Friday, November 30, 2012

Bureaucracy at its largest in 24 years

The federal bureaucracy continued to grow earlier this year despite the toughest crackdown on spending in over a decade, and at a time many agencies were retrenching staff.  The Australian Public Service employed 168,580 people as of June 30, its largest workforce since 1988.

Six months earlier, when the government foreshadowed steep cuts to the bureaucracy's administrative budgets, the APS had 859 fewer staff.

However, Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick said the latest headcount was a "rear-view mirror" only, suggesting the government workforce had since shrunk.

"There has been a lot of activity that agencies have taken to respond to the efficiency dividend measures which are about preparing for next year, and they always have a tail."

Mr Sedgwick's State of the Service Report, tabled in Parliament on Thursday, also criticised the Business Council of Australia's recent call for a "smaller public service".

In September, the council's chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, demanded an audit and overhaul of the bureaucracy, with a view to cutting it.

However, Mr Sedgwick said that, contrary to such commentary, "the optimal size of the APS is difficult to establish a priori".

He told Fairfax Media the number of employees depended on what work ministers wanted done and how they wanted it done.

"If the government has a high-touch approach to managing projects, then you'll have [more] people. If priorities are being reordered in favour of programs that are high touch, as opposed to ones where you just write a cheque and send it to the states, then you'll have a different outcome for people than if it's otherwise."

Mr Sedgwick's report also hinted to the Labor government that it could not continue to increase the efficiency dividend – an annual cut to agency budgets – indefinitely.

More than half of the senior executive service said they had faced "greatly increasing" pressure on their workloads over the past three years due to the need to reallocate funds.

Mr Sedgwick said it had been "many years since the APS has operated in such a constrained financial environment".

"Recent decisions of government have increased the incentives agencies face to secure cost savings in their operations through increases in the efficiency dividend ... More substantial changes to the scale and priorities of the APS, however, require clear decisions by government about which activities should be scaled back or eliminated."

The latest State of the Service Report also draws attention to "conundrums" against which the public service has failed to make headway.

Mr Sedgwick said the inability of the APS to retain staff who were indigenous or who had a disability was a continuing concern, as were the relatively high rates of workplace absence.

He was also disappointed that fewer than half of employees believed their most recent performance review had helped them improve their work.

It was also unacceptable that one in six public servants felt they had been bullied in the past year, the commissioner said.

The latest snapshot of the APS shows that the typical public servant is a female university graduate, aged 42, employed as an APS6 officer. She earns about $82,000 a year.

The report also suggests the glass ceiling is slowly rising: women now make up 39.2 per cent of senior executives, 4.3 percentage points higher than five years ago.

The most sought-after staff are IT workers, accountants and human-resources professionals.


More union thuggery

A pattern is emerging in the building and construction industry – a pattern of battles not between capital and labour but between labour and labour. More specifically, union versus non-union.

In what looked like escalating into a Grocon Mark II dispute, unionists blockaded the Little Creatures brewery in South Geelong on and off for more than a month until last week in breach of a Supreme Court injunction.

Unionists from the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) have been in dispute with Western Australian contracting firm TFG Group over the use of non-union contract workers at the Little Creatures brewery.

The unions object to the employment of non-union labour on individual contracts, and are demanding that TFG employ local workers from Geelong on an enterprise bargaining agreement.

The new brewery represents a $60 million investment from Lion, Little Creatures’ parent company, and TFG has been hired to administer the fit-out of specialist brewing equipment. According to Little Creatures, 95% of TFG’s contractors are Victorians, and the brewery will offer significant opportunities for local jobs upon its completion.

The CFMEU and AMWU claim that TFG has engaged its labourers in sham contracts to avoid paying entitlements normally afforded to regular employees, such as sick and holiday leave, superannuation, and redundancy payments.

But if unionists were really worried that TFG was engaged in sham contracting, they only need to refer the matter to the building and construction industry watchdog. No such action has occurred.

This dispute is not about workers’ rights or sham contracting. According to Leela Sutton from Lions, the workers have indicated satisfaction with their conditions and do not wish to be represented by the union. This dispute is about growing membership through intimidation and boosting membership fees.

In an economy where just 18 per cent of the workforce is unionised, workers ought to have the right to union representation, but equally, workers ought to have the right to represent themselves, free from a meddling union.

Gone are the days of the 1970s when one in two workers was a union member and unions had a guaranteed place at the bargaining table.

The Fair Work Act has a place for unions but it does not authorise a group of unionists who do not even work at a site to blockade it and prevent workers from entering and earning an income.

Under the Fair Work Act there are several ways in which employees can gain union representation. Every worker has the right to associate and be a member of a union. The union is also the default bargaining representative for any employee who is a union member.

However, in this case the specialist workers are contractors, not employees.  As such they are employed under commercial terms, not regular employment terms. This means if the workers wish to be unionised, they would first need to become regular employees of TFG. Only then should the union be involved.

But there is also a bigger story. The building and construction industry has long had a reputation of militant union activity, and the CFMEU has long-standing reputation for thuggish behaviour.

The Cole Commission (2001–03) was established to investigate the degree of lawless and criminal behaviour in the building and construction industry, and its report found widespread disregard for the rule of law, particularly in relation to illegal strike activity, pattern bargaining, and intimidation tactics.

To remedy this problem, it recommended establishing a watchdog – the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) – to police the sector.

The ABCC has had positive effects on the industry, including a reduction in illegal strike action, pattern bargaining and intimidation, and an increase in productivity. Unfortunately, the ABCC was replaced with a new watchdog this year, Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC). The new watchdog has reduced powers compared to its predecessor.

Most significantly, the maximum fines that can be imposed by the commissioner on organisations (or unions) and individuals have been reduced.

Several in the business community, including the ABCC’s former commissioner John Lloyd, believe that watering down the commission’s powers has weakened its deterrent effect and emboldened the union movement.

Times are tough for manufacturing in Victoria. Qantas has just sacked 250 heavy maintenance staff from its Avalon facility, 440 jobs have been cut from Ford’s Geelong plant, and a further 50 workers are expected to be sacked from Alcoa’s smelter in Point Henry.

At a time when local communities in Victoria need all the investment and job opportunities they can get, the industrial campaign at Little Creatures in Geelong serves as a deterrent to firms considering investing their time and effort in Victoria.


Independence lost

WHAT do the latest James Bond movie, `Skyfall', and Sir Robert Menzies, Australia's longest-serving prime minister, have in common? If you say, no idea - then that's understandable.

If, on the other hand, you answer Tennyson's poem Ulysses, then you win the prize.

In the latest Bond movie, M, facing a parliamentary inquiry into her failures as head of MI6, recites the final lines from Tennyson's poem, which supposedly was a favourite of the founder of the Liberal Party.

In the poem the ancient Greek hero Ulysses, though old and soon to confront death, longs for one last chance to prove his valour and strength and to embark on another perilous journey. He states:

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

The sentiment is one of overcoming adversity, not giving in to suffering, and battling against all odds to demonstrate one's bravery and heroism.

Pain, suffering and loss have always been with us and are an inevitable part of being human. The challenge, though, is how best to overcome adversity.

For Sir Robert Menzies' generation, who experienced two world wars and the Great Depression, the belief was that individuals, although often with the help others, had to rely on their own bravery, resilience and the conviction that after the tempest, still waters would prevail.

The welfare state, with its insatiable desire to intervene and comfort all, had yet to take control and individuals and their families still relied on one another and local networks to meet their needs.

Welfare payments were few and far between, unemployment relief was meagre and universal health care had yet to be introduced.

An essential part of Australia's bush ethos and the ANZAC legend was to fight against adversity and face a harsh future stoically. Stories such as Henry Lawson's The Drover's Wife epitomised the ability to survive in a hostile environment and to do what was necessary to raise a family.

In modern-day tragedies such as Victoria's Black Saturday bushfires and last year's floods in Queensland, we saw again this spirit of resilience and bravery when ordinary people achieve heroic feats.

Tennyson's poem and Lawson's short story embody a romantic notion of the hero and one increasingly lacking today when the common cry is one of victimhood.

Read the papers, watch or listen to the news or surf the net and it's clear we are surrounded by those seeking redress and government action for what has been or is being suffered.

As Joe Hockey said in a speech earlier this year, we live in a time characterised as the age of entitlement.

Many succumb to drugs and alcohol and, instead of taking responsibility, argue it's because of the sins of others and they must get government support.

Some are the victims of violence and abuse and, instead of breaking free, bemoan their fate, trapped in the past.

Even in education, the victim mentality is now rife with working class, migrant and indigenous students told that only positive discrimination will turn failure into success.

Supposedly, performance at school is not a matter of ability or effort, but the result of home background.

Instead of working harder, at-risk students are told it's not their fault that they underachieve.

Today's generations are wrapped in cotton wool and expect that all they have to do is to complain and things will work out in the end.

Worse still, the victim mentality drains individuals of their ability to stand on their own two feet, confront and overcome problems and get on with life with a positive attitude.

While there's no denying that those experiencing pain, loss and disadvantage need help and support, maybe, just maybe, things would be better if, like Ulysses, instead of victimhood, the cry was one of: To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


Health funding cuts to hurt Victorian patients

The Feds can afford a vast new Federal Health bureaucracy that just overlaps State services but actually fixing up ill patients is a low priority

ELECTIVE surgery in Victoria will be slashed by 20-25 per cent in the next seven months as $107 million worth of Federal Government health funding cuts start to bite from next Friday.

Victoria has calculated the Commonwealth funding cuts are equal to losing the funding for 20,000 elective surgery procedures or reducing Victoria's elective surgery volumes by 20-25 per cent in the next seven months.

The $107 million cut is equivalent to 3150 bone marrow transplants or 6620 hip replacements or 6605 knee replacements.

Victoria's Health Minister, David Davis, has warned operating theatres could have to close over the summer.

He has written to his local area health services warning them to prepare for the cutbacks to start biting from next Friday.

A detailed spreadsheet complied by the minister shows how each of the local services and hospitals will be affected by the cuts.

The Alfred hospital will lose $7.9 million in funding, Austin Health $7.9 million, Eastern Health $8.5 million, and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute $1.2 million.

Mr Davis warned: "The risk is that hospitals will have to close theatres over summer, reduce capacity and put off staff."

The federal funding cuts are due to a recalculation of population growth figures based on the 2011 census. The

Commonwealth is also demanding the state refund $40 million of health funding it has already been paid as a result of the population growth recalculation.

These cuts will begin to hit the state on December 7 when monthly funds are transferred from the Commonwealth to the states.

But Paul Perry, spokesman for Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, said the Gillard Government's investment in Victoria was continuing to grow by 26 per cent in the next four years and "this is a desperate smokescreen by the Baillieu Government to distract people from its $616 million Budget cuts".

The State Government's own savage cuts would impact on frontline services, blowing out waiting times and eroding the standard of patient care, he said.

Mr Davis called for Prime Minister Julia Gillard to stop the federal cuts.

He said the cuts' effect would be even more severe in the next seven months because a full year's worth of cutbacks would be crunched into the last seven months of the financial year.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Inert Vic cops spark international umbrage

There have been lots of violent offences with a racial angle  in Melbourne but because most of the offenders are black, the cops have got used to hushing them up -- which is the diametric opposite of what they claim to do

“They lied to me. At first they said the attackers were under investigation. Later they said they didn't know who some of them were."

A South Korean student whose finger was chopped off has spoken of his frustration with a police investigation into the incident.

Mr Chang, who is keeping his identity concealed, and a friend were attacked by a group of teenagers while sitting in Box Hill Gardens in Melbourne at night in September.

The attackers severed his left little finger and broke his arm. Mr Chang, who has worked as a designer and is left-handed, fears the injury will affect his ability to work in future.

“I feel so embarrassed and humiliated,” the TAFE Box Hill Institute student, 33, said. “I don't want to go outside alone. I haven't even told my family about what happened. They don't know.”

Over the past two months two other Korean nationals, a 33-year-old Sydney man and a 27-year-old man from Brisbane, have also been attacked, fuelling outrage in South Korea, with media reports questioning whether Australia is a safe place to visit.

Two weeks ago, French woman Fanny Desaintjores was threatened by passengers on a Melbourne bus for singing French songs. One man said “speak English or die”, while another commuter shouted: “I'll f---ing boxcutter you right now, dog.”

Victoria Police is continuing its investigations into the assault against Mr Chang after the South Korean government requested they conduct a "more thorough and fair investigation", capture the perpetrators and compensate the victim.

The Foreign Ministry of South Korea also demanded Australia "come up with measures to prevent future incidents", the Korean broadcaster KBS reported.

Mr Chang, from Seoul, still believes Australia is a “safe and good country”, acknowledging every country has its share of offenders. But he said he was “unhappy” about the ongoing police investigation.

A spokesman from the Korean Consulate in Melbourne told Fairfax Media they formally requested Victoria Police to “carry out a thorough investigation that will also eliminate perceptions of unfairness and inadequacy from the victim and Korean public”.

Mr Chang had declared he was told by police he was responsible for the brutal attack because he “was in the wrong place at the wrong hours”, sparking alarm in Korea.

But the spokesman said that while police eventually apologised for the remark to Mr Chang, he may have “misunderstood the intention behind it, taken in the wrong way due to cultural differences”.

The Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported Mr Chang was approached by a group of teenagers who asked for a cigarette. When he refused, they assaulted him while shouting the words "f---ing Chinese".

Mr Chang blacked out during the attack and was taken to hospital, where his little finger was reattached.

Victoria Police has told Fairfax Media a 14-year-old boy from Doncaster, Melbourne, was charged the day after the assault.


Australia the world's second-best place to be born: study

Just behind Switzerland.  I think this is pretty right, if only because of our largely untroubled economic climate

Australia will be the second-best country in the world to be born in next year, a study says.

The "lucky country" scored 8.12 out of a possible 10 points, just 0.1 behind Switzerland, The Economist's Intelligence Unit said in their 2013 where-to-be-born index released last week.

Following closely behind were Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden and Denmark. New Zealand was ranked seventh with a score of 7.95, while Nigeria came in 80th and last with 4.74 points.

The magazine said the list, the first since 1988, was compiled using a combination of surveys - where people said how happy they are - with objective determinants about the quality of life.

"Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too," the unit's director of country forecasting services, Laza Kekic, said in a statement.

Indicators used include geography, demography, social and cultural characteristics, government policies and the state of the world economy.

The list was dominated by smaller economies, with larger European economics such as Great Britain (27th), France (26th) and Germany (16th) languishing further down the list. The US, which topped the 1998 list, came in 16th.

Australia was ranked 18th on the 1998 index.

Last year, Australia was ranked second behind Norway in the annual United Nations Human Development Index.

It was the second year in a row that Australia was ranked second to Norway on the UN index, which looked at indicators including education, health, per-capita income and life expectancy.


Fascist "planner" wants to dictate how big peoples houses can be

Sure to be a Leftist.  She thinks she can say what people "need"

A ROW over so-called McMansions on the city fringe has revealed a split between the Baillieu Government and its chief planning adviser.

Professor Roz Hansen, chair of the ministerial advisory committee for the Metropolitan Planning Strategy, has called for a campaign to discourage families from building huge homes in new estates.

"Do you really need four bedrooms, four bathrooms, the home theatre, play area, formal and informal living areas?" she told the Herald Sun. "What is it costing you to run this and do you really need all this space to be able to function as a household?"

Prof Hansen said families hit by rising mortgage stress on the urban fringe would have more money in their pockets if they chose to have less space.

But Planning Minister Matthew Guy said families shouldn't be criticised for their housing choices.  "It's a bit undeserved because families have different needs," he said.

"A large portion of families live in our growth areas, so that's why you find in our growth areas larger family homes because predominantly that is the housing type out there."


Homeopathy regime is rejected as judge tells parents to immunise child

Homeopathic beliefs can be a dangerous mental illness -- as shown in this case.  The mother believes in her homeopathic "vaccinations"  DESPITE the fact that her daughter got whooping cough, a very nasty and sometimes fatal illness.  Homeopathic potions are just water so have placebo value only

A JUDGE has ordered a couple to immunise their eight-year-old daughter according to government health guidelines, in a rebuke to the homeopathic regime pursued by the mother.

But the father will shoulder the cost of doing so.

The mother had sought in a injunction in the Family Court to stop the father and his partner from immunising the child without her written permission.

She made the application after discovering that her daughter's stepmother had secretly taken the child to a medical centre to have her immunised against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, polio, HIB, measles, mumps, rubella and meningococcal C.

Previously, the mother had been arranging homeopathic vaccines.

She told the court that she adhered to a "simple and healthy way of life", that included eating organic food, using non-toxic cleaning products and sending the child to a Rudolph Steiner school where the toys were made from natural products such as wool, wax and silk.

Most parents at the school focused on "building up the immune system of the child through homeopathics", she told the court.

But when the girl was five, she contracted whooping cough, and the father and his new partner became concerned that she was not vaccinated, possibly placing their new baby at risk.

The stepmother then took her to the medical centre for a course of traditional immunisations, with the support of the child's father, but without the mother's consent or knowledge.

This upset the mother, in part because it engendered feelings of disempowerment, but also because she feared the health risks of traditional immunisation.

She told the court: "The homeoprophylaxis regime is more than adequate for her needs, provides her with immunity against childhood diseases and does so in a far safer and more risk averse way."

A doctor in homeopathic medicine told the court that homeopathic vaccination was safe and effective, whereas traditional vaccination had short- and long-term risks, including a link to ADHD and autism.

But Justice Bennett accepted the evidence of a doctor at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, who said there was insufficient evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathic immunisation to justify its replacement of traditional immunisation.

The links to ADHD and autism had been disproved by studies in Scandinavia, France and the United States, the doctor said.

Justice Bennett said the risks associated with traditional immunisation did not outweigh the risks of infection.

"It appears to me that the efficacy of homeopathic vaccines in preventing infectious diseases has not been adequately scientifically demonstrated," she said.

However, the mother has lodged an appeal.

The case is one of several before the courts that involve differing philosophies over childhood vaccination.

The Federal Magistrates Court was asked to intervene between two parents disputing whether their daughter should be immunised in 2010, resulting in an order for the child to undergo the immunisation program recommended by the federal Health Department.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Two reports below

The usual Leftist charm:  Abuse is all they've got

Gillard recently seized on Abbott's normal conservative views about differences between men and women and quoted them as misogyny.  Her own Labor Party members however make jokes that deliberately degrade women

In this case a Leftist deep thinker appears to have concluded that Julie Bishop's blonde hair makes her a "bimbo".  The fact that she is a very sharp and effective parliamentarian is clearly too much for his penile mind to handle

The Bishop

A FEDERAL Labor MP has accused deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop of being "a narcissistic bimbo".  Steve Gibbons also said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was "a gutless douchebag".

Both were not fit to be MPs let alone prime minister and deputy prime minister," he tweeted on Wednesday.

Mr Gibbons later tweeted: "Apologies to those offended by my use of the word Bimbo. I'll replace that word with Fool".

His Labor colleagues distanced themselves from the tweet.  "Steve, I love you, but you're way out of line," MP Ed Husic told Sky News.  "I wouldn't do it and I wish he hadn't have."


Sexist joke at big union dinner

The report below is from over a month ago but it is about a joke made at a big union dinner that was so vile that nobody in the media has so far been game to repeat it.  And none of the Leftist heavyweights at the dinner protested it in any way.  It's pretty clear who the real front-runners in misogyny are

The gorgeous Peta Credlin

CFMEU Victorian assistant secretary John Setka, who helped lead the blockade of a Grocon building site in Melbourne in August, was at the dinner on Wednesday night with the Prime Minister, ministers and officials from the Australian Workers’ Union and the Commonwealth Public Sector Union.

Ms Gillard left the CFMEU dinner before the joke was made by a paid comedian. She complained to the union later.

Treasurer Wayne Swan, who spoke at the event after the comedian, conceded he should have raised concerns on the night rather than waiting until yesterday morning.

Ministers stayed in the Great Hall even though Ms Gillard berated Liberal MPs on Tuesday for remaining at a dinner when radio host Alan Jones said her father died of shame.

“No one walked out of the room, no one walked up to Mr Jones and said that was not acceptable,” a furious Ms Gillard told Parliament in her now-renowned attack on Mr Abbott about sexism.

The comedian hired by the CFMEU to perform on Wednesday night, “Allan Billison”, joked that Mr Abbott and Ms Credlin were having a relationship. Both are married. The remarks left the room silent, according to Labor MPs.

The joke came amid a furore over Ms Gillard’s accusations that Mr Abbott is sexist and misogynistic.


Bureaucrats to lose hospitals

This should happen throughout Australia

CONTROL of Territory hospitals and clinics is to be taken away from Health Department bureaucrats.

They will instead be self-governing agencies responsible for their own budgets.

The biggest shake-up in health service delivery was announced by Health Minister Dave Tollner in Parliament today.

A health source admitted that the new model was similar to what Kevin Rudd tried to force through in 2010 as Prime Minister. He faced stiff opposition from the States and threatened to take hospitals away from them.

The ALP Territory government responded by establishing health network boards. But the source said: "That was just window dressing. It wasn't real reform.  "The boards have no real power. Their budgets are still controlled by public servants in the Health Department.

"And they don't have powers to hire and fire. A lot of people ask what the boards do. And the answer is that they hold meetings."

The NT Government argued hospitals and clinics managed in a grassroots way would let them be more responsive to local needs.

"At the moment, decisions about the clinic at Yuendemu are made by public servants in Darwin," the source said.  "The Government thinks they should be given more power to manage themselves.  "That would improve service delivery and we should never lose sight of what hospitals are all about - the good of the patients."

The Territory has five hospitals - Royal Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy.


Sham education bill

Complete hot air.  An amazing exercise. "Nothing contained in the laws will be legally enforceable" (!!)

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard says Labor will target and eradicate the "great moral wrong" faced by children who do not have access to educational opportunities.

Ms Gillard on Wednesday introduced legislation to parliament in response to the Gonski schools funding review, saying the bill would enshrine in law "our nation's expectations for our children's achievements at school".

"This is a distinctively Labor plan for a matter of the highest Labor purpose: to eradicate the great moral wrong which sees some Australian children denied the transformative power of a great education," she told the lower house.

"It is now clear, with the information we have today, that in Australian schools it is the poorer kids who have been let down the most in the past."

The prime minister said the "ruling passion" of her life was to ensure no child missed out on quality education.

"All my determination, all our resolve is directed towards getting this done," she said.

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said he was confident Labor would achieve the proposed funding reform, which is expected to cost the federal, state and territory governments about $6.5 billion a year.

"Not only are we confident, we have every expectation that an agreement will be achieved between the commonwealth and the states," he told reporters in Canberra.

"The state premiers must step up now and negotiate in earnest."

But opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the bill was devoid of detail.  "Labor has introduced an empty shell this morning as a desperate distraction," he said in a statement.

"The prime minister calls this a uniquely Labor bill and she is right - it is all spin over substance, a classic Labor hoax."

Neither he nor Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was present in the lower house when Ms Gillard introduced the bill.

"This was one of the most significant moments in the history of schools funding and yet they chose to ignore it," Mr Gavrielatos said.

The explanatory memorandum accompanying the Australian Education Bill 2012 legislation says: "There is no financial impact associated with the bill."  The bill also contains a clause stating nothing contained in the laws will be legally enforceable.

However, federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett has previously said the legislation would be changed once agreement was reached with states, territories and private education authorities.

The nation's education ministers are expected to provide initial advice on the structure of a funding system to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on December 7.

Ms Gillard wants COAG to sign the funding agreement at its first meeting next year, which is likely to be in March.


Australia's Left walks back its support of Israel

Bob Hawke was a great supporter of Israel but Gillard is no Bob Hawke

JULIA GILLARD has been forced to withdraw Australia's support for Israel in an upcoming United Nations vote after being opposed by the vast majority of her cabinet and warned she would be rolled by the caucus.

As a result, Australia will abstain from a vote in the United Nations General Assembly on a resolution to give Palestine observer status in the UN, rather than join the United States and Israel in voting against the resolution as Ms Gillard had wanted.

In a direct rebuff of her leadership, Ms Gillard was opposed by all but two of her cabinet ministers - Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy, both of the Victorian Right - during a heated meeting on Monday night.

She was then warned by factional bosses she faced a defeat by her own backbench when the caucus met on Tuesday morning.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, who met Ms Gillard before cabinet, drove the push to oppose the Prime Minister.

The former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans briefed Labor MPs on Monday, warning they would be on the wrong side of history if they stood with the US and Israel against the rest of the world.

Ms Gillard had wanted to vote no while the Left faction, which is pro-Palestinian, wanted to vote for the resolution.

The Right faction, which would usually support Ms Gillard, backed an abstention, in part due to the views of its members that the government was too pro-Israel, and also because many MPs in western Sydney, who are already fearful of losing their seats, are coming under pressure from constituents with a Middle East background.

Senior sources have told Fairfax Media that in cabinet on Monday night, at least 10 ministers, regardless of factional allegiance and regardless of whether they were supporters of Kevin Rudd or Ms Gillard, implored the Prime Minister to change her view.

At one stage there was a heated exchange between the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, and Senator Conroy, the Communications Minister.

One source said Ms Gillard was told the cabinet would support whatever final decision she took because it was bound to support the leader but the same could not be said of the caucus.

Ms Gillard told the caucus meeting that her personal view was to vote no because she believed the UN vote, which will pass easily with the overwhelming support of UN member states, would hurt the peace process because the US has threatened to withdraw funding for the Palestinian Authority.

But she conceded that after sounding out ministers and MPs, Australia should abstain.

The Israeli government is understood to be furious but an embassy spokesperson declined to comment.

The opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, said the decision to abstain was disappointing because the Coalition backed a no vote as "the path to peace and reconciliation".


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Attempt to get tough with "asylum seekers" falls over

Five year wait for right to work scrapped

NEW rules denying asylum seekers work rights for up to five years will be softened in response to a backlash from Labor MPs and one of the principal architects of the Gillard government's policy to stem the number of boat arrivals.

Paris Aristotle, a member of the government's expert panel on asylum seekers, has described the no-work-rights rules as inconsistent with the policy's controversial "no advantage" test, punitive and in breach of Australia's international treaty obligations.

Mr Aristotle welcomed a nuanced retreat by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, who signalled a willingness on Monday to put in place "some mechanism" for those found to be refugees, but having to wait several years for permanent protection, "to be able to support themselves".

Mr Bowen announced last Wednesday that, "consistent with "no advantage", those who could not be sent to Nauru or Manus Island would be released into the community with "no work rights and will receive only basic accommodation assistance and limited financial support [of $430 a fortnight]".

The move followed the recognition that too many asylum seekers have arrived since the new approach was announced on August 13 for them to be transferred to Nauru or Manus Island.

It was an attempt to put those who will now be released on bridging visas on the same footing as those on Nauru and Manus Island, but it prompted warnings that it would create an underclass of refugees who would be ill prepared to build new lives when finally granted protection visas.

It has also escalated unrest and anxiety among the 387 who have been sent to Nauru. They say they have been treated unfairly and warn that one Iranian is close to death after being on a hunger strike for 45 days.

After representations from Mr Aristotle and others, Mr Bowen asserted on Monday that the new rules were "not actually linked to the no-advantage principle as such", and were more about the surge in numbers from Sri Lanka and the belief that many were "economic migrants" and not refugees.

He also vowed to work with those in the refugee sector to determine "how we will deal" with those found to be refugees under the new system, where asylum seekers whose claims are upheld must wait for as long as they would have waited to be resettled if they had stayed in a transit country - a period Mr Bowen concedes could be five years.

In comments welcomed by Labor MP Melissa Parke, Mr Bowen said he wanted "over time" to work out how these people had "appropriate support and care, and where appropriate they have some mechanism in place to be able to support themselves".

Writing exclusively in The Age today, Mr Aristotle argues the correct response to concerns about economic migration from Sri Lanka is to "properly and quickly" establish if this is the case by processing applications. "Those that are refugees should be protected and those who are not can be returned," he writes.

"The announcements last week to disallow asylum seekers work rights and timely access to family reunion, even after they have been found to be a refugee, were not recommendations of the panel.

"The measures are highly problematic because they are a punitive form of deterrence in response to a specific and new phenomenon in people smuggling from Sri Lanka, which the government believes is for economic reasons as opposed to refugee protection."

Mr Aristotle expresses dismay at the opposition's proposal to slash the humanitarian quota to 13,750 places and reintroduce temporary protection visas, saying it makes little sense.

He laments that the debate on asylum-seeker issues continues to be on a "destructive and combative course".


Sydney's Lebanese Muslim gangs have moved on

POLICE don't go to Telopea Street much more these days.  More than a decade ago, it was a regular haunt as they tried to quell the 800 metre strip in Punchbowl that had become home to Sydney's worst violence, drug dealing and criminality.

As the new millennium began, Telopea Street was a brazen stop and shop for cocaine, heroin and ice.

Now, it is a quiet suburban strip like any other in Sydney. You can't tell it used to be run by a network of sophisticated gangs with loyal foot soldiers.

Many of those men have moved on, many are in jail. A good number were part of an unprecedented migration to traditionally anglo-saxon outlaw motorcycle clubs. Some are already dead.

Central to the evil of those times was Mustapha Dib, whose family arrived in 1977 from Miniyeh, in Lebanon's north.

On Friday, Mustapha Dib, known by friends, family and police as 'Fairy,' received a 30-year minimum jail sentence for the Lakemba murder of pregnant Anita Vrzina, 20, and wounding her partner, Ahmed Banat, with intent to murder in November 2000.

It was the second person he killed before he was 18.

Aged just 15, he stabbed and killed schoolboy Edward Lee in a brawl on Telopea Street. Lee's violent and senseless death forced Sydney to face the reality that a new generation of gangs were on the streets that had no qualms about killing innocents or anyone who got in their way.

Police had become targets too. In the month following the Lee murder, amid an intense police operation, the Lakemba police station was targeted in a hail of bullets.

Now an acting Deputy Commissioner, David Hudson was the Campsie crime manager when Telopea Street was a virtual war zone.

He told Fairfax Media this week, criminals in south-west Sydney got a foothold while police were rebuilding after the Wood Royal Commission that made sweeping reforms to rid the force of corruption.

"There was so much stuff going on internally we sort of took the eye off the ball and this gave them a strong foothold," he said.

But Mr Hudson said police gradually clawed their way back with in-your-face policing.

"We pushed back and eventually took back the streets," he said.

In two years, they made more than 60 arrests and seized $3 million worth of assets in an attempt to strangle the Telopea Street menace. It culminated in Dib being charged with Mr Lee's murder.

For the Dib family, it was a double-blow.

Mustapha's brother Mohammad Dib, 34, who has spent at least eight years in jail for car rebirthing and his role in trying to cover up his brother's role in the Lee murder, told Fairfax Media they are a "normal family despite a few murders and shit".

"It's quiet here, it's like any other street in Sydney," he said. "Before, yeah, there was drug dealing and stuff but we were young guys misled by older guys," he said.

Many of Sydney's worst crooks of that era grew up on or near Telopea Street, working together or on opposing gangs to control the underworld, while the infamous Danny Karam gang - known as DK's boys - fought it out for control of Kings Cross.

Michael Kanaan, serving life in jail for three murders, and the warring families of the Razzaks and Darwiches epitomised the lawless, ruthless bloodlust that Telopea Street thrived on.

These were the people Dib and his family called "friends". Mohammad Dib described Kanaan as "a top bloke".

Nonetheless there was a hint of regret at the years wasted on the criminality for which they are renowned.

"If I worked legitimate like I do now since day one, I'd have more money in the bank than a life of crime. I've got nothing and jail is the worst place ever. It's not worth it," he said.


Gillard still under attack as a participant in union corruption

Gillard is combative but so is Julie Bishop.  It takes a woman to tear down another woman.  Abbott's actually a bit of a softie so he needs Bishop.  The claim that Abbott is anti-woman is a real laugh

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin, left, speaks with Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop.  Abbott depends heavily on both

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop is ramping up her attack on Julia Gillard's conduct as a lawyer in the 1990s, accusing the Prime Minister of creating the "stolen vehicle that the bank robbers took to the bank".

Ms Bishop told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday that when Ms Gillard was a partner with Slater & Gordon, she set up a union association, which saw money siphoned out by her then boyfriend Bruce Wilson and fellow AWU official, Ralph Blewitt.

"The reason [Ms Gillard] didn't open a file within Slater & Gordon ... was because she and Wilson and Blewitt wanted to hide from the AWU the fact that an unauthorised entity was being set up..." Ms Bishop said.

"She created the stolen vehicle that the bank robbers took to the bank, to rob the bank."

Ms Gillard has maintained that she only provided legal advice about the set up of the AWU Workplace Reform Association and did not know anything of the fraud that followed.

She has consistently denied any wrongdoing and yesterday in a second "marathon" press conference on the AWU affair, she said claims she set up the fund were defamatory.

This morning, Ms Bishop said: "I am able to say that Julia Gillard set up an unauthorised incorporated association that was in breach of the laws of Western Australia."

Ms Bishop also called on the Prime Minister to ask the AWU and Mr Wilson to get Slater & Gordon to release all the documents they hold on the matter, "so that that this matter can be thoroughly investigated".

This follows a similar request from Mr Blewitt, calling on Mr Wilson to release Slater & Gordon from client privilege.

This comes as the law firm released a statement, defending its actions over the AWU affair and confirming it cannot "divulge confidential and privileged information of one client to another client or any other party".

Responding to questions about why Slater & Gordon did not notify the police or the AWU when allegations surfaced about Mr Wilson in 1995, the law firm said: "At all times it has acted in accordance with its legal and ethical obligations in relation to all aspects of the AWU matter."

Slater & Gordon said it had also sought independent legal advice from law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler and Philip Crutchfield SC on its conduct.

Both sets of advice - received yesterday evening - found that Slater & Gordon did the right thing by ceasing to act for the AWU and Mr Wilson when it became aware there was a conflict between the interests of the two.

Ms Bishop has been spearheading the attack on the Prime Minister about the AWU affair, yesterday asking all the Coalition questions in question time.

Speaking to reporters on her way into Parliament on Tuesday morning, Ms Bishop said it was entirely appropriate that she, not Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, lead the charge.

"I'm the Deputy Leader of the opposition and I happen to be a lawyer with 20 years experience," she said.

"Why are you suggesting that Tony Abbott has to ask the questions? I am the deputy leader of the party."


90pc of Sudanese refugees want to go home

I support free tickets for them

A new study has found the majority of refugees from Sudan who arrived in Australia over the past decade want to return home.

Many of those surveyed experienced isolation and reported being discriminated against, particularly when it came to employment and housing.

Nyok Gor is one of around 23,000 Sudanese refugees who fled to Australia over the past decade.  He arrived in late 2003 as one of the "lost boys of Sudan".

He began studying at university, but found it difficult to get work and accommodation.  "While I was looking for accommodation, that was one of the areas that I felt discriminated," he said.

"As a student I was looking for share accommodation and somebody would be calling to organise some of the houses that I was interested to apply for, and when I turn up later would tell me sorry we don't have enough room.

"There were other cases where somebody would ask me over the phone what background do you come from and I would say an African background and they would say no sorry we don't have available room for you."

According to the study by international policy research agency, STATT, that was a common problem among the 350 people surveyed.

STATT researcher Robert Onus says most people found there were good support services provided by the Government, but their ability to get help differed between cities and regional areas.

"People in regional areas felt quite a bit of isolation, particularly because the people that were settled in regional areas didn't have access to some of the support networks that people in bigger cities would have with the larger communities," he said.

"The other thing is definitely with regards to employment.  "A lot of people have worked hard to get skills and develop their skills in Australia.  "They've done education in Australia but they can't seem to get jobs in areas that they feel that they're skilled at working in."

Mr Onus says many people felt potential employers discriminated against them based on their race.

"On the other hand I think it's the question of getting skills, job skills in the Australian market," he said.  "A lot of people don't have the resume that local people might have or people that have been in Australia for a longer time might have."

The study released today also found that since South Sudan gained independence, many people want to return home.  "About 90 per cent of people had signalled that they would be intending to return. That includes both temporarily and permanently," he said.

"When it comes to more permanent return, people had a range of opinions about how long they would go and for what reasons."

But Mr Onus says most people who wanted to return to South Sudan did not hold negative opinions of Australia.

"It was very much a question of going home to support the development of their new nation and there's really a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm in the community towards helping the South Sudanese nation develop and repatriating the skills that they've gained here," he said.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Disgusting "child safety" bureaucrats

They knew they were at fault so decided that the best defence is attack

A MOTHER fighting Child Safety to get justice for her son says she has been overwhelmed by public support and no longer feels she is a "bad parent".

The woman, who cannot be named by law, is suing Child Safety for failing to tell her that her foster child - who has been accused of allegedly raping her eight-year-old boy - had a history of sexualised behaviour.

After The Courier-Mail last week revealed her story, readers relayed their condolences to their family, urged her to keep fighting.  A Brisbane barrister and psychologist also offered to represent the family for free.

The mother is now urging other families who have been let down by Child Safety to come forward and tell their stories.

"I'm so overwhelmed. So many people are supporting me, it's unbelievable," she said.  "Thank you very much. I feel so relieved.  "I'm not the only one who thinks that the system needs to be fixed."

The mother, 36, is suing Child Safety for negligence, but in a cruel twist, the Department has sent her legal documents stating she was to blame for any alleged abuse because she failed to appropriately supervise her 15-year-old foster son.

The mother said she felt better after supporters questioned how it was possible to constantly supervise children.  "I'm not a bad parent. You can't supervise 24/7.  "You have to at some point (let foster children) be part of your family and show them trust.

"We should have been told (about the foster boy's history). If we knew we never would have let him into our house."

Despite asking on two separate occasions about the foster boy's history, an internal Child Safety review found officers told the mother that he only had problems with aggression and stealing.

They did not tell her that they had records stating he had a history of sexualised behaviour.

Meanwhile, when the Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Elizabeth Fraser was asked whether she believed Child Safety was not being honest with carers about the history of foster children, she referred The Courier-Mail to her 2010 report that found staff were not doing their job properly.

"The Department's records demonstrated low compliance providing) proposed carers with information about a child, to assist carers make an informed decision about whether to agree to a placement.

" The Departmental officers are not adequately recording on departmental files whether proposed carers are being provided with information about a child, to assist carers make an informed decision about whether to agree to a placement."


Climate skeptics equated to pedophiles on ABC

This morning on the “science” show Robyn Williams equates skeptics to pedophiles, people pushing asbestos, and drug pushers. Williams starts the show by framing republicans (and skeptics) as liars: “New Scientist complained about the “gross distortions” and “barefaced lying” politicians come out  with…” He’s goes on to make the most blatant, baseless, and outrageous insults by equating skeptics to people who promote pedophilia, asbestos and drugs.
“What if I told you pedophilia is good for children, or that asbestos is an excellent inhalant for those with asthmatics, or that smoking crack is a normal part and a healthy one of teenage life, to be encouraged? You’d rightly find it outrageous, but there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths, distorting the science.”

“These distortions of science are far from trivial, our neglect of what may be clear and urgent problems could be catastrophic and now a professor of psychology at UWA has shown what he says is the basis of this unrelenting debauchery of the facts…”

What the "professor of psychology at UWA" (Stephan Lewandowsky) said:
“They were rejecting the science not based on the science... but on other factors… what we basically found was the driving motivating factor behind their attitudes was their ideology.  People who endorse an extreme version of free market fundamentalism …  They are also rejecting the link between smoking and lung cancer, and between HIV and AIDS…

Ladies and gentlemen it’s time to get serious. Both Williams and Lewandowsky are ignoring the scientific evidence, denigrating their opponents, destroying rational conversation and honest discussion before it can even start. We can’t let them get away with this.

They are paid public servants who use taxpayer funds to push their personal ideology. It has to stop.

Robyn Williams, what you do is not science. It’s crass tribal warfare.

Stephan Lewandowsky, skeptics base their arguments on evidence. You are in denial. We don’t deny AIDS or that smoking causes cancer, and we never have. Your tactic of deliberately seeking out a few nutters (or fakes) to interview, then besmirching the names of serious commentators is blatant, obvious and  documented.

Name-calling in order to suppress debate

The class of people who use regulations to control others, rather than persuasion and voluntary competition, have resorted to name calling for years to suppress the free and fair debates that they cannot win. Now they are employing that technique in other areas.

What they road-tested on skeptics, they  now use in the wider political debate against their political opponents — such as Tony Abbott and Alan Jones. With each success they are becoming more loud, aggressive, and obnoxious.

The mainstream media makes this cheap tactic successful.  As long as they promote these anti-science, baseless smears as if they were serious commentary the media is the problem.


Official prediction:  Solar and wind to be the cheapest sources of energy

Just dreams.  I wonder what the heck they are on?  Sounds like potent stuff. 

Nothing comes close to brown coal for cheap energy.  Even "Green" Germany is building more brown coal power plants

SOLAR and wind could become the cheapest sources of energy and almost exclusively power the country in coming decades as carbon prices climb, the Climate Commission says.

A report, to be released today by chief commissioner Professor Tim Flannery, notes the vast potential from sunlight and wind and "solar PV and wind could be the cheapest forms of power in Australia for retail users by 2030, if not earlier, as carbon prices rise".

Prof Flannery said improvements had driven down the cost of renewable energy so much that Australia's uptake had increased more than a decade faster than earlier imagined.

He said people might find it hard to believe communities could one day be powered almost entirely by renewable energy, but people would never have believed they would one day carry around little computers in their pockets.

"It's like anything, computers or mobile phones, they started off expensive and over time the cost just declines and we've seen that with wind and now with solar," he said.

But the report The Critical Decade: Generating a Renewable Australia has no detail around how renewable energy and fossil fuel prices might compare in the future. Prof Flannery said technology moved so quickly, it was impossible to form concrete predictions.

Renewables currently make up 10 per cent of Australia's energy mix and the report says growth was subject to innovation, community acceptance and regulation.


NT Govt in the dark on illegal arrivals

THE Territory Government has yet to be told how many asylum seekers to expect following a decision to hand out 8000 bridging visas.

Chief Minister Terry Mills said he had been "left in the dark" on the issue.

"What we do know is police, fire and ambulance services have already been under strain since the detention centre opened," he said.

The Federal Government is to allow asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia since Canberra announced a return to offshore processing to stay on temporary visas without the right to work.

The new visas will also cover future arrivals and will apply even if a person's refugee claim is successful.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said people could expect to be on the visas for up to five years

The Coalition yesterday said it would overturn the decision if elected next year...


Proposed 17-storey tower will leave St John's Cathedral in its shade, opponents say

I think "heritage" claims are often overdone but St. Johns is a magnificent building.  You feel like you have time-travelled  into the best of the middle ages when you walk into it.  Nothing should be allowed to detract from such a rare gem. It took 100 years to build.  I usually go to the sung eucharist there on Christmas day

A DEVELOPMENT battle looms over a 17-storey high rise proposal that will tower over Brisbane's heritage-listed St John's Cathedral.

The Anglican Church and National Trust oppose the project, saying it contravenes the City Plan which limits buildings to four storeys in that area.

They say a building of that size is too close to the church and will destroy its vistas, which should be protected.

The site is separated from the cathedral by two smaller church buildings, one of which is also heritage listed.

National Trust president Stephen Sheaffe said the application would have a detrimental impact on the best cathedral of its type in the nation.

"The last thing you'd want is a building like the cathedral surrounded by high rises and not being seen from any angle," he said.  "This is an important community building and should be looked after."

Cathedral dean, the Reverend Peter Catt, said St John's was designated one of Queensland's 150 architectural icons during Q150 celebrations in 2009 and its heritage value to the state would be impacted by the project.

National Trust executive director Stewart Armstrong said the high rise would block all views of St John's as people travelled up Ann St and lessen its stature as one of the state's major heritage buildings.

"The City Plan and City Centre Master Plan clearly limit any development on this site to three to four stories," he said.

Consolidated Properties managing director Don O'Rorke, who owns the site, was not available for comment.

Brisbane City Council neighbourhood planning chairwoman Amanda Cooper would not reveal where she stood in the dispute but said the cathedral and its heritage would be protected.  The council would make a decision after final submissions were lodged this week.

Cr Cooper said the site was important because people passed along Ann St as they travelled into the city centre which meant any building must reflect the CBD's overall aesthetic.

"As such, we made provisions in the 2006 Neighbourhood Plan to ensure that any surrounding developments reflected the character of the cathedral," Cr Cooper said.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

How will we pay for the big dreams of Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan?

by: Terry McCrann

IN Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, we have a Prime Minister and a Treasurer who dare to dream big dreams, at least in terms of how to spend very large sums of money. The name Gonski and the letters NDIS spring immediately to mind.

Astonishingly, though, they show no interest in the means by which the requisite large sums of money to fund the big dreams can be generated. Indeed, they preside over a government taking active steps to undermine such money generation.

The gap between the government's rhetoric of fiscal stringency and the big spending promises that are being almost casually embraced is obvious and has been criticised by this paper.

Similarly, the individual decisions that damage either the economy broadly, specific industries or geographic locations, or undermine directly or indirectly the core underlying health of the tax base, have also been criticised.

But the observations and analysis have tended to operate separately -- the extravagant spending promises on one hand, the anti-business, anti-growth decisions on the other. Like two hands waving and not clapping.

It is the fact that the two hands are clapping that is or should be really disturbing, as it defines not just how bad this government is but how dangerous it is for our future. As it locks us into huge increases in future government spending while undermining what I call the real tax base.

This threatens to set us up for, at best, chronic and significant budget deficits; or future "budget wars", which will be fought over on the one hand, significant and selectively punishing tax increases, and on the other, significant and selective cuts in government spending.

It will happen in a context which would demand a treasurer like Peter Costello and a budget like his inaugural tough 1996 one. But which is unlikely to find similar circumstances as conducive to taking the tough decisions.

Nor would we be likely to be mugged by quite as much good fortune, comparable to the benefits conveyed by that first really explosive growth of China in the early 2000s.

For those benefits conveyed to us mostly came without countervailing challenges, at least not then; and really helped wash away much of the negativity and pain that would otherwise have flowed from, first, the tough 1996 budget and then, second, the introduction of the GST.

The single biggest new commitment this government has made is to the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Productivity Commission estimates its cost at $15 billion a year. As we revealed, the Australian Government Actuary has calculated it would grow to $22bn a year by 2018-19.

That alone represents a quantum increase in both the rate of growth of government spending and its absolute level. It would represent something like a 4 per cent increase in outlays, lifting them by nearly 1 per cent of GDP.

On its own the NDIS would likely wipe out any budget surplus -- on the heroic assumption there was a surplus available to be wiped out.

And it would single-handedly destroy the government's hand-on-heart, oft-repeated commitment to keep growth in government spending to just 2 per cent a year in real terms, until the budget was in significant surplus.

The actual commitment is until the surplus is at least 1 per cent of GDP. Today, that would be around $14bn, somewhat higher than the $1.1bn promised in the mid-year update.

It is interesting to note that in the May budget documents, while the 1 per cent surplus target commitment was rigorously stated upfront, later in the document the commitment was stated as "until the budget returns to surplus". Whether this was deliberate or just casually sloppy, with this government, this Treasurer and his office, and this Treasury, both are entirely possible.

Even on the government's own heroic projections of the budget surplus, it is not going to get anywhere near 1 per cent of GDP this side of 2015-16. It only gets, if I can use that word loosely, to 0.4 per cent of GDP in that year.

So how can the government contemplate a measure that would boost spending by 4 per cent in one hit? Unless it also contemplated swingeing cuts elsewhere.

But the NDIS, while clearly the biggest, is not a one-off. There's the $5bn a year promised to implement the Gonski recommendations on education, the dental scheme, starting small and growing who knows how big, the raft of commitments -- promises? -- on new defence hardware, multi-billion expenditures on submarines, destroyers and fighters, to name just the biggest.

Then there's the raft of measures that sit between the two hands, so to speak. That on the one hand will cost money -- compensating for the closure of so much of Australia's waters to commercial fishery, buying back water along the Murray-Darling.

While on the other hand, make their direct contribution to undermining the tax base. It does not seemed to have occurred to our fiscal mastermind that if you close down industry that previously operated in those spaces, you reduce your tax revenues.

The biggest anti-(real) tax base measure is of course the carbon tax. The whole purpose of the tax is to close down or reduce the activities of certain businesses and industries. Fine. They will pay less taxes in general and ultimately less carbon tax specifically.

The Treasurer probably thinks, as does Treasury and any number of economists, that the carbon tax broadens the tax base. The nominal tax base, obviously yes. Just as imposing a special tax on, say, the winnings of high-rollers at casinos would.

But in both cases -- the actual one of the carbon tax, my hypothetical example of casinos -- at the cost of undermining the real tax base. What is provided by a healthy, growing economy that is not artificially handicapped.

The mining tax sits in a bizarre space all of its own, threatening to raise little or no revenue, while "succeeding" in discouraging future development and in the process undermining the real tax base.

This is not just about budget chaos and the inevitability of continuing perhaps serious deficits under a Gillard-Swan government. The bifurcation between extravagant spending promises and anti-growth and anti-business policies actively threatens our future prosperity. Indeed, our future generally.


Green/Left accused of keeping Aborigines in poverty

THE Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton has accused the left of standing in the way of indigenous advancement, consigning the nation's first peoples to lives of poverty.

In her second Boyer lecture, an extract of which is published in the Herald, Professor Langton argues the environmental movement has emerged as "one of the most difficult of all the obstacles hindering Aboriginal economic development".

"Among the left and among those opinion leaders who hang on to the idea of the new 'noble savage', Aboriginal poverty is invisible, masked by a 'wilderness' ideology," Professor Langton argues in the lecture, which will be broadcast on Sunday.

"Whenever an Aboriginal group negotiates with a resource extraction company there is an unspoken expectation that no Aboriginal group should become engaged in any economic development. They only tolerate Aboriginal people living on their own land as caretakers of wilderness, living in poverty and remaining uneducated and isolated."

Professor Langton, the chairwoman of Australian indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne, attacks environmental campaigners who teamed with dissident Aboriginal groups to oppose development at Jabiluka in western Arnhem Land and elsewhere "not because of impacts on Aboriginal people but to preserve nature and 'wilderness"'.

"Whether Aboriginal groups had projects imposed on them or negotiated successful settlements, these professional protesters, supported by sophisticated non-government organisations funded by a gullible public, accused Aboriginal leaders of 'selling out'. Not once have they campaigned against Aboriginal poverty. They assume that this is the normal for the natives.

"Time and again, native title groups have spent years getting an agreement with a resource company over the line, negotiating income streams that might shift indigenous people from the margins to the centre of regional economic development in return for land access, only for a ragtag team of 'wilderness' campaigners to turn up with an entourage of disaffected Aboriginal protesters to stop development at the eleventh hour."

She accuses Labor of taking Aboriginal voters for granted since the days of the Whitlam government but says this changed with the election of the West Australian Liberal MP Ken Wyatt as the first indigenous member of the House of Representatives, and the defeat of the Labor government in this year's Northern Territory election, largely due to the disaffection of indigenous voters in bush seats.

Professor Langton says the territory result challenged mainstream perceptions of the marginal power of the Aboriginal vote and demonstrated the Country Liberal Party - once rabidly opposed to Aboriginal rights - had changed its colour.

Professor Langton's lecture will be broadcast on ABC Radio National on Sunday at 5pm and will be available at


Weather forecasting a shambles in Australia too

A NEW $30 million meteorology forecasting and warning system has failed in its key aim of freeing up staff to focus on severe weather events.

The NexGen FWS computerised system is being rolled out nationwide over five years with Queensland the second-last state or territory to get it in late 2013.

Federal Sustainability parliamentary secretary Don Farrell said the timing was deliberate to allow additional development to cater for the more complex weather in tropical areas such as cyclones.

In making its case for the NexGen FWS system to be included in the 2009-10 Budget, the Bureau of Meteorology argued that it would "provide additional time for forecasters to focus on activities such as the prediction of high-impact weather events".

But a major independent review of the bureau's capacity by Clean Energy Regulator Chloe Munro, commissioned after the 2010-11 summer of disaster, found it failed to deliver.

Unlike a system introduced by the UK's MetOffice, NexGen still requires forecasters to spend time editing automated text and images.

"While automation has enabled forecasting offices to meet greater demand for day-to-day forecasting services with current staff levels, there is no evidence that it has freed up forecaster time in a way that augments capacity to respond to severe weather events," the June report says.

Of the 500 employees classified as "meteorologists", only 220 of them had the necessary qualifications to work as "operational meteorologists" and 100 of those were employed in aviation and defence support roles, leaving just 120 frontline staff across seven regional offices.

Overall, 10 per cent to 15 per cent of text forecasts generated by NexGen FWS were altered by forecasters.

The bureau has been criticised for failing to give specific warning of the intense storm cell that hit Brisbane last Saturday until 20 minutes after it happened.

Three months ago the Crime and Misconduct Commission, in its report on the performance of dam engineers during the fatal floods of January 2011, noted that the bureau failed to issue a flood warning for the Lockyer Valley and Gatton until an hour after the disaster despite Weatherwatch forecaster Anthony Cornelius highlighting the danger four hours earlier.


In Soviet Australia defence is welfare

I’m not sure whether Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare is a fan of ‘in Soviet Russia’ jokes, but I’m hoping there is a punch line somewhere in his recent speech at a Submarine Institute of Australia conference.

Talking about the $40 billion Future Submarine project (which will replace our six ailing Collins Class subs with 12 Future subs) the Minister noted, ‘We are not just building 12 submarines – we are building an industry … that could potentially last for a century or more.’ The Future Submarine project is billed as the ‘biggest and most complex defence project’ ever undertaken in Australia. Yet apparently that level of complexity is not sufficient – it now also needs to create and support an entire industry for a century.

In the rest of the world, defence safeguards the welfare of citizens. In Soviet Australia, it seems defence is welfare for some groups (companies in politically sensitive industries and regions).

Unless you are a Bond villain, grand schemes should be a last resort, not the first choice. How can one justify starting an extremely risky nation-building project ‘potentially the same size as the national broadband network’ without examining all options?

In my recent paper I made it clear that I believe Australia should investigate leasing US nuclear submarines. This position has received a great deal of support – and a fair bit of criticism, particularly from those who want to see the submarines built in Australia.

Debate on the relative complexities and capabilities of submarine options is fine, as is consideration of issues such as safety and strategic objectives. However, what should not be acceptable is blindly supporting local jobs, especially not with this price tag.

Australians need to start asking hard questions on government spending. Do we need home-built subs more than we need the National Disability Insurance Scheme? Call it the ‘NDIS test’ – is this cause more worthy than wheelchairs for kids with disabilities?

When seen in that light, corporate welfare doesn’t look like such a good idea, does it?


Friday, November 23, 2012

A conservative politician shows up the bureaucracy

Liberal MP Ivan Venning has followed through on a promise to personally paint a public road bridge in his electorate.  He said the South Australian Government had taken too long to get around to it.

The MP and a team of volunteers started painting the bridge in the south of Nuriootpa on Thursday and expected to finish within a day or so.

The Government said paint on the bridge handrails contained lead and its removal needed to be managed professionally.

But Mr Venning said he had taken all the right precautions.

"We did put down sheets, big plastic sheets, and even where it was worst we didn't get half a cupful of dust," he said.  "We sanded it off by hand, so in other words it didn't go anywhere, it just fell straight down onto our sheets.  "We had respirators there and I had an industrial vacuum cleaner there as well. And now we've filled it with modern paint."

Mr Venning said the job was originally costed at $600,000 by authorities, but he thinks his group can do it for about $2,000.


PM faces new claims over union past

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard knew about a $150,000 Slater and Gordon mortgage for a property used by union fraudster Bruce Wilson more than two years before the date she admitted to knowing about it in an interview with the firm's management, a former senior partner claims.

In the latest revelation in the Australian Workers Union scandal, Nick Styant-Browne also revealed there was "deep disquiet" among S&G's top-tier management about some of Ms Gillard's conduct as a lawyer acting for the AWU.

And pressure on the Prime Minister over her role in the 17-year-old union scandal is expected to intensify today when former AWU official Ralph Blewitt will meet Victorian fraud squad detectives to provide extensive information about the fraud, involving up to $1 million in misappropriated funds.

Mr Styant-Browne, speaking from his US home, told the ABC's 7.30 program that he was speaking out to challenge a "stunningly incomplete account" by Slater and Gordon of Ms Gillard's departure from the law firm in late 1995.

The lawyer released new documents, including previously unseen portions of the transcripts from Ms Gillard's "exit" interview which he suggested challenged comments made by the PM to her former firm.

His claims revolve around a $150,000 mortgage provided by the law firm for the purchase of a Melbourne property in 1993. The Fitzroy property was purchased in the name of Ralph Blewitt, who subsequently signed a Power of Attorney to Mr Wilson. The document was witnessed by Ms Gillard, who was in a romantic relationship with the union fraudster from 1991 to 1995.

According to Mr Styant-Browne, Ms Gillard "claimed in the interview in 1995 that the first she heard about the Slater and Gordon loan for the acquisition of the Kerr Street property was in about August of (1995)".

But he said documents showed there was "no doubt that Ms Gillard knew about the mortgage from Slater and Gordon in March of 1993 (and) was specifically involved in taking steps to facilitate that mortgage".

"That is a matter of documents, it's not a matter of assertion and hearsay," he said.

Last night, the Prime Minister's office said there was "no contradiction" between Ms Gillard's recollection of the mortgage documents and the claims made by Mr Styant-Browne.

"Ms Gillard has no recollection of seeing the correspondence from the Commonwealth Bank dated 23 March 1993," a spokesperson for the PM said.

"Ms Gillard stands by her statements in the Slater and Gordon interview of 11 September 1995 as her best recollection of events two and a half years earlier."

Opposition deputy leader Julie Bishop said Ms Gillard's stance on the AWU scandal was "increasingly untenable" and called on her to make a full statement to parliament next week.

Mr Blewitt is expected to outline key details about his knowledge of the AWU Workplace Reform Association the $400,000 "slush" fund used by Mr Wilson.

Mr Blewitt is also expected to tell fraud squad detectives about Ms Gillard's role in helping to establish the Association and discuss how certain monies from the fund were spent.


Australia Defends Tough Media Detention Center Restrictions

SYDNEY — Australian immigration officials have defended restrictions that limit press access to detention centers.  While the media are barred from offshore processing camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, journalists are allowed into facilities on the mainland but are subject to strict rules and barred from formally interviewing detainees.

Eighteen months ago the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said that the country’s immigration centers were “less open and transparent than Guantanamo Bay.”

Since then, the Immigration Department has given reporters limited access to detention facilities under a Deed of Agreement on media access.

Journalists are permitted to speak with detainees but are not given permission to formally interview them or record their comments, nor are they allowed to publish images of inmates’ faces.

Immigration officials say the restrictions are in place to protect the privacy of asylum seekers, in much the same way that school children or hospital patients have their privacy protected from the press in Australia.

While reporters are allowed to visit mainland immigration facilities, they are barred from recently reopened camps in Papua New Guinea and on the tiny South Pacific island of Nauru, which houses asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan.

Senior Australian immigration department spokesman, Sandi Logan, told a forum at the University of Technology Sydney that he hoped the press will eventually be allowed in.

“I have got to say that operationally there are much greater priorities for us in Nauru at the moment than a media access policy. But having said that, I think it is absolutely essential that journalists have access to that facility and likewise to the facility in Papua New Guinea, and that will be something that in time, in time, will be negotiated.  And when those two parties i.e. the government of Australia and the government of Nauru have agreed on the settings, the parameters for that media access then it would be my expectation that will occur," said Logan.

Australian journalists say that the Deed of Agreement that governs visits to detention centers is too restrictive, and prevents them from telling the true story of conditions behind the razor wire fences.

The head of the Australian Press Council, Julian Disney, says the public does have a right to know.

“People in those detention centers are there because of government policies," he said. "They are the policies adopted by the governments we have elected and they are having a very substantial impact on people, even if those people are not our citizens.  Therefore as citizens of Australia people are entitled to know what the impact of their government policies are.  But we think there are substantial ways in which these restrictions go too far.”

Since the restrictions were brought in a year ago, about 50 journalists, including reporters from Switzerland and Germany, have toured mainland immigration centers in Australia.

It is unclear when press access will be granted to Australia’s two offshore detention centers on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, which reopened Wednesday, and another on the tiny South Pacific republic of Nauru, which reopened in September.

Both facilities were used by the former conservative government in Australia.  In the past critics derided the policy as cruel and ineffective, and they are taking aim once again. 

Amnesty International this week said conditions on Nauru were responsible for a "terrible spiral" of hunger strikes and suicide attempts.

Australia grants protection visas to about 13,000 refugees each year under a range of international agreements.


Illegals getting a hard time

A storm in Nauru has caused quite a bit of flood damage to the island and the processing centre for refugees living in tents. Fairfax Media. Photo: Angela Wylie. November 22 2012.

Wet, wet, wet: Tropical downpours have caused flooding and damage in Nauru's detention centre. Photo: Angela Wylie

TORRENTIAL rain left parts of the Nauru detention centre underwater on Thursday in what Amnesty International described as vindication of their assessment of conditions at the centre as "totally unacceptable".

"Some spots of the camp were under nearly a foot of water," Amnesty's Graham Thom told Fairfax after visiting the centre. "Shoes were floating on the water, some of the tent floorboards were floating. It was extraordinary how much like a pond the front of some of the tents had become in a very quick period of time."

The heavy rain followed a reported suicide attempt at the centre by an Iranian asylum seeker on Wednesday night after the Gillard government announced that many of the asylum seekers who have arrived since offshore processing resumed would be released into the community on bridging visas.

Immigration officials confirmed an "incident of attempted self-harm" at the centre, saying the injuries were minor and the man had been treated on site, where 387 asylum seekers are accommodated in tents.

Refugee advocates said the Iranian tried to take his life after hearing of the new policy under which the "no advantage" principle intended to apply to those sent to Nauru has been adapted for those who will remain in Australia. They said that the injured man had been taken to the facility's medical centre and remained separated from other detainees.

Amnesty officials, who were at the centre as asylum seekers became aware of the news, reported that many asylum seekers were in a highly anxious state, and asking why they had been sent to Nauru, when others who arrived at the same time would be released into the community.

Despite assurances that they would be allowed to photograph detainees and conditions inside the centre on Thursday, the Amnesty officials were refused permission to record any images.

Dr Thom said the theme of interviews with asylum seekers over the past three days was how unfair they considered their situation. "They said, 'Look at what we have been going through for the last few months, and now it's even worse for us'.

"A lot of them said, 'We're happy those people are going to be out in the community, but why have we been forgotten? Why have we been cast aside, pushed into a corner? Why are we locked up like this?' Again and again, they just spoke of the injustice of the situation."

There was also despair after Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed that they could be waiting five years before being resettled in Australia if their claims for refugee status are upheld.

"I think the news came as a real kick in the guts to the guys inside," Dr Thom said. "Those aware of the five years said, 'Come and look where we live? How can we stay like this for five years? We are going to die here."'

Aside from the uncertainty of their situations, Dr Thom said that the leaking tents had left many with wet bedding and led to skin conditions before Thursday's heavy rain.


Fair Work Ombudsman extorting bosses with threat of legal costs

AN EMPLOYER has agreed to make a public apology and repay more than $17,000 owed to one of his staff rather than endure litigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman in a rising trend among workplaces to avoid court.

Giacomo Ferretti will take out an advertisement in the Herald and pay nearly three times the $6600 maximum penalty that could have been imposed if the matter had gone to court after he admitted to terminating his employee's contract without paying out his annual leave.

The employee had been retained as a senior mechanical engineer at Mr Ferretti's engineering, design and consultancy business, Enjenia Services, which went into liquidation in March.

Mr Ferretti's act of contrition is one of 34 "enforced undertakings" that the Ombudsman has negotiated since they were introduced into law in 2009.

Among them, Coles has donated $20,000 to a program that educates pregnant women about their rights at work and James Hardie has contributed $10,000 to support workers with disabilities.

In each case, the recipients of their generosity were far from coincidental.

Coles had moved a pregnant employee into a more menial job, with a lower salary, when it was concerned she could not do heavy lifting as her pregnancy advanced.

James Hardie rescinded its offer of employment to a business development manager after he did not pass a medical exam, even though his disabilities were not relevant to the job.

The Ombudsman has also required two employers – Cotton On and Sadamatsu Katsuyoshi, who operated the Japanese restaurant Masuya in Sydney – to publish apologies on the Facebook walls of their businesses.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Asylum-seeker flood sinks Australian Labor Party's offshore processing policy

THE Gillard government has admitted its Pacific Solution has been overwhelmed, declaring asylum-seekers arriving since the policy was announced will be allowed to live in the Australian community.

As Papua New Guinea's Manus Island processing centre received its first detainees today, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen conceded Nauru and Manus would not be able to accommodate all the asylum-seekers intercepted since the August 13 policy announcement.

He said the government's new “no-advantage” principle would therefore have to be applied to the overflow of unauthorised arrivals brought to Australia.

The principle requires asylum-seekers to wait for a refugee visa for as long as they would have if they had waited offshore to be settled through official channels.

“Accordingly, some of these people will be processed in the Australian community,” Mr Bowen said in Sydney.

“They will not, however, be issued with a permanent protection visa if found to be a refugee, until such time that they would have been resettled in Australia after being processed in our region,” Mr Bowen said.

“People arriving by boat are subject to this `no advantage' principle, whether that means being transferred offshore to have their claims processed, remaining in detention, or being placed in the community.”

Asylum-seekers settled in the community will be placed on bridging visas without work rights and would receive only basic accommodation assistance, Mr Bowen said.

Nauru and Manus Island will accommodate about 2100 asylum-seekers when at full capacity.

About 7000 asylum-seekers have arrived since the new Pacific Solution was announced.

Mr Bowen said all post-August 13 unauthorised arrivals would be processed according on the no-disadvantage principle, even if they were processed in Australia.

He said their status as offshore entrants would be unchanged, and “consideration can be given to transfer these people offshore at a future date”.

A charter flight arrived on Manus Island early today from Christmas Island with 19 asylum-seekers aboard.

The group of seven families from Sri Lanka and Iran, including 15 adults and four children, were accompanied by Australian Federal Police officers, Department of Immigration personnel, interpreters and medical staff.

Mr Bowen also announced the transfer of 100 Sri Lankan men back to Colombo today, the ninth and largest involuntary removal to date.

The transfers come amid growing unrest on Nauru, where 387 asylum-seekers are housed in conditions that have been condemned by Amnesty International.

The human rights body has also expressed concern about nine asylum-seekers who have been on a hunger strike, including one who has not eaten for 40 days.

Tony Abbott said he was “all in favour” of offshore processing but did not believe Labor's plan would stop the boats.

“This government just doesn't have its heart in it,” Mr Abbott said.

“And for this government to say, oh look at the (19) that have gone to Manus when you've got 2000-plus coming every month demonstrates that they just don't get it.”

The Opposition Leader said people who came to Australia could not expect “to be treated like they are staying in a four or five star hotel”.

“The people who have come illegally to this country need to know that they are breaking our laws and that they are, if I may say so, taking unfair advantage of our decency as a people,” Mr Abbott said.

“It is illegal to come to Australia without papers, without proper documentation, without adhering to the normal requirements that we expect of people coming to this country.”


It's offensive to be called Australian?

Few Australians would think so

A CZECH-BORN woman has been found guilty of racially abusing her New Zealand-born neighbour by calling her a "stupid, fat Australian".

The Daily Mail reports that the row started after New Zealander Chelsea O'Reilly called the police following a fight between her neighbour Petra Mills and her husband in Macclesfield, England.

Ms O'Reilly said: "She called me a stupid, fat Australian b****. Because of my accent there can be some confusion over my nationality. She knew I was from New Zealand.

"She was trying to be offensive. I was really insulted. She said she would kill my dog. Bizarrely she then blew raspberries at me like a child."

Ms Mills said she did yell at Ms O'Reilly but that "it had nothing to do with racism". "I did not use the word Australian. I used to live with an Australian person. She was very nice," Ms Mills said.

Judge Brian Donohue however saw things differently.  "The word Australian was used. It was racially aggravated and the main reason it was used was in hostility," he said.

She was fined 110 pounds ($168) for racially aggravated public disorder, 50 pounds to be awarded to Ms O'Reilly and 500 pounds to cover all court costs.

Ms Mills and her husband have since moved away from Macclesfield.



Three current articles below

The fine art of scaring children

by Tony Thomas

Ballarat has a great art gallery, with its original architecture and gold-financed 19th century acquisitions. I was stooging around there last week after enjoying its show on floral illustrations, dating back to William Dampier.In the main halls it has an “art trail” for children, directing them to half a dozen works. Each has a screed alongside backgrounding the painting and giving the kids some quizzes.

So far so good…until I began reading those screeds.

The first involved an aquatic storm scene by ship captain-turned-artist Johan Bennetter (1886), A Bore on the Hooghli. Sailing ships and lifeboats thrash about amid surges and spume under a furious sky. (A “bore” is a storm surge after a very low tide).

The screed quickly cuts to the chase:

“Climate change, bringing with it an increase in extreme weather and rising sea levels, means that phenomena like the famous bores on the Hooghli at the Bay of Bengal now threaten the lives and livelihoods of literally hundreds of millions of people. This is one of the places in the world most vulnerable to catastrophe arising out of rapid rises in sea level…

What other changes in natural phenomena do you know of as a result of global warming?

How will predicted climate change affect your life?”

Hmmm. The author may be referring to the prediction in 2005 by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) of 50 million “climate refugees” by 2010.[1] An astute reporter for Asian Correspondent realized last year that the prediction had fallen due, but not a single “climate refugee” could be identified. Embarrassed, UNEP and its scientific boosters furtively rubbed out their map of 50 million climate refugees, circa 2010, and shifted the year out to 2020.

Let us move on to the next way-station along the kiddie-art climate trail.

At Kiddie Station 2 we find David Davies (1890), Under the Burden and Heat of the Day, which shows a swaggie  near-collapsed from heat and being offered a mug of water by his fellow swaggie in the red shirt.

The screed:

“…Australia is getting hotter and climate change has arrived. There is more on the way, but how much of an increase will depend on us. How do we cope with such heat? Massive air conditioner use threatens peak electrical supply while the electricity used to power them comes mainly from coal. Greenhouse gases are produced to cope with the symptoms of existing greenhouse gases – we are kelpies chasing our tails on a hot day.

Renewable energy, better house design and a reduction in the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases will all be needed if we are going to beat the heat…

How can we keep cool without making demands on energy supplies? How do we know whether our individual actions make a difference?”

It was a fairly hot day outside but cool inside the gallery. Reason: It is air-conditioned.[2] [3]

Kiddie Station 3. A modern work: Tony Cran (2007) – “We’ve come for what’s ours” . This shows a kangaroo, a reindeer and a wolf on the coastline, two of them brandishing a eucalypt swatch.

Our narrator tells the kids:

“In this vision we have poisoned our environment with toxic waste and used up all the natural resources until the earth could no longer support us…In this painting, people are just a memory. The earth has survived and with it some of the plants and animals which lived in harmony with nature, only taking what they needed and adapting…

We have become reckless with our consumption, buying bigger and better things with more and more packaging [blah blah, insert here more Greens Party boilerplate].

Who should be responsible for the effects of our heavy consumption of resources? How can we reduce the cost of sustaining our natural resources?”

To me, this draws the long bow. For a start, although "people are just a memory", a lighthouse in the background is still lit up. Maybe the reindeer is maintaining it. Second, it’s nice that the three animals are living in harmony with nature, only taking what they need. Let’s hope for the ’roo and reindeer’s sake that this particular wolf is a vegetarian.


High chance of above-average rainfall for southeast Queensland until February

Wot??  No drought.  Warmists are united in saying the the drought in parts of the USA is due to global warming so surely Australia should be having drought too?  I hate to mention it, but Australia IS part of the globe!

THE chances of southeast Queensland and eastern NSW receiving above median rainfall from next month to February are 60 per cent to 75 per cent.

National Climate Centre climatologist Andrew Watkins said the forecast for potentially wetter than average conditions was because it was the wettest time of year for the southeast and an expectation that moisture would be dragged across the continent by warmer Indian Ocean temperatures.

``It will be wetter than the last forecast period but even though it will be above median odds, it will be nothing like (La Nina years) 2010-11,'' Dr Watkins said.

Chances of a drought-bearing El Nino occurring had reduced over the past two months and the Pacific ocean had cooled to neutral levels.  It will be the first neutral summer since 2005-06.

Sea surface temperatures in the Indian ocean off the West Australian coast were the equal second warmest on record for October.  A warm Indian Ocean is associated with increased summer rainfall over eastern parts of the continent and large parts of WA.

It and a powerful La Nina were the major factors in floods last year and in 2010.


Greens support sliding away in Tasmania

Tassie is the stronghold of the Greens in Oz

THE Tasmanian Greens and their leader Nick McKim have suffered a major slump in popularity, according to the latest EMRS poll.

At the same time that the Tasmanian Liberals have continued a strong showing in the polls, Mr McKim's approval rating as preferred premier and that of his party have dropped to the lowest levels since the March 2010 election when the Greens formed government with Labor.

The Opposition's push for a majority government also appears to be working, with the figures showing that for the first time since August 2011, the gap between support for the Liberal Party and the cumulative support of Labor and Greens has widened.

The poll of 1000 Tasmanians undertaken between November 12 and 16 shows support for Labor had remained steady while the Greens slumped by seven percentage points.

Coming off the back of calls for Mr McKim to be kicked out of Cabinet for linking forest protesters to Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, the Greens leader's approval rating as preferred premier dropped from 15 per cent to 11 per cent, down from 17 per cent in May this year.

Ms Giddings approval rating as preferred premier grew 3 per cent to 25 per cent while Mr Hodgman's went to 47 per cent, up from 45 per cent in August but down from 48 per cent in November last year.

Support for the Liberal Party returned to that seen in August 2011, 55 per cent, largely on the back of a decrease in support for the Greens.

Ms Giddings said the Liberals' strong showing was the result of a strong advertising campaign off the back of tobacco donations. "It just goes to show what $40,000 of tobacco donation money can buy you in months and months worth of TV advertising," Ms Giddings said. "I believe you are also seeing people don't accept the glib one-liners from Will Hodgman."

Mr McKim said the poll had highlighted the volatility of opinion polls. "The Greens are not a poll-driven party," he said. "We will always act based on our values and what we believe is right, no matter what the polls are saying."

Will Hodgman said the poll showed that Tasmanians saw the Labor-Green experiment as failing. "It's clear that only the Liberals can deliver the strong, stable majority government that Tasmania needs."