Thursday, October 15, 2009

Anglicans know as much about investing as they do about the Bible

Very little. None of them seem to have read Romans chapter 1, for instance. Using gearing is a risky strategy justifiable only by greed, not the cautious strategy one would expect of a church. And so they got their just reward in the form of a huge loss. Although I have used gearing with real estate, I would never use gearing with shares. And as a result, the value of my share portfolio is now getting close to where it was before the crash. Rather amusing for me to get much better results than the Church's "good stock-pickers". My good Presbyterian caution has paid off. I was brought up to believe that gambling was of the Devil and gearing share purchases is pure gambling

UPDATE: I take back what I said about Romans 1. I was forgetting that this was the Sydney diocese -- the most fundamentalist diocese in the Anglican communion. They DO know their Bible

Anglicans may be frugal, but they are not good stock-pickers - especially in a downturn. The Glebe Administration Board posted a $160 million loss for the year to December 2008 after its highly geared share portfolio crashed amid the global sharemarket downturn.

The $160 million loss wiped out the surpluses the trust had made over the past four years, and dragged down its net assets from $265 million in December 2007, to just $105 million at the end of last year.

The loss was mostly due to the shrinking value of shares it owned in publicly listed companies, but was also blamed on the falling value of commercial and other properties and investments in listed property trusts, a sector that has also been buffeted by the downturn. The loss was made up of $143 million loss on the board's investments overall - including $123 million lost in shares and $33 million lost on "property related investments".

In 2007, the board's equity investments were something to boast about, producing $44 million for the board, and overall the board made $51 million on its investments. Its Australian share portfolio - once the pride of the board's canny investment picking - had grown to $296 million at the end of 2007. But it fell to just $78 million by the end of 2008 due both to the sale of stocks, and their falling value.

The fact that the board did not just invest its own funds, but borrowed to buy more shares, meant the falls were far steeper.

The board did not disclose which stocks it had invested in, however it avoids investing in gambling, alcohol or tobacco companies known as "sin stocks". The board blamed its high gearing levels for the massive loss.


Mother accused of assault after disciplining child with a wooden spoon

It sounds like the Melbourne police think they are in New Zealand. It is certainly a misallocation of police resources with all the street crime directed against Indian students and others

A mother was hauled before police and accused of assault after disciplining her nine-year-old daughter with a wooden spoon. Officers warned Claire Davidson she risked being charged with "assault with a weapon" after her daughter revealed during a classroom discussion on bullying that her mum smacked her.

A shocked Ms Davidson told the Herald Sun a support worker from Yea Primary School reported her to police. "I was told it was assault with a weapon to hit her with a wooden spoon on the bum," Ms Davidson said.

The case has sparked a major debate between parent groups and child welfare advocates over smacking. Ms Davidson said she grew up with a wooden spoon in the house and admitted she and her partner, Joe Oravec, used it - sparingly - on their Year 3 daughter, Anna. "We only use the wooden spoon and that is only when she is being naughty and we give her fair chance to rectify the situation and we talk her through it," she said. "I give her three warnings and then it is spoon time."

Ms Davidson, of Flowerdale, said officers at the sexual offences and child abuse unit at Seymour spoke to her daughter: "She (the officer) said if it did happen again, or was reported to her again, she would charge us with assault with a weapon." "We are allowed to threaten her with it. We are just not allowed to use it," she said.

A Victoria Police spokesman said smacking a child may constitute unlawful assault or lawful chastisement. Each case had to be judged on its merits, he said. "We are not going to take every single smacking case to court, but the full facts of every case have to be taken into account," he said.

Yea Primary School yesterday refused to comment on the case for privacy reasons but said the safety and wellbeing of students was paramount. "Our support staff are on hand to assist students in that regard," principal Deborah George said. An Education Department spokeswoman said staff were obliged to report any alleged abuse to authorities.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Children, Maxine Morand, said the Government had no plans to ban smacking. "The minister is unaware of the specific details of this case so cannot comment on it," she said.

And the Australian Childhood Foundation's Joe Tucci said: "Children should never have to be hurt to be taught a lesson. "It is not effective in shaping children's behaviour."

Criminal lawyer James Dowsley added: "Just because you are mother or daughter doesn't make you exempt from the law. "There needs to be degrees and you would need to carefully examine each case. "It comes down to the severity of it. It does happen where parents are charged with assaulting their children."

Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said there were better ways to discipline a child. "I prefer parents not to do it, but I am not going to criminalise them for doing it," he said.


Welfare reform working

SINGLE parents have dropped off welfare in droves since the Howard government forced them to look for work once their children start school. The Centre for Independent Studies has calculated a 20 per cent drop in the number of parents depending on welfare "parenting payments" since the job-search requirement was imposed in 2006. "This is a dramatic result," says the What's Next for Welfare-to-Work? report, to be published today.

The Howard government angered welfare groups in 2006 when it began forcing unemployed parents to start searching for work once their youngest child started school. New applicants for parenting payment (PP) would lose the welfare benefit once their youngest child turned eight, if they were a single parent, or when the child turned six if they were partnered. Those already receiving a parenting payment had to start looking for paid part-time work of at least 15 hours a week once their youngest child turned seven.

The CIS study says the reforms were designed to push some parents onto unemployment benefits. "However, the reforms occurred at the same time as unemployment was dropping," it says. "This suggests that the positive result achieved was not simply due to PP recipients being shuffled from one payment to another but instead moving off welfare altogether."

The study cites Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing that the overall proportion of sole parents who are jobless fell from 56 per cent in 1996 to 47 per cent in 2006. The number receiving parenting payments has fallen from 593,089 in 2006 to 472,688 last July.

The report notes that many of the jobs being created are in female-dominated service industries. "These jobs are well suited to (parenting payment) recipients, most of whom are relatively young women, suggesting that part of the reason why the welfare to work reforms have been so successful in this area is because there are plenty of jobs available," it says.

The report says Australians are leaning less on welfare, with the proportion of households reliant on government income support falling from 28.5 per cent in 1994-95 to 23.2 per cent in 2007-08. In the mid-90s, one in every six households headed by people in the prime of their working life - aged from their mid-30s to mid-50s - relied primarily on welfare. Now only one in 30 of those households depends on welfare.

However, the number of Australians relying on the disability support pension (DSP) has grown nearly 5 per cent since 2006, to 746,629. "Many DSP recipients are older, unskilled people who have work experience in areas where jobs are limited," the report says. "If thousands of unskilled people are pushed off DSP, they will have nowhere to go. "It appears that there is not as much political will when it comes to reducing DSP numbers."

The report calls for the creation of more low-skilled jobs to lure people off welfare benefits. "Allowing the real minimum wage to fall will result in job-creation, and a complementary system of in-work benefits will ensure that the living standards of low-paid workers are maintained," it says. "A time of rising unemployment is a dangerous time to abandon welfare reform."


"Drought" in some parts of Australia -- such as Melbourne -- is more a failure of "Green" governments than a failure of nature

ENOUGH water to supply Melbourne's needs for a month has been lost because of the Brumby Government's failure to live up to its own water-wise campaign. As Victorians endure tough restrictions, more than 30 billion litres of water was lost into Port Phillip Bay because there wasn't pumping capacity on the Yarra River to save it, the Herald Sun reports.

Thirty billion litres of water would:

* WATER our city parks for 60 years.

* SUPPLY Melbourne's water needs for a month.

* IRRIGATE 24,000ha of farmland.

* FILL 12,000 Olympic-sized pools.

Angry ratepayers, farmers and the Opposition all slammed this failure.

About 30 billion litres flowed down the Yarra River and overflowed from O'Shannassy Reservoir before it could be pumped to Sugarloaf Reservoir because the pump is limited to 1 billion litres a day.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu blamed penny-pinching by the State Government. "John Brumby spends plenty of taxpayers' money on TV ads lecturing Victorians about water use, but can't find the money to upgrade vital water pumps at Yering Gorge," he said.

Victorian Ratepayers Association president Jack Davis said it was a shame to waste even a drop of water when it was so desperately needed. "How many people are installing water tanks at their own expense ... while opportunities like this are missed," he said.

Victorian Farmers Federation president Andrew Broad said the water would have translated into millions of dollars in productivity among farmers. "When you consider that they are taking 75 billion litres down the north-south pipeline it would have been a whole lot cheaper to harvest this water."

Jan Beer, from a lobby group against the north-south pipeline, said it was "disgraceful" that the water flowed out to sea. "Why spend $1 billion to build the pipeline when they can catch the water in their own backyards?" she said.

Melbourne Water manager of water supply John Woodland said O'Shannassy was Victoria's smallest reservoir and didn't take much rain to fill. "When it spills, it spills into the Yarra and we pick as much of this as we can further down the river and pump it into Sugarloaf Reservoir."

Water Minister Tim Holding said Melbourne Water was taking as much as it was legally entitled to and protecting the health of the Yarra at the same time.


Comment on the above by Andrew Bolt

Oi, you! Yes, you under the umbrella. Splash over here and check out Melbourne Water's website. Look at its latest excuse for not building the dam that would have spared Melbourne its insane - and insanely expensive - water restrictions. "Why aren't we building another dam?" it burbles, shamed at last into defending its Labor masters' failure to build what we needed years ago.

"Unfortunately, we cannot rely on this kind of rainfall like we used to." We can't? Stick your head outside, sunshine. See those clouds? We've had a monster September for rain over our catchments - falls 60 per cent above average - and now check the latest forecast. More rain and showers for days.

No water for a new dam? Watch the last excuse for the Government's mismanagement of our water supplies being washed away. Good god, the water now flowing to waste in the sea, thanks to that bungling.

Check this time the flood warnings for the Yarra. Which government failed to put in bigger pumps that could have grabbed another 30 billion litres of this to fill our Sugarloaf Reservoir - or enough water to supply Melbourne for at least three weeks?

Check the O'Shannassy reservoir upstream, overflowing for almost two months now. Which government failed to make this puny dam bigger, not just to catch more of this water, but to help save the Upper Yarra from flooding? Check also the Glenmaggie Reservoir on the Macalister, which is now so full that it's had to tip out as much as 40 billion litres these past few days. That's as much water wasted as Melbourne uses in a whole month.

You see, the Glenmaggie is not only another reservoir that's too small, but it's even been left unconnected to Melbourne's water network.

Of course, decades ago, back when dams were no sin, there were government plans to build a bigger dam farther up the Macalister, and build a short diversion so the water could fill Melbourne's biggest reservoir, the still-two-thirds empty Thomson. But it wasn't done, was it? Dams were suddenly evil. Hear it from the Government's Water Resources Strategy Committee, which in 2003 ruled out any new dam because of its "unacceptable environmental and social cost". Or read it in the Government's 2006 "water strategy", which called dams "no longer ... socially acceptable".

In fact, so unacceptable were they to this green-maddened Government that it turned the dam reservation on Gippsland's Mitchell River into a national park. And, just to make doubly sure, it then declared the Mitchell a "heritage river" never to be dammed.

How the Government must now be praying the Mitchell does not again flood, too, this spring. Now that would really drive home to voters the vast stupidity of this irrational ban. Why so stupid? Because the Mitchell flows so strongly that a Melbourne University water resources audit published in the Federal Government's Natural Resources Atlas in 2000 estimated a new dam there could harvest 435 billion litres a year - or about all the water Melbourne now takes from its current 10 dams.

Indeed, in one flood two years ago, more water went to waste down the undammed Mitchell than Melbourne used last year. And how much would this dam cost? $1.4 billion, admitted Minister for (No) Water Tim Holding last year.

Let me draw a comparison that will put this blur of figures into sharp focus. To avoid a new dam, the Brumby Government will now build a $3.5 billion desalination plant to each year use expensive power to turn sea water into 150 billion litres of drinking water. That's right: the Government's plan will produce just a third of the water of a Mitchell dam, but at three times the price. Which, incidentally, is why your water bills are now going up, up, up.

What a price we're paying for the Government's green faith - and ours. Billions more for less water.

Even that isn't the full catastrophe. To "save" the environment from thirsty Victorians, the Government for years preached that all we needed do to survive its man-made shortage of water was to use less of the stuff. So to "save" a river, the Government vandalised a city. Its harsh water bans killed gardens, closed public fountains, shut ovals and forced home owners and councils to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on rainwater tanks and drought-resistant lawns instead.

Don't buy the excuse that all this is the fault not of blind politicians but of a never-before-seen drought, or even of "global warming". There's actually been no warming of the globe for eight years, and this drought is no worse than some others we've suffered in even the short time of white settlement.

This is, after all, the land of "drought and flooding rain", and the real story is this: Melbourne has grown by a million more people in the 26 years since we built our last dam. But rather than look for water, we went to water instead, and fell prey to a green faith that has left this city on water bans, even when our rivers are in flood and rains we were told had gone once more fall on our roofs.


Blogger fired after deriding the major Australian newspaper he worked for

I'd say that he's a lot dumber than he thinks he is

A small-time Brisbane blogger has found out the hard way it doesn't matter how many people read a blog but who reads it. Despite only having "five readers" of personal blog yeah whatever, the casual News Limited sub-editor was given their marching orders after posting a blog attacking The Courier-Mail, which they were doing work for at the time.

The blogger, who writes under the pseudonym "Dr Zen", wrote about being "soooooooooooooooo bored" at work before attacking the content, character and columnists of the newspaper.

"It appeals to the miserable middle classes, who spend their entire lives worried about being robbed, mostly by people at the margins: blacks, teens, foreigners," Dr Zen posted. "No one sane could read the Courier-Mail without going 'don't give a f--- about that' on every page."

While not directly involved in the incident, The Courier-Mail editor David Fagan told The Australian's Media liftout the sacking was "just common sense".

Social media commentator Dr Jason Wilson, who lectures in digital media at the University of Wollongong, said many employees were beginning to run into trouble over their use of social media. "Social media makes it so easily spreadable, you can quite easily lose control of the things you do say and you do commit to social media," he said. "We all make mistakes and we all are learning together about this sort of stuff but it's worth being a little circumspect about what you write, especially Twitter.

"You've got to be very careful about what you post and if you've got only one account and in your profile it says `I work for such and such' in effect you are, whether you like it or not, representing the organisation in that space."


The C-M is a Murdoch publication and is one I read daily. I suspect that the blogger concerned did not like its failure to preach Leftism

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