewrite the policy within weeks of its release by exempting pensions and welfare recipients after it was discovered many would be caught in the tax net. This reduced the number to $55.7bn over the decade and from $11.4bn to $10.7bn over the forward estimates.

The Treasury modelling has shaved a further $1.1 billion off the costings over the forward estimates, reducing Labor’s real take to $9.6bn and potentially undermining its spending commitments. It also revised the longer-term numbers down to $45.8bn, leaving Labor’s policy with a $9.9bn black hole.

Scott Morrison accused the ­opposition of building its entire spending program on a “house of cards” and compared it with the previous Labor’s government’s mining tax, which failed to recoup a fraction of the revenue it was ­designed to.

“This just highlights the vagaries and uncertainty of Labor’s revenues,” the Treasurer said.

“Treasury’s costing of Labor’s retiree tax proposal confirms concerns raised at the time Labor ­announced their proposal that they had overestimated the revenue they expected to collect. Labor’s retiree tax is far and away Labor’s biggest revenue measure over the forward estimates.”

Mr Morrison said Treasury’s advice confirmed that Labor’s revenue estimates for the retiree tax over the medium term were “particularly unreliable”.

“Yet Labor will seek to bank these unrealistic estimates and will bake into the budget long-term spending commitments,” he said.

“The government requested the costing and is releasing it in the interest of the public debate because yet again Labor chose not to release the detailed costing of their proposal by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office.”

Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen has admitted that the opposition always expected a “tough debate” over the policy.

Labor has stood by the numbers despite having to revise them down less than two weeks after the policy was first released in March.


PC brigade in a hate speech class of their own

The politically correct class in Australia has always been particularly zealous in its defence of provisions such as section 18C of the federal Racial Discrimination Act and similar provisions in the anti-discrimination laws of the states and territories.

These statutes make it unlawful to publish material that, in many cases, does no more than offend the sensibilities of various groups in the community. What these laws do is place a higher value on hurt feelings than on the rigorous public debate of political, social and economic questions.

It is under one of those laws that the Nine Network and Sonia Kruger face legal proceedings, starting ­tomorrow, alleging racial vilification. In a morning TV show, Kruger attempted to discuss the question of whether there was any correlation between Muslim immigration and terrorist incidents in various countries.

When it comes to its own participation in public debate, however, the politically correct class often has few limits on offensive and insulting statements.

When two members of the Senate proposed the amendment of section 18C in 2016, they were described by the chief political correspondent of The Sydney Morning Herald as “hate-speech apologists”. In addition one was said to be “a boorish, supercilious know-all with the empathy of a Besser block” and the other “an absurdist fringe-dweller”. Both were “self-promoting misanthropes”.

About the same time, in a ­Herald cartoon of Malcolm Turnbull speaking at the UN about refugees, he was shown as wearing three badges inscribed with: “Hate makes the world go around”, “Hate will find a way”, and “All you need is hate”.

One of the most flamboyant examples of this sort of rhetoric occurred last March when Julian Burnside posted on Twitter an image of the federal Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, in a Nazi uniform. This was a particularly striking example because Burnside is not from the fringes of Australian society. He is the product of Melbourne’s most prestigious private school, a Queen’s Counsel at the Victorian Bar and a member of the Order of Australia.

It would have been unthinkable in the fairly recent past that such an establishment figure would be involved in these kinds of guttersnipe exchanges, but the tenor of public debate in Australia has certainly changed in a relatively short space of time.

More recently there were the comments of a history professor at Sydney University who asked whether The Australian’s Greg Sheridan and Chris Kenny “think that Western countries are succumbing to a poisonous cocktail of multiculturalism, Muslim immigration, political correctness and cultural Marxism”, and added: “It seems that, much like Anders Breivik and Steve Bannon, they do.”

Putting aside this categorisation of former Trump staffer Bannon, Breivik was the person who murdered 77 people on one day in Norway in July 2011. This material was published in, of all places, the ABC’s religion and ethics website, but the reference to Breivik was later removed by the ABC. The professor said: “I think some people have overreached themselves with their incendiary rhetoric.” Quite so.

Sydney University staff have no monopoly on inflammatory statements. An edition of the student newspaper in May carried a photo on the cover of a female ­suicide bomber who had killed many Israelis, describing her as a “martyr” in the struggle against “Israeli colonisation”.

When the Australian Union of Jewish Students complained, the student representative council passed a motion condemning them and congratulating those who had worked on the newspaper “for their brave and highly defensible cover depicting a pro-Palestine freedom fighter”.

The domination of universities in Australia by the politically correct class is, of course, not a recent phenomenon. But their influence is just as pervasive in most public institutions and many private ones, including the boards of many public companies, often seemingly more concerned with taking a political stance than making a profit for their shareholders.

What is interesting, however, is the contrast between this group’s view of themselves as the moral guardians of society and their ferocious intolerance for anyone who expresses a view contrary to their own. It is as if those contrary views represent a threat to their role as moral guardians, whereas they occupy most of the commanding heights of Australian ­society and are, unfortunately, not at all threatened.

One thing they have done, however, is to lower the tone of public debate with virulent attacks on their opponents that reflect the deep intensity of their sanctimonious opinions.


Cash is no longer king in Australia

More consumers are dumping cash and cheques when it comes to paying up, and are using cards and their smartphones instead.
Updated Updated 1 hour ago

Australian consumers are accelerating their shift towards digital payments and away from cash and cheques, with new figures showing paying by card has surged while people make fewer trips to the ATM for cash.

Consumers made more than 8.3 billion card payments in 2017 - equal to a rate of almost 23 million transactions a day, according to a report from electronic payments industry group AusPayNet.

The bulk of those card payments - 5.6 billion - were made on debit cards, AusPayNet said, with credits tending to be used on more expensive purchases but still showing an increase in volume and value.

At the same time the number of cheques used fell almost 20 per cent to 89.7 million for the year, and the number of ATM withdrawals made fell 5.9 per cent to 610.1 million.

AusPayNet CEO Leila Fourie said the high uptake of technology and internet use in Australia, where almost 90 per cent of the population own a smartphone, was behind the increase in new ways of conducting transactions.

"This is driving uptake in digital payments and laying down a powerful base for the next wave of payments innovation," she said.

AusPayNet said more 60 per cent of consumers with a smartphone used their device to make payments.

Among the technological shifts aiding the uptake of digital payments is the New Payments Platform launched in February - a digital and near-real-time payments system allowing instant peer-to-peer payments.

AusPayNet also found Australia has a relatively high number of EFTPOS terminals and low number of ATMs compared to other countries.

Australia has 39,337 EFTPOS terminals per million inhabitants and 1,355 ATMs, while Canada has 38,892 EFTPOS terminals and 1,888 ATMS, the report said.

Australia ranked above Canada, Italy, Singapore and the UK on EFTPOS point concentration, while it lagged Korea, Canada, Belgium and Russia on the ATM count.


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

Monday, June 18, 2018

Professor ‘bragged about burying bad science’ on 3M chemicals

I am a bit reluctant to enter this old controversy again but I was amused that the Left-leaning Fairfax press is critical of "burying bad science".  I guess it is because you can be reasonably sure that any science the Left likes -- from Lysenko to global warming -- is in fact bad science. So they don't like it being buried.  As the replicability crisis has revealed, bad science is rife and in great need of exposure.

But I suppose that is just a quibble.  At issue is the basic toxicological dictum that the toxicity is in the dose.  There is no doubt that PFOS chemicals can be bad for you but at what dosage? Even water can kill you if you drink enough of it.

But there is a lot of "science" papers and publicity seeking authors that ignore that.  They excitedly announce some finding of bad effects in rats and then go on to utter large warnings about the threat to human health -- without considering the dose involved or even using very large doses.  Those are the bad papers that Prof. Giesy would have tried to stop.

That the chemical concerned gets into people and animals one way or another has been known for decades.  But the concentrations found are extremely minute -- measured in a few parts per billion. So how toxic is it?  It certainly seems to be seriously toxic to a range of animals but evidence of toxicity to people is slight.  And don't forget that this has been under investigation for a long time.

Additionally, it has been estimated that there is by now some PFOS in every American, so bad effects should be pretty evident by now.  But they are not.

Note that the controversy is about PFOS in general use -- as part of domestic items.  People who are for one reason or another exposed to exceptionally high levels of it could well have problems. And there do appear to have been some instances of that.

But the scare has been sufficient for the American manufacturers to stop production of the stuff and the levels in people have gone into steady decline.  So if it is a problem, it has been dealt with. 

The ethics of Prof. Giesy taking money from a chemical company is another matter.  It is the sort of thing that is widely challenged by the Left as showing bad faith or corruption but it is very widely done and evidence of the practice being corrupt is rarely offered.  The participants argue that the academics provide useful advice so should be paid for it

A reputation for integrity is essential to a scientist and scientists are very careful about doing anything that could risk that reputation.  So they make sure that what they do follows ethical guidelines.  So you will note at the very end of the article below that Prof. Giesy has been cleared of unethical behaviour by his university.  Compared to that clearance the insinuations below should be treated as dubious assertions designed to sell papers

As a leading international authority on toxic chemicals, Professor John P. Giesy is in the top percentile of active authors in the world.

His resume is littered with accolades, from being named in the Who’s Who of the World to receiving the Einstein Professor Award from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Professor Giesy was credited with being the first scientist to discover toxic per- and poly-fluoroalkyl [PFAS] chemicals in the environment, and with helping to persuade chemical giant 3M Company to abandon their manufacture.

But Fairfax Media can now reveal that Professor Giesy was accused of covertly doing 3M’s bidding in a widespread international campaign to suppress academic research on the dangers of PFAS.

A trove of internal company documents has been made public for the first time following a $US850 million ($1.15 billion) legal settlement between the company and Minnesota Attorney-General Lori Swanson. They suggest that Professor Giesy was one weapon in an arsenal of tactics used by the company to - in a phrase coined by 3M - “command the science” on the chemicals.

The documents have allowed the state to chronicle how 3M, over decades, allegedly misled the scientific community about the presence of its chemicals in the public’s blood, undermined studies linking the chemicals with cancer and scrambled to selectively fund research to be used as a “defensive barrier to litigation”.

Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, John Linc Stine, says there is a sense of violation in the community after 3M disposed of chemicals that have now seeped into the groundwater.

Experts have branded the strategies nearly identical to those used historically by the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries.

At least 90 communities across Australia are being investigated for elevated levels of the contaminants, including 10 in Sydney.

The Australian government is aggressively defending a growing number of class actions from towns where the chemicals were used for decades in fire retardants on military bases, the runoff tainting the soil and water of surrounding homes.

The Department of Health maintains there is “no consistent evidence” that the chemicals can cause “important” health effects such as cancer. In arguing this, its experts have made reference to the work of 3M scientists, who insist the chemicals are not harmful at the levels found in the blood of humans.

On Saturday, Fairfax Media exposed cancer cluster fears centring on a high school in Oakdale, Minnesota, in America’s upper mid-west, a few blocks from 3M’s global headquarters and where the water was contaminated with PFAS.

3M has vigorously denied the allegations. It did not accept liability in February, when it reached a settlement on the courthouse steps over alleged damage to Minnesota’s natural resources and drinking water.

A spokesperson said: “The vast body of scientific evidence, which consists of decades of research conducted by independent third parties and 3M, does not show that these chemistries negatively impact human health at current exposure levels”.

But several leading public health agencies in the United States have sounded warnings to the contrary.

In 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency found the “weight of evidence” supported the conclusion that the chemicals were a human health hazard, warning that exposure over certain levels could result in immune and developmental effects and cancer.

The US National Toxicology Program found they were “presumed to be an immune hazard” based on high levels of evidence from animal studies and a moderate level from humans.

Immune suppression - usually as a result of conditions such as organ transplant or HIV - is known to increase the risk of several types of cancer by making the immune system less able to detect and destroy cancer cells or fight cancer-causing infections.

DuPont, which used PFAS chemicals in the manufacture of Teflon, reached a $US670 million settlement with residents living near its manufacturing plant in Ohio, West Virginia, last year, after an expert health panel conducted a large-scale epidemiological investigation. It concluded that residents’ drinking water, tainted with one of the chemicals called PFOA, had a “probable link” to six health conditions, including kidney and testicular cancer.

One of 3M’s own material data safety sheets for a PFAS chemical included a warning that it could cause cancer in 1997 - that was subsequently removed - according to the Minnesota case.

The chemical of greatest concern in Australia is perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, arguably the most toxic of the chemicals studied. This was widely used in Scotchgard and fire-fighting foams.

Last month, there was a storm of controversy amid claims that the US EPA and the White House blocked the publication of a health study on PFAS carried out by the country’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

In emails leaked to Politico, a Trump administration aide warned that the report would be a “public relations nightmare” because it would show that the chemicals endangered human health at far lower levels than what the EPA had previously deemed safe.

Health warnings were echoed by Harvard Professor Philippe Grandjean and Professor Jamie DeWitt of North Carolina State University in their expert testimonies for the State of Minnesota.

Professor Grandjean argued that PFAS chemicals pose a “substantial present and potential hazard” to human health, including to immune, thyroid, liver, endocrine, cardiovascular and reproductive functions, and by “causing or increasing the risk of cancer”.

“Both PFOA and PFOS show convincing associations with these outcomes,” he said, adding that risks to human health had been identified at very low exposure levels.

Watching 'bad papers'

To the outside world, Professor Giesy was a renowned and independent university academic.

“But privately, he characterised himself as part of the 3M team,” alleged the State of Minnesota.

“Despite spending most of his career as a professor at public universities, Professor Giesy has a net worth of approximately $20 million. This massive wealth results at least in part from his long-term involvement with 3M for the purpose of suppressing independent scientific research on PFAS.”

Professor Giesy’s consulting company appears to have received payments from 3M between at least 1998 and 2009. One document indicated his going rate was about $US275 an hour.

In an email to a 3M laboratory manager, Professor Giesy described his role as trying to keep “bad papers out of the literature”, because in “litigation situations they can be a large obstacle to refute”.

Professor Giesy was an editor of several academic journals and, in any given year, about half of the papers submitted on PFAS came to him for review.

“Some journals … for conflict-of-interest issues will not allow an industry to review a paper about one of their products. That is where I came in,” he wrote in another email.

“In time sheets, I always listed these reviews as literature searches so that there was no paper trail to 3M.”

Professor Giesy is alleged to have passed confidential manuscripts on to 3M, as well as an email from an EPA scientist detailing its latest PFAS investigations in Athens, Georgia. He allegedly bragged about rejecting the publication of at least one paper containing negative information about PFAS.

In another email chain, a 3M manager was concerned that a study Professor Giesy had drafted was “suggestive” of possible PFAS health hazards and should be cushioned with an accompanying document on the health effects.

“This paper … could set off a chain reaction of speculation that could reopen the issue with the media and move it back to a health story; something up to now we have avoided,” he wrote.

Professor Giesy is based at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, but he also holds positions with the University of Michigan and several Chinese universities.

An internal 3M document referred to him needing to “buy favours” when developing joint projects with Chinese colleagues “over whom he can exert some influence”.

A spokesperson for the University of Saskatchewan said it had conducted two reviews of Dr Giesy’s conduct.

“We found nothing out of the ordinary or evidence of conflict of interest,” she said.


If you say untrue things about government, is the government free to publish true things about you?

One would think it only fair but apparently government should be muzzled, according to some.  Lies are not protected free speech

Australia’s national privacy office has ruled that individuals should “reasonably expect” the government will release sensitive personal data publicly to refute its critics, sparking concerns of a “chilling effect” on free speech.

Late on Monday evening, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner released the findings of an inquiry it launched in March last year following the Department of Human Services’ release of a blogger’s personal Centrelink history to a media organisation.

The Department did so to refute details contained in an opinion piece by the blogger for Fairfax Media in which she claimed that she had been “terrorised” by Centrelink as part of the controversial robodebt scheme.

After the opinion piece was published in February 2017, a briefing was provided to another journalist that detailed the blogger’s welfare history. This lead to a follow-up article claiming Centrelink may have been “unfairly castigated”.

The blogger in question complained to the OAIC, and former information and privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim opened an investigation into the matter in March.

Fourteen months later, the office has decided that the government was allowed to release the personal data under the Australian Privacy Principles, as individuals should “reasonably expect” the government to release private information under those circumstances.

The decision has sparked huge backlash against the OAIC and the country’s privacy laws more broadly.

The Australian Privacy Principles, which apply to all Australian government departments and agencies, include a range of exceptions where the personal information of an individual can be disclosed for another purpose.

These include when the individual would “reasonably expect the secondary use or disclosure” and this is related to the primary purpose of collection of the information.

It is under this exception that the department was allowed to release the blogger’s personal information to the media, the OAIC ruled.

“Having carefully considered the specific public statements made by the Centrelink customer, and the specific information disclosed in response, the acting Australian Information Commissioner and acting Privacy Commissioner reached the conclusion that, in this instance, the disclosure was permitted by APP 6.2(a)(ii),” the OAIC said in its decision.

The decision was made more than a year after the investigation was launched, and after the retirement of former privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.

Angelene Falk has been serving as acting privacy commissioner since Mr Pilgrim’s retirement in March, with the agency close to announcing his replacement.

The OAIC’s decision pointed to a case note from 2010 as providing precedent, in which the Commissioner’s Plain English Guidelines to Information Privacy Principles gives examples of when an individual may be considered to be “reasonably likely” to think their information may be disseminated.

“A person who complains publicly about an agency in relation to their circumstances (for example, to the media) is considered to be reasonably likely to be aware that the agency may respond publicly – and in a way that reveals personal information relevant to the issues they have raised,” the guidelines say.

A number of Australian civil and digital rights advocates have been left outraged by the decision, with Electronic Frontiers Australia board member Peter Tonoli saying it “flies in the face of trust in government”.

Electronic Frontiers Australia policy team member Drew Mayo said she is concerned the recent ruling could have a chilling effect on criticisms of the government, with individuals concerned that their sensitive data will then be released publicly.

“EFA is extremely concerned about the implications of the recent ruling. The chilling effect posed by this decision is a direct risk to democracy and an attack on the strongest free speech protection Australians have, the implied right of political communication,” Mr Mayo told

“We call on the government to enshrine in law the right of Australians to comment robustly on government policy without the risk of private data being released in retribution.”

The department has claimed that the release of the sensitive data was “proportionate” given the claims made in the blogger’s opinion piece.

“The recipient had made a number of claims that were unfounded and it is the opinion of officers that this was likely to concern other individuals,” Department secretary Kathryn Campbell said.

“That’s why we felt that it was appropriate to release the information, so that people knew it was important to file their tax returns and tell us about changes in their circumstances. In this case, our data said that had not occurred and that is why we had been chasing the debt,” she said.


Thales Sonar Upgrades to Extend Australia's Collins Class Submarine Capability

Australia’s Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has announced major upgrades of the Thales sonars on Australia’s fleet of six Collins Class submarines.

The sonar upgrades are essential to extend the life of the Collins class submarines and maintain their regional superiority.

The A$230million contract with Thales for the sonar upgrades will employ 50 people at Thales Australia’s Rydalmere facility, in Western Sydney, where world-leading sonar technology is manufactured and integrated.

Australia’s strategic priority on enhancing its submarine capability will be supported by Thales through major upgrades of the sonar systems on all six Collins class submarines. The A$230million contract with Thales is part of a A$542million project  approved by the Australian Government for the upgrade of the Collins class sensor capabilities, the key to extending the life and the regional superiority of the Collins fleet.

Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins said the Collins sonar upgrades continued a 30 year history of support for the Collins program since the original transfer of sonar technology from France in the 1980’s that formed the basis of the underwater systems business in Australia.

“It is critical that Australia maintain the highest levels of submarine capability from the Collins fleet until the Future Submarine enters service. The sonar systems are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the submarines, and Thales will bring together the best underwater sensing technology from around the world to ensure the Collins remains a potent force” Mr Jenkins said.

Manufacturing and integration work will be carried out at Thales’s underwater systems centre of excellence in Rydalmere, Western Sydney, supporting more than 140 jobs, including 50 people directly employed on the project.

In an internationally collaborative program, the Collins’ legacy cylindrical array will be replaced with a Modular Cylindrical Array (MCA) based on Sonar 2076 submarine technology developed by Thales teams in the UK. The existing flank array will be replaced by the latest generation flank array from Thales teams in France.

Thales will work with local industry including Raytheon Australia as the Combat System Integrator to deliver the upgrades for the six submarines integrating products from other Australian providers including Sonartech Atlas, and L3 Oceania.

Thales is a key strategic partner of the Australian Defence Force and the Royal Australian Navy, and is Australia’s market leader in underwater systems, having supplied advanced sonar and minesweeping systems to naval and civil customers in Australia and overseas for more than three decades.

“France and Australia have collaborated closely on sonar systems for the Collins submarines since the start of the program more than 30 years ago. Thales teams based in France, UK and Australia have worked together as one team to master the sonar technology in Australia and to share know-how with one ambition: assure long term regional superiority for the Royal Australian Navy.” Alexis Morel, Vice-President, Underwater Systems at Thales.

Via email

Indigenous child welfare double standards will perpetuate gap                                                 

Bill Shorten has been rightly criticised for his comments suggesting ‘culture’ take priority over the welfare of Indigenous children — and for suggesting that only ‘whitefellas’ say otherwise.

But it’s really Indigenous politics that Shorten is talking about taking precedence over children’s best interests.

The Indigenous industry is pushing hard to stop child removals. If removals continue at present rates, the future of the rural and remote ‘homelands’ will be jeopardised and so will  the taxpayer funding received by the plethora of Indigenous organisations that provide services to these communities.

The industry says that the way to stop child removals and fix the underlying social problems and dysfunction is to ‘empower’ Indigenous-controlled organisations and communities to implement the solutions they claim to know work on the ground.

This approach was not successful during the era of ATISC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission) which was abolished after presiding over corruption, failure, and an ever-widening gap in social outcomes between the most disadvantaged Indigenous people and all other Australians.

We are now being told that it will be different this time because Indigenous-controlled services will be properly evaluated for their effectiveness and held accountable for the outcomes they do — or do not — achieve.

This is not before time because Indigenous child protection poses the most complex and intractable social problem in the nation.

To ensure children can remain safely at home and close (allegedly) to culture, the array of social problems (from welfare dependence to drug and alcohol abuse to family violence) that plague and are entrenched in Indigenous families and communities — and which are intergenerational in nature and decades in the making — have to resolved within a short, child-centred timeframe to ensure that children are properly cared for and parented.

What this means is that child protection – that is, welfare-based decisions about whether children need to be removed from their own safety and well-being — is the ultimate accountability, and the ultimate measure, of whether services are actually effective at promoting the welfare of the most vulnerable members of Indigenous community.

Creating the kind of double-standard and different treatment of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children proposed by the Opposition Leader, at the behest of the indigenous industry, would therefore clearly be a retrograde step in indigenous affairs.

This is not the way to ‘close the gap’. It is nothing short of a recipe for perpetuating and exacerbating ‘gaps’ by leaving Indigenous children in harm’s way.


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