Thursday, May 10, 2018

Is this the end of 'unpopular' Bill Shorten?

Three Labor MPs RESIGN forcing by-elections for being BRITISH when they were elected - as a fourth steps down in a seat expected to go to Turnbull.  Shorten's popularity in the polls is well behind Turnbull's

Three Labor MPs and a minor party politician have quit federal parliament for being dual British citizens.

The flurry of resignations came hours after the High Court found Opposition senator Katy Gallagher was ineligible to stand for the 2016 election because of her British ties.

Marginal seat Opposition backbenchers Susan Lamb and Justine Keay, along with Josh Wilson, have subsequently quit the House of Representatives, sparking a series of by-elections, following pressure from the Turnbull Government.

Minor party lower house MP Rebekha Sharkie, who was elected in 2016 as a Nick Xenophon Team candidate, has also quit parliament.

First-term Labor MP Susan Lamb won the outer northern Brisbane seat of Longman by a 0.8 per cent margin, or just 1,390 votes, at the 2016 election by defeating junior minister Wyatt Roy.

She faces a tough challenge to keep her seat although she indicated she would renounce her British citizenship and contest the upcoming by-election. 'I am not done yet. I intend to be back,' Ms Lamb told parliament on Wednesday.

In February, Ms Lamb's stepmother Maureen Cant questioned the MP's tearful claim in parliament she could not renounce her British citizenship because her mother abandoned her at the school gates when she was six, and was 'not around' to provide her marriage certificate to her biological father, who was British.

Rebekha Sharkie, who won the Adelaide Hills-based electorate of Mayo off the Liberal Party at the last election, also quit parliament over concern she was a dual Briton.

This will spark a by-election in the Adelaide Hills seat of Mayo, where the Nick Xenophon Team candidate defeated former Liberal minister Jamie Briggs with a massive 17.5 per cent swing.

Ms Sharkie, who is now with the Central Alliance, faces a strong challenge from the Turnbull Government in the previously safe Liberal electorate once held by former foreign minister Alexander Downer.

Her resignation came just six months after her NXT colleague Skye Kakoschke-Moore resigned from the Senate after the High Court found she was a dual British citizen.

In Fremantle, south of Perth, first-term Labor MP Josh Wilson is also a dual Brit, however this seat would be unlikely to be picked up by the Liberals in an upcoming by-election despite the 7.5 per cent margin.

'Until today's decision the reasonable steps test had been accepted for more than 25 years in this country,' Mr Wilson told the House of Represenatives.

Another by-election is being held in the Labor-held seat of Perth, after first-term MP and former barrister Tim Hammond resigned citing the pressure of being away from his two young children.

Senator Gallagher's replacement in the upper house will come from Labor under a 1977 constitutional change.

However, the High Court's decision had put a cloud over the four MPs in the lower house, who dramatically announced their resignations on Wednesday afternoon.

The Turnbull Government was returned to power with a bare one-seat majority in July 2016 so a by-election in either in Longman or Braddon could help the Coalition boost its numbers in the House of Representatives.

The Coalition had been calling for those Labor MPs, Susan Lamb and Justine Keay, to resign from parliament, with senior minister Christopher Pyne in early April predicting they and Josh Wilson would be quitting parliament.

Since July last year, section 44 of the constitution, which bans dual citizens from being federal members of parliament, has ended the political careers of former Greens senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam.

The citizenship fiasco has also seen crossbench firebrand Jacqui Lambie kicked out of the Senate along with former deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash and former Liberal Senate president Stephen Parry, for being dual citizens of the United Kingdom by descent.

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and Liberal MP John Alexander, a former tennis champion, resigned from the House of Representatives last year but were returned in December by-elections, after they discovered they had ties to New Zealand and Britain through their fathers.


Cash payment crackdown to counter tax evasion and black economy

Australians will face a crackdown on cash-in-hand payments in an attempt by government to reduce money laundering and tax evasion.

The Turnbull government has turned its attention to the “black economy” in an attempt to raise billions of extra dollars and intends to limit cash payments for purchase goods and services to $10,000.

The measure was announced in Tuesday’s budget, which introduced a suite of tax integrity measures aimed at individuals and companies.

“The black economy undermines community trust in the tax system, gives some businesses an unfair competitive advantage, puts pressure on margins of honest businesses, and often includes exploitation of vulnerable employees through the underpayment of wages and loss of entitlements,” said Kelly O’Dwyer, the financial services minister.

The government’s largest black economy measure is a crackdown on illicit tobacco, which it expects to raise $3.6bn over the next four years.

It says the three main sources of illicit tobacco in Australia are smuggling, leakage from licensed warehouses, and illicit domestic production. To combat this, it will create an illicit tobacco taskforce with powers to prosecute organised crime groups at the centre of the illicit tobacco trade.

It will introduce permits for all tobacco imports (except tobacco imported by travellers within duty-free limits), and require tobacco importers to pay all duty and tax liabilities upon importation. That is a change from the current system where tobacco can be imported and stored in licensed warehouses prior to taxes being paid.


Coalition's plan to dock welfare for debtors savaged by advocates

Getting money you are not entitled to seems to be OK with the Left

The Coalition’s plan to dock people’s welfare if they repeatedly fail to pay fines has been denounced as a “brutal” measure that will drive those on the lowest incomes into homelessness.

Tuesday’s federal budget delivered a string of hits for welfare recipients, as the Coalition continued its push to glean savings from its social security spending.

There was no increase to the poverty-level Newstart payment, despite the pleas of community groups, and the already overstretched Department of Human Services was targeted with 1,200 job cuts.

The Coalition’s controversial debt recovery program has been extended, and new migrants will have to wait four years, instead of the current two, before accessing Newstart.

Advocates say the most punitive measure is a plan to dock the welfare of people who are repeatedly unable to pay fines. The commonwealth would be able to make compulsory deductions from the welfare of “serial fine defaulters who have outstanding state and territory court-imposed fines”. The government would also be able to suspend or cancel welfare for anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant for a serious criminal offence.

The National Social Security Rights Network has warned the measure will compound the plight of Australia’s most disadvantaged. The network’s executive director, Leanne Ho, said it risked pushing welfare recipients into homelessness or, in some cases, prison.

It also flew in the face of programs designed to ensure the inability to pay a fine didn’t snowball into more serious problems for the lowest paid.

“The same kind of people who generally end up with an amount of fines they just can’t deal with are going to end up homeless or, in a lot of these cases, possibly in prison,” Ho told Guardian Australia.

“It’s probably one of the most urgent measures we want to discuss with the department. The reality of people’s lives when they’re in that position is that things snowball out of control, one fine leads to another, and the capacity for people to deal with those [diminishes].”

The chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, Cassandra Goldie, described the measure as “particularly brutal”.  “People on low incomes are just going to be sent into homelessness,” said Goldie.

“It’s completely out of touch with the reality of people on very low incomes and the capacity for people to pay these kind of fines and debt.” Goldie said anyone who believed last night’s budget was “victimless” was clearly out of touch. “There are clear victims from this budget. It is not a budget for people on a low income, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee essential services,” Goldie said.

It is unclear how much the government is looking to save through the fine recovery measure. It requires negotiation with the states and territories before it can be implemented.


School chaplain program's $247m budget extension rejected by teachers' union

The Australian Education Union has joined a chorus of secular groups in opposing the Coalition’s decision to extend the school chaplains program in the 2018 budget.

Tuesday’s budget confirmed the federal government will give $247m over four years to continue the controversial program, which places 3,000 chaplains recognised by religious groups in schools to provide pastoral care.

According to budget documents, the renewed program will have “an enhanced focus on addressing bullying in schools”.

Luke Howarth and dozens of other Coalition MPs have pushed to expand the program, despite warnings from the Rationalist Society of Australia that it “interferes with the right to religious freedom and involves religious discrimination in hiring decisions” because secular pastoral care workers cannot be hired.

The Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe, said: “We do not support the chaplains program.

“Our schools need these funds to invest in programs such as school counsellors and student wellbeing programs in schools. We prefer to see that money invested in our schools more broadly.”

In March the education minister, Simon Birmingham, said he had received “representations from many, many schools around the country, arguing in favour of the continuation of that program”.

Alison Courtice, a spokeswoman for Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools, said the government had ignored “many representations opposing the program and urging, at the very least, that the religious requirement be removed”.

Courtice said the Queensland guidelines allowed for groups employing chaplains to apply for a temporary waiver of minimum qualifications, but “no such waiver applies to the faith requirement ... which clearly illustrates that the program is about religion more than what’s best for students”.

Although chaplains are not allowed to proselytise, Courtice noted the same people were allowed to deliver religious instruction when not on chaplaincy hours. She called this “a concerning blurring of the lines, with students potentially failing to distinguish between the roles”.

Secular groups are concerned chaplains can skirt the rules by telling a personal story of embracing religion, inviting guests who encourage children to attend religious services or other religious events, or using materials such as the Qbla app, which contains more overt religious material.

In a 2015 consultation report the Australian Human Rights Commission reported that at almost all the public meetings it held, complaints were raised about the chaplains program.

But the commission refused to review the program in 2018 when the Rationalist Society raised a complaint, citing the fact the review conducted by former minister Philip Ruddock is already investigating freedom of religion.

In April Guardian Australia reported the federal and several state governments had stopped counting complaints against the school chaplains program after responsibility for administering the program was transferred to the states in 2015 as a result of a high court challenge.

In 2015 federal Education Department officials told Senate estimates that in the previous year, 2,312 of the program’s 2,336 chaplains were Christian. The rest were adherents of Islam (13), Judaism (eight) and one each from Bahá’í, Buddhism and Aboriginal traditional religions.


“People are muzzled”: why Australia isn’t discussing unsustainable immigration

Many Australians are reluctant to publicly criticise our unsustainable immigration intake due to fears they will be labelled a racist or white supremacist, a new study has found.

The paper by The Australian Population Research Institute  found that 65% of participants think that those who publicly question mass migration are seen as xenophobic. It seems debate is being suppressed as a result, with freedom of speech falling by the wayside.

“What’s interesting is a large chunk of people want immigration reduced,” explains Catharine Betts, who wrote the report.

“But when asked do you feel uncomfortable talking about this, a lot of them say they are. They’re worried people will get the wrong idea. People are muzzled.”

The study also exposed an increasing chasm between how the political elite and the general public conceptualise population policy. Though 54% of those surveyed want an immigration cut and 74% think Australia is full, only 4% of politicians publicly favour migration restrictions.

Ms Betts says that the claimed “nexus” between a big Australia and economic prosperity is being wrongly used by politicians to justify the current 190,000 a year intake.

“The big fallacy here is that yes, if you add more people, gross domestic product will rise. But if we’re talking about wealth per capita, it’s not rising.”


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

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