Friday, June 29, 2012

Leftist attempts at censorship never stop

A truth-telling media threatens their survival

MEDIA owners will be forced to submit to a public interest test under a plan to be presented to the federal cabinet within weeks.

The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, said the test had nothing to do with Gina Rinehart increasing her stake in Fairfax as work had been under way for two years to tighten media regulation and ownership rules.

"We've been looking at these issues with a view to acting for a considerable period of time," he said. "Ms Rinehart will come, Ms Rinehart may go. But we've actually been putting in place a whole range of processes to give us some advice, to canvass these issues publicly.

"I absolutely reject that anything that we're doing at the moment is based on a knee-jerk reaction to Ms Rinehart. We have strong views about the charter of editorial independence but the Convergence Review, the Finkelstein [review], all occurred long before Ms Rinehart was a significant media player."

Mrs Rinehart has refused to sign Fairfax's charter of independence, should she win seats on the Fairfax board, and has publicly threatened to sell her shares in the company if she was not offered board seats "without unsuitable conditions".

Fairfax issued a statement on Tuesday saying it would not invite Mrs Rinehart to join the board until she signed the charter.

The chairman, Roger Corbett, said he regretted the decision and hoped "it might be possible" for Mrs Rinehart to join in future. "However key elements yet to be agreed include acceptance of the charter of editorial independence as it stands and the Fairfax board governance principles as agreed by all existing directors," he said.

"In coming to this view the board has gauged the opinion of other shareholders and noted some of their recent public comments on these matters, noting in particular they share the company's view on maintaining editorial independence and their desire that board members act in the interests of all shareholders. The company has received tens of thousands of emails and other correspondence from shareholders, our readers and others making it clear that they support Fairfax's long-standing position on editorial independence."

The Australian Financial Review reported yesterday that the public interest test legislation could vet investors such as Mrs Rinehart and the expansion plans of Rupert Murdoch's News Limited. "Labor MPs have been told to sell the idea of a media crackdown to their electorates over the next six weeks after allegations involving the media's role in the Peter Slipper affair galvanised cabinet into 'fierce backing' of the controversial test," the paper reported.

Senator Conroy said there was a clear role for legislation but it was incumbent on news organisations to abide by their codes of conduct.

"There's been a whole range of issues internationally where it's been seen that people [journalists] have played roles - and I think that's the hardest part in today's 24/7 media cycle, just finding that balance between comment, reporting, opinion - and that's why news organisations have their codes of conduct and their standards," he said. "And we're asking simply that they apply them."


The obscure world of public interest

This is getting decidedly whacky.  Yesterday's Australian Financial Review reported an exciting new thought bubble from Canberra, saying "federal cabinet is set to approve and present to Parliament a tough public interest test for media ownership".

The core ingredient behind the sudden propulsion of this idea must be that both Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch are unsuitable people to run newspapers.

The faith politicians have in such an amorphous concept as "the public interest" is unbelievably touching.

Presumably, in this context it will be tied up with the Convergence Review's thoughts about "diversity of unique owners" and the Finkelstein report's recommendations about regulation of journalistic standards.

Certainly, there is a strong case against our unacceptably concentrated newspaper business, where poor devils in South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory are plied only with Murdoch newsprint.

Some sort of regulatory ownership and standards straddle might just squeak through because there would be enough politicians who cannot stand the media.

"The public interest" is a phrase sprinkled through legislation with gay abandon. It sounds democratic and noble, but at the end of the rainbow it has to be interpreted by a judge, or a cluster of judges - a recipe for uncertainty, because the judges themselves are uncertain.

Already in legislation the phrase competes with itself. For instance, in the Court Suppression and Non-publication Orders Act, a court can suppress something if it is in the public interest and that public interest outweighs the public interest in open justice. It's almost a foregone conclusion as to which "public interest" will win in that contest.

Again, in the legislation that is supposed to give journalists protection from revealing their sources in court, the public interest in preserving confidentiality can be overborne by the public interest in disclosure.

The Defamation Act starts off with some high-flown sentiment about not placing unreasonable limits on "publication and discussion of matters of public interest".

It does not amount to a hill of beans.

The phrase appears in the Broadcasting Services Act, giving the minister power to take control over material to be broadcast "in the public interest". In the government's issues paper on a cause of action for serious invasion of privacy, "public interest" appeared 57 times. In the Finkelstein report, it was 85 times, the same number of times it was mentioned in the Convergence Review (including 13 times on one page).

No doubt it is a popular rubric because it artfully allows plenty of imprecision and circularity in its application.

None of which is to say there are no justified complaints about the media's behaviour. Material submitted to the Federal Court this week by Peter Slipper's lawyers, and based on discovery of text messages and emails, points to a conspiracy involving the Liberal National Party and a News Ltd journalist "to get" the Speaker.

In relation to another parliamentary undesirable, Craig Thomson, Channel Nine's "hooker" exposé´ backfired recently.

And the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has been upset that The Daily Telegraph did not apologise for mistakenly claiming he was so mean he cut out the free bottles of water and snacks for children touring Parliament House.

Really, a public interest test is fine, as long as no one tries to define it. Lord Phillips (Baron Phillips of Worth Matravers), the president of England's Supreme Court, tried to give it clarity in a recent libel case involving The Times: "The public interest is whether, and in what circumstances, it is in the public interest to refer to the fact that accusations have been made …"

Already, you can feel things slipping away.

The handmaiden of "public interest" is "fit and proper" - another fertile field of conjecture. A majority of members of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee thought Murdoch was not fit and proper to run newspapers. Others did not have a problem with him. Ofcom, the regulator is having a long, hard think about it.

Would Rinehart be fit and proper to control Fairfax? She is perfectly entitled to have off-the-wall ideas and start her own rag to propagate them. It's another thing altogether if she wants to force them down the gullet of the second biggest newspaper chain in the country.

Maybe a direct, uncomplicated way of defining the public interest in media legislation is a one-line act that says: "These people cannot control a press or broadcasting business in Australia - see minister's regulations for the full list."

Otherwise, we have the situation so succinctly put by Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."


Environmental protection to be wound back to enable mining!

THE Steve Irwin Reserve on Cape York is expected to be mined, with Environment Minister Andrew Powell yesterday moving to wind back Wild Rivers environment protection.

Mr Powell released a scoping paper for a proposed management plan, which is expected to replace Wild Rivers protection on at least four rivers.

Under Wild Rivers, the previous government placed a 500m buffer zone on the Wenlock River, potentially making Cape Alumina's multibillion-dollar Pisolite Hills bauxite mine proposal unprofitable.

Wilderness Society spokesman Tim Seelig said yesterday he feared the mine would destroy the Wenlock, which had the highest number of freshwater species in Australia.

"We know Cape Alumina is just waiting to get its plans back on the table," he said. "Once protection is removed, it will be open slather."

Cape Alumina managing director Graeme Sherlock said the company was concentrating on its nearby Bauxite Hills project, rather than Pisolite Hills.

In April, Mr Sherlock said if Premier Campbell Newman changed wild rivers legislation, Pisolite Hills would be reassessed.

Cape Alumina proposes to use 12,360ha or about 9 per cent of the Irwin Reserve, which is the old Bertiehaugh cattle station.

Dr Seelig said Mr Powell was winding back the clock on environment protection.

"This will inevitably lead to more destructive development such as mining and dams in our last free-flowing rivers," Dr Seelig said.

Eight new mines had been proposed for the Cape's east and west coasts.

"(The Government needs) to commit to protecting the environment ... as the first priority and only support truly sustainable economic activities," Dr Seelig said.

He supported Mr Powell's whole-of-region conservation approach although there were few details in the scoping paper.

Mr Powell said he would release details next week but the bioregion management plan would focus on protection and management of the Cape, while allowing appropriate opportunities for economic development.

The policy would give Indigenous communities a bigger say in economic development.

Dr Seelig said he was glad Mr Powell proposed to continue the Cape York World Heritage listing process on one of the last great wild places on earth.

Activist Noel Pearson has campaigned against Wild Rivers but the process has been supported by other Murris.

The Irwin Reserve purchase was funded by former Liberal prime minister John Howard to honour television celebrity and conservationist Steve Irwin.


NSW teachers fined for striking last year

The NSW Teachers' Federation has been fined $6000 over an illegal strike.  ABOUT 67,000 teachers walked off the job on September 8 over a 2.5 per cent cap on public sector wages.  The 24-hour action defied an 11th hour ruling from the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).

IRC Justice Wayne Haylen on Thursday morning fined the union $6000.

Teachers joined thousands of other public sector workers during the September strike in what unions described as the biggest mass demonstration in two decades.

The state government has criticised the IRC for taking too long to fine the teachers union after 55,000 teachers defied the IRC once again and walked off the job on Wednesday.

They were protesting the government's latest education reforms and the union is risking a maximum fine of $10,000.  The government is working to pass legislation in the upper house to have unions fined up to $110,000 for disobeying the industrial umpire.

In his judgment, Justice Haylen said he would not impose the maximum fine because the September industrial action was less serious compared to other breaches by the union.

"The court is unable to conclude that these breaches are of the same order of seriousness as the previous two breaches by the federation," Justice Haylen said in his judgment.  "This industrial action involved protest rallies against government policy not open to arbitration.  "The rally itself was supported by all public sector unions under the auspices of Unions NSW."

The union has been ordered to pay the fine within 28 days.


Vigilantes avoid jail as victim slammed by judge

TWO vigilantes who stripped naked and bashed a teen who threw water bombs at their car avoided jail today after a judge slammed the actions of the victim.  Judge Michael McInerney said he did not accept the prosecution description of the actions of the victim as a "minor prank".

Daryl Marshall, 34, of Maiden Gully, and Beau Edwards, 25, of Redesdale, admitted they punched and kicked the teen and forced him to remove all of his clothes.

When he was too slow in complying they ripped off his remaining clothes and shoes and drove off with them.  The attack left the victim with a dislocated shoulder, black eyes and bruises.

Judge McInerney said the victim and seven other teens threw water bombs at cars driving along a stretch of road in Strathfieldsaye near Bendigo at 10.30pm in September 2010.

He said throwing missiles at cars had the potential to cause serious injury or death but the "significant provocation" did not excuse the retribution.  "The behaviour of the complainant and his friends was quite outrageous," Judge McInerney said in his County Court sentence.

The judge sentenced Marshall to 18 months jail wholly suspended for three years and Edwards to a two year community corrections order.  Judge McInerney said Marshall, who had a number of prior convictions, had a major brain injury from an assault and depression.  He said Edwards who was drunk had no prior convictions and was a person of strong character and with an excellent work record.

Judge McInerney said Edwards was sacked because of the charges and he criticised employers who took such action before the court process was completed.

"These sorts of actions seem to occur in football clubs which seem to have a total disregard for the rule of law," he said, The judge said a message had to be sent to people who took the law into their own hands and warned both men that if they offended again they would have to serve jail terms.

Edwards pleaded guilty to single counts of intentionally causing serious injury and robbery.  Marshall pleaded guilty to single counts of recklessly causing serious injury and robbery.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Legal  warning on same-sex "marriages"

Referendum may be needed

Senator Gary Humphries is warning that future legislation allowing same-sex marriage could be struck down by the High Court, leaving gay couples devastated.  The ACT Liberal says the Gillard government should not act "irresponsibly" by allowing gay marriage to become law.

"I think it is particularly dangerous to be proceeding on constitutionally shaky grounds," he said last night.

"Somebody who has been married in the belief that they are legally entering into an enforceable arrangement only to find a year later or whatever, the High Court strikes down that situation, is an incredibly difficult position.

"It seems to me that the Commonwealth should go to every possible length to avoid that occurring.

"It's utterly irresponsible to potentially put people in that position."

Senator Humphries is deputy chairman of the committee which has released its report on the private members bill of Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, of the Greens, on the issue.

He is personally opposed to gay marriage but another Liberal on the committee, Sue Boyce, backed the majority report in favour.

The committee received an unprecedented 79,200 submissions, 46,000 of which were in support of same-sex marriage.

The six-member committee voted 4-2 in support of recommending changes to the Marriage Act to accommodate same-sex marriages and that the bill pass with minor changes.

Last week, a cross-party lower house committee inquiry into two private members bills on same-sex marriage tabled a report but declined to support or reject the legislation proposed by Labor backbencher Stephen Jones and Greens MP Adam Bandt.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is opposed to legalising same-sex marriage and will not move a government motion to allow debate on the issue. But Labor MPs are allowed a conscience vote on the private members' bills.

Section 51 (xxi) of the Constitution gives the federal government power to make laws over marriage.

Senator Humphries said proponents of same-sex marriage should push for a referendum.

"They assert that there is strong support for same-sex marriage, then they would have little doubt they would get change through a referendum, but in the absence of that, I think it's very unsafe to proceed," he said.

"The committee heard strong legal argument that you can't assume the power over marriage assumes a power over other relationships we might like to call into the definition of marriage.

"When the Constitution was put together, marriage was assumed to be between a man and a woman.

"Suddenly that question is in doubt, but that doesn't alter the fact that that's a strong traditional understanding of what the word marriage means.  "To now argue that it may mean something else and we can use the power for that defined purpose for other purposes is I think quite inappropriate.

"It's either one thing or it's not.  "The Commonwealth can't acquire a power over schools by defining the section of the Constitution to give it power over 'lighthouses' to mean 'schools'."


Qld.  Government warns of real firings of surplus public servants

PUBLIC servants whose positions are abolished under Newman Government reforms will be retrenched if another job can not be found for them in six months.

A draft directive submitted to unions by the Government has outlined the plan to help whittle down the public service, despite the Premier's assurance he is doing all he can to save jobs.

Under the directive, if another position does not become available within six months, the employee will be retrenched. Alternatively, the worker can accept a redundancy and leave within two weeks of their position being abolished.

Currently permanent employees affected by workplace changes or "Machinery of Government" are given a "priority placement" across the public service.

Concerned public servants who contacted The Courier-Mail about the changes, said the directive was a clear breach of Campbell Newman's election promise there would be no forced redundancies.

"He's long intended to sack public servants," said one public servant.  "When there's a freeze on recruitment and no new positions being created, there's not much chance of getting another job if the one you're in is abolished."

Alex Scott, from public sector union Together Queensland, said the draft directive represented a further "watering down" of employee conditions.  "We have until Friday to respond to the draft directive, and we will be relaying those concerns," Mr Scott said.

Last week Premier Newman said there were 20,000 more public servants than the state could afford and he was doing all he could to save their jobs by offering modest pay rises in enterprise bargaining negotiations.

He even took to the small-screen on Sunday night to repeat his appeal for all to "tighten their belts".  Unions were unimpressed by the advertisement and yesterday Together Queensland released its own one-minute ad online in response.  Mr Scott said more ads would follow in the 12 months ahead, at a cost of $1 million to the union.  "We need an ad to make sure that the community understands there is nothing of substance behind the Commission of Audit," he said.

"The black hole that they've identified is the same black hole that existed in 2009 when the LNP announced their election commitments and all that we've seen is changes to accountancy practices rather than changes to reality."


Retailers weary of carbon tax

Retailers say they are nervous about becoming the "meat in the sandwich" when the carbon tax is introduced.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) say stores are in a vulnerable position as the middle man between customers and the supply chain.

"It’s plain to see retailers are the meat in the sandwich, caught between consumers’ inability to justify discretionary spending and supply chain manufacturing unable to remain price competitive," ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said.  "This is a dangerous position to be in and will cost jobs."

In a survey of the ARA’s members in 2011, 83 per cent said they expected consumers to spend less after the introduction of the carbon tax.  Fifty-six per cent said they would have to pass on their increased costs onto customers.

Retailers are also worried the government’s proposed household assistance packages will not be enough to cushion the effects on household budgets.

"This will no doubt just be absorbed by the soaring cost of living," said Mr Zimmerman.

Australia’s $240 billion retail industry believes the carbon tax will only add to their financial woes.

"Retailers are already experiencing tough trading conditions and poor sales," said Mr Zimmerman.

"Now they are facing the introduction of a carbon tax which will hit business and consumer confidence at a time when relief is needed on both sides."


Hundreds have broken out of Australia's immigration detention centres

ELECTRIC fences, razor wire and security guards are no barrier to breakouts from Australia's Immigration detention centres.  Hundreds of visa over-stayers and asylum seekers have scaled fences, fled on day release programs or simply vanished after being released into the community on bridging visas.

For the first time, the Sunday Herald Sun can reveal 524 people have escaped Immigration detention in the past decade. Nearly one-third - 154 - remain on the run from authorities.

The Department of Immigration also revealed that 11 asylum seekers released into the community on bridging visas since November have absconded in breach of reporting requirements.

But this is only a fraction of the 4052 people approved for community detention since the program was expanded two years ago.

Refugee Action Collective spokesman Ian Rintoul said the escapees were desperate and often sustained injuries while doing a runner.

"They have anti-climb fences with sheer cladding so they end up with cuts from the barbed wire and injuries if they have to jump from the fences. People do get electric shocks," he said.

"They are fearful of being deported. The detention centres are hellholes."

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said that, while escapes were "rare", the private company that ran immigration detention in Australia had incurred million-dollar fines in the past.

"Escapes from detention, and especially from community detention, are very rare," he said.

A spokesman added: "Nonetheless, we take any escape from detention extremely seriously."

The new figures confirm the vast majority of escapes were from traditional detention centres.

Of 98 in 2010-11, only one person was from community detention and had since been found.

Last month, Immigration official Kate Pope told Budget estimates that 13 clients had absconded from community detention since October 2010.

"Eleven are Vietnamese, of whom two claimed to be adults and were living in Victoria at the time ... nine claimed to be unaccompanied minors," she said.

"Of those, eight absconded from community detention in Victoria and one in Western Australia. Six of those Vietnamese have been relocated. Four claimed to the unaccompanied minors, all now identified as adults, two of whom are in custody pending court appearances."

In February, three Vietnamese asylum seekers fled over a northern immigration detention centre fence in Darwin at 4.06am.

Last year, authorities foiled a suspected mass breakout of almost 20 inmates at Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney.

The department said the one Malaysian and 16 Chinese nationals had overstayed their visas and were not asylum seekers.

Two years ago, 10 inmates climbed a fence at low-security Inverbrackie Detention Centre to pick fruit.

Since the Rudd-Gillard Government was elected in 2007, 18,949 asylum seekers have arrived on 329 boats - 12,397 on 189 boats since Julia Gillard became Prime Minister in 2010.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said alleged people smuggler Captain Emad recently being allowed to flee the country was a further sign the system was a mess under Labor.

"Increasing numbers of escapes are the result of a system under stress, created by the unprecedented failure of Labor on our borders," he said.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Qld. Premier Campbell Newman gives the Green/Left another sock in the eye

QUEENSLAND'S extensive network of national parks will be thrown open to new eco-tourism developments that will potentially been modelled on popular New Zealand and Tasmanian ventures, with horse riders and four-wheel drivers set to gain more access.

Permits will be scaled back and the Nature Conservation Act reviewed to remove barriers to development under a wide-ranging action plan announced yesterday at a tourism forum in Cairns.

More than 300 industry heavyweights spoke to the Newman Government for two days to develop the action plan, designed to guide the ailing sector over the coming year.

Premier Campbell Newman, who attended the DestinationQ forum yesterday, said the state must "find ways to say yes" to better use and market its national parks and marine parks.

Mr Newman singled out NZ's popular Milford Track and Tasmania's Cradle Mountain Lake-St Clair National Park as examples to follow, saying visitors came from around the world to walk, stay, eat and drink.

"Those are the sorts of things, we should be doing," Mr Newman said.  "They've got to be done the right way, but other jurisdictions are doing it - (and) the environment hasn't suffered."

Tourism leaders told the forum - the first of its kind in 27 years - of high operating costs and falling revenues stretching their businesses to breaking point, compounded by the high Australian dollar, competition from nearby countries as well as mountains of government red tape.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chairman Stephen Gregg said that red tape had dissuaded many ecotourism proposals "from ever getting off the ground".

Mr Newman said cutting red tape would be a key focus, as he announced a host of new funding to be made available for regional events, indigenous rangers and to up-skill unemployed Cairns residents.

Mr Newman also indicated there could soon be a new, direct flight from Cairns to an Asian country, likely Singapore.

Mr Newman was highly critical of the industry's peak body, Tourism Queensland, announcing that it would be restructured and told to find savings that could be redirected to promotional campaigns.

A second forum will be held next year to monitor progress and begin charting a 20-year industry plan.


Federal Government tells pensioners that aged care providers will hike fees the day carbon tax kicks in

THOUSANDS of pensioners have been warned they will have to pay more for their residential care in one of the first signs of the impact of the carbon tax.

The Federal Government has written to pensioners and Commonwealth Senior Health Card holders advising that their aged care providers will hike fees by up to $3.48 a week from July 1, the day the carbon tax kicks in.

The hike of more than 1 per cent outstrips Treasury forecasts that the cost of living will rise just 0.7 per cent under the unpopular tax.

The move comes as questions mount over who else will pass on price rises to Australian consumers from this weekend.

The letter, from the Federal Department of Health and Ageing, explains that the increased aged care fees aim to "share" the assistance payments being made to pensioners to compensate them for the carbon tax.

"It recognises that many of the everyday expenses for residents are met by aged care providers," the letter says.

"It is important to note that some of the assistance that you will receive in the initial payment should be used to offset the increase in the basic daily fee."

The price rise equates to a weekly $3.48 increase in fees, which also outstrips weekly electricity hikes of $3.30 expected by most Queensland households.

A spokesman for Treasurer Wayne Swan said the assistance paid to pensioners and Senior Health Card holders was "designed to fully take into account this fee".

"From 28 May to 8 June, more than 3.2 million pensioners were paid a lump sum payment," the spokesman said.

"Pensioners will receive a permanent boost to their regular payments equal to a 1.7 per cent increase in the maximum rate of the pension from March 2013."

Labor has always insisted many households would be better off after compensation for the carbon tax, but as the tax start date looms fears are growing.

The issue is dominating Federal Parliament this week, as Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott face off ahead of Sunday's introduction of the tax.

Ms Gillard is preparing for a fortnight-long blitz around Australia to sell her tax reform, while the Opposition is set to embark on a similar tour, highlighting price rises resulting from the tax.

Labor ministers and backbenchers have been ordered into electorates to spruik the tax, as the party continues the battle to revive its popularity.

Ms Gillard told the Labor caucus yesterday that Mr Abbott would be exposed for scaremongering, with Labor planning to mock his earlier claims about the tax.

Mr Abbott yesterday said the RSPCA would face a $180,000 hike in its electricity costs each year because of the carbon tax.

Appearing alongside Mr Abbott, RSPCA chief executive Michael Linke said some of the national organisation's services would be cut and about four jobs lost.

"There is no compensation to pay for this," Mr Linke said.

But Ms Gillard accused Mr Abbott of fear-mongering.

"Presumably tomorrow he will be out trying to scare Skippy the bush kangaroo and the day after he'll be trying to scare Puff the magic dragon," Ms Gillard told Parliament.

It comes after the Coalition sent small businesses in Labor-held marginal seats flyers that apologised to customers for rising costs under the carbon tax, encouraging businesses to display the posters in their store windows.

One flyer reads: "We will always strive to keep our prices at reasonable levels but because the carbon tax will make electricity and gas more expensive, our prices will increase".

But Labor said yesterday the flyers put the businesses at risk of fines of up to $1.1 million, if they falsely increase prices and blame the carbon tax.

"Mr Abbott is potentially exposing butchers and other small businesses . He cares about nothing but his political advantage," Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury said.


Dodgy science in the courts too

It's not only global warming and the flood of food myths

THE acquittal of Jeffrey Gilham is the latest in a string of decisions that reveals the serious systemic failures in the use of scientific evidence in NSW, one of the country's top forensic law authorities says.

As further revelations emerged about the failure of prosecutors in the Gilham case to call a key expert witness, Gary Edmond from the University of NSW said the case highlighted the need for radical changes to the way expert evidence was both formulated and presented at trial.

"[Jeffrey] Gilham, [Gordon] Wood … they all reveal serious and systemic problems in the ability of our criminal justice system to credibly engage with scientific and medical evidence," Professor Edmond said yesterday following the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal's acquittal of Mr Gilham over the 1993 murder of his parents.

In reaching its decision, the court found that vital pieces of scientific evidence presented to the jury in Mr Gilham's second trial were seriously flawed and t this had resulted in a miscarriage of justice.

Among the flawed pieces of evidence were the opinions of three scientific authorities that there were "similarities" between the clusters of stab wounds on the bodies of the victims.

The judges concluded that not only were these opinions without scientific foundation, but prosecutors were aware that another expert had tested the claims and found they were incorrect.

Before the start of Mr Gilham's first trial in March 2008, the Crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, QC, received a report from Stephen Cordner, the then head of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, to this effect.

However, Mr Tedeschi rejected this evidence as "plainly unreliable" and based upon "a complete acceptance of the accused's account", electing not to call the professor as a witness.

The prosecutor in the second trial, Margaret Cunneen, SC, also did not call Professor Cordner.

The judges found the decision "does not withstand scrutiny". "an objective and detached prosecutor would have rejected any suggestion of bias in [Professor Cordner's] methodology or his conclusions", the appeal panel found.

Professor Edmond said this highlighted the fact that prosecutors in NSW were often more focused on the capacity of forensic evidence to persuade a jury rather than its actual validity.

He said it revealed problems about the general use of scientific evidence, in particular that such evidence was often not based on proper peer-reviewed research.

"Forensic techniques and evidence relied on routinely by investigators and prosecutors have never been assessed for their validity and reliability," he said.

"We have no idea if many of the techniques in routine use actually work or how accurate they are."


Bail reform in NSW

Every effort should be made to avoid jailing people who are later found not guilty

THE NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, has backed a proposal that people charged with crimes be given bail unless there was evidence they were a threat to the community.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the release of a Law Reform Commission review of the NSW bail laws earlier this month, Mr Smith said he wanted to look at ways to keep less serious offenders out of jail to prevent them from being corrupted.

However, he also backed recent comments by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, that the government would not weaken bail provisions for dangerous criminals.

"There will be no weakening [of the bail laws] but we will have a smarter bail law, one based on risk management, which is what I was proposing, which the Premier has accepted, and which will hopefully mean more transparent decisions on bail," Mr Smith said.

"The program is to look more at each individual person, not based on presumptions, but based on the individual themselves and whether they pose a risk.

"The system of presumptions against bail or for bail has been confusing and has contributed to unsatisfactory bail decisions in the past."

Asked if the government would remove the system of presumptions against bail, Mr Smith said: "I understand that's what we will be doing."

Mr Smith has faced relentless criticism from some media commentators who have accused him of going "soft on crime" because of his progressive approach to the rehabilitation of less serious offenders.

"People who aren't a risk to our community shouldn't be refused bail unless they have done previous things or are threatening things," he said.

The government is due to give its official response to the Law Reform Commission's review of bail laws at the end of this year.

Mr Smith said the government had made it clear it was "pushing" for a risk management approach to crime that operated independently of presumptions, and which looked at each case on its merits.

He said presumptions against bail had confused the role of courts in looking at the merits of each case.

He made the comments after announcing the head of South Australia's prisons system, Peter Severin, would replace Ron Woodham as the Corrective Services Commissioner in NSW.

Mr Severin, 55, had agreed to become the new Commissioner in NSW, after having served South Australia and Queensland "with distinction".

Mr Severin was the deputy director-general of the Queensland Department of Corrective Services before taking the top job overseeing the South Australian prisons system.

Mr Smith said Mr Severin had achieved the lowest return to prison rate in South Australia of any Australian jurisdiction for the past four years.

He said he expected Mr Severin to drive down the high rate of reoffending in NSW.

"Mr Severin's record of success demonstrates that he is the ideal person to address the high rate of reoffending in NSW," Mr Smith said.

Mr Severin had worked in the corrections system in Germany from 1980 and 1988 and has dual citizenship - his mother is Australian and his father is German. He is married and has an adult son.

Mr Smith said Mr Severin would replace Mr Woodham within a couple of months. He thanked Mr Woodham for his 43 years of service to NSW.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Greenie white elephant mothballed in NSW

Can the ones in Qld. and Vic. be far behind?  Desalination plants  were all built to avoid the need for new dams (which Greenies hate) but  we are now in a rainy climate cycle so they are not needed.  The official meteorologists (the BOM) had their brains so mushed by Warmism that they didn't warn the politicans of natural climate cycles (El Nino, La Nina) and pretended instead that the "drought" was permanent.  Huge waste of taxpayer funds  resulted

Sydney's desalination plant will be mothballed this weekend even though taxpayers will keep having to pay off its construction costs.

BUT NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce says the $2 billion development hasn't been a waste of money.   "The fact that the desal plant will be turned off from the first of July will save Sydney Water customers $50 million a year," he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.  "But we'll still have the security if we ever or when we eventually need to turn the desalination plant back on again."

Mr Pearce said it could be up to three years before the Kurnell plant operated again.

"At the moment of course the dams are full, so it won't go back on until they drop below 70 per cent, and then the desalination plant operates until they're up to 80 per cent again," he said.

Mr Pearce confirmed the government was still paying $16 million a month for the cost of building the plant and pipeline.

Greens MP John Kaye told ABC Radio the plant was expensive and completely unnecessary.  "The problem we have now is that we're paying tens of billions of dollars to keep this plant when we don't even want to operate it," he said.

In May, the NSW government announced a 50-year, $2.3 billion deal to privatise the plant, netting it $300 million to build more roads, rail and other infrastructure.


Sad solar in Qld

Queensland solar businesses fear a dramatic boom and bust after the state government slashed the solar feed-in tariff.

MORE than 180,000 Queenslanders are in the solar bonus scheme.    Those who provide power back to the grid will keep the 44 cents per kilowatt hour payment from July 9, but anyone who joins after that date will get an eight cent rate.

Stuart Stratton of Green Initiatives says the future is now uncertain for his 100-plus employees.  He's "extremely disappointed" the government drastically changed the main drawcard for households.

"Where it drops over time and it's predictable, the market can shift and your business can plan for staffing levels and training," Mr Stratton told AAP.  "When something like this happens out of the blue and you've got two weeks to adjust, it has potentially a massive downward impact on the business."

He imagines the next two weeks will be like "Christmas in July" - followed by silence.

Energy Minister Mark McArdle says Queensland households are subsidising the solar sector to the tune of $54 a year and it's unsustainable.

The Clean Energy Council says 4500 jobs could go as a result of the move but Mr McArdle has told ABC Radio he hasn't been briefed on possible job losses.

The Australian Solar Energy Society's John Grimes says his group had called for a graduated withdrawal down to about 20 cents per kilowatt hour.  "It would have allowed solar to compete and wouldn't have resulted in, sort of, this mini boom and bust," he told ABC Radio.


Hate speech against Christians in Australia

Leftists accuse conservatives of "hate spoeech" at the drop of a hat so I like to record occasionally where the real hate speech comes from:

The Australian Christian Lobby’s state director Wendy Francis says she was subject to a barrage of abusive emails and calls to her mobile phone after the LNP announced changes to surrogacy laws.

Mrs Francis started receiving the phone calls on Friday morning and estimated they were coming in every five to six minutes and she was also sent emails with pornographic images attached.

She tried to answer as many phone calls as she could but saved voicemails left on her mobile while she was talking to other abusers.

In one of the voicemails listened to by, the caller says: "You’re an evil slut and you’re going to f--king hell you dirty, f--king scraggy b--ch."

Another caller said: "I don’t know how you can go to sleep at night when there are people who are suffering, families who love each other dearly and they’re suffering because of your discrimination, because of your fear and because of your bigotry."

The calls came the day after Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced intended changes to altruistic surrogacy laws to exclude same sex couples, single people and couples in a de facto relationship of less than two years.

The ACL supports the changes.

"I also got three email messages with porn and the porn was disgusting," Mrs Francis said.

More here

How to escape a conviction for murder in corrupt Victoria

PEOPLE are potentially getting away with murder in Victoria because of secret plea bargaining deals being done by prosecutors, a study has found.

The study, by two Melbourne criminologists, has raised serious questions about the consequences of laws passed seven years ago that introduced the defensive homicide concept to the state's criminal statutes.

At the time of their introduction, the laws were hailed by then Victorian attorney-general Rob Hulls as "the most significant reforms to homicide laws since the death penalty was abolished 30 years ago".

Defensive homicide was intended to apply in cases where a killer acted in the belief that his or her actions were necessary to defend themselves or someone else - such as a victim of prolonged domestic violence.

Since 2005, prosecutors have had discretion to offer people charged with murder the option of pleading guilty to the lesser charge of defensive homicide.

But criminologists Asher Flynn and Kate Fitz-Gibbon, in a study published in the Melbourne University Law Review, have questioned the secret deals with defence lawyers in such cases. "Criminal cases in Victoria, including those involving the most serious homicide offences, appear to be resolved on the basis of unscrutinised decisions in a largely unregulated and non-transparent process," they wrote.

"Prosecutors can effectively be viewed as 'the key gate-keepers who ration criminal justice … Their discretionary powers allow them to play a more prominent and significant role in the delivery of modern justice than the traditional involvement of the community in a jury trial.

"As a result, the jury, and the community input, is largely silenced."

A key case that influenced the then government to change the law involved Bendigo woman Heather Osland, who was found guilty of murdering her husband in 1996 following years of repeated physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

At trial, she unsuccessfully argued self-defence. She was released after serving her minimum 9½ years' jail.

The change also followed debate about the partial legal defence of provocation, used by killers such as James Ramage who was acquitted of murdering his wife Julie Ramage in 2003.

He was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter after his lawyer successfully argued Ramage had not intended to kill her, but she provoked him to lose control.

But an analysis of defensive homicide convictions between November 1, 2005, and April 30 this year by Dr Flynn and Dr Fitz-Gibbon has found 16 convictions resulted from the Crown accepting a guilty plea from the accused to the lesser charge.

Defensive homicide carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' jail, while the maximum sentence for murder is life.

Plea deals are generally done to save resources and financial expenditure, reduce court backlogs and prosecutorial workloads, and spare accused people and victims from lengthy and often emotionally-charged criminal proceedings.

But Dr Flynn and Dr Fitz-Gibbon say that because such deals are shrouded in secrecy, there is limited transparency and accountability. They are concerned about unintended consequences. "People could be getting away with murder," Dr Fitz-Gibbon said last night.

"Because these deals are so secretive, we don't know the circumstances therefore we don't know otherwise."

In Victoria plea deals are not recognised in, or controlled by, any legislation. The only controls that directly apply are contained within the Public Prosecution Act (1994) which alludes to matters being dealt with in an "effective, economic and efficient manner".

In addition, The Victim's Charter Act (2006) stipulates a statutory requirement to inform victims of any alteration of charges, but neither statute defines or acknowledges plea bargaining.

Dr Flynn and Dr Fitz-Gibbon have called for a formal policy to be developed to "encourage prosecutors to use their discretion consistently and in line with the ideals of justice".

In the United Kingdom there are mandatory guidelines for prosecutors on plea deals that are intended to provide transparency and uphold public interests, and that have been endorsed by the courts as best practice.

The Melbourne academics have suggested such a system be introduced here urgently.

They have also suggested a legislative change that would place a "statutory obligation on prosecutors to, in effect, explain when and why they resolved a case through plea bargaining".

A review of defensive homicide cases was announced by Mr Hulls in 2010 after it was revealed the majority of people convicted of the charge up to that point had been men convicted of defensive homicide against men.

But the review, which aimed to determine whether defensive homicide was being inappropriately applied to cases of male-perpetrated killing, has not been completed following the subsequent change of government.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Does Gillard support harassment of public servants who support the opposition?

It looks very much like it.   Lori Dwyer asks below whether  Darrell Morris was bullied by the Australian Public Service after working for the Liberals

"Bullying" is a great Leftist theme at the moment.  It's an excuse for censorship.   If you criticize homosexuals you are a bully;  if you look cross-eyed at a black you are a bully and if you preach the Bible you are CERTAINLY a bully.

So it should be no surprise that the real bullies are Leftists themselves.  Thuggery is never far beneath the surface with them

The recent announcement by Julia Gilliard of a nationwide review on workplace bullying was so well received, it was almost disturbing– it seems that the culture of harassment and standover tactics within Australian places of employment is so ingrained and accepted that the detractors of this government initiative were few, and their criticism at relatively low volume.

Quite recently, the story of Darrell Morris began to generate buzz within Australia's social media circles, despite the apparent reluctance of mainstream media to become engaged in the hierarchical warfare of our public service departments.

By his supervisor’s own admissions, with the evidence collaborated by formal reports, Morris had been consistently “performing well” in his role with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He's worked in the Canberra–based department for the better part of a decade. A quiet but conscientious man, he admits that this is the only job he has ever wanted to do, and he relocated his wife and very young family to the ACT on finishing university specifically to cater to this career.

A fairly typical Aussie guy, Darrell forfeited his weekend rugby games and essential time with his kids in order to advance his employment– putting in the extra effort that is an unspoken requirement of being a ’good employee’ in this country.

It was during late 2009 and early 2010, while on leave with out pay working for Liberal Senator Helen  Coonan, that unfounded accusations of sharing classified information were leveled in Morris's direction. While DFAT issued him with a ’letter of regret’ over the incident, the subversive harassment continued and union officials report that the tone in meetings and other forms communication become between Morris and his superiors became increasingly hostile.
 It was last year, 2011, that Darrell Morris first took medical leave for severe depression. While ComCare, the relevant workers compensation providers, declared his workplace a significantly contributing factor to his illness, they have a ’no fault’ policy and no blame was laid, or compensation sought.

Morris's return to work in late 2011 was plagued with accusations of poor conduct from senior staff members and inflexibility within his senior management in regards to providing a safe and secure work environment– every employers ethical duty of care to those in their employ.

Currently on his second round of medical leave for depression, the DFAT has instructed Morris that his claims of stigmatization are invalid and further claims will result in disciplinary action. On his return to work, he will be blocked from receiving any training or promotion within the Department for a period as yet undetermined– it could be as long as three years.

While stating that a blanket ban on individuals returning from medical leave is ’policy’, no formal evidence of such a policy existing has been presented, despite numerous requests.

On this story breaking in the social medias, the general reaction from readers was subtle disgust overladen with a cynical acceptance that this conduct is to be expected within Government departments and all layers of bureaucracy, not only within our country's capital but in our state departments as well– those employed within our public sectors often work under a cloud of silence and passive aggression.

Transparency in workplace practices is always welcome, and Gilliard’s review of workplace bullying is timely, significant and valid. But it needs to focus its attention on sectors that are publicly known for using discrimination and stand over tactics– the Government’s own recruitment, advancement, internal complaint handling and ethical practice policies in particular.

Is that even possible, with the current culture of terrified silence that surrounds the topic; when people are too afraid to put name to their experiences for fear of covert retribution? When the best advice anyone within the public sector can give Darrell Morris is to change jobs, change departments, walk away and don't make a fuss?

Results of the review, due out in October, may provide a clearer picture– But don't go holding your breath. Given the current atmosphere, it may take more than one government review board to break the covert ranks of conspiratorial silence that surrounds this bizarrely underground, curiously Australian phenomenon.


That "Welcome to Australia"  sign is costing lives

By Amanda Vanstone

SURELY after another known tragedy of lost lives because people smugglers are able to sell unsafe places on boats to get to Australia, the Gillard government will finally shut the door on people smuggling.

The government must now remove the so-called pull factors that encourage people to risk their lives. Labor must take down the "Come on down" sign that makes some of its supporters feel so good, but actually costs lives.

When I was minister for immigration in the Howard government, one of the Indonesian ministers visited Australia to discuss border protection, among other things. My job was to reinforce the reasoning for our then strong border protection policies. He had a very sombre approach, but when I said "Ada gula ada semut" - "where there is sugar ants will be" - he had a glint in his eye. It is just common sense.

Tough border protection is not about being anti refugees. This is a ruse run by do-gooders who, in contrast to their sweet self-image, like to peddle hatred by asserting that people who don't think as they do are racists or uncaring.

During my time as immigration minister, we increased our intake of refugees, through the United Nations refugee agency, by a massive 50 per cent, while maintaining strong border protection. And we stopped the boats. For the government to now offer to set up an independent inquiry to look at the effectiveness of these policies seems to me no more than an unnecessary stalling tactic.

The people that use people smugglers fall within a range of categories, some with better credentials to take a refugee place than others. What all the boat arrivals have in common is a desire for Australian permanent residence and, hopefully, citizenship. But the UN Convention does not give a right to choose the country in which one will be protected.

I think it is fair to say that those who have travelled through three or four other countries before coming to Australia are no longer fleeing persecution but are rather seeking the citizenship of their choice. Who wouldn't want the golden visa card that Australian permanent residence or citizenship brings? While that is on offer, we are tempting people to get on the boats.

The government needs to reintroduce both offshore processing and temporary protection visas, or a variation thereof. Something that says: "If it becomes safe for you, we will assist you to resettle home. In the meantime, phone home and tell them they are not coming."

The Malaysian solution was never going to be all the government hoped. A half-smart people-smuggling network would quickly send 800 people to Australia for no fee, just to fill the limited number Malaysia was prepared to take. They may even then pay for those 800 to get from Malaysia back to Indonesia. Then the boats with paying customers would start again. It might increase their cost of doing business, but it would not stop the trade. What will do that is taking the goodies off the table.

Last Monday on this page, former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser made a contribution to this debate, labelling the Coalition's policy both evil and inhumane. It's the use of these words that got him the headline and it is typical of the hate-style politics that some seek to practise. (We've seen a bit more of it over the past week in the "Let's get stuck into Gina" campaign.) Fraser might like to consider what humanity there is in continuing to attract people on to these boats when so many have lost their lives in horrific circumstances.

He says Australia does not have an asylum seeker problem because the percentage of people arriving unlawfully by boat is small compared to the number of people who cross our borders each year. It is an apple-and-orange comparison.

The fact that millions of people do lawfully enter and leave Australia each year has nothing to do with the fact that thousands are choosing to land on our shores with the aid of people smugglers, having passed through other safe countries so they can live in the land of the golden visa card.

Where we are the country of first asylum, as we were with the Indonesian West Papuans in 2006, of course there can be no question. They did not go through three or four other countries first in order to force our hand. We were their nearest port of call, and we gave protection. They were a completely different category to those on the boats that come through Indonesia.

Thankfully, in a free country such as Australia everyone is entitled to voice their opinion. Former prime ministers are no exception. But I don't recall hearing Fraser's former nemesis and now friend, Gough Whitlam, publicly attacking his own party in the way that Fraser has.

There are plenty of people keen to argue the case for leaving onshore processing in place, for community detention and for letting almost everyone stay. With a throwaway line of "send back the ones who are not refugees", they reveal how little they know of the difficulties in doing just that.

These people are engaging in conspicuous compassion - it is more a statement to the world about how they would like to be seen than it is about the object of their concern. It is nothing more than the politics of convenience.

There is nothing humane or compassionate about enticing people to risk a horrific death.  For heaven's sake, take the sugar off the table.


Wivenhoe class-action lawsuit progressing

Labor party penny-pinching cost billions.  Flood-mitigation capacity should NEVER have been used as water storage

FIRMS mounting a class-action lawsuit against the Queensland Government have spent $1 million on experts to prove Wivenhoe Dam operators were negligent in flooding thousands of homes and businesses last year.

Several hundred flood victims turned out for public meetings in Brisbane yesterday and today as law firm Maurice Blackburn and litigation funder IMF Australia mapped out their strategy for the suit.

Maurice Blackburn partner Damian Scattini told a packed crowd at Indooroopilly Bowls Club that "overconfident" dam operators failed to follow their manual or monitor the weather properly in the lead-up to the flood.

Three US-based experts in dam and hydro-dynamics are preparing detailed reports and modelling that will demonstrate much of the flood damage was caused by late releases that could have avoided with more prudent management.

About 3400 people have already signed for the "no win, no pay" suit, which potentially could cost the state more than $1 billion.

The experts' modelling will show which areas would not have flooded or would have suffered substantially less damage if the dam operators had acted differently.

People with properties that would have been damaged no matter what the dam operators did will not be represented in the class action, which is likely to be filed in Queensland.

The class action will seek only actual damages not "pain and suffering" and compensation received from other sources might be deducted from the claims, Mr Scattini said. He confirmed the state was building a legal war chest and firming its legal position.

"I'm sure they'll find money to fight us," he said.

The state's inquiry into the floods provided "useful sworn testimony" for the lawsuit, with dam operators "in thick mud at the moment".

He doubted the state would pass legislation to limit a court payout.

Only a handful of the 200-plus people at the meeting raised their hands when asked if they had been taken care of by their insurance companies.


Meatworks may shut Queensland plant for three weeks to avoid carbon tax

A MAJOR meatworks could shut one of its Queensland plants for three weeks to side-step a carbon tax bill expected to cost millions.

Teys Australia Meat Group is one of 295 names on a preliminary list of companies to be slugged the $23 a tonne carbon tax from July 1 after its carbon emissions were estimated as being above the threshold of 25,000 tonnes a year.

The group, which has its head office in Beenleigh, south of Brisbane, was expecting its carbon tax bill to exceed $2 million a year.

But the meat processor could dodge part of the bill by closing down its second-biggest plant at Beenleigh for several weeks to reduce its annual emissions at the location to just below the Government's 25,000 tonne tax threshold.

It is believed other meatworks with emissions above the threshold could also be considering temporary shut-downs to avoid the tax.

"We could close this plant for a period of time in the year - one or two weeks - and therefore our total emissions for the year would potentially be below 25,000 (tonnes)," Teys spokesman Tom Maguire said.

"We are talking to the Government about ways of avoiding that but to this date we haven't come to any resolution.

"Given some of our competitors don't have the same tax, we won't be able to pass the costs on."

The company will also pay a carbon tax on emissions from its Rockhampton plant but says a temporary closure there was not an option.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the Government's $1 billion Clean Technology Program provided grants for new equipment and technology to reduce emissions.

The potential shutdown comes as Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan moves to reassure voters that carbon tax compensation will reach much higher up the income threshold than people realised.

New Treasury analysis reveals half of all families earning up to $150,000 a year will be over-compensated for the carbon tax, with tax cuts and welfare changes equivalent to 120 per cent of the expected cost.

But it might not stretch as far in Queensland as other states, with residents here facing a $3.70 a week rise in electricity prices directly related to the carbon tax.

That compares with a rise of $3.30 a week in NSW, $2.48 a week in Tasmania and $2.50 a week in Western Australia.

Prices will rise by double those amounts in some states but those increases are not as a direct result of the carbon tax.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Norton/Symantec are bunglers:  Do not use them

One of my readers received the following rubbish warning:
Fraudulent Web Page Blocked

You attempted to access:

This web page is a known fraudulent web page. It is recommended that you do NOT visit this page.

For your protection, this web page has been blocked. Visit Symantec to learn more about phishing and internet security.

Interestingly, the page had been up for only about an hour when Norton had their strange spasm above.  I received no warning from Norton and I can find no way of contacting them to ask why.

Another race that stopped a nation

An incredible triumph

BLACK Caviar, the racehorse that has captured the hearts of Australians like no other since Phar Lap, showed the world why she is regarded as the greatest sprinter of all-time with a memorable win at Royal Ascot.

But for a few strides near the line, the whole nation held its breath for a moment when jockey Luke Nolen eased up 75m out and was nearly caught by French mare Moonlight Cloud.

Nolen realised his error and shook the reins in the final three strides as Black Caviar held on to score a narrow and famous win.

Before Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and more than 75,000 racegoers, Black Caviar kept her perfect race record intact and showcased her extraordinary talents with a brilliant win in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

After the race, relief was the immediate and overwhelming emotion for trainer Peter Moody, jockey Luke Nolen, and the mare's syndicate of owners after they had endured intense media scrutiny and pressure in the build-up to Royal Ascot.

Nolen admitted he underestimated the testing straight track and its uphill climb to the finish at Royal Ascot.  "It is quite unfortunate as it is going to overshadow a very good win," Nolen said.

"There might be more talk about my brain fade rather than the horse's fantastic effort.  "It was pilot error but I got away with it. She won so it doesn't matter."

Moody was more philosophical about the scare as Black Caviar scrambled home to the narrowest win of her celebrated career.

"You only have to win by a quarter of an inch," Moody said.  "That is what we were prepared to do and we got the job done.

"We never expect dominance, we've never asked her for that. We always worry about having her ready for her next start.  "But we are very proud of her. She is 22 from 22 now, I'm extremely proud of her."

The Queen paid Black Caviar the ultimate tribute when she made her way down to the mounting yard to meet Moody, Nolen and Black Caviar after the race.

Moody admitted words could not describe how he felt to meet the Queen as the trainer of the winner of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

"It's just an ubelievable feeling to be standing here," Moody said.  "This is something I never thought I would experience, meeting the Queen, it was quite overwhelming. As we all know, Her Majesty is a horse lover.  "It was a meeting of the two Queens of Australia."

It seemed the whole of Australia stopped to watch our sprint superstar attain international glory in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes with the race shown live on Channel 7, Sky Channel and TVN, plus broadcast on Sky Sports Radio and ABC.

There were also more than 7000 Aussies, many adorned in Black Caviar's racing colours of salmon and black spots, on track to witness the defining moment in the great mare's career.

Black Caviar has now won all 22 of her races, including 12 at Group 1 level, and more than $6 million prizemoney.

She has the longest, unbeaten start to a race career in more than 150 years - her sequence of 22 successive wins equals the Australian record of Queensland bush gallopers, Sava Jet and Miss Petty, and 12 Group 1 wins is the most by an Australian-trained mare.


Appalling:  At least two years in jail on a police theory

There is NO evidence that Gerard Baden-Clay murdered his wife but police say he had a motive to do so.  And for that he is going to stay in jail for two years or more until the court system gets around to putting him on trial.

So he had mistresses?  So do most men at some time in their lives.  Even TV evangelists do.  Yet 99.9% of men who have affairs do NOT murder their wives.  So his affairs prove nothing.

And he was in debt but said he was going to be with one of his girlfriends shortly.  That could simply mean he was either going to clear out or declare bankruptcy.  Lots of men get into debt without murdering their wives.

The essence of the case is simply non-existent. It is just a weak theory, not proof of anything.  The various  "incriminating" internet searches he did also prove nothing.  A man in his position had every reason to check a lot of things out.  There is no way the case against him can reach the criminal criterion of "beyond reasonable doubt"

HE allegedly called himself Bruce Overland and promised he would come to her a free man by July 1.

But Toni McHugh knew him as Gerard Baden-Clay - her long-time colleague and lover who wanted to free himself from his wife and his life so they could be together.

What she did not know, until police told her, was that Baden-Clay was also allegedly having affairs with two other women, police have claimed in documents tendered in opposition to his bail application yesterday.

According to those same court documents, Baden-Clay had severe financial problems and the string of mistresses.

Peter Davis, SC, for Baden-Clay, described the Crown case as "weak", saying there had been no cause of death ascertained from the post-mortem examination, no evidence as to where she was killed, what date or time she was killed and no evidence to show he had left his home on the night she disappeared.

Justice David Boddice rejected that, saying the circumstantial case had factors that "if accepted by a jury" would make a strong argument.

He denied Baden-Clay's application for bail, saying the Brookfield father of three remained a flight risk.


How valuable are journalists?

A penny for their thoughts?

Deutsche Bank this week issued a valuation for Fairfax that included a nil valuation for its metropolitan print business. It is easy to point the finger at the Fairfax management and board for this outcome, but that is far too parochial an explanation. Newspapers around the world are facing similar issues.

It remains to be seen whether print media can be transformed into new and profitable business models based on paid subscriber content. However, any such transformation faces a significant constraint that was disguised by the old model: few people are prepared to pay very much for what journalists write. It is a reality journalists are understandably reluctant to accept.

Journalists cloak themselves in themselves in the mantle of democracy, but while a free media is essential to democracy, the traditional role of journalists as intermediaries and interpreters of information has been greatly diminished by the same forces that have undermined the old media business models.

For every Woodward and Bernstein, there are many more journalists who have been captured or compromised by their relationships with politicians and other institutions they are meant to scrutinise. The old media business models in many cases helped sustain these cosy relationships.

Far from being friends of free speech and media competition, many journalists have a long-standing record of support for increased regulation by government. They would prefer to answer to government regulators than to proprietors and shareholders because a competitive marketplace for speech and ownership and control of equity capital exposes them to greater competition and accountability.

Now that barriers to entry have collapsed, journalists are facing the same competitive pressures as their traditional proprietors. They will increasingly have to sell their product directly into a much more competitive marketplace for ideas and information. In the long run, this should make journalists better friends of free speech and more effective in scrutinising politicians, business and other institutions.


Mutual obligation as human rights abuse

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has written to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights drawing attention to what it believes is a serious breach of international human rights laws right here in Australia.

Has the civilian population come under bombardment from government-backed militia, like it is in Syria? Has the opposition leader been arrested and tortured, as in Ukraine? Has a woman had her 7-month-old foetus forcibly aborted in a state hospital after refusing to pay a fine for breaching the one-child policy, as it happened this week in China?

Not quite. ACOSS is outraged that single parents with children older than 8 and have been claiming Parenting Payment for many years are now being told to look for work. If they fail to find a job, they will have their fingernails pulled out with pliers and ... er, sorry, no, they will be switched to a different welfare payment, Newstart Allowance, which is less generous than Parenting Payment. This, according to the ACOSS letter, constitutes ‘a violation of human rights, as defined by the core United Nations treaties.’

It’s important to be clear what the government is exactly proposing. In 2006, new rules were introduced requiring recipients of Parenting Payment to look for employment once their youngest child turned 8 (before that, single parents had the right to stay on welfare until their youngest child reached school-leaving age, by which time most parents had lost any skills and motivation they may once have had and become almost unemployable). The new rule only applied to fresh applicants, however. Those who were already claiming Parenting Payment were exempt. It is this exemption that the government now wishes to withdraw and save taxpayers about $685 million over the next four years.

In other words, we are talking about people whose children are at least 8 years old and who have been living on welfare benefits without a break for at least the last six years. ACOSS believes there could be as many as 100,000 of them. The government thinks it would sensible to require these people to look for work, just like all other parents do. But ACOSS thinks this breaches some inviolable human right for single parents to stay on parenting welfare payments until their child turns 16 as they would have been able to do if the government had not acted.

This ACOSS letter is ill-advised for so many reasons:

* It is probably wrong as a matter of law (if ACOSS seriously doubts this, let them try running it past the judges at the Human Rights Court in The Hague);

* It debases the language of human rights and is insulting to people around the world who are suffering from real ‘human rights abuses’;

* It tries to subvert the democratic process by getting judges to overrule a decision taken by an elected government rather than campaigning politically to win over public opinion;

* It ignores the ‘rights’ of taxpayers to have their hard-earned money redirected only to people who really need it;

* It shows no regard for the long-term interests of welfare parents themselves, who will live more worthwhile lives (and will bequeath their children a better future) if they are encouraged to support themselves rather than relying on benefits for years;

* It offers no good rationale for why people who started claiming Parenting Payment before 2006 should continue to be treated differently to more recent claimants; and

* It is insufferably pompous.

The ACOSS letter is signed by 15 welfare and human rights activists and organisations with a long track record of opposing almost any welfare reform with the most breathtaking hyperbole. They include:

* the feminist academic, Elspeth McInnes, who thinks asking single parents with school-age children to look for part-time work leads to ‘homelessness and starvation for infants and mothers and more beggars in the street';

* the executive director of Catholic Social Services, whose predecessor (Joe Caddy) said that requiring single parents of school-age children to look for part-time work is ‘staggering in its harshness’;

* John Falzon of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, who thinks welfare-to-work schemes force people to ‘participate in the very structures that produce their poverty.’

ACOSS is Australia's leading social policy pressure group. It should not allow itself to be used in this way.


Big stink brewing over dumpanomics

Carbon tax to dump your rubbish?

The final battle against the carbon pricing scheme before its July 1 introduction will be amid the lumpy terrain and unpleasant pong of suburban garbage dumps. Local government will be fighting to the end the application of the $23-a-tonne penalty for carbon emissions which will be attracted by this usually unattractive community facility.

The circling ibis portend a tipping point in the carbon tax debate… sorry, that was pretty bad.The circling ibis portend a tipping point in the carbon tax debate… sorry, that was pretty bad.

Meanwhile, the Government will be insisting the same territory, the local landfill site, will become a boon for municipal councils as it will lead to money making prospects for them.

Rubbish tips are an ideal political battleground because while most suburban types don’t own an aluminium refinery or a coal mine, they do cart their clippings and other waste to the tip regularly.

And while the landfill sites of just 33 rubbish dumps out of 565 councils nationally will be caught up in the carbon pricing scheme, they are a frontline community resource.

Miners are allowing cries of dread about carbon pricing, but just yesterday giant Rio Tinto announced a big expansion in iron ore projects, and steel town Whyalla, one of the places said to be wiped from the economic map by the carbon scheme, is lobbying for an expansion of its airport.

While the question of electricity prices is not as clear-cut as the Opposition might insist, the matter of charges at the tip is as obvious as cash-short councils can and will make them, on rates notices or billboards at the dump.

While the scheme will affect only landfill sites which emit more than 25,00 tonnes of methane a year - the big ones - it indicates the reach and intrusion of the carbon scheme into basic community assets.

The Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate late last month said his council would not pay the carbon price when the bill arrives in July next year.

While this might cost his council more in legal fees to fight the Commonwealth in court than any savings from refusing to pay the carbon invoice, Ald Tate has become a local government hero.

The economics of rubbish dumps are not as simple as the old equation of garbage-in, gas-out might indicate.

Yesterday the Australian Landfill Owners’ Association wrote to parliamentary secretary for climate change Mark Dreyfus to lay out some of its research on how the scheme could warp competition.

It reported that in the Adelaide area there are two large sites clearly over the 25,000 tonne threshold, three smaller sites that are just below the threshold, and a further two small country sites.

“Under the current arrangements the two larger sites cannot pass through their CPM carbon costs without risking a significant loss of business to the smaller sites,” said the ALOA letter.

A second example was Hobart, where there is a relatively new regional landfill site and two smaller council-owned tips.

“Notwithstanding its intention to install a gas collection system shortly the regional landfill expects to have emissions above the threshold whilst the two smaller sites are below the threshold,” said the letter.

“This situation is preventing the larger regional site from passing carbon pass-through costs to its clients.”

And same for a third example in regional Victoria, where between Bendigo and Echuca landfill services are provided by a privately owned regional landfill and a number of smaller country landfills.

“The regional site estimates it will exceed the threshold in 2018 and as a consequence needs to initiate a partial carbon cost recovery from 1 July 2012. The operation of the smaller neighbouring sites is frustrating the regional sites ability to recover its carbon liability costs,” said the ALOA.

“These three examples demonstrate the need for the prescribed distance rule to be re-instated in the legislation and as a result ALOA calls on the Government to bring forward the review of the prescribed distance so that unfair competition between covered and uncovered sites can be avoided.”

But it’s the council sites where the issue will be felt most.

Mark Dreyfus is attempting to convince councillors they have a lucrative opportunity under the scheme to make some money by harnessing the methane and selling the carbon credits on the open market.

They could capture the gas and turn it into electricity to earn Renewable Energy Certificates which also have financial rewards attached.

“Good examples of councils taking a lead in these areas are Tweed Heads which has reduced its gas pollution so significantly, it will not have to pay any carbon price, and Newcastle City Council which generates enough electricity from its captured gas to power 3000 homes,” said Mr Dreyfus in a statement.

Ultimately the Government returns to its household assistance payments which it says will compensate for increased tip charges.

“Rate rises associated with landfill, if any, are estimated to be between 13 cents and 40 cents per household, which is covered by the federal governments average household assistance of $10.10 per household per week, delivered through pension increases, family payments and tax cuts,” said Mr Dreyfus.

Councillors are not dills. They see the opportunity. But they need time to invest in the the capital works to take advantage of those opportunities for decades to come.

Until they get that they will turn their rubbish dumps into carbon pricing martyrs.


Health boards to have power over Queensland's hospitals under new legislations

Back to the old days before bureaucratic chaos took hold

LOCAL health boards will soon be handed power over the state's hospitals under new legislation passed by Parliament.

The 17 boards will take over the management of resources and staff as part of a widespread decentralisation of the Queensland health system.

The Health and Hospitals Network legislation will take effect from July 1, with boards becoming responsible for their own finances.

The Newman Government also claims a series of ancillary boards will ensure a greater level of community involvement at the regional level.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg stressed that the ancillary boards will not add an extra layer of administration and will be directed to "act in a consultative way" to assist the "decision-making process" of health boards.

Board membership is currently being finalized and chairs have been appointed.

"I expect people who are appointed to boards will be highly-regarded," Mr Springborg said.

"(They will be) skilled, experienced and motivated members of the community."

Mr Springborg told Parliament that approval would need to be sought from the Treasurer and Health Minister to buy or sell land, with the legislation providing for "competent" boards to be allowed to manage hospital land and buildings, should the need arise.

"This is a reserve power - it may not be exercised and it may be exercised in exceptional circumstances," he said. "There will have to be a business plan and we will have to be very, very comfortable that they are capable of doing this."

Parliament also passed legislation that allows those working in fields such as diagnostic radiography and radiation therapy to enter a national registration scheme.


Friday, June 22, 2012

A plaintive wail from the Left

His fury is palpable but he has a point.  Australia IS one of the world's most conservative countries:  Second only to Switzerland, maybe.  He must be tearing his hair out at the torrent of conservative reforms underway in my home state of Qld.

Where to start; when did the right get a big leg-up in Australia? Whatever point is picked will be somewhat arbitrary and therefore contestable, but with my age and colours firmly nailed to the mast I will go for 1964-65.

On November 10, 1964, the prime minister, Robert Menzies, introduced conscription for possible service in Indonesia or Malaya. The necessary amendments to the Defence Act were made on April 6, 1965 and he committed Australian troops, including National Servicemen, for service in Vietnam the next day. That was the apex of a right-wing Liberal government, which Menzies led from 1949 to 1966.

The legacy he bequeathed it, in the form of Australia-wide protest at conscription and participation in Vietnam, led to the rise of the Labor Party and the election of Gough Whitlam's government in December 1972. But it fell apart for Gough with the likes of Cairns and Morosi, Connor and Khemlani and Murphy and Morosi and ASIO. It was all too much for Malcolm Fraser who got Kerr to sack Gough. But Fraser was an enigma, he demonstrated a commitment to getting rid of apartheid, compassion for refugees and concern with the welfare of Aborigines.

Hawke, elected prime minister in 1983, together with Keating as an adviser and treasurer, determined they would not go down the path of Whitlam and courted the big end of town. They introduced enterprise bargaining, which did much to undermine the power of the unions, and sold the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas. They moved the Labor Party to the right of centre and Keating as prime minister introduced mandatory detention for refugees, although he kept a small flame flickering on the left for the dignity and rights of Aboriginal Australians. Both Hawke and Keating embraced a jingoistic nationalism, centred on Kokoda and Gallipoli.

Howard redefined the right in Australian politics. He strengthened it. He extended and built upon the jingoism and nationalism of Hawke and Keating, he incarcerated and vilified refugees for political gain; he went to war in Iraq on the basis of false information supplied to the Australian people. He went to war in Afghanistan for the sake of the US alliance but without the sanction of the UN. He gave the ADF a blank cheque book and promoted the notion of entitlement, for senior officers and for himself, living off the best at Kirribilli House, Sydney. The Lodge was made into a bachelor pad. He demonised and turned the lives of powerless Aborigines upside down with an intervention designed to win an election. He set the tone and scene for the conduct of Australian politics today.

Rudd won the election from Howard by shadowing his every move; a tactic which gave left-wing agendas very little oxygen; but as we were to find out, issues of the left had little appeal for Rudd. He had stronger right-wing credentials than Hawke and Keating, which seemed to appeal to them. Rudd kept in place Howard's basic agenda, which was a big loss for the Labor Party and its shrinking support base. The Greens showed through as a political party with a strong sense of environmental and social justice. The battered mantle of left-wing politics passed from a masquerading Labor Party to them. There are not enough of them in Parliament to balance the right wing of Labor, the Liberals, Nationals and erstwhile independents, who soon may not be, if Richard Torbay is anything to go by.

Julia Gillard says she comes from the left, but in fact she comes from the right, where she seems comfortable. Refugees and Aborigines will not erect statues to her. Neither will the rest of the Australian population. She has managed to convince or please no one, least of all herself. She is an honorary and honourable member of the right.

To some extent the Fairfax press provided some balance to the forces of the right. It was hardly left wing, but it did understand social justice, which is an alien concept to the Murdoch media. Out of the desert prophets come and other ancient forms of life. Gina, larger than life, is bearing down upon the eastern seaboard like a scorching summer storm. The dust is rising and we are attempting to seal the windows and doors, but I fear she will still make a mess of our homes.

Gina will get what she wants. She doesn't care who she alienates, just ask her children. And what she wants is to run Australia for her own benefit. Abbott is to be her prime minister and he will fall neatly into line because they recite off the same sheet. The opposition will be scattered to the far reaches of her realm. Bolt will be elevated out of the blue to run a fearsome Fairfax, uncompromising in its ideological, messianic incantations of free-market principles, where the weak, the halt and the lame are to be led away, put away, from the gaze of overseas investors.

Plimer will be her high priest, Pell an avid disciple and Cowin will count the cost, if any. And from the middle of 2013, Australia will be a hair's breadth from being a right-wing, one-party state. Only the Senate will stand in the way - our only barrier to the Mongols. No checks, no balances and a future prime minister who believes the AFP and ASIO should be given even greater power. Bolt rails against the left, but there is no left, not in the union movement, academia or the ABC; with his tirades against the left Bolt looks slightly - no, considerably - unbalanced and a bully. The left in Australia is an endangered species. Its habitat is scattered and its birth rate falling.

The right already has everything it wants, but its appetite is insatiable, and where do you go on this island girt by sea, when you are chased or threatened, stuck to face your fate, unless you can catch a plane or a boat.


Disgrace:  Sydney home ablaze as firefighters strike

A MAN says he is disgusted that his Sydney house burned while firefighters were striking over changes to the workers compensation scheme.

Kym Loutfy's wife and grandson were rescued from the burning house by a passerby today, while firefighters were turning their hoses on NSW Parliament House during a protest.

Firefighters in Sydney, Newcastle and the Central Coast went on strike for five hours at 1pm (AEST) in protest at reforms to workers compensation they say treat them poorly compared to exempt colleagues in the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and police force.

Firefighters are demanding they also be protected from the WorkCover changes, which cap benefits and medical expenses, with hundreds marching on state parliament in their first major strike in NSW since 1956.

"If the fire brigade weren't on strike they could come more quicker and there would be less cost and less damage," Mr Loutfy said utside his Sans Souci house, which had been extensively damaged in the fire.

"We have nothing to do with the strike ... Anyone can go on strike but there's supposed to be a back-up for emergency.  "I'm very very disgusted."

Radio caller Andrew said he was driving along Campbell St in Sans Souci just after 1pm (AEST) when he noticed flames coming from the front window of the house.  He said firefighters arrived half an hour after he dialled triple 0.

"We went into the house downstairs to check that no one was there. We got a lady and her baby out of there," he said.

NSW Fire and Rescue said in a statement that crews arrived at the scene within seven minutes of receiving a call from police.

It said local crews on their way to the protest responded to the call and carried out search and rescue operations.  However they went on to join the protest after the arrival of the Airports Rescue and Firefighting Service.

Ben Shepherd from the NSW Rural Fire Service said the local RFS sent two trucks and air support as well as firefighters in breathing apparatus.

"With that initial house fire there was probably a longer response time from our trucks," he told Fairfax radio network.
New South Wales firefighters have now returned to work after considering extending their strike.

Fire Brigade Employees Union president Darrin Sullivan said union executives met a short time ago to discuss continuing the strike, but it was decided to go back to work.


The charter school revolution comes to Qld.

In Britain they have also recently taken off -- where they're called "academies" or "free schools" -- but the idea, as in America,  is to get them out from under bureaucratic control while remaining government-funded

QUEENSLAND state schools have been invited to apply to become independent public schools next year and qualify for an extra $50,000 in funding.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek today visited Rainworth State School in Brisbane's inner west to spruik the benefits of moving out from his department's control.  He said public independent schools would have autonomy in decision-making, face less red tape and fewer layers of management.

"Independent public schools will have the freedom to directly recruit teachers and to build a team that is able to deliver innovative educational practices and have more autonomy to manage infrastructure and financial resources," Mr Langbroek said.

"Research tells us that parent and community engagement with schools can have a powerful impact on student achievement."

He said schools that already had significant community input would be in a good position to apply, but he would not expand on other criteria for selection.

"We're not going to use the NAPLAN table as a league table to determine whether someone should become an independent school," Mr Langbroek said.

Schools will have the freedom to pull out after a year, and those that remain in the program will have their involvement reviewed after four years.

The Minister said it would not cost parents any more to send their children to an independent public schools, but there would be some opportunities for business sponsorship.

"This is not going to be a case of businesses being able to come in and plaster schools with commercial advertising simply because they're working with schools to deliver the program," he said.

In the first year 30 schools in metropolitan and regional areas will be selected to become independent public schools with that figure rising to 120 in four years.

The Queensland Teachers Union has previously raised concerns about the program, saying it will ruin the state school system, and create real concerns about job security for teachers.


Boot camps for young offenders in Qld?

BOOT camps for young offenders will take a step closer to reality in Queensland today when Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie leads a round-table discussion about the issue.

During the election campaign the LNP promised to introduce boot camps as an alternative to youth detention centres, which Mr Bleijie has described as "colleges of crime".

"We will divert 80 juveniles, who would otherwise receive custodial sentences, away from the detention system into this three-month boot camp program," he said.

"The Newman Government will work to break the cycle of crime and give these kids a better chance of turning their lives around."

He said boot camp participants would be away from their family and friends for a 12-week regimen of "strict training and treatment to deal with drug, alcohol, mental health and education issues".

"The boot camps will give these young people an opportunity to learn values, respect and responsibility," Mr Bleijie said.

"Ultimately we want to change the culture of youth crime and reduce the number of repeat offenders."

Yesterday the Attorney-General told Parliament 30 per cent of young offenders at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre had been there five times or more.

"What we've seen over the years is a fundamental failure of young people in Queensland," he told Parliament.

He said he would make a submission to Cabinet on boot camps in the next few months.