Sunday, September 30, 2012

ABC bias again:  Media Watch breached own code of practice

Smarmy Leftist crooks caught out

The ABC's Media Watch program has been found to have breached the public broadcaster's code of practice over a segment criticising a news report by The Daily Telegraph's state political editor Andrew Clennell.

In a release issued this morning titled "Media Watch breaches ABC Code of Practice", the powerful Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found that the ABC's media watchdog had done what it accuses other media organisations of doing - not seeking the other side of the story.

The authority said that under 5.3 of the ABC's Code of Practice, where allegations were made about a person, the ABC was obliged to make reasonable efforts to provide a fair opportunity for that person to respond.

But it found that when Media Watch criticised a story on poker machine reforms by Mr Clennell and accused The Daily Telegraph of "being one-sided", it never contacted the newspaper or the reporter to seek a comment.

The ABC had rejected a complaint from Mr Clennell. Mr Clennell then took the complaint to the ACMA, which overruled the ABC.

Media Watch claimed that it was never meant to come under section 5.3 of the ABC’s professional code because that only applied to "news and current affairs and other types of factual content such as documentaries" and the program was more about criticism and reviews.

It admitted that it never tried to contact the newspaper or the reporter before its program went to air on September 19, 2011.

"The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that the ABC breached its code of practice in an episode of Media Watch," said today's release from the authority.

The ABC has said that it proposes to acknowledge the ACMA's breach finding on Media Watch and will add an "appropriate clarification" to its online transcript of the episode.

An ACMA spokesman said it was the first time the ABC had been found to be in breach of Section 5.3 of its own code.

Media Watch issued a response to the ACMA ruling this morning saying: "ABC Television accepts the ruling of the ACMA that Media Watch should have given Andrew Clennell and/or The Daily Telegraph the opportunity to respond to comments by Jonathan Holmes about a report into Norwegian gaming machines published on 14 September 2011.

"In next Monday night’s program Jonathan Holmes will address the ACMA ruling, and the broader question of whether, and when, Media Watch should offer a right of reply," the statement said.

"He will be explaining why the ABC initially rejected Mr Clennell’s complaint.

"In the process, Jonathan says: “I will be telling our viewers what The Daily Telegraph would have told us if we had asked them about the item, and I will be offering an apology to Andrew Clennell."

Mr Clennell said: "All Media Watch had to do was come to me for my side of the story - exactly what they accused me of not doing."

"Then they would have learned that I had, in fact, gone to the minister Jenny Macklin for comment but it was cut out in the editing process, and that The Daily Telegraph had published a letter from Ms Macklin the next day.

"Instead Jonathan Holmes called me a propagandist on national television and he and his executive producer Lin Buckfield steadfastly and stubbornly refused to issue an on-air apology.

"It's disappointing that we had to go to the broadcasting regulator for justice when Mr Holmes, Ms Buckfield and the ABC through its internal complaints process could all have resolved this issue much earlier."

Daily Telegraph editor Paul Whittaker said: "Andrew Clennell and I look forward to Jonathan’s promised on-air apology."


Hysteria over school shooting lessons

STATE school students as young as 12 have their sights trained on high school shooting classes after a "curriculum" review by Education Queensland.

This is despite a risk assessment document that found student participation in rifle and pistol shooting was an "extreme risk" with a "high chance of serious incident resulting in highly debilitating injury".

And the Queensland Police Union has slammed the move, warning that the policy could lead to "another Columbine" shooting spree.

Education Queensland's Curriculum Activity Risk Assessment document approves the involvement of state high school students in shooting lessons, provided instructors are fully qualified and facilities and equipment are up to standard.

It's mandatory for students to receive one-on-one supervision from licensed shooters in their first three shooting classes, followed by an encouraged ratio of one to six thereafter.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said students' access to weapons would desensitise them to the "extreme dangers of guns" resulting in a "sure-fire recipe for death and disaster".

"Police don't want another Columbine High School massacre in a Queensland school like we've seen in the United States which could well be an inevitability of this policy," he said.

"It seems Education Queensland think the three R's stand for reading, writing and reloading.

"This crazy policy will see students more heavily armed than school-based police officers who ironically are not allowed to carry their firearms in schools under an agreement with Education Queensland."

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said there was no centralised list of schools which took part in a shooting program and did not answer questions relating to when the risk assessment was first raised or what schools were involved.

Assistant Director-General Marg Pethiyagoda said shooting was an Olympic sport and was able to be offered under "strict supervision".

"Schools determine what extracurricular activities are offered to their students from term to term and school principals are required to ensure all relevant regulations and health and safety guidelines are adhered to," her statement said.

"Any school which chooses to offer shooting as an extracurricular activity must have formal consent from the parents of participating students.

"The department is not aware of any state schools offering shooting as an extracurricular activity."

Shooting programs are not new to private schools. St Joseph's Nudgee College uses its own rifle range and others such as Redlands College and Concordia Lutheran College are involved in programs.

School army cadets also have involvement in shooting programs.

Queensland Target Sports and Queensland Shooting Association spokesman Rex Wigney encouraged more schools to get involved and said it was one of the safest sports for children, who could progress to Olympic level.

Queensland Teachers' Union deputy general secretary Greg Purches said the QTU would be "very reluctant" in encouraging school involvement. "I can't think of many more dangerous things," he said.

Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Norm Fuller said he didn't want schools or students involved in a shooting program.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Association president Margaret Leary said she didn't have a problem with schools taking up shooting programs, so long as parents were informed about the risks.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said it was up to schools to decide what extracurricular activities they offered to students.


More Sri Lankans head home instead of Nauru

This is all credit to Tony Abbott, who insisted on Nauru re-opening

Sri Lankan men leaving Christmas Island for Colombo last week. They were followed by a second voluntary group yesterday.

Sri Lankan men leaving Christmas Island for Colombo last week. They were followed by a second voluntary group yesterday.

A SECOND group of Sri Lankan men left Christmas Island yesterday, having chosen to return to Colombo rather than be sent to Nauru while their claims for asylum are processed.

"Regular transfers to Nauru and more Sri Lankans returning home is further proof that people smugglers only sell lies and make false promises about what awaits people in Australia," the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, said.

"People in immigration detention can request their removal from Australia at any point in time."

The men included two from Nauru, 20 from Christmas Island and six from mainland facilities including Villawood and Yongah Hill, Mr Bowen said.

Authorities intercepted another two asylum seekers boats on Friday, carrying a total of 133 people, all of whom have been taken to Christmas Island.


Police based at Queensland high schools to steer teens from crime

This is a disgrace.  There was none of this when schools had effective disciplinary powers

POLICE will be stationed in a third of Queensland's state high schools to steer out-of-control children away from a lifetime of crime.

Fifteen schools that together had more than 4400 suspensions and almost 100 expulsions in one year have been hand-picked to have a police officer based within school grounds from next year as part of an LNP election promise.

The plan to rid schools of crime and violence will increase police numbers in schools to 50, with officers working across 56 of the 180 state high schools in the state.

"Violence has been out of control and criminals are getting younger and younger, and boosting school-based police numbers provides a vital bridge for potential young offenders to ensure we permanently steer them away from a lifetime of crime," Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers told The Sunday Mail.

"It's all about early intervention."

Schools to get police include Brisbane, Nambour, Glenmore, Pioneer, Gladstone, Bowen, Sandgate, Southport, Toowoomba Locker District and Trinity Bay state high schools and Upper Coomera, Flagstone, Brisbane Bayside and Bentley Park state colleges.

Education Queensland figures show Bentley Park State College in Cairns, a school of more than 1600 students, had 19 expulsions, 377 short suspensions (1-5 days) and 93 long suspensions (6-20 days) in 2010-11.

This was compared with Brisbane State High School, with more than 2100 students, which had fewer than five expulsions, 40 short suspensions and 29 long suspensions.

"The School Based Policing Program is an effective crime prevention strategy that aims to keep students in school," Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said.

"School-based police officers promote positive relationships between young people and police, and play an important role in addressing the issue of violence in schools."


Friday, September 28, 2012

Sharks to be killed if close to swim beaches

The pro-shark nuts should be thrown in with them to see how they like it

A PLAN to protect West Australian beachgoers by killing great white sharks that come too close has angered animal welfare advocates and conservationists.  Many were also affronted by Premier Colin Barnett's dismissal of the animals as just "fish".

The government today announced a $6.85 million package of "shark mitigation" strategies in response to five fatal attacks in the state's waters within 10 months.

It has allocated $2 million for a new Department of Fisheries service to track, catch and destroy sharks found in close proximity to swimmers.

The government has also redefined the circumstances in which an order may be given to kill sharks that pose an imminent threat to humans.

"Previously the orders were used in response to an attack, but now proactive action will be taken if a large white shark presents imminent threat to people," Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said.

Baited drum lines could also be set to capture sharks that presented a danger, he said.

Premier Colin Barnett said it was "not going to be a shark hunt".

"We will always put the lives and safety of beachgoers ahead of the shark," he told ABC radio.  "This is, after all, a fish - let's keep it in perspective."

The Conservation Council of WA said the "guilty until proven innocent" approach was a kneejerk reaction to public concern that would harm the environment and would not protect swimmers.

"We urge the government not to use the new kill powers for sharks," CCWA marine co-ordinator Tim Nicol said.  "We are ... concerned that this policy perpetuates the fear that all large sharks are potential killers, when in fact we do not know this."

The Wilderness Society was also critical of "pre-emptive cullings", while ABC radio talkback callers flooded the phone lines, with many saying the best way to stay safe was to stay out of the shark's habitat.

Some said the strategies were vote-grabbing stunts.

Mr Barnett also today reiterated his opposition to shark nets because they posed a threat to marine life.

Instead, $2 million will go towards continuing shark tagging programs, including the use of GPS tracking systems, while $2 million will go into a research fund over four years.

Mr Nichol welcomed the research funding.  "If we want to reduce fear of swimming at our beaches, then we need to engage in research and education, not in killing with no purpose," he said.

"For example, we need to explain the times of year that are most dangerous because of oceanic events that attract large sharks to feed near shore, for example when snapper are spawning in Cockburn Sound."

University of WA, where researchers are developing shark attack deterrent wetsuits, also welcomed the research funding.

The government also pledged $200,000 for a feasibility study and trial of a beach enclosure to protect swimmers, $500,000 for extra jet skis for Surf Lifesaving WA, and $150,000 for community awareness programs, including a smartphone application.


Former Treasury deputy secretary Richard Murray's paper proposes abolishing state governments

Not a hope.  Queenslanders will resist anything that seems to give Canberra more power  -- and Queensland is too big to push around.  Sir Joh showed all that

STATES would be abolished and more power given to city and regional councils in a two-tier government under a radical proposal to shake up the nation's economy.

Under the controversial plan, Queensland would split into six regions and shed the state government in favour of a bigger federal parliament, five city and 19 regional councils nationally.

It comes after The Courier-Mail this week exclusively revealed plans for Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton to unite north of the Tropic of Capricorn under an economic co-operation zone.

Delegates told how the state's north wants to lobby as a unified bloc for big-ticket items in the economic powerhouse region worth about $60 billion a year, splitting the state along economic lines.

In his newly published paper, A New Federation with a Cities and Regional Approach, former Treasury deputy secretary Richard Murray offers a blueprint for macro and micro-economic reform.

He suggests rewriting the Constitution to share revenue and power between two tiers of government.

His paper reopens fresh debate on federation, productivity and governance as it looks at the "multiple, overlapping and interacting problems of the three-tier system of government".

Townsville Regional Council Mayor Jenny Hill yesterday said the paper proposed a much more streamlined system of government.

"Many people bitterly complain about too many layers of bureaucracy and government," she said.

"I think some councils would be up to the task, others might not.

"It would be very hard if not impossible to get the state governments to give up their power and let it devolve to the regions.

"But, because we started out as colonies, we've been left with this legacy of the 19th century.

"It is holding us back in the 21st century."


Tasmania's Upper House votes down gay marriage

The Tasmanian Premier and gay rights campaigners have vowed not to give up on same-sex marriage despite a historic bill being defeated in the state's Upper House.

After two days of impassioned debate, the bill was voted down on Thursday night eight votes to six after every member of the Legislative Council spoke at length on the issue.

Premier Lara Giddings said it was a disappointing result but the Government would not give up on the reform.

"We will continue this. It's not the end. It's the beginning," Ms Giddings said.  "It took many times for us to get gay law reform through.  "It took many times and attempts to get anti-discrimination law reform through."

Greens leader Nick McKim says the legislation's defeat was deeply disappointing.  "The Council's chosen fear over love, the Council's chosen division over unity, and it's chosen the 19th century over the 21st century," he said.  "And the Council tragically today has held Tasmania back."

The Opposition Leader, Will Hodgman, says the blame for the bill failing rests with the Premier.

He criticised the legislation as hasty, in breach of an election commitment and in reckless disregard of potential cost to taxpayers of a High Court Challenge.

Gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome says he is committed to campaigning for legislative change.  "I want to be able to marry the man I love in the state I love and I will make sure that happens," he said.

Amanda-Sue Markham from the group Save Marriage Coalition says while it is a good result, she feels sorry for same-sex couples.

"While I'm pleased that we retain marriage as the Federal Act, it's still mixed with sadness for those people who are very upset about the outcome."

The final speaker before the vote, Member for Windermere Ivan Dean, had been under enormous pressure but decided to vote against the legislation.


Abbott compares carbon tax to an octopus

Tony Abbott's latest description of the carbon tax invites voters to imagine its tentacles reaching into the depths of the economy, pushing up the already high cost of living.  He has also likened Labor's propensity to increase taxes to a "poison", with the only antidote to get rid of the Government.

The Opposition Leader took his anti-carbon tax campaign to a frozen fish supplier in Sydney, warning that the tax was hitting the business through higher electricity costs and sky-rocketing prices for refrigerant gases.

"What people are starting to understand is that this is an octopus embracing the whole of our economy," Mr Abbott told reporters.

"Every time you turn on a light, you pay; every time you open your fridge, you pay; every time you buy a cup of coffee, you pay, and as is obvious after a visit like this, every time you buy a piece of fish at the supermarket or elsewhere, you pay because of Labor's carbon tax."

Mr Abbott's latest analogy has prompted Climate Change Minister Greg Combet to question whether the Opposition Leader has a problem with animals.

"Previously he has described the carbon price as 'another cash cow', 'a python squeeze', 'a cobra strike', 'a dog of a tax', and today it was 'an octopus'," Mr Combet said.  "What's he got against animals? [What a supercilious and evasive response!]?

"Mr Abbott's time would be better spent having his Coalition policies costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, rather than inventing a menagerie as part of his shallow scare campaign."

Mr Abbott says 80 percent of the increase in western Sydney power prices was because of the carbon tax. In Queensland, he says the carbon tax was responsible for almost the entire increase.

A report by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal released in June showed that on average, electricity prices in the state were increasing by 18 per cent.

It said that on average, about half of that was carbon tax related with the bulk of the remainder due to the extra investment in infrastructure, such as poles and wires.


John Howard revives history wars in attack on Labor Party curriculum

JOHN Howard has re-entered the culture wars, describing the Gillard government's national school history curriculum as "unbalanced, lacking in priorities and quite bizarre", and accusing it of marginalising the Judeo-Christian ethic and purging British history.

The former prime minister said last night that "our Western heritage appears to be so conspicuously absent from the history curriculum reflects a growing retreat from self-belief in Western civilisation". In a swingeing critique of the government's national high school curriculum, which is being introduced at various levels in the states through to 2014, Mr Howard said a lack of proper perspective in history teaching would "deny future generations a real understanding of what has made us as a nation".

"The curriculum does not properly reflect the undoubted fact that Australia is part of Western civilisation; in the process, it further marginalises the historic influence of the Judeo-Christian ethic in shaping Australian society and virtually purges British history from any meaningful role," he said in the inaugural Sir Paul Hasluck lecture at the University of Western Australia.

The attack on Labor's curriculum from the Liberals' foremost cultural warrior reflects the opposition to the curriculum from Tony Abbott and opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne, and reluctance from the Liberal states of NSW and Victoria to implement the changes due to start in all states after the next federal election.

As Julia Gillard fights with the Liberal premiers over various policies and draws the Opposition Leader into the disputes, the differences over the history curriculum will provide further antagonism between the government and the Coalition.

Mr Howard called on state education ministers to do something about the curriculum and said only they could act. He and Mr Pyne have both declared the role of Western civilisation is a crucial element in Australian history and must be properly taught in high school.

School Education Minister Peter Garrett told The Australian last night the history curriculum had been developed with educators, history experts and the community, and was endorsed by all education ministers.

"The end result is a curriculum, which is robust, comprehensive and of the highest quality," Mr Garrett said.

"While there will be scope for the curriculum to be reviewed over time, the curriculum is the result of an extensive development process and has the backing of teachers and academics."

Some of Labor's national curriculum is being taught in most states but no state has yet adopted the whole curriculum from the beginning of school through to Year 10, which is due in 2014.

Mr Howard praised policy making history a compulsory subject in Year 10, and said it was good there would be more emphasis on indigenous history and that Asian history would be more prominent.

"Beyond those praiseworthy features," he said, "there is much about the curriculum that I find unbalanced, lacking in priorities and in some cases quite bizarre.

"The teaching of history is meant to explain what happened, why, and what lessons can be learned from the past.

"The structure of this curriculum will not facilitate this occurring."

The national curriculum was changed earlier this year to include more indigenous history and a teaching of Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations, after complaints from the Greens.

"It is a fact that the modern Australia is a product of Western civilisation; the Judeo-Christian influence is a reality and the British inheritance self evident. We cannot properly understand our nation's history without fully recognising that this is the case," Mr Howard said.

"The laudable goals of enhancing the teaching of indigenous and Asian history could have been fully achieved by the curriculum's authors without relegating or virtually eliminating the study of influences vital to a proper understanding of who we are as a people and where we came from.

"That our Western heritage appears to be so conspicuously absent from the history curriculum reflects a growing retreat from self-belief in Western civilisation.

"It is as if the West must always play the villain simply because it has tended to enjoy more power and economic success than other parts of the world since 1500.

"Magna Carta; parliamentary democracy, the language we speak - which, need I remind you, is now the lingua franca of Asia; much of the literature we imbibe; a free and irreverent media; our relatively civil system of political discourse; the rule of law; and trial by jury . . . these are all owed in one form or another to the British."

On secular pressure to remove religion from consideration in schools, Mr Howard said: "Christianity has often reinforced and inspired many of our most important secular ideas and values, including freedom of speech and freedom of association.

"The curriculum does not reflect this."


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Labor has lost purpose, says former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner

BOB Carr has called for Labor Party figures to stop bagging the government after former minister Lindsay Tanner took a swipe at the party, saying it has lost its purpose and removing Kevin Rudd was a mistake.

Mr Tanner told The Australian today: "I agree with John Howard’s assessment. Had Labor kept its nerve we would have won the 2010 election."

"I think panic was a significant factor in the removal of Kevin Rudd as prime minister but there were multiple factors involved."

His comments prompted an angry response from Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who called for an end to the criticism of the party.

Mr Carr, in New York for a meeting of the UN, said the public was sick of hearing about what is wrong with the party.

"We went through a stage where every galah in a pet shop had an opinion about what was wrong with the Labor Party. Now I'm sick of that. I think the public is sick of it , we've got to talk about what the Labor Party has got right and there are a lot of things it's got right in government and talk about what Tony Abbott and the Liberals have failed to do and got wrong," he said.

"I think the Labor Party has been anatomised to the last fibre. Everyone has volunteered to say what's wrong with the Labor Party. I'm saying it time to say what's right about the Labor Party and what the Labor Party has done for Australia.
Bob Carr in New York

Foreign Minister Bob Carr, seen here in New York at a dinner to honour Indonesian President Yudhoyono, said Labor figures should stop bagging the party. Picture: Trevor Collens

"If I were in retirement, if I hadn't taken this job it would have been push over to have polished off another book number 20 on what's wrong with the Labor Party. It's too easy. I'm sure there is terrrific analysis in Lindsay's book because Lindsay is very brainy. But it's got a bit too easy to write another book spelling what is wrong with the battered old Labor Party."

"For goodness sake if you want a case study of a political body without a soul, go to the Liberal Party."

Mr Tanner today labelled the attack on Mr Rudd’s character by senior ministers during the battle over the party’s leadership earlier this year as "high exaggerated" and "extremely perverse".
PM Gillard responds to Tanner criticism

He said the attacks on Mr Rudd damaged the party’s image with voters.  "It is impossible to attack the Rudd government without undermining the Gillard government.

"The sad thing about all this is that Labor is trashing its own great achievement. In spite of everything that has since happened, we should be very proud of our government’s handling of the 2008-2009 crisis.

"And we should be proud of the face that when it really mattered, four leading Labor figures with a history of personal rivalry and conflicting ambitions were able to put tension aside and act to protect Australia in a time of global turmoil."

Mr Tanner resigned the day Mr Rudd was removed and did not contest the 2010 election. His harsh critique of Labor comes as he promotes his new book, Politics with Purpose which is a collection of essays, speeches and articles he wrote from 1990-2012.

"I think it is getting a little too easy to bag the Labor Party. I've got a different approach and that is to talk up what is right about the Labor Party," he said.

Mr Tanner also said the party had become poll-driven, lacked purpose and needs a "complete root-and-branch rethink about why we exist".

Prime Minister Julia Gillard who is also in New York, responded to her former colleague’s bleak assessment of by insisting her government understood its role.

"I can be very clear about the government's purpose," she said in New York where she is attending the United Nations Leaders Week.

"The government's purpose is to keep the economy strong, to make sure that not only today, but tomorrow, Australians have got the best of opportunities and we maximise our prosperity as our region changes, and then we find a way to share that, that is fair and meets the needs of the Australian people."

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott compared the ALP to the shady US political slush fund exposed during the 1970s Watergate scandal.

The Committee to Re-elect the President - nicknamed CREEP - was the controversial fundraising body for US President Richard Nixon's 1972 election campaign.

Mr Abbott today told reporters in Brisbane that the new book by Tanner, in which the ex-MP condemns the coup against Kevin Rudd in June 2010, had "belled the cat about the contemporary Labor party''.

"It's a party that has lost its soul,'' he said.  "A once great political party has become a squalid Committee to Re-Elect Julia Gillard, or whoever happens to be the leader at any particular time.  "Lindsay Tanner knew from day one that he couldn't trust Julia Gillard - unfortunately the rest of us have had to learn the hard way.''


Indonesia foils asylum seeker voyage

Indonesian authorities have arrested more than 120 asylum seekers who were trying to reach Australia.

Water police intercepted them at the mouth of a river in west Java as they attempted to make their way to the ocean and beyond to Australia.

On board were 126 asylum seekers from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but five managed to escape from authorities.

It is understood the remaining asylum seekers are certified as having refugee status, but they will be detained in Indonesia which is not a signatory to the UN refugee convention.

Indonesian immigration authorities are transferring the detainees to the West Java town of Bogor with the involvement of the International Organisation for Migration.


Police insist tougher data retention laws needed

This would catch only little fish.  Real criminals and terrorists will be aware of what is monitored and what is not and will get around the snooping in various ways

Civil libertarians say the Government's new data retention plans are an intrusion on privacy, but law enforcement agencies say they are nowhere near tough enough.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security has started hearing from the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and state police and law enforcement agencies.

The spies and police want radical new powers, including forcing telecommunication providers to keep information indefinitely, but the Government's proposal would restrict them to two years of data retention.

NSW crime commissioner Peter Singleton says police are up against a net-savvy generation of crooks who juggle SIM cards and smart phones to stay one step ahead of the law.

"We have criminals who will walk around town with a pocket full of SIM cards," he said.

"They'll make one call, thrown the SIM card away; make the next call, throw the SIM card away. Each of these is done on a different telecommunications service."

It is against that sort of opponent that police argue for stronger laws to monitor phone and internet activity.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione says what they want most is not the content but what is known as metadata - data about data.

"Not the content, but things like where the call or where the message or where the communication happened, the location, the time, the date, who the communication was to," he said.

"It's not the content that we're necessarily looking for storage on."

That is for phone and text, but Commissioner Scipione concedes that police also want records of where people have been on the net as well - "to the extent that we know where people were or what their ISP was that they were using, or the URL that they did visit."

At the moment some companies keep data, like SMS text messages, for only a matter of days.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus says that is frustrating.  "There's no obligation on them at the moment to hold data," he said.  "What we're saying is we'd like some consistency about how this is applied and that's really what the committee is here to consider."

Police originally wanted data to be kept for five years.

Stephen Blanks, from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, says they have not really made a clear cut case for any reform.

"The current law is that telecommunications data can be accessed by these agencies without a warrant, but if they want to access content then they have to get a warrant," he said.

"But what's being proposed sounds like they want to wind back the supervision regime, they say there's never been a problem with corruption or misuse of these powers so the supervision regime is too onerous.

"They're looking at forcing telcos and others to retain data for up to two years so they can access it if they want to."

Keeping track of police

It is possible for anyone to keep track of what law enforcement agencies are up to, to a point.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act that allows bugging in the first place also requires that an annual report be published ever year, and it is available online at the Federal Attorney-General's website.

The document includes a table detailing which police agencies have been busy bugging and listening, and by far the most active is the New South Wales police force.

Over 2010-11, they carried out 1,279 intercepts and only three applications for a warrant were turned down.

The Federal Police carried out less than half as many at 523.

The various other state police forces tell quite a different story, carrying out comparatively fewer telecommunications intercepts.

Queensland had 177, WA 231, Victoria 317, and Tasmania, 27.

The overwhelming majority of intercepts are used in chasing down serious crimes like drug crimes, murder, money laundering, bribery and corruption.

Despite some popular perceptions, instances where they are used for suspected terrorism are comparatively rare.

Mr Blanks worries about an explosion of intercepts if federal law makers give police what they want.

"What this legislation, what this proposal would mean, is that all of these service providers would be turned into data collectors for the state," he said.

Seventeen separate law enforcement bodies have the legal right to get a warrant to listen to your phone calls, read your text messages and watch what you do on the internet.

Parliament will decide how long the information will be held, but the telco industry says it will not be cheap. It could cost as much as $700 million.

Police say the question of who would pay for that is a matter for politicians.


Grants to reduce extremist violence 'missing their target'

The Government has given community groups millions of dollars to try and reduce extremist violence, but some Muslim community members say the grants are not working.

The Federal Attorney-General's Department says the grants are aimed at building resilience to violent extremism and assisting individuals who are vulnerable to extremist influences.

Since the program began two years ago, $4.2 million has been handed out to sporting organisations, education providers and Islamic NGOs and community groups.

But some insiders have told triple j's Hack the money has been used to fund other programs which focus on mentoring high achievers instead of helping those likely to be at risk of extremism.

The Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA) is one of 52 organisations that have been given grants as part of the Countering Violent Extremism program.

The LMA's head, Samier Dandan, banded together a group of community organisations to jointly condemn the ugly scenes earlier this month during protests in Sydney.

This year, the LMA was given the equal biggest grant of $100,000 for its Positive Intellect Project.

But according to some Muslim community members, that $100,000 will go nowhere to build resilience to violent extremism and assist individuals who are vulnerable to extremist influences

"They were definitely missing their target audience," one member told Hack.

Rebecca Kay is a converted Muslim and former candidate for Bankstown Council and New South Wales Parliament.

She says those young people vulnerable to extremism do not feel engaged or represented and the LMA could have used the money more effectively.

"I think they really need to self evaluate how they've been running their organisation," she said.

They should be open and transparent about these things. That's one of the problems in our community

Hack asked the LMA for a response last Thursday, but the organisation requested the story not go to air for a few days so they could organise a response.

The LMA's project manager then said she would organise an interview with the group's head, but eventually they decided not to do the interview.

Hack has spoken to someone who was part of the LMA's program but who did not wish to be named.

They said the program gave leadership, religious, advocacy and media training to about 15 to 20 Muslims in their late teens and early twenties.

The participant said they were mostly all well educated and showed leadership potential.

But there was no mention of the training involving engagement with violent extremists.

Kuranda Seyit is the executive director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations (FAIR).  He has serious questions about what the grant program is achieving.  "They should be open and transparent about these things. That's one of the problems in our community," he said.

Off target

Mr Seyit says the programs seem to be missing their mark.

"Well the question is whether we're doing this to empower the community or whether we're trying to counter extremism and radicalisation of Muslim youth," he said.

"If it's the latter then you've just got to look at the participants in the program and whether they're the actual target group or at risk youth.

"You can see that they're fairly strong sort of achievers in their own right so they're not the particularly at risk youth that we're targeting I think."

He says that if the programs are focused on empowering the community rather than directly targeting extremist youth, then it is not the role of the Attorney-General to be providing funding.

"After all the Attorney-General's main area is around legal and judicial issues and law enforcement so it does make sense if they were to put more effort into that side of the issue," he said.

Mr Seyit also has concerns about the level of scrutiny put on the organisations who received the grants.

"It may be excessively high for these organisations to receive such large amounts based on little research and potential for the programs to not really make an impact in the community," he said.

The Attorney-General's Department declined to be interviewed for this story but offered a statement.

It said the overwhelming feedback the Government has had is that these programs are incredibly popular and effective at starting the work to build community resilience.

The Department says these projects are designed to support a wide variety of activities, including mentoring for youth, intercultural and interfaith education in schools and leadership training.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Horror tenants facing the boot under new Qld. State Government policy

UNRULY public housing tenants could face a "three strikes and you're out" policy.  Housing Minister Bruce Flegg has bowed to pressure from harassed neighbours and will "seriously consider" how the Western Australian laws could be mirrored in Queensland, despite ruling out the move earlier this year.

WA tenants can be kicked out if they receive three "strikes" within 12 months for "minor disruptive behaviour" such as excessive noise or parties that lead to police being called in.

A complaints hotline has been established, with a central Disruptive Behaviour Management Unit charged with investigating reports.

More serious bad behaviour such as the manufacture of drugs on premises may prompt immediate eviction.

The rules in WA were toughened this year amid public outcry over last year's explosion of a clandestine drug lab in public housing in a Perth suburb.

Dr Flegg promised to review Queensland's approach after lobbying from MPs in the state's north, but admitted he was "nervous" about possible negative consequences.  "I do not want to simply be tossing people out of public housing in order to move the problem somewhere else and increase homelessness," he said.

But any change will come too late for Keith Fraser, who fled his own house in January after battling abusive public housing neighbours for five years.  He told The Courier-Mail his family were driven from their home by constant parties, trail bike antics, burnouts, abuse and graffiti, which the Housing Department seemed powerless to stop despite repeated complaints.

Mr Fraser has been living in a shed ever since.

The tenants were finally evicted last week but Mr Fraser has vowed never to return and has instead put his house, in the small Darling Downs township of Wandoan, up for sale.

The problems are more pronounced in Cairns and Townsville, where fed-up residents have led the push for tougher laws.

Glenn Grant, who co-authored a petition signed by 238 Townsville residents, said a small section of the city's public housing tenants were wreaking havoc.

Those caught misbehaving are given 10 days to remedy a breach, after which if no action is taken, they may be evicted within 16 days.  But Mr Grant said many knew how to manipulate the system to ensure they were not booted out: "They'll wait 10 days and then they'll do it all over again," he said.

Fifty-nine households were evicted last financial year.


Australian-trained doctors 'may be forced overseas'

The Federal Opposition says about 180 Australian-trained doctors could be forced to look for work overseas if government talks fail today.

The mostly international medical students who have been trained in Australia have missed out on public hospital internships.  Without completing the internships at state-run hospitals, they cannot become fully qualified doctors.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek will hold a phone conference with state and territory counterparts today and implore them to find extra training places for the students left empty handed.

Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton says the Federal Government has failed to show leadership on the issue.

"If Tanya Plibersek can't get places sorted for them, we're going to lose these doctors to overseas destinations," he said.  "We've got an ageing of our medical workforce, the onset of massive numbers of chronic diseased people in our country, and we want to provide them with the primary care they deserve."

Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand president Justin Beilby says Queensland and New South Wales, in particular, seem to be causing the delays.

"We have a major problem because we have 150 students who will be caught in limbo not being able to complete their training," he said.  "It's impossible to practise as a doctor unless you finish your intern year."


Abbott unveils plan to boost defence spending

Tony Abbott has promised to "properly" index military pensions in the first year of a Coalition government along with an aspiration to eventually boost real growth in defence spending.

In a wide-ranging defence speech to the RSL National Conference, the Opposition Leader also committed to delivering a new strategic plan for the Defence Force within 18 months of taking office.

Mr Abbott has given no details about how the spending commitment will be paid for, but says the new Defence White Paper will be fully costed and focus on the desired operational capacity of the Defence Force.

"Any savings that the Coalition can find in the defence bureaucracy will be reinvested in greater military capacity," Mr Abbott said.  "Our aspiration, as the Commonwealth's budgetary position improves, would be to restore the 3 per cent real growth in defence spending that marked the final seven years of the Howard government."

A long-running concern among ex-servicemen and women is the use of inflation figures as the basis of indexation for military pensions.

The RSL has been pushing for a new method that more accurately reflects cost of living increases and one that matches the more generous arrangements used to calculate changes in the age pension.

Mr Abbott has committed to change the way military pensions are indexed.  "If it's inadequate just to lift Centrelink pensions by the consumer price index (CPI), it's even less fair to apply solely that index to those who have risked their lives for our country," he said.  "The very least we can do is pay ex-servicemen and women a retirement benefit that increases in line with the increases of ordinary pensioners."

A 2008 report into the issue estimated it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year to change the indexation method for military pension cash payments and add tens of billions of dollars to the Commonwealth's unfunded superannuation liability.

It recommended the Government continue to use CPI figures as the basis of indexation, something the then finance minister Lindsay Tanner accepted.

Mr Abbott used his speech to again attack Labor's record on defence spending, arguing that as a percentage of GDP it has fallen to its lowest level since 1938.

If the Coalition wins the next election, Mr Abbott is promising to make national security his highest priority with a new White Paper to reset the strategic direction of the Defence Force.

Within 18 months, he says the Coalition would make decisions about the acquisition timetable for the new Joint Strike Fighter jets and make the choices necessary to ensure there is no submarine capability gap.

"Probably the most urgent big procurement decision is the replacement of the submarine fleet," he said.

The Coalition is also promising to immediately start the process of buying unmanned surveillance planes, called drones, to help protect Australia's oil and gas interests on the North West Shelf and allow earlier detection of asylum seeker boats.

Finance Minister Penny Wong says Mr Abbott should explain how he would pay for them. 

"We've got one question for Tony Abbott: where's the money coming from?"  "We have (shadow treasurer) Joe Hockey and others claiming that they have their policies costed, claiming that they've done their numbers, but refusing to let the Australian people in on the cuts to services, the cuts to jobs that they will impose," Senator Wong said.

Mr Abbott also touched on the war in Afghanistan, declaring it could "easily revert to the dark ages" once Australian and allied troops withdraw.

And he says it would be pointless to have Australian soldiers fighting the consequences of religious fundamentalism in Afghanistan if strong action was not taken to deal with religious extremists back home.

"Ten days ago, hundreds of people gathered outside the US consulate in Sydney, many demanding death for everyone who dishonoured the Prophet (Mohammed)," Mr Abbott said.

"This notion that there is only one path to God, with death for all who disagree, is simply evil.

"It's probably the greatest threat to the world's security because it admits of no compromise and here was a kindred spirit, aggressive and outspoken, on our own streets.

"The Sydney riot was so shocking because it seemed that Australia was not immune to lethal hatreds."

Mr Abbott says Australians owe it to the troops serving in Afghanistan not to let the "hatreds" they are fighting against disfigure their own country.


Do you know how much your submarines cost?

When doing research for an upcoming report on submarines, I had the task of looking at the current costs and availability of the Collins Class submarine. What I found was deeply troubling.

The Collins Class acquired a reputation as ‘dud subs’ because of some well-publicised problems with their capabilities at launch (a good summary of these issues can be found in the 1999 report by John Prescott and Malcolm McIntosh).

This reputation may have been somewhat unfair, or if not unfair, it was formed for the wrong reasons. The initial problems with the program (cost, schedule, issues with the first of type) are common to risky developmental projects. Many of these problems have been, or will soon be, solved (even if some, like reliability issues with the diesel engines, are unsolvable).

However, there are serious, ongoing problems with the availability and maintenance of the submarines. These sustainment problems seem to be systemic within Navy (this is essentially the findings of the Rizzo and Coles reviews) and only seem to be getting worse.

A quick look at some figures raises alarm bells.

The cost of operating and maintaining the Collins Class in 2011 was $642.9 million, which included operating costs of $165.6 million and maintenance costs of $477.3 million. Maintenance costs have increased 50% in the last four years, with most of that change coming after 2009–10.

Operational and maintenance costs only need to increase at an annual compound rate of 4.5% to exceed $1 billion a year by 2021. As the 2012 Defence Capability Plan (DCP) indicates that, ‘sustainment expenditure is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 4.7%, primarily associated with support for the Collins Class’, this growth rate may be an underestimate.

This massive annual cost is on top of the approximately $1.6 billion committed for Collins Class upgrades between now and 2021. What are these billions of dollars buying us?

At no stage between 2009 and 2011 (I have been unable to find data for October 2009 to December 2009) were more than three submarines available, because of ongoing maintenance issues. For most of that period (aside from a few months in mid-2010), no more than two submarines were available.

Worse still, at different stages totalling approximately six months, it appears that only one submarine was available – the rest had defects, were in maintenance, or were laid up awaiting maintenance.

It was recently claimed that availability will ‘soon be up to a respectable three of the six submarines at any time.’ Of course this was before our submarine ‘sprang a leak’ on its way home from RIMPAC.

A former submarine commander said ‘lack of platform reliability is the single most limiting factor for the Collins Class, let’s never repeat that mistake.’ Given that the replacement of the Collins Class, the Future Submarine project, ‘will be the largest and most complex Defence project ever undertaken by Australia,’ we must look at all potential solutions to these issues, not just politically opportune ones.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why Campbell Newman has a billion reasons to airbrush the floods 'facade'

The transparently sycophantic report from the US Army Corps of Engineers comes to us from the very same people who were responsible for the New Orleans flood!   I think it is actually a satirical comment on their absurd terms of reference

JUST six months ago, the verdict was in. After a year of scrutiny, a $15 million royal commission-style inquiry in Queensland delivered damning findings that exposed something we had suspected - a cover-up by three of the four engineers who had managed the state's Wivenhoe Dam in the devastating floods of January last year.

Those formal findings were clear and unambiguous. The engineers had created a false document - a comprehensive report of their own actions - to dishonestly suggest they operated the dam with deft brilliance (when in truth they had breached the manual). Their false document was described by the floods inquiry as a "facade of precision".

The inquiry's findings left no doubt. They were findings that followed an investigation by The Australian and a series of stories that identified crucial evidence, which had been overlooked, and led to the inquiry dramatically restarting.

The findings were not challenged or appealed by the government or the engineers, who have repeatedly and strenuously denied wrongdoing. Those findings stand.

The inquiry head, Supreme Court judge Catherine Holmes, said in her final report in March this year: "There are several things that may have motivated the three engineers to present the false flood report, including a wish to protect their professional reputations from the damage that would be caused by a disregard of the manual, or the maintenance of SEQWater's immunity (from potentially massive damages claims)."

Six months is a long time in Queensland under the new Liberal National Party government of Campbell Newman, determined to slash costs across the state and avoid a potential multi-billion-dollar cost of law firm Maurice Blackburn's action for thousands of flood victims.

Yesterday, the new, airbrushed version of the management of the dam was delivered up by the Newman government, courtesy of the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of the Interior. The engineers from the US were asked by Newman's bureaucrats to analyse the Wivenhoe engineers' report (the one already found to be "false", and a "facade of precision"). And the US engineers said in their review, released yesterday: "The (Wivenhoe) flood engineers should be commended for producing this extensive, well-organised and very readable document in six weeks, while the region was recovering from the flood event."

They went further to commend operational decisions, which the inquiry had earlier found were breaches of the manual.

How the US engineers concluded that their peers in Brisbane achieved an almost perfect result is a story of political panache, the dark art of spin and Treasury's fear of a huge new financial hit to Queensland's sick budget.

They were able to produce this helpful result because of a remarkable omission.

When Newman's bureaucrats asked the US engineers to perform the review, they were also told to exclude, to effectively banish from their thinking, the damning findings about the false flood report.

In this way, the US engineers conducted a review grounded on a false premise, which was that they could rely on the bogus Wivenhoe flood report as a document of truth.

The result was one of the more transparently absurd whitewashes in recent memory. Last month, the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission determined it would be oppressive to prosecute the engineers for possible perjury-related offences, following a formal referral to the anti-corruption body by Holmes.

All of the recent handiwork plays well for the Premier as he seeks to protect a state economy he has compared with that of the European basket case Spain from crippling payouts for another costly debacle.

But the flood victims are being hung out to dry, again.


Sydney council requires horrible art to be erected in order to declare a building safe

FOR the owners of units in 52 Regent Street, Chippendale, the nightmare began soon after they moved in, in 2004.

Most had bought off the plan and were pleased when the developer, Metro Group, told them that their final payments were due and they could move in.

What they did not know was they were moving in under an interim occupation certificate, issued by a private certifier who was employed by the developer to ensure compliance with the plans and the building code.   Seven years later, the owners are still trying to resolve the defects in the building and obtain that final certificate.

The developer and builder are long gone. The principal of Metro group, James Jariv, left Australia in 2004 leaving debts of more than $6 million. The companies in the group have been wound up.

But the problems facing residents persist.  "The drainage and waterproofing issues are still being dealt with, but at least the building is now safe," Ann Gee, a member of the executive committee of owners, said. "I bought in with my eyes open - we knew the building had problems - but it's been hard on others."  She added: "I am an architect and whoever built this building was a moron."

Soon after the developer disappeared the City of Sydney council sent in a fire inspector. It did not take long for the inspector to locate numerous deficiencies and the fact there was no fire safety certification. And by this time it was the owners' corporation, not the developer, who was liable.

"The building is in an unsafe fire condition, lacking, among other things, portable fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, clear paths of travel, [and having] electrical hazards," the fire order says.  "The premises has such pipes and miscellaneous services rising through the building which penetrate fire resistive building elements and are not adequately sealed to prevent or resist the vertical or horizontal spread of fire."

It also found the fire stairs were not properly enclosed with fire-resistant material, which meant that in the case of fire it would not provide a safe exit.  There was inadequate emergency lighting and the electrical installation in the building was described as requiring "urgent remedial work".

The owners were given 200 days to rectify the faults or face eviction.

Over the next year, the residents found themselves knee deep in the arcane world of fire safety as they attempted to bring their building up to standard, while at the same time trying to chase their developer and claim under builders' home warranty insurance.

They paid $500,000 for the fire safety system repairs but have spent another $300,000 on repairing other defects to the building, the strata manager, David Terry, said. Two other buildings promoted by the same developer have also been given an interim certificate. They too have had problems.

Even though the owners were able to lodge a building defect claim, the process took time and the owners corporation was forced to take out finance and pay lawyers and professionals to help it through the maze of fire safety.

The units were also very difficult to sell.  "The main problem of not having an occupancy certificate is finding a buyer," Ms Gee said. "Solicitors and banks don't like it when there's no final certificate, so you really need a buyer with cash."

The only thing now holding up the occupancy certificate is the question of the public art that City of Sydney council insists must still be installed.  "The planned sculpture is horrible. It looks like an exploded vacuum cleaner and we've all spent so much on levies we just want council to waive it," Ms Gee said.


Typical Leftist:  The bureaucracy is sacred

WAYNE Swan has warned he will have to make more budget cuts after falling commodity prices and tax revenue made it harder for him to meet his surplus promise this year.

But he has vowed not to follow Campbell Newman's path in cutting public servants, saying the federal public service had expanded under Labor and had room to grow.

Final Budget figures from 2011-12, released yesterday, show the Government delivered a $43.7 billion deficit.

This is a $661 million improvement on the May estimate but about double the $22 6 billion deficit forecast by Mr Swan when he handed down the 2011-12 Budget.

The budget position was improved by higher GST payments and income tax.

But in a warning sign for this year's Budget, companies paid $867 million less tax in 2011-12 than expected in May.

Mr Swan said this year's Budget would take a further hit from falling commodity prices and company tax and would force him to make cuts to achieve his promised surplus.

"This will hit government revenues significantly, which does make it harder to deliver a budget surplus. So it does mean we will have to find more savings," Mr Swan said.

The Treasurer vowed to make savings "in accord with Labor values" and flagged an increase in overall federal public service jobs.

Finance Minister Penny Wong said the Government was "trying to prioritise non-staffing savings".

"We don't resile from the fact that you have to make difficult decisions but we certainly take a very different approach to the ones that have been demonstrated in coalition states," she said.

CommSec chief economist Craig James predicted the budget figures, together with Mr Swan's promise of surplus this year, increase the chance of further interest rate cuts.  "It may not appear obvious, but the goal of a budget surplus is still on track," he said.

The figures reveal the Government has paid $4.2 billion to Queensland for disaster recovery.


Fear of violence could keep offenders in jail

The New South Wales Government is planning to introduce legislation to ensure violent prisoners can be kept in jail beyond the term of their sentence, if there is a fear they will re-offend.

The Attorney-General Greg Smith is proposing that a Supreme Court Judge will be able to make an order that a person who is a serious risk to the community has to either stay in jail, or be released under strict orders.

He told AM that similar laws are in place for serious sex offenders and the community needs wider protection.

"At the moment, once you finish your prison term you're out." he said.  "If you go to parole, you get parole and you're released under supervision but it's certainly not as strict as will be proposed under this legislation."

Mr Smith says it would be applied to murderers and other serious violent offenders who have shown no interest in rehabilitation.

He says it is not going to undermine the sentences handed down by judges.

"Some of these people get worse in prison, whether it's because of mental instability or other things, they turn into very dangerous people," he said.  "So we're just looking out how do we best protect the community and we're closing the gap."

The Opposition leader John Robertson says the Parole Authority already takes into account whether a prisoner has undertaken rehabilitation programs.

"I think the government's looking for a distraction here," he said.  "This proposed legislation would only impact on fourteen inmates over the next three years.  "So I'm not sure how significant this change would be anyway."

But a support group for crime victims says it is backing the moves.

Howard Brown from Victims of Crime says measures used to encourage serious sex offenders to participate in rehabilitation programs have been proven effective.

"It's that interaction with one-on-one psychiatrists and psychologists which actually start to engage these people," he said.

"They just think 'I don't want to become engaged', but once they are engaged with these therapeutic processes, you can actually see that there is a change."


Monday, September 24, 2012

The "marriage" slippery slide

I have recently written about one brave Australian politician who was crucified by the media and even fellow colleagues for daring to speak the truth in public. For his efforts, Cory Bernardi has been pilloried and viciously attacked, and has been forced to resign from one of his positions. See my write-up here.

But for suggesting that redefining marriage out of existence can possibly lead to others demanding their “rights” such as the polyamorists, and even those into bestiality, he is still being hounded and viciously attacked by the PC forces of tolerance and diversity.

This is all about the censorious stranglehold of political correctness, a secular left pro-homosexual MSM, and gutless politicians who refuse to support their own. It is also about shooting the messenger. The truth is there are all sorts of folks calling for the acceptance of bestiality, both within and without the homosexual community.

Indeed, one of the world’s ‘greatest ethicists,’ who even wrote the article on ethics for the Encyclopaedia Britannica is quite in support of it. So while Professor Peter Singer gets a Companion of the Order of Australia for his work, Cory Bernardi gets tarred and feathered and run out of town for his. Go figure.

BTW, you can see Singer defending bestiality here, on the ABC show Q&A with the host and most folks just joking about it, thinking this perversion is all just good fun.

The more radical the homosexual activists get, the more they embolden other sexual activists to push their agendas. It is happening big time with group marriage rights campaigners, incest rights campaigners, paedophile rights campaigners and bestiality rights campaigners.

So let me offer just a small sample of those pushing for their rights to ‘human-animal love’. I present them in no particular order, but it should be clear that a cumulative case can be made here.

-Headline: “Indiana Woman Wants to Marry Her Pet Dog – Tries to Rally Support From Gay Rights’ Activists”. The story begins: “Cassandra White of Northern Indiana has petitioned her local government to allow her to marry her dog Brutus.  White has sent several letters to gay rights activists to help her lead the march to stop discrimination against her and those like her who should get to ‘marry whomever they want’.  Ms. White has made several unsuccessful attempts to get a marriage license after listing only “Brutus” in the section asking for FULL NAME OF PARTY B on marriage certificate form.”

It concludes: “Ms. White applauded President Obama for announcing that he is in support for gay marriage and quoted the president saying, ‘I was so happy to hear President Obama yesterday comment on gay marriage.’ Ms. White is asking the state of Indiana to recognize what the president said and change their perspective on allowing her to marry Brutus. White has also received support from ‘Freedom To Marry Our Pets Society’ who plan to organize a protest in Washington to change definition of marriage to include pets.”

-A woman in Ghana has married her dog. The bride, Emily Mabou, 29 said this: “For so long I’ve been praying for a life with a partner who has all the qualities of my dad. My dad was kind, faithful and loyal to my mum, and he never let her down.” She claims that her relationships have all been with “skirt-chasers and cheaters.” The priest who performed the ceremony told people not to mock the wedding, but instead “rejoice with her, as she has found happiness at last.”

-Another incredible but true headline: “Leading Gay Activist Frank Kameny Says: “Bestiality OK ‘as Long as the Animal Doesn’t Mind”. Said Kameny, “If bestiality with consenting animals provides happiness to some people, let them pursue their happiness.”

-“Zoophiles” are now coming out of the closet. A very lengthy article on this entitled “Those Who Practice Bestiality Say They’re Part of the Next Sexual Rights Movement” has gone into quite a bit of detail on this. It begins this way: “During his sophomore year in high school, Cody Beck finally got fed up with hearing homophobic cracks. If his classmates thought being gay was weird (Beck was openly bisexual), he had a confession that would blow their minds. He told them he is sexually attracted to dogs and horses.

“‘I just couldn’t keep it in anymore, Beck says. Just for the hell of it, I figured I’d throw it out there and have them make fun of me even more. Which they did. An 18-year-old from Arizona who graduated from high school this past year, Beck says classmates taunted him by calling him Bestiality Dude. Being a ‘zoophile’ in modern American society, Beck says, is ‘like being gay in the 1950s. You feel like you have to hide, that if you say it out loud, people will look at you like a freak.’

“Now Beck believes he and other members of this minority sexual orientation, who often call themselves ‘zoos,’ can follow the same path as the gay rights movement. Most researchers believe 2 to 8 percent of the population harbors forbidden desires toward animals, and Beck hopes this minority group can begin appealing to the open-minded for acceptance.”

And of course these folks will tell you it is an orientation – they just can’t help it. Where have we heard all this before? “Among the seven zoophiles I consulted for this article, all say that theirs is an orientation and that to meet the definition, one must not harm an animal. For this reason, a man who has sex with chickens, for instance, is not a zoophile because the act is sure to hurt if not kill the chicken. Zoophiles I spoke with say they are as opposed to forcing sex upon animals as the rest of society is opposed to the rape of humans.”

-A homosexual pride march in Spain was quite happy to have their bestiality mates along for the ride. As one report states, “‘I like dogs, I like apples, in my bed I sleep with whomever I want,’ was one of the principal chants in the Gay Pride Parade last week in Madrid, where hundreds of thousands marched through the streets to advocate ‘gay rights’ and homosexualist ideology, according to local media reports.”

-And this just in from Florida: it seems legal loopholes are allowing folks to share the love with their animal friends. As one news item says, “Eric Antunes, 29, was arrested in May on charges of child pornography and bestiality. Prosecution has now dropped the bestiality charges due to a ‘loophole’ in Florida law. One man’s unique case may have uncovered a loophole in Florida law that allows for certain forms of oral sex between humans and animals.

“Eric Antunes, 29, was arrested in May on charges of child pornography and bestiality. After allegedly finding images of child pornography on his home computer, investigators say they searched his cell phone and discovered photos of Antunes engaged in sexual acts with his girlfriend’s three-legged dog. Florida outlawed bestiality in October 2011. When Antunes was first arrested, many believed he would be among the first few people to be prosecuted under the new law.”

These are just a few of many examples which I can present here. I presented more such cases of this in my earlier article on Bernardi. Once we allow marriage to be destroyed by the sexual militants, then anything goes. And all the various sexual activist groups know it.

A few decades ago pro-family forces were mocked, ridiculed and treated with contempt when they said that allowing de facto unions full marriage rights would open the door to homosexual marriage rights being demanded. They were derided and scorned as hysterical, fear-mongering extremists holding repugnant views.

Hmmm, exactly what they are saying about Bernardi right now.


Julie Bishop casts doubt on validity of Sri Lankan asylum seekers after 16 chose to return home

THE Opposition has questioned the motives of 5000 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia, as new figures show boat arrivals from the country have overtaken those from war-torn Afghanistan.

As 16 Sri Lankan asylum seekers agreed at the weekend to return home instead of facing detention on Nauru, Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the move "calls into question" the processing of every application since the country's 25-year civil war ended in 2009.

"As asylum seekers, I assume that they were seeking to flee from persecution," Ms Bishop told the ABC.

She questioned why the group would therefore choose to return home, rather than go to the "safe haven" of Nauru.

The number of Sri Lankans arriving has soared this year to 3536, up from just 211 arrivals last year, and exceeding the 2996 Afghan arrivals.

It's the biggest number of arrivals ever recorded by Sri Lankans, including during the years in which a violent civil war killed more than 70,000 people and hugely damaged the economy.

Government figures show just 163 Sri Lankans arriving by boat have been granted humanitarian visas this year, but it is understood many of the arrivals are still being assessed.

It follows Opposition suggestions earlier this month the Government strike a deal with Sri Lanka to send asylum seekers intercepted at sea back to their home country "before they set foot on Australian soil" as most were economic refugees.

The Government said such a move would break international responsibilities.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Nick Riemer said the civil war may be officially over, but conditions for Tamils were still "very dire".  "There are reports of disappearances ... there are reports of torture by the Sri Lankan authorities," he said.

"The fact that there are 16 people who have consented, or who have been pressured, into returning doesn't tell us anything about the overall situation of all of the other Sri Lankans who are still in the Australian system, who are still coming here, and who are still evidently desperate to get out of the country."

Opposition Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said more boats have arrived in the first quarter of the financial year than the Government budgeted for 12 months.

Mr Morrison said boats continued to arrive daily, in spite of the new offshore processing regime, including 25 boats in the first 23 days of this month.


Police suppress anti-Islam rallies

Will all Muslim rallies now be suppressed too?

A SERIES of anti-Islamic protests planned for every Australian capital city and promoted by members of marginal, anti-immigration political groups were effectively suppressed by police yesterday.

Despite trying to organise co-ordinated protests, demonstrators ultimately took to the streets only in Melbourne and Perth, with Sydney -- scene of the previous weekend's running battles between police and young Muslim men -- remaining quiet.

In Melbourne, members of the right-wing Nationalist Alternative were among a small crowd, which also included Muslims and atheist groups, who gathered outside the state library.

Speaking to the crowd through a microphone, one of these men said the former Victorian attorney-general Rob Hulls had gone too far when he changed the laws to make religious vilification illegal.

Under the gaze of dozens of police officers, the demonstration eventually ended without incident.

In Sydney, two men were arrested on Friday for allegedly using social media to incite violence over the weekend.

The pair was reportedly trying to whip up anti-Islamic sentiment, following the previous weekend's protests in the city against an online film, Innocence of Muslims, that ridicules the Islamic faith.

Eleven people have been charged over this violence, in which four people were taken to hospital. NSW Police commanders will continue to investigate those involved.

A number of other protests had been planned for Sydney, police said, with supporters of the anti-immigration Australian Protectionist Party among those who said they would demonstrate outside the NSW parliament.

A petition on Facebook had called for protests in every state and territory capital, saying the previous weekend's violence "once again shined a light on the darker side of Islam".

"It is time that we as Australians stand up and defend our land from this extremist behaviour," it said.

With hundreds of extra police in the Sydney CBD, however, no such demonstration took place.

The NSW Premier, Barry O'Farrell, said the extra police had "exerted control".

"I think they've told people that this sort of extremism, this sort of violence, is unwelcome in any community," he said.

Police also outnumbered protesters in Perth, with less than a dozen turning up to an anti-Islam demonstration outside parliament house.

One of those, who gave his name only as Tony, said he was concerned that Australia was being too influenced by Islam.

"This is a country where people are free to express religious beliefs, but when you have one group of people that want to impose their religious and political beliefs, the average Australian should be concerned about it," he said. "This country has accepted people of all races, creeds and colours but the violence people are prepared to use is unacceptable. If it was a group of Catholics, I would still be here."

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said the violence in Sydney represented a dark day for Australia. "One of the great things about Australian society is people from all different races and backgrounds and religions have been able to live happily and peacefully together," he said.

"I will always support the right for people to protest . . . so long as they do it in a peaceful way. Unfortunately, in Sydney last weekend, it got out of control."


Minister's nudge theory doubts

A DECISION to hire an expert in "nudge theory" to advise the state government on innovative ways to influence people's behaviour has been called into question by suggestions it may be of limited use.

The initiative is inspired by the British government's "nudge unit", formally know as the Behavioural Insights Team, which was established in 2010.

The unit seeks to achieve social change without the need for government regulation by employing behavioural science techniques. For example, it might use peer influence to increase energy efficiency by telling one person how their power use compares with their neighbour's.

A senior member of the British team, Rory Gallagher, will be seconded to the NSW government for a year from November to assist the Department of Premier and Cabinet in formulating a local approach.

But last year the British minister for government policy, Oliver Letwin, told a House of Lords committee the nudge unit was experimental and there was no concrete evidence it would work.

"It is, of course, an open question as to whether any of this will have any effect whatsoever," he told the committee.

Mr Letwin defended the Behavioural Insights Team by saying it was low cost, with "almost zero risk". The unit, which employs seven people, costs £520,000 ($806,400) a year to run.

The admission followed a National Audit Office report that said it had been unable to convince government departments to consider any of its ideas. Earlier this month the president-elect of the British Science Association, Lord Krebs, said nudge techniques should not be seen as a replacement for traditional government regulation.

However, the Cabinet Office says it has saved British taxpayers at least £300 million.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sri Lankan illegals sent home voluntarily  rather than face long detention

So much for their need of "asylum"

SRI LANKAN male asylum seekers have been sent home after refusing to be transferred to the offshore processing centre on Nauru, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said today.

Mr Bowen says the 18 Sri Lankans left Christmas Island for Colombo today after asking to be sent home instead of being sent to the Pacific island for the processing of their claims as asylum seekers.

The first group to be sent for offshore processing since new asylum seeker laws were enacted were transferred from Christmas Island to Nauru on September 14.

Australia has reopened the processing centre at Nauru and is soon to reopen Papua New Guinea's Manus Island as part of the federal government's policy to stem the number of boat arrivals.

Mr Bowen also said the government would introduce a recommendation from the Houston independent panel to bar people arriving by boat from sponsoring family under the Special Humanitarian Program.

The Houston report on asylum seeker policy, handed to the government on August 13, recommended 22 key measures to stem the boat arrivals to Australia.

Mr Bowen said the plane carrying the 18 men left Christmas Island at 0815 (11.15am AEST) today bound for the Sri Lankan capital.

He said 16 of the 18 men arrived in Australia after August 13, when the government announced its new border protection policies.

"They have asked not be transferred to Nauru, but instead to be returned to their homeland of Sri Lanka," Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

"That has been arranged and facilitated."
The minister said the changes to the concessions under the special humanitarian program would ensure family reunions occurred only through the normal channels.

"There will be no special concessions," Mr Bowen said.

"Up until now it had been possible for people who arrive in Australia by boat to sponsor family members and not to show that the other requirements under the special humanitarian program were met."

Mr Bowen said the government had also accepted the recommendation to increase the numbers of people accepted under the family reunion program by 4000.


Nazi-themed striptease  slammed by Queensland Jewish Community

Nazi regalia and artifacts are not banned in Australia but no-one forces you to buy them.  Similarly, if you don't like the show below, don't go there.  All sorts of things that offend Christians are not censored

A NAZI-themed striptease being performed in Brisbane clubs has been slammed as "repulsive" by Queensland's Jewish community amid warnings it's becoming part of a trend towards shows glorifying the Third Reich.

The controversial burlesque show features a syringe-wielding, scantily-clad Nazi doctor with a swastika armband conducting scientific experiments on a pair of hooded girls.

Performed to a crowd of hundreds at the recent Dead of Winter festival at Brisbane's Jubilee Hotel, the show is the brainchild of burlesque artist and model Ali Darling, 24, who adapted it from a Rob Zombie short film.

Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies president Jason Steinberg said featuring swastikas and other Nazi iconography in a burlesque performance was disrespectful and repulsive.

"It is offensive to the Jewish community - also it would be offensive to the majority of Queenslanders," he said.

"It shouldn't be acceptable in this day and age for someone to use Nazi symbols in a way that glorifies that era."

He said there were still Holocaust survivors living in Queensland, and it was inappropriate for images from that era to be used in a burlesque show.

Ms Darling said she had been performing the show, entitled Werewolf Women of the SS, for about six months, and it had become one of her "signature acts".

"It's a pretty popular show and I will be expanding it because it's going to go into my stage production."

She said the show was satirical and highly stylised, and although she had "absolutely" had negative feedback about it, she'd had an equal number of people praising the performance.

"I get as many people loving it as hating it, which is fine with me. I like getting in people's faces," she said.

Ms Darling, who also has an act featuring a real pig's eye and another where she tears pages out of a Bible with her teeth and spits them at her audience, said she knew of a few other burlesque dancers with similar performances around Australia.

Brisbane cabaret performer Bertie Page said she had noticed a disturbing trend towards Nazi-themed burlesque shows.

"I've noticed it around the traps, it seems to be somewhat of a trend at the moment and I find it really quite concerning," she said.

Swastika-themed burlesque costuming has become available on the internet, and a recent film Burlesque Assassins features a group of dancers as Nazi-fighting killers.

Ms Page, who has German heritage, said she was worried such performances could give burlesque a bad name, and said the use of the swastika was an "indisputably terrible thing".

"The minute you put on that swastika you are representing a power that is bought at the expense of others' lives," she said.

Lola Montgomery, a performer who is completing a PhD in burlesque, said she did not think there was a trend towards Nazi-themed burlesque, and saw such performances more as isolated incidents.


Decline in male teachers a 'real cause for concern' says WA education minister

WA's best young male teachers would be sent into high schools to convince students the profession is as worthy as law or mining under a plan by the state's principals.

The proposal is among a suite of strategies that will be put to Education Minister Peter Collier, who is seeking advice from the Equal Opportunity Commission to determine how to entice more men into teaching without contravening discrimination laws.

The latest data from the WA College of Teaching reveals 313 fewer male teachers - including one-quarter who were under the age of 29 - are working in the state's classrooms this year.

Across the state, there are 12,049 men and 36,544 women registered as teachers for 2012, men representing 24.7 per cent. That compared with 12,362 men, representing 25.4 per cent, last year - and 26.4 per cent five years ago.

WA Primary Principals' Association president Steve Breen, along with the bodies that represent Catholic and independent primary principals, will meet Mr Collier, a former teacher, to discuss their proposal to target school students.

Mr Breen said principals were determined to present teaching as a worthy career by sending their best young male teachers into schools to speak to Year 10-12 pupils.

"There is a perception out there that being a lawyer or an engineer is the be all and end all - we need to be proactive in this area, you just can't let it keep getting worse each year," he said.

"The Minister has got great concerns about it, school principals have got great concerns about it, and I would imagine parents have got great concerns about it.

"Schools need both male and female role models as teachers. Both are extremely important and if you only get one point of view, that, to me, is a detrimental factor in a child's education."

Mr Collier said teaching had not been immune to the strength of the state's mining and construction sector, which has lured thousands of young men to ``set themselves up financially in a relatively short period of time". He labelled the decline of male teachers - particularly in primary schools - a ``real cause for concern".

"Only about 14 per cent of teachers in our primary schools are male, which means that a significant number of our students can progress through their primary years of schooling without having had a male teacher," Mr Collier said.

"In some instances, particularly in single-mother families, this lack of male role models is not ideal.

"Ultimately, our ability to entice more males into the teaching profession will rest on our success in changing any misconceptions that exist amongst that group (those being lured into mining or other careers) about the validity of teaching as a career pathway."

Mr Collier said the Education Department would meet with the EOC to determine how to "promote male employment in the primary school sector without contravening discrimination and equal opportunity law".

He said WA teachers were now among the highest paid in Australia, in a bid to ensure "we can attract and retain teachers".

Independent Primary School Heads of Australia WA branch president Andrew Manley said until primary teaching was presented as an appealing career ``from both a status and remuneration perspective", he feared the number of men entering the classroom would ``remain disproportionately low".

"As such, we encourage males to look at primary teaching as a positive and rewarding career," he said. "Nonetheless, when recruiting staff, while finding an appropriate gender balance in schools is an ideal goal, at the end of the day we are always looking for the best person for the job regardless of gender."

WA's largest provider of teacher education, Edith Cowan University, has only 12 men among the 694 students enrolled in early childhood studies this year.

ECU's Centre for Research in Early Childhood director Caroline Barratt-Pugh said more research was needed to understand the impact of less men taking up the profession, but it was commonly believed that men were role models for boys, ``especially for those where men are absent or marginalised".

"I think the bottom line is changing the perception of early childhood education and care as critical to the future of Australia, in which both women and men have an important role to play," she said.

Opposition education spokesman Paul Papalia said the State Government had failed to address attrition rates, particularly among male teachers.

"It may be an indication that teachers are leaving out of frustration due to inability to return to the metropolitan area or the inability to get permanency as a result of the independent public schools program," he said.

"We know that in 2015, there will be a shortage of 2500 high school teachers preceded in the next two years by surpluses of teachers."


Smart meter data shared far and wide

DETAILED information about electricity customers' power usage, which gives insights into when a house is occupied, is being shared with third parties including mail houses, debt collectors, data processing analysts and government agencies.

Customers with smart meters who sign up for Origin Energy's online portal must consent to their data being shared with a string of third parties. The data is stored in Australia but shared with US company Tendril, which is described by Origin as a smart energy technology provider.

Australia's privacy watchdog said the technology could threaten people's privacy. "We are starting to see people voicing concern about the level of data that these meters can collect," federal Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said.

Smart meters were a common concern among Age readers who responded to our series on privacy.

Mr Pilgrim said electricity companies had a legal responsibility to delete or "de-identify" personal information that was no longer needed. However, an Origin spokesman said the company kept former customers' data for retrospective queries and "tax and compliance purposes".

The state government aims to install smart meters - which log electricity use every half-hour - in all Victorian homes by the end of next year.

At the beginning of the year Electricity distributors Jemena and United Energy released trial web portals that connect to smart meters and more retailers are expected to follow suit.

Origin's online portal was released last month and lets people monitor their electricity costs using smart meter data collected from energy distributors. Customers can provide information about the size of their home, whether they rent or own, the number of adults and children in their family, if anyone stays in during the day and what appliances they own. The portal then calculates how much energy is used in the kitchen, laundry and for heating.

An Origin spokesman said the portal was fully compliant with Australian privacy legislation. He said the additional information requested about each household "adds to the richness of the Origin Smart experience".

Customer information can only be accessed by staff involved in billing. He said the electricity retailer only shared information with third parties when they had a "legitimate business need to do so in order to meet our service obligations to our customers".

Changes to the Privacy Act being debated in Parliament would restrict companies from sending customer data overseas unless the receiver was founded or controlled in Australia.

'More than 1000 people have signed up to United Energy's portal. UE spokeswoman Lisa Drought said the distributor only provided smart meter data to customers and energy retailers, and would not sell the information to third parties. She said the portal also had "internet bank-like security" to prevent privacy breaches.