Sunday, June 30, 2013

Julia Gillard:  A failed feminist flop and a warning to women in politics

Before she is totally forgotten in Australian politics (yesterday?), I thought I might point out an unintended truth in La Gillard's claim that her term in office has made it easier for other women in politics.  She has indeed.  She has shown them what NOT to do.

She didn't even start out well.  She gained power not by winning an election in her own right but by being propped up by turncoat conservative independents.  The voters of the two electorates represented by the said independents voted overwhelmingly AGAINST the Labor party but got Julia anyhow.  So she led what was essentially an illegitimate government.  From the very beginning she was not much of an example of female success.

And what does one make of the fact that Kevvy got nearly double  her poll numbers as soon as he replaced her?  That is about as harsh a reproof as one can get in politics.

What led to her final downfall, however, was her feminism. When half the voters are men, feminist ideas have to be promoted gingerly.  Julia did not do so and her final poll numbers among men were around 20%!

Her first big gaffe was the one that got her most praise at the time.  It was the speech that gave feminists orgasms worldwide, the speech where she condemned Tony Abbott as a misogynist. 

Unfortunately for her, however, she gave examples of where she thought the conservative leader had uttered misogynisms, and they were the sort of thing that would cause many men to say: "Hey!  I think that too".  She was in effect  criticizing Abbott for saying that men and women are different.  That may amount to misogyny among feminists but for most people it is just commonsense.  It is even commonsense that is amply backed up by science.  So she got a bit more of the feminist vote (which she mostly had already) but showed herself as a feminist extremist to most other people.  And that is a big "most".  Feminists of Gillard's stripe are still a small and cranky minority.

And then she really blew it with her "blue tie" speech, in which she claimed that her loss of power would lead to Australia being led by men in blue ties to the permanent exclusion of women. Tony Abbott, like many conservatives, often wears a blue tie.

The claim was however never plausible in any way.  The deputy leader of the opposition conservative parties is the very effective Julie Bishop, an unmistakeable female!  And because Australia is a monarchy, the ultimate legal authority in Australia  -- as Gough Whitlam found out to his rage -- is the Governor General, who also happens to be female.  And are we forgetting federal parliamentary conservatives like Jane Prentice, Natasha Griggs, Karen Andrews, Nola Marino etc.?

Julia's little bit of hysteria about her own importance did however have one amusing sequel.  Kevvy embraced it.  He has been wearing blue ties ever since!  It was indeed men in blue ties who took power from her, though not the group she foresaw.

So that speech was the last straw for a lot of men.  Her poll numbers among men dropped off a cliff almost immediately.  Most men give feminism some leeway but hysterical feminism was too much.

And right to the end she was pushing feminism -- setting up a commission of inquiry into how badly treated women are.

So the reasons for her disastrous poll ratings and her ignominious dismissal are clear, and I think they show  that women with leadership aspirations should do as Margaret Thatcher did:  campaign on the rightness of her policies, not on the basis of what she has between her legs.

There is  a rather amusing attempt to vindicate La Flop by one of her advisers, a British Leftist,  John McTernan.  He attributes her downfall to "a brutal and unfair misogynist culture" that we apparently have in Australia.  No mention of her poll numbers or the fact that it was the LEFT who deposed her. Those misogynist Leftists!

He has a point however in saying that she was a good "parliamentary performer".  Her ability not to answer questions was indeed non pareil. She was the queen of bluster instead.  I once saw Tony Abbott ask her the same question three times in a row without him getting an answer on any of those occasions. Verbal fluency she had.  Honesty would have been better.

Why Rudd is speaking from his nether region

RECYCLED Prime Minister Kevin Rudd didn’t learn a thing during the three years and three days he spent in the wilderness.

Yesterday he had the opportunity to deliver a gift to the Australian people - the gift of an election - and he squibbed it.

Instead, he used his first address on his return to parliament as Prime Minister to utter platitudes dripping with hypocrisy and cant and publicly demonstrate he has not changed.

Humility is clearly not in his complex vocabulary either in terms of what he might consider “detailed programmatic specificity” or as a “complementarity that could be developed further in the direction of some form of conceptual synthesis”.

Clearly his brief tribute to Julia Gillard, the nation’s first female prime minister, the woman he had brought down less than 24 hours earlier, was as fine an example of a conceptual synthetic as so many of his other arrogant musings.

Observing him standing at the Despatch Box again and musing on the need for politicians to try and be “kinder and gentler” with each other with Gillard’s blood still dripping from his dagger was hard to stomach - but when he then went on to pay tribute to the woman he had so spectacularly deposed as a “standard bearer for women” - his performance lapsed into the delusional.

In Rudd’s world, Gillard was a major reformer with a proud record of great achievements.

If he believed this in any small portion, he would have given her a skerrick of genuine support instead of working tirelessly over the past three years to white-ant her.

Rudd says he has benefited from the perspective of spending time in what he termed “the nether regions” and a “distant place” within parliament but whatever the beneficial effects of his period on the backbench may have been they have yet to be revealed to the public.

It is now six months since Gillard launched the longest election campaign in the nation’s history - during a speech at the National Press Club. It was a huge mistake, which fed into the general paralysis of her Labor-independent-Green minority government and highlighted its serial policy failures.

That was not her intent, of course. Gillard said she believed her early announcement would permit business and consumers to “plan their year”.

They people of Australia certainly did plan their year. They effectively drew the curtains on 2013. They withheld investment, they withdrew their confidence, and the economy shrank.

Gillard said it should be “clear to all which are the days of governing, and which are the days of campaigning” but, while there was a lot of campaigning, she was fighting a raging civil war within her own party that left scant time for governing.

Rudd, had he learnt anything, had he listened to anyone during his frequent trips to shopping centres around the nation over the past three years, would have understood that the millions of Australians he claims were clamouring for his return really only wanted a circuit breaker - and they saw his resurrection merely as a means to curtail the longest election campaign in our history.

But his time in exile was wasted. Nothing he offered yesterday was new. He said the hardest thing was to offer a policy plan for the nation - and he proved his own point.  He offered no policy plans.

Yet, when last he was prime minister, he changed the Howard government’s successful border protection policy, which had emptied the camps on Christmas Island and stopped the boats, to an open border policy which has led to 45,000 illegal boat arrivals.

On the day before the 2007 election, he said that he would turn the boats around and then never did. He signed Australia up to the United Nations’ hysterical global warming agenda and opened the door to the carbon dioxide tax through an emissions trading scheme campaign - which he then turned around and dumped.

He started FuelWatch and GroceryWatch - and subsequently dumped them as well.

He launched the pink batts insulation scheme - which cost four lives and a billion dollars to fix.

He said he would fix public hospitals or take them over - but walked away from the policy - and he promised to deliver budget surpluses over the economic cycle and failed in that, too.

After Question Time, Sky News anchor David Speers astutely observed that Rudd had slipped right back into the prime ministerial chair. Nothing had changed. That’s the problem.

Three years ago Rudd did not even stand against Gillard in the leadership ballot when his disgruntled colleagues told him he was Labor’s problem.  Three years on, overnight polls notwithstanding, he remains Labor’s problem.

If the first Rudd government was dysfunctional, this incarnation embodies dysfunction on steroids.

We all know how disparaging those who worked with Rudd have been about his character, labelling him variously as an egomaniac, narcissistic, disloyal psychopath. That was on a good day.

It would be in his interest, and the interest of the Australian people, to keep the number of days voters must wait until the next election to a minimum.


The contemptuous political class

The political class has contemptuous attitude towards the Australian public. And I am not talking about our new Prime Minister. The case in point is the upcoming referendum on whether to recognise local government, which in reality expands the powers of the Commonwealth.

The referendum seeks to amend section 96 of the Australian constitution to read: ‘Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State, or to any local government body formed by a law of a State, on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.’

If the referendum is successful, not only will the Commonwealth have expanded powers into areas that have traditionally been the responsibility of the states, but it will duplicate state bureaucracies at a federal level.

The expansion of government power is coupled with a $32 million public information campaign that treats the public with utter contempt.

The contempt arises from the fact that $31.6 million of taxpayer funding is for the ‘Yes’ campaign, while only $0.5 million is for the ‘No’ campaign.  If the case for reform were strong enough, such asymmetrical financial support would not be necessary.  By way of comparison, for the republic referendum, the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns each received $7.5 million.

The political class is spending your money to convince you that they should be more powerful.

Despite the excessive spending on a public information campaign, there is evidence that government ministers don’t even understand the logic behind the efforts to expand Commonwealth powers.

With overwhelming electoral and financial support for the referendum from the political class (with several exceptions), it is important for individuals, communities and civil society at large to organise themselves against the further encroachment of government into their lives.

If you want to get involved in the ‘Yes’ campaign, you can read more on the Australian Local Government Association’s campaign website,  and if you want to get involved with the ‘No’ campaign, visit the Vote No To Canberra’s Power Grab website.


A good enough reason for a trip to Adelaide

AUSTRALIA'S finest pasties are baked at Glenelg's Orange Spot Bakery.  The Anzac Rd institution is again officially home to the country's best pasties after being awarded the top prize in the national "Great Aussie Pastie Competition" this month.

The bakery has won the coveted award, dished out by the Baking Associations of Australia, four years running.

It took eight judges three days to sample 1500 pies and pasties in Melbourne this month.

"We're really pleased. We've worked really hard as it takes a long time to get it down pat," Orange Spot owner Nick Davey said.

He said changing his pastry recipe was the key to his success. "I'm not going to go into too many details, but the head judge told us it was the best pastry he's tasted in 25 years of judging.

This year Mr Davy changed the formula, production and baking process.

"It's not something that happens overnight. It took us six months to perfect, so there's a lot of stuff that's thrown in the bin along the way."

Top-quality local ingredients were crucial, he said.


Friday, June 28, 2013

The blue tie men

Julia was more prophetic than she knew

My magic power is still working

I don't actually have any magic power but it sometimes seems as if I do.  If I think something in politics should or will happen, very often it does, sooner or later.  A case in point is the resurrection of Rudd.  On 23rd., I said on this blog that the ALP would have to bring him back  -- despite that idea being widely pooh-poohed at the time.

And when I did hear of that prophecy coming true I immediately knew that there was a way for Rudd to win the next election.  He should abolish the carbon tax and the mining tax and seek a bipartisan agreement on "asylum seekers".  All three changes would cost him very little but would take Abbott's chief weapons away.

I didn't actually think he would do all that.  He is too Leftist.  But the latest news reports do point to the mining tax going and a revamp of the carbon tax and a possible shift in a conservative direction on the boat people.

So my magic power was pretty good.  Rudd and his allies are  looking at exactly the policies that I prophesied.  Why do I have that magic power?  I guess its just that I have a realistic grasp of the forces at work in politics.  The ALP couldn't ignore Gillard's poll numbers and Rudd would have to want to use a new start to disarm Abbott if possible.

ALP to ride on pennies from Kevin as PM Rudd set to offer election sweeteners to voters

KEVIN Rudd could offer a range of sweeteners - including dumping the carbon tax - in a last-ditch attempt to snatch victory from the Coalition.

Mr Rudd has refused to commit to the saving and spending measures in Labor's Budget announced just last month, leaving him open to re-write the party's playbook as the election nears.

The restored PM will push to dump the carbon tax and go straight to an emissions trading scheme in a bid to unshackle the Government from the politically toxic policy.

After failing to announce any new policies on his first day back in the top job, Mr Rudd is under pressure from within Labor to overhaul funding for schools and hospitals, replace the carbon tax with an ETS and dump the mining tax.

Mr Rudd was last night locked in talks with his key backers as he came under increasing pressure to present a clean break from the era of his predecessor Julia Gillard.

He is expected to announce a new ministerial line-up as early as today after losing more than a third of the Cabinet in his political comeback.

The Courier-Mail understands that the carbon tax, which is due to rise to $24.50 next week, will top the agenda when the new prime minister convenes his first Cabinet meeting on Monday.

However, in a signal that he would conduct a consensus government, Mr Rudd has indicated to colleagues that no changes would be made without approval of the Cabinet.

Axing the current fixed price and going straight to a market-based floating price could see the cost drop to as little as $6 a tonne. It was estimated that the move could cost several billion dollars in revenue.

With Parliament not due to return before an election, Mr Rudd is likely to announce it as an election policy.

Ms Gillard's deadline for Campbell Newman and other hold-out premiers to sign up to Labor's national school funding plan is likely to be extended beyond Sunday.

Mr Rudd faces calls to take a tougher approach to asylum seekers to counter the Opposition's attacks that he sparked the recent increase in boat arrivals by watering down border protection laws when he was last in charge.


Kevin Rudd urged to his fix boats mistake after being sworn in

KEVIN Rudd has told colleagues he will not "lurch to the Left" on asylum-seekers, with caucus members publicly urging him to toughen Labor's policy or risk seeing his government consigned to the "dustbin of political history".

As Mr Rudd used his first day in office to recast his leadership, swearing off the "old politics" of division and conflict, Labor MPs' warned the resurrected Prime Minister that his efforts would count for nothing if he failed to tackle the "illegal immigrant problem".

Labor senator Glenn Sterle told The Australian Mr Rudd had assured him in the wake of Wednesday's leadership ballot that he would not soften Labor's stance on the issue, which has helped destroy Labor's standing in western Sydney.

In a clear reference to Mr Rudd's 2010 warning to the party not to "lurch to the Right" on asylum-seekers, made at the time of his removal as prime minster, Senator Sterle said Mr Rudd promised not to "lurch to the Left" either. "Kevin said to me (after the ballot), he will not be taking a lurch to the Left," Mr Sterle told The Australian yesterday. "He understands that it is a major issue in Western Australia and in western Sydney."

Senator Sterle's comments are part of a wider hardening of rhetoric on the asylum issue within the Labor Party, spearheaded by Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who said after Ms Gillard's ousting that the refugee system was broken, with economic migrants, not refugees, now flooding Australia's shores.

Senator Carr said the asylum problem had changed "under our noses", with genuine refugee supplanted by opportunists. "They're not people fleeing persecution," Senator Carr told the ABC's Lateline program. "They're coming from majority religious or ethnic groups in the countries they're fleeing. They're coming as economic migrants."

In Mr Rudd's first term as prime minister, Labor unwound many of the Howard-era measures that had helped stem the flow of floats. Since he was elected in late 2007, more than 44,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in Australia in more than 740 boats. With the arrival of three more boats yesterday, more than 12,807 asylum-seekers have arrived this year alone.

Mr Rudd's targeting of the carbon tax has been on his agenda since he challenged for the leadership in February last year and indicated he would review the fixed-price period.

The clean energy package Ms Gillard negotiated with the Greens and the regional independents is designed to transition to a floating price, linked to the European emissions trading scheme, on July 1, 2015. The fixed price will increase to $24.15 for each tonne of carbon from Monday.

Mr Rudd's office last night confirmed he would be discussing the "implementation of the carbon price when cabinet meets next week".

But the issue of asylum-seeker arrivals remains the most contentious and politically damaging for the new Rudd government.

Senator Sterle said that in his home state of Western Australia, Labor's handling of the asylum issue had resulted in a "steady decline" in support for the party.

And, in a view shared by the Department of Foreign Affairs and border security agencies, Senator Carr blamed the high success rate for refugee claims in Australia for contributing to the problem. "We've reached the view that as a result of court and tribunal decisions, it's coming up wrong. We need a tougher, more hard-edged assessment," he said.

Senator Bishop said Senator Carr's assessment was representative of a wider view within the Labor caucus, which has become increasingly spooked by the electoral backlash facing the party over its handling of the issue. Senator Sterle said if the party could not find a solution to the issue "we'll be confined to the political dustbin of history".


Convicted rapist, drug dealers and a killer knowingly hired by Queensland Health

A RAPIST, a convicted killer and several drug dealers and fraudsters are among almost 200 people with criminal convictions knowingly hired by Queensland Health who still work there, a Right to Information investigation has found.

Despite a crackdown on criminal checks in the wake of the "fake" Tahitian prince, Joel Morehu-Barlow, in the past year, 34 Queensland Health employees have faced further convictions and, of those, 11 remain employed.

They include several nurses and operational staff found guilty of drug-related charges, theft, wilful damage and assault.

Of those who lost their job since January 1, 2012, two were charged with murder and one with sexual assault, while another three were convicted of armed robbery, sexual assault and unlawful wounding.

A spreadsheet of Criminal History Advisory Panel decisions obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws, show decision-makers appointed a drug dealer to work in aged care in 2009 because, although the "conviction was serious, this occurred more than 25 years ago (and) there have been no convictions since then".

The length of time since the offence was given as the reason why Queensland Health gave the green-light for an armed robber to be hired in 2009, also in aged care, despite being sentenced to six years imprisonment (but only serving two) in 1983.

However, it was only three years after the conviction that Queensland Health hired another drug dealer as an "operational support officer" in the Torres Strait in 2010. The applicant was convicted and fined in the Magistrates Court in 2007 for supplying and possessing dangerous drugs and forgery.

In another case, a student "social worker" was also given a job in 2011 after being jailed for 18 months in 2005 for supplying a prohibited drug because they had a "consistent employment history" and were "undertaking tertiary studies".

Other Queensland Health documents show crimes occurring on the job, including one nurse who faced court on 16 charges after allegedly withdrawing money from ATMs with debit cards stolen from patients, while another continued to pocket cab vouchers for several years before being caught.

Many more Queensland Health staff faced charges in the past year after allegedly committing fraud, stalking a co-worker, stealing drugs such as morphine or pethidine, accessing child pornography or were found in possession of methamphetamine.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg acknowledged three employees who were hired despite particularly serious convictions, one of rape in 1998, one of robbery in 1999 and one of unlawful killing in 1997, were still employed.

"Less than 200 employees sought and were approved for Queensland Health employment with a criminal conviction," Mr Springborg said.

"That's just a quarter of a per cent of Queensland Health staff."

Mr Springborg said background criminal history checks had tightened since Morehu-Barlow was caught siphoning off more than $16 million of taxpayers' money while working at Queensland Health.

"Queensland Health has protocols that require background criminal history checks ... these were expanded to include checks of the criminal record in New Zealand in July 2012," Mr Springborg said.

"Administrative arrangements for 'grants', such as those exploited by Joel Barlow, have been reviewed by the former Auditor-General, Glenn Poole. The majority of these have been redesignated as service agreements, and their accounting obligations tightened."


Thursday, June 27, 2013

The comedy act of the day:  Latham likens Rudd to a snake

"Biffo" never changes.  He still hates everyone,  particularly members of his own party

FORMER Labor leader Mark Latham has likened Kevin Rudd to a rat and a "snake in the pit" for ousting Julia Gillard from The Lodge.

Mr Latham, who lost the ALP leadership in 2005, described Mr Rudd's win over Ms Gillard in Wednesday's leadership ballot as the victory of a saboteur.

He said the message Mr Rudd was sending to Australia's youth was "to stab people in the back".

"It's to be a rat and a snake in the pit - that's the message that Kevin Rudd sends," Mr Latham told Fairfax radio.

He said Labor has "lost all sense of any moral perspective on how to conduct themselves".

"It's to leak to Laurie Oakes without having the guts to put your name to your words, it's to destabilise, it's to go behind people's backs."

Mr Latham said he doubted Mr Rudd had changed since being toppled as prime minister in 2010.

"Does it look like he's changed? All those lies about his intentions, all those lies about not wanting to challenge again," Mr Latham said.

"The saboteur of 2010 is now the leader of the 2013 election campaign."


NSW government to introduce new bed tax on public housing tenants with spare bedrooms

The same policy in Britain caused quite an uproar recently but it is plainly just

PUBLIC housing tenants with spare bedrooms will be charged a weekly tax as the state government commits to moving 500 people a year into smaller accommodation.

Community Services Minister Pru Goward will today announce details of the controversial bed tax, which will be charged to all public housing tenants who have an extra bedroom and refuse to move to a smaller property.

Singles with extra bedrooms will be charged an extra $20 a week, and couples will be charged an extra $30 a week under the tax.

Ms Goward said there were more than 17,000 public housing properties with three or more rooms that are occupied by singles or couples, and she is prepared to cop some resistance to the idea.

"I ask all the tenants with vacant bedrooms in their property to think about the needy families with children who remain on the waiting list," Ms Goward said.

"These tenants should think about putting up their hand to move to a more suitably sized property.

"The government has looked at a number of ways to encourage more families with children into multi-bedroom homes and were unsuccessful. We need a stronger incentive."

The government expects to reap $2.2 million from the rehousing of tenants, but Ms Goward said it was not a revenue-raising scheme.

The state government will target suburbs with high numbers of public housing tenants with extra rooms, where there are large numbers of families on the waiting list that need those rooms. It is understood Liverpool, Mount Druitt and Shellharbour will be the first suburbs targeted when the push begins in September.

Ms Goward said tenants would only be charged the tax if they refused to move: "Everybody will benefit, existing tenants will be rehoused more quickly, families waiting for help will receive it sooner and the NSW taxpayer whose dollars will be used more efficiently (will benefit)."

Blake Johan, 21, was born with cerebral palsy and his family of four have been on the government housing waiting list for seven years. They currently live in private housing.

Blake's father, Dean, said the bed tax initiative was a good way to get the right residents into the right homes.

"If they're not using the room they should be paying extra for it," Mr Johan, from Barrack Heights, said.

"There's plenty of people waiting and waiting."


Australian children's education dropping further against world standards

THROWING money at schools is no guarantee children will do well, with Australian student performance declining on most international scales despite increased funding.

Despite enjoying a growth in public spending of more than four times the OECD average, test results across most rankings have fallen, according to a snapshot of world education released yesterday.

It comes as Julia Gillard used her final caucus meeting to confirm education reform will be a key focus of Labor's election campaign.

With Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia unlikely to sign on to Gonski before the Prime Minister's June 30 deadline this Sunday, heated debate over school funding is set to continue in the lead up to the September election.

The new data also reveals Australian teachers are among the best paid in the world.  Teachers' salaries are above the OECD average and have risen steadily, some 13 per cent since 2000 at all education levels.

This increase is below the OECD average salary rise of 17 per cent however, teachers in Australia earn 91 per cent of the salary of other workers similar age and education level, compared with an average of as little as 80 per cent.

The Education at a Glance report said spending on schools in Australia increased by 24 per cent between 2008 and 2010 - more than four times the average increase of five per cent.

Education experts said the data was proof "the system isn't working".

"When you have that sort of substantial increase in expenditure and you are not getting improved effectiveness or an increase in student outcomes, it's just clear evidence that we are spending in the wrong areas," Dr Ben Jensen, director of school policy for the Grattan Institute, said.

Dr Jensen said spending on "fads" such as laptops for every child had contributed to the problem.

"This is only partly to do with the federal government. This is also an issue for the state governments and the non government sector as well, which are wasting just as much money," he said.

The Prime Minister's national plan for school improvement, or Gonski reforms, pledge to restore Australian schoolkids to the top five countries by 2025. In the most recent international ranking, released last December, Australian Year 4 students came 27th in reading.

But Dr Kevin Donnelly from the Education Standards Institute said the return to the top of international rankings "won't happen without significant changes" to how schools are run.

"Just spending money for spending sake doesn't make sense. There is a lot of evidence that even with increased expenditure standards haven't gone up," he said.

"If you look at some of those countries that outperform Australia in testing, they spend a lot less money."

Improved curriculum quality, better teachers and a stronger focus on discipline were all contributors to student success, he said.


A failed last throw:  Unmarried and barren feminist tries to win the Mumsy vote.  Stunt backfires

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been accused of spinning a yarn after a PR stunt to show off her domestic skills unravelled yesterday.

The Welsh-born leader came under fire for incongruous photos showing her knitting a toy kangaroo present for Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s baby.

The photo-shoot for Australian Women’s Weekly show the prime minister  - often criticised for her perceived lack of homemaking instincts -  sat in an armchair surrounded by balls of wool and her dog Reuben faithfully by her feet.

‘It’s a cute project to work on,’ she said.  ‘In terms of knitting for Kate’s baby - I knit for babies, in part, because they are smaller projects.  ‘I’ve got not that much time in my life. You can get them done and there’s a sense of satisfaction in having completed it,’ she added.

But the pictures of homely bliss caused her critics to drop their stitches.  They dismissed the domesticated scene as a ‘contrived’, saying Gillard has long made a habit of rejecting feminine presentations.

One columnist wrote she was  ‘giving encouragement to young female politicians by plying a hobby now synonymous with mad old aunts.’

Nationals Senator Fiona Nash said the photos showed ‘a lack of connection’ with the Australian public.

The PM’s press office insisted it was not just a PR opportunity -  even though the magazine said the idea for the shoot came from her spin doctors.

Christopher Pyne, Liberal MP, told reporters: 'We know the prime minister is good at spinning a yarn - and now we have the picture to prove it.'

Gillard, 51, from, Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, has been subjected to several personal attacks recently.

The sexuality of her partner was questioned by an Australian radio host and barbed comments have been aimed at her figure - with friends saying she is the victim of infamous Australian male chauvinism.

Others questioned how her knitting for the royal baby sat with her strong republican stance.

'I campaigned for a yes case. We will get there again,' she told the magazine.

'There is a real sense of respect for the Queen, so I do think a natural moment to look again will be when her reign comes to an end.

‘Prince William and Kate, and their child will still be personalities in Australia; people will still follow their lives with interest,’ she said.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Illegal imigrants dilute charity resources

PROCEEDS from the $5.3 million Vinnies CEO Sleep Out will be shared with asylum seekers, leaving one high-profile participant "disappointed".

Dozens of high-profile business leaders slept rough for a night last week to raise the money for the St Vincent de Paul Society's homeless services, which also help asylum seekers.

Australian Hotels Association CEO Paul Nicolaou, who is also a former Liberal Party state candidate, raised $88,000 and says he is "disappointed" a charity like Vinnies is needed to help asylum seekers paid 89 per cent of the dole.

"There are 100,000 people who are homeless across the country. If we are allowing refugees to go on the streets and not providing for them and it has to be funded by charities like St Vincent De Paul, there is a huge problem, the federal government needs to pick up its act," said Mr Nicolaou, who is nursing a cold after his night on the streets.

"The resources (of St Vincents) are needed to help existing people."

The Coalition condemned the government for putting more than 14,000 asylum seekers into the community and leaving charities to provide additional support.

"Labor's community dumping policy of illegal boat arrivals is occurring without any consultation or thought for the consequences on communities and organisations like St Vincent de Paul who do their best to provide much needed services to our most needy," Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor's spokesman said the welfare payments to asylum seekers were "adequate but not generous" because the government did not "want the provision of support to be an incentive that encourages people to put their lives in the hands of people smugglers".

A spokeswoman for the charity said it did not discriminate and some of those assisted would be refugees living in the community.

"The St Vincent de Paul Society provides assistance to the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our community and has done so, without discrimination, for close to 160 years in Australia," she said.

"The Society in NSW runs over 30 homeless services across the state assisting men, women and children including rehabilitation and learning centres. The society assists all people at risk of or experiencing homelessness and this would include people living in our community as refugees."

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr told caucus colleagues that Iranians were coming to Australia by boat to escape an economy crippled by international sanctions, not to flee persecution.

Mr Carr also told colleagues people smugglers were fuelling the trade and the economic boat migrants were taking places from the humanitarian program for genuine refugees.

Of the more than 13,000 people who have arrived this year, 4136 have been from Iran, compared to just 2749 for all of last year.

Mr Carr's comments came during a fiery caucus meeting, during which Victorian backbench MP Laura Smyth told Mr O'Connor the government's no-advantage policy was "indefensible."

Under the policy, asylum seekers could be left in the community without their refugee claims being processed for as long as they would have waited if they were in an overseas camp.


Melbourne households will suffer an increase of up to $222 a year in water bills, mainly to pay for Greenie desal plant

Melbourne water bills will rise between $167 and $222 in the coming financial year.

WATER bills for Melbourne households will surge up to $222 a year, mainly to pay for the southern hemisphere's biggest desalination plant.

The drain from July 1, approved by the Essential Services Commission, means costs have more than doubled in six years for many families.

Customers with the biggest three retailers face average 19 to 25 per cent annual price rise before inflation, then CPI rises for the following four years.

ESC analysis reveals that once inflation forecasts are factored in, typical residential bills for Yarra Valley, South East and City West Water will climb 33 to 40 per cent over five years.

That is before any water is drawn from the controversial $24 billion Wonthaggi desal plant.

ESC chairman Dr Ron Ben-David said that "two-thirds to three-quarters" of the new increase covered desal plant costs.

2Yarra Valley bills for an average home will rise $222 in 2013-14, and by an estimated total of $354 over five years.

South East Water's will rise $221 initially, and by $344 by 2017-18.

City West customers face a $168 jump next financial year, and a $282 rise over five years.

Bills for Western Water, which is less exposed to the desalination plant, will increase $47 next financial year and $270 for five years, up 28 per cent.

Customers will be slugged a total of $12 billion over five years. This is about $1 billion less than requested after the regulator identified savings from lower financing, labour and energy costs.

"This represents a significant reduction from the increases originally proposed by the businesses," Dr Ben-David said.

Consumer Action chief executive Gerard Brody said: "The community should be pleased the ESC has made a genuine effort to limit price rises but, for those households already struggling to pay their bills, this will hit hard."


Australian economy set to record 22 years of consecutive growth

THIS coming Sunday evening, the Australian economy will achieve a remarkable milestone, closing off the books on 22 years of consecutive economic growth.

It will be a remarkable achievement. But it will mask enormous turmoil in the Australian economy.

And, of course, the more important question is: where to from here?

The winds of economic change have been blowing a gale. But the Prime Minister is right: we're going to be OK.

On Monday, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, delivered a warning against "unreasonable pessimism" about Australia's economic future.

There are indeed reasons for optimism, which I will get to.  But it is also important to recognise the period of intense economic change we have all lived through since the global financial crisis.

The economy today is barely recognisable to the one Labor inherited just five and a half short years ago.

On the eve of the global financial crisis, the Australian economy was growing between 4 and 5 per cent a year.

Economic growth today is running at 2.5 per cent - far from recession territory - but below its long term average of about 3.25 per cent.

The inflation genie that so troubled the later years of the Howard government has been vanquished.

Just prior to the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers in late 2008, Australia's rate of inflation hit a whopping 5 per cent. Today, it's a tepid 2.5 per cent.

Lower inflation has meant sharply lower interest rates.

The Reserve Bank's official cash rate stood at an eye-watering 6.75 per cent in the last few months of the Howard government, no doubt contributing to the mood of discontent.

Today the cash rate is at an historic low of 2.75 per cent, providing much relief for mortgageholders.

We survived the global financial crisis - thanks to China, interest rate cuts and the Rudd Government's quick stimulus - but it has hardly been plain sailing since then.

Australia's jobless rate has begun a slow march north, from 4 per cent in early 2008 to 5.5 per cent.

The high Aussie dollar has sounded the death knell for many manufacturers. Ford Australia is closing its doors and Holden is warning of more to come.

It is difficult to understate the enormity of the changes being wrought on the Australian economy right now by a still high Australian dollar and the winding down of the mining boom.

The reforms of the 1980s which made our economy more flexible - like floating the dollar and decentralising wage bargaining - have allowed the economy to undergo a period of intense structural change.

More recently, the tidal wave of mining investment has crested and its pullback will detract from growth in coming years.

Sharemarkets have been on the slide in recent weeks on market expectations central banks in the United States and China will soon start tightening policy, bringing to an end the days of cheap money.

But there are silver linings to a lot of these economic storm clouds.

It would be a good thing if China's maturing economic growth could be made more sustainable by authorities there curbing a recent credit boom.

Similarly, the world's biggest economy - America - is picking itself up off the floor, meaning the central bank there will soon stop printing money.

As the rest of the world recovers, other currencies are becoming more attractive to investors, meaning the Australian dollar has taken a tumble to around US92 cents.

Again, this is a good thing.

The falling Aussie dollar will relieve pressure on our struggling industries such as manufacturing, education services and tourism, all of which are significant employers.

In another positive development, mining investment has peaked, but exports remain strong and will continue to contribute to national income.

And it's only a matter of time before housing construction picks up, given you can walk into a bank and get a home loan rate with a "4" in front. And rates can go even lower still.

Meanwhile, Australian households are sitting on a war chest of savings, having spent the last five years using lower interest rates to pay off their mortgage faster.

This is a very different economy than it was six years ago. But we're managing the transition surprisingly well, so far.

There will, of course, always been doomsayers.

The investment bank Goldman Sachs recently predicted there is a 20 per cent chance Australia's dream run of 22 years consecutive growth will soon end in recession.

Their central case, however, remains that growth slows to 2 per cent this year and 1.9 per cent next year as the mining investment boom wanes and the dollar remains relatively high.

"While a recession in Australia is possible we believe there is still time for the economy to respond to the combination of better global growth, domestic policy stimulus, and a lower Australian dollar."

I'm not a betting man, but 80 per cent odds of success sound pretty good to me.


Victoria to tighten parole laws in wake of Jill Meagher's murder, to be 'the toughest in Australia'

Victoria's Premier says the state's new parole laws, which will make breaching parole a criminal offence, will be the toughest in Australia.

Under the new laws, which will be introduced in the Victorian Parliament later this week, breaching parole will now be classed as a separate offence.

A breach of parole may mean breaking a curfew, or breaching an alcohol ban.

Denis Napthine says he found it extraordinary that breaching parole was not already an offence in Victoria.

The penalty for breaching parole includes up to three months' jail, and or a $4,200 fine.

"The bill also gives police new powers to arrest and charge a parolee for a breach of parole terms and conditions, whether or not it involves further offending," Dr Napthine said.

"This means police effectively have extra powers to deal with parolees before they have committed further offences, by arresting them for parole braches and putting them back behind bars."

While police will have the power to detain people suspected of breaching parole, it does not say for how long people can be detained before they are charged.

The legislation will also require police to notify the parole board of any alleged breach with 12 hours.
'Listening to the community'

The further toughening of the parole regulations come in the wake of the murder of ABC employee Jill Meagher.

Convicted killer Adrian Earnest Bayley raped and murdered Ms Meagher last year while on parole, in a case which sparked outrage amongst the community and criticism of the Parole Board.

Dr Napthine says the move will make Victoria's parole laws the toughest in Australia.

"Anybody who breaches the conditions of their parole will be taken off the streets," he said.

"The further strengthening of our parole system is what the community expects and this is what the Coalition Government is delivering."

The changes build on reforms passed earlier this year.

Dr Napthine says the Government is listening to the community's concerns.

"Our community Victoria has a fundamental right to protection and safety," he said.

"It's absolutely essential that we have the laws and the police powers in Victoria to make sure we have a safer community."

Corrections Minister Edward O'Donohue says the Government has also commissioned former High Court justice Ian Callinan to carry out a review of the Adult Parole Board's Operations.

He says a review is currently underway.

"These sweeping changes to Victoria's parole system form part of the strengthening of law and order in Victoria, which the Coalition was elected implement," Mr O'Donohue said.

"These reforms include the recruitment of an addition 1,700 police and 940 Protective Service Officers to patrol railway stations in Melbourne and regional centres, and the introduction of tougher sentencing, in line with community expectations."

Opposition MP Jill Hennessy says Labor will work with the Coalition to reform the system.

"We will look forward to working co-operatively with the Government to try to insure we are able to address the deficiencies that have been so painfully identified in recent times," she said.


Google protect crooks

Google can be very high-handed in dealing with those who use their services.  They seem to see us as disposable trash.  Which is fair enough, I suppose.  You get what you pay for and most Google services are free.

I think it is a cause of concern, however, when they protect crooks at the expense of the general public.  If crooks can cover their tracks, they can go on deceiving and ripping off people.

And Google DO protect crooks.  If some crook asks for a report of his misdeeds to be deleted, Google will delete it from their servers.  They can't be bothered weighing up the rights and wrongs of complaints, apparently.  So crooks appear to have a completely open go to sanitize their record.

That has happened to me twice now.  Two shady gentlemen in Australia about whom I had blogged succeeded in getting my blog posts taken down by Google.  I reproduce below the latest takedown notice and a follow-up notice when I attempted to protest. Google have effectively blocked any communication from me.

The shady characters are Paul Darveniza and Ali Davut Sarikaya, also known as Dr David Kaye.  I have used one of my old Wordpress blogs to repost the news  items that Google deleted.  See here.  I would be obliged if people would link to it.  We might get justice back on the road that way.

Blogger blog takedown notification

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tony Abbott attacks Gillard over restrictions on legal immigration

Pauline Hanson is a generally conservative independent politician who is known for her criticism of Asian immigration.  Many of the skilled workers whom Gillard wants to bar are also Asian.  Abbott is generally sympathetic to minorities so is appalled by Gillard's stance

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott has called Julia Gillard worse than Pauline Hanson and used the government's chief spin doctor's foreign worker visa to attack and mock legislation to crackdown on 457 visas.

After accusing the government of "dog whistling" and creating a distraction from its failure to stop tens of thousands of asylum seekers arriving on boats, Mr Abbott told Parliament the Prime Minister was dividing Australia.

"I never thought I would see the day it wouldn't just be an independent Member of Parliament, a disendorsed member of a political party but it would be the PM of this country (seeking) to deliberately divide Australian from Australian to serve a political purpose, it is an embarrassment," he said.

The proposed laws which would force employers to market test and advertise to prove no Australian was available to fill a position was "false patriotism from a failing government," he claimed.

Mr Abbott mocked Ms Gillard's head of communications John McTernan, who is working in Australia on a 457 visa, calling his employment a case of "complete hypocricy."

"I've got nothing against the Prime Minister having someone working in her own office on a 457 visa, if he is the only person who can do the job, fair enough," he said, mocking the new legislation.

"For all I know there wasn't a single Australian capable of giving political advice to the current Prime Minister. For all I know not a single Australian wanted the job.

"I don't say that person is stealing the job of an Australian, I assume that person is making a unique and special contribution to our country. But if it is right in the PM's office, why isn't right for the other employers in this country?

"If the PM didn't have to advertise, if the PM didn't have to engage in six months of labour market testing why should every other employer in this country?"

He claimed the government "can't get tough on illegal arrivals by boat so they've decided to get tough on legal arrivals by plane."

"It is happening because this government has a political problem. Never mind the facts, never mind that everyone who has seriously looked at this knows the system is working well and if there are one or two problems or abusers they can be sorted out in the normal course of events," he said.

"The government has got a political problem, so what do they do? They look for someone to blame, they look for more people to demonise in their attempt to hold onto office.

"This government has a serious political problems, it's the border protection disaster which has meant since August 2008 we've had more than 700 illegal boats, we have had more than 44,000 illegal arrivals by boat. A problem this government cannot solve, a problem this government has effectively surrendered to the people smugglers."


ALP MPs kept in dark on disastrous Labor poll which predicts election wipeout

AN internal ALP report containing polling for 40 seats across Australia, and circulated among selected members of Julia Gillard's leadership group, shows Labor would be lucky to retain 30 to 35 seats after the election.

But the report has not been shared with most Labor MPs.

The Daily Telegraph has obtained data from the party's UMR research report compiled for the ALP national secretariat in the past two weeks.

It shows that in NSW, the swing against Labor is 10 to 12 per cent on average and warns it would lose 12 seats in NSW, the majority in Sydney.

In WA, the report warns of a wipe-out with the party unlikely to retain any seats, but for the outside chance of keeping Fremantle.

In SA, it would keep only two seats, including Kingston.

It would lose all four seats in Tasmania. The polling report shows that independent Andrew Wilkie would keep Denison, however.

It would also lose its two seats in the Northern Territory. In Victoria, it has forecast the loss of eight seats.

And in Queensland, Labor would be left with only Kevin Rudd's seat of Griffith and possibly the seat of Oxley.

A senior ALP source confirmed that a select group of cabinet ministers in the leadership group were aware of the report but had declined to circulate it or share the results with MPs at risk of losing their seats.

It warns that Labor, with an overall primary vote of 32 per cent, would likely only retain between 30 and 35 seats in the 150 seat House of Representatives - a loss of more than half its existing MPs.

The report showing the polling results of 40 seats across the country also reveals that the swings were twice as bad in seats held by Labor than those it didn't hold - confirming the electorate was now intent on punishing Labor.

"This reduces us to a rump. I'm not sure people realise this is going to be a defeat of the likes the Labor Party has never seen," the ALP source said.

Several MPs last night, when told of the report, demanded that the results be shared with the caucus.

The polling report comes on the back of analysis by The Daily Telegraph warning that Labor would also likely be stripped of any influence in the Senate, with the Coalition being delivered command of the numbers in both houses of parliament.

Yesterday Rudd supporter and veteran ALP strategist and campaigner Bruce Hawker warned that the Labor Party and the trade union movement risked oblivion if it lost its ability to influence the Senate - with Labor and the Greens likely to be able to command no more than 36 votes out of the 76.


Australia's banks are top of the world again

At the risk of being totally obnoxious, I note that about half of my portfolio is in Australian bank stock

Australia's big four banks have been ranked the most profitable in the developed world for the third year running, reigniting criticism about their market dominance.

With big bank profits likely to exceed $26 billion this year, figures show the Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ and NAB made better returns last year than lenders in 10 major developed countries, including Canada, the US, Britain and Europe.

In figures to be published on Monday, the Switzerland-based Bank for International Settlements says pre-tax profits of the big four were equal to 1.18 per cent of their total assets.

This puts Australian banks well ahead of all other wealthy countries on the list, with lenders only in the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China making better returns.

The league table shows Australian banks have lower costs than most of their peers and enjoy wider interest margins, a measure of profitability from lending. After the banks failed to pass on official interest rate cuts in full to borrowers last year, consumer group Choice seized on the results as a sign of feeble competition.

Its head of campaigns, Matt Levey, said the figures undermined bank claims that conditions were tough, an argument banks made last year to justify unpopular decisions on mortgage rates.

"It shows we have inadequate competitive pressure in that market. We still have don't have a situation where consumers are willing enough to look beyond the big four banks," he said.

"These are institutions which enjoy a privileged position in the community. They are supported to a huge extent by government and taxpayers and in return I don't think we are seeing the amount of competitive pressure that we deserve to see," he said.

The big four control 83 per cent of the lucrative mortgage market, after several smaller lenders were taken over during the global financial crisis.

In late 2010, the Gillard government made changes designed to put more competitive pressure on the big four and the issue will be examined again as part of a financial system inquiry if the Coalition wins government in September.

But the chief executive of the Australian Bankers' Association, Steven Munchenberg, said the banks' superior profits were explained by the economy's resilience. Most other countries on the list had been in the economic doldrums in recent years.

"There's a little bit of the Steven Bradbury effect - we've been doing so well because everyone else has fallen over," Mr Munchenberg said.

"The big difference between Australia and the rest of the world is we've had 20 plus years of uninterrupted economic growth."

But even before the crisis, the figures show Australian banking was a highly profitable business. Among developed countries, only the US had more profitable banks between 2000 and 2007.

In response to a sharp slowdown in loan growth since the global financial crisis, banks have embarked on deep job cuts. The Finance Sector Union says the big four cut more than 3300 positions last year, and 1300 jobs so far this year.

After it emerged last week that ANZ was considering sending 590 jobs overseas, the union's national secretary Leon Carter said the profit numbers from the Bank for International Settlements showed banks were "sacrificing" their staff for shareholder gain. The figures also showed Australian banks' operating costs were the fourth lowest among their peers after Sweden, France and Japan, at 1.19 per cent of assets.

Net interest margins were third highest among banks in developed countries, while provisions for bad loans were in the middle of the pack.

The BIS also ranked Australian banks as the most profitable in the developed world in 2011 and 2010. The latest report said Australian banks had "consolidated" the gains of previous years.


Spring Gully offers creditors full payment

A victory for sentiment.  I am pleased to say that I too bought some of their products recently, via Dick Smith. 

Background: A small family firm that has been making quality products for generations was losing out to cheap supermarket brands largely sourced from overseas.  Sympathy was aroused

Jams and pickles maker Spring Gully and its administrator say creditors can expect to be paid in full, in instalments, if they approve a management plan at a meeting next Monday.

Copies of a deed of company arrangement were sent to creditors last week by administrator Austin Taylor.

They outlined a return to profitable levels for Spring Gully's normal business operations due to strong sales and said creditors would get an initial downpayment then quarterly payments until the debt was cleared.

Spring Gully managing director Kevin Webb said strong support from shoppers had allowed the offer to repay 100 cents in the dollar.

"The support that we've been given by our consumers, everybody to be honest, through the corporate world, the media, through our customers, other retailers and I think we all know that the support has been absolutely amazing for Spring Gully," he said.

"Through that support, and what's been happening over the last two months as we've traded very strongly, we've been able to put together this proposal that, if the creditors decide to accept it on the first of July, we will then sign that with our creditors and move forward."

After Spring Gully ran into financial strife this year, retailers and customers showed overwhelming support for its range of food products.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Another government computer boondoggle

When will they ever learn?  Tailor-made computer programs rarely work.  Buying "off the shelf" is the only hope

The disastrous $180 million Victorian school intranet could be scrapped at the end of the month prompting fears that months of student work and reports would be lost.

The four-year contract with NEC to run the troubled network has not been renewed days before it expires on June 30, with a decision yet to be reached on its future.

Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon said the government was committed to protecting the Victorian education system from the "Ultranet debacle", which he said the Auditor-General had confirmed was "botched from conception to implementation by the former Labor government".

Mr Dixon said the Ultranet had already cost Victorian taxpayers at least $180 million – three times its original budget – despite being used by only 4 per cent of the intended 1.5 million teachers, parents and students.

"While it is unfortunate that current negotiations are now public, we will continue to work towards extracting whatever value we can for Victorian schools from this failed Labor program," Mr Dixon said.

Ian McKenzie, the principal of Alkira Secondary College – one of 18 schools to pioneer the Ultranet – said he had a teacher desperately archiving material from the Ultranet to ensure it was not lost.

"What about the student work sitting there, the teacher observations ... I'm scared what might happen to all the information on it," Mr McKenzie said.

"The blood, sweat and tears that has gone into the Ultranet and the work teachers put in – it's soul destroying. I have to face parents who took me on face value when I said: 'This is the best thing since sliced bread – every school is going to be using it in the future."

Troy Moncur, the leading ICT teacher at Nichols Point Primary, has started an online petition urging Premier Denis Napthine and Mr Dixon to save the Ultranet.

He said 52 schools now used the Ultranet to provide parents with fortnightly updates on their child's progress instead of generic outdated report cards in June and December. Four thousand reports had been published on the Ultranet in the last week alone.

"Staff are worried about the stuff they have put up – photos, comments ... if it's going to be terminated at the end of the financial year that wipes off 18 months of history of kids' work and activities. We are not sure what to do."

"NEC Australia is working with governments across the globe, particularly in China and the Middle East, who are interested in adopting the Ultranet," NEC Australia spokesman Heath Caban said.

The Ultranet, promised by the former government before the 2006 state election, was designed to provide a state-wide secure network that would enable parents to view their child's timetables, school work, academic progress and attendance and teachers to share curricula.

The project was dogged from the start by inadequate planning, cost blow-outs and failed tenders. A disastrous training day in 2010, which left 42,000 teachers unable to log on when the system crashed at 9am, also delayed the rollout of the Ultranet in schools.

A scathing Victorian Auditor General's report late last year found it had failed to deliver the promised benefits and had been shunned by schools.

The audit also revealed serious "probity lapses" surrounding the tendering of the Ultranet, with the budget expected to blow out to three times what was first intended in 2006.

Victorian Auditor-General Des Pearson said it was difficult to understand how the Ultranet went ahead when the Education Department was advised the project should cease or be delayed.

He recommended the Education Department review its internal tendering, probity and financial management practices in light of the serious issues identified by the audit.

The debacle is the latest in a string of government IT projects gone bad. Victoria's CenITex agency was found to be riddled with nepotism and black cheque misuse last year, while Queensland Health's payroll system debacle is still the subject of a parliamentary inquiry.

However, Australian Government's Chief Information Officer Glen Archer has said government IT projects are "not well understood" by the wider community.


Judges wiping young repeat offenders' criminal records clean

YOUNG offenders who repeatedly commit serious assaults, break-ins and other crimes are having their records wiped by higher courts.

Magistrates are recording convictions against offenders given numerous chances, but their decisions are being overturned on review.

In one case this year, a teen involved in a brutal bashing of a man lured through a fake Facebook profile of a woman had his conviction removed.

The cases raise more questions about whether laws are too heavily weighted against the recording of convictions for juvenile offenders.

They come as Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie gave his strongest indication yet that he would make all juvenile criminal history admissible in adult courts for the first time.

"Some young people make stupid mistakes and do deserve a chance to turn their lives around but I believe serious, repeat offenders shouldn't be able to hide behind their age like they can now," he said.

"I am considering making all criminal juvenile history admissible in adult courts, whether a conviction was recorded or not."

The Courier-Mail revealed in March that three in every four juveniles sentenced for assaults and sexual offences in the past three years did not have convictions recorded.

Queensland Chief Justice Paul de Jersey said at the time that there was "legitimate community concern" about how convictions were recorded against juveniles.

The Courier-Mail can today detail a series of cases where repeat or serious offenders had their criminal records scrubbed clean.

Childrens Court judges have deleted convictions imposed by magistrates in at least 14 published decisions since last year.

In one case, a Far North Queensland teenager had convictions recorded against him on his fifth and sixth appearances in court.

The youth went on to commit other offences but a judge removed the original convictions from his record.

Another case involved a Mackay teenager who had convictions recorded on his third court appearance, for offences including car theft and burglary.

He went on to face court a further five times, but a judge removed the convictions from his record.

A Mt Isa teenager claimed he was unaware convictions were recorded against him for break-ins and had them removed by a Childrens Court judge on review.

Glen Cranny, chair of the The Queensland Law Society's criminal law section, yesterday said there was "good reason" for a different criminal justice system for youths.

"That is, that they should be considered separately to adults in terms of their vulnerability and continuing emotional, cognitive and physical development, so different considerations do apply," he said.

"The society's view is that children do deserve special consideration.  "That is obviously a challenging proposition sometimes when some of the most disgraceful child offending is considered. 

"But in those instances convictions can be recorded of course, subject to judicial officers' discretion.  "We say it's a matter that should be really left by and large to the judge who has all the facts of the case at his or her disposal."

The default position of courts under the Youth Justice Act and appeal decisions is convictions are not recorded for juveniles.

If a youth offender is later in court as an adult, their juvenile criminal history can only be taken into account where convictions are recorded.

Employers asking for criminal histories also do not have to be told of any juvenile offences unless convictions are recorded.

Magistrates and judges considering convictions must take into account the nature of the offence, the child's age and impacts on rehabilitation and future employment.

Mr Bleijie is conducting a major review of the state's juvenile justice system as part of a promised crackdown on youth crime.

Under one reform being considered, all juvenile history would be made admissible in adult courts regardless of whether convictions are recorded.

He yesterday said 68 per cent of 3159 respondents to a government Safer Streets crime survey in March believed the measure would be effective or very effective.

Judges had "wide discretion" to vary sentences, including the power to revoke or record convictions, he said.

"It is important that magistrates and judges maintain their discretion when recording convictions as the circumstances of each case can vary significantly," Mr Bleijie said.

"The recording of convictions can also be relevant to future employment prospects."

In other possible reforms, young offenders in detention could be automatically transferred to an adult prison when they turn 17.

More "naming and shaming" of young offenders, the removal of detention as a last resort and a new offence for breaching bail are also being considered.

Mr Cranny said the society had raised concerns with the Attorney-General about many of the changes.

"We haven't seen any empirical evidence to suggest that there is a trend of concern or increasing reason for concern," he said.

"The society's view always is that law reform in this area, in all areas, should be based on proper research, empirical evidence and not based on anecdotal evidence or nebulous concepts like community feedback.

"For that reason we don't share the same belief that there needs to be substantial changes to the youth justice framework as it currently stands."

Justice de Jersey and Childrens Court president Judge Michael Shanahan declined to comment yesterday.


Politically incorrect food names in Australia

IS a Redskin an indigenous American or something to chew over and do little chocolate baby lollies offend you or are they simply delicious.

The racial overtones of Redskins lollies, featured as an ingredient on last night's MasterChef lollybag cake challenge, revives debate over the naming conventions of some of our favourite chewy treats.

The original Redskins wrapping featured a feather-bonneted indigenous American with a bright-red face, but that disappeared long ago.

The chocolate-flavoured and brown-coloured jelly babies we call Chicos, would also be unlikely to see the light of day in the politically conservative US.

"Public standards, apart from politics, in civility have changed dramatically over the years," said social historian Professor Janet McCalman, from the University of Melbourne.

Professor McCalman rejects the term political correctness, preferring community standards of civility, which she says extend across a whole range of things.

"If you really want to dig, there are all sorts of stereotypes which exist in advertising," she said offering attractive blondes, red-headed children, "cheap" Scotsman and public health dangers "caused" by Asiatics as examples.

"We are a lot more sensitive about what you can or cannot say."

But before falling victim to political-correctness in the late 1970s, American sweets included Cherry Chan Candy and Candy Crafter Peppermint Coolies featuring a Chinese face under a conical hat.

A Canadian tourist was shocked to discover Eskimo lollies on sale in New Zealand, saying the word Eskimo was unacceptable in her country and the indigenous people of Canada preferred Inuit. Meanwhile, while they are not food, Maori cigarettes are sold in Israel.

Scottish shortbread, Welsh rarebit, Irish cream, Kiwifruit are a whole other debate.

* Redskins - considered an offensive term by native Americans.

* Chicos - a chocolate-flavoured and chocolate-coloured jelly baby some consider has racist overtones, offensive to people of Latin-American descent.

* Fags - the fake lolly cigarette was renamed and rebranded as Fads. The name was also considered offensive by homosexuals.

* Jewfish - now know as mulloway. In WA they fish for a species known locally as dhufish.

* Long or short black - What we know as a strong shot of coffee, most commonly found in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, is know in the US as Caffe Americano.

* Coon cheese - While the term is highly-offensive in the US, ironically it's creator is one Edward William Coon of Philadelphia, who patented a fast maturation method for cheese.

* Scalliwag biscuits - formerly known as Golliwogs, images of blackfaced, curly-haired cartoonish characters have been offensive for decades, but were revived in a skit on the now-defunct Hey! Hey! It's Saturday.

* Gaytime - Sydney chef and gay icon Christine Manfield deliberately chose the name of this ice-cream and re-created it as a dessert at her now-closed Universal restaurant in Darlinghurst.

* Kaffir lime - Kaffir is a derogatory Afrikaans term for black Africans or whites who associate closely with blacks. For this reason, some South Africans refer to the fruit as K-lime.

* Coles changed the name of its own-label biscuit Creole Creams after a Queensland academic advised the word Creole had been used in a racist way to describe a person of mixed European and African ancestry.


University corruption over admission of VC's stepdaughter to medical school continues

THE University of Queensland has not released a Crime and Misconduct Commission report into UQ's handling of internal misconduct complaints it first received almost a year ago, angering university staff who helped bring it about.

UQ refuses to reveal the content of the document, received in final form in April, even as its Chancellor, John Story, told The Courier-Mail how keen he was to see the CMC's long-awaited full report into the 2011 nepotism scandal that claimed the jobs of a former vice-chancellor and his deputy.

That report, which the CMC has been promising to table in Parliament for months, is expected to include elements of the "Quality Assurance Review" that UQ won't release.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the CMC provided a draft of the quality assurance report to then vice-chancellor, Debbie Terry, in July or August 2012 after interviewing more than a dozen University staff about their experiences of bringing complaints of misconduct against UQ management.

One senior academic interviewed for the review, who did not want to be named, said a CMC officer had told him in July 2012 the report was about to be provided in a publishable form "and it would be up to UQ whether it made it public".

UQ management's behaviour "suggests they're not prepared to abide by their statements that they will be accountable and transparent", the academic said.

A former senior UQ administrator said he and other staff had expected the report to be published and had been ``very disappointed" when they realised last year it would not see the light of day.

UQ said former chair of Universities Australia, Emeritus Professor Gerard Sutton, and former parliamentarian, Dr David Watson, had "made themselves aware of the content of the draft CMC Quality Review" as part of their independent review.

But a spokeswoman said any questions about publishing the CMC report were a matter for the crime-fighting body.  "It's a CMC report," she said.

The CMC, which launched the review of UQ's internal complaint-handling processes on its own initiative in April 2012, declined to comment other than to confirm it had delivered the final report a year later.

UQ Chancellor John Story said this week: "It has been 17 months since the CMC announced that it was reviewing the (nepotism) matter. The matter has dragged on for far too long, and it is in everybody's best interests that it be resolved. We are looking forward to the finalisation of (their) report, and we are willing to accept any fair criticism of our handling of the matter and any reasonable suggestions for improvement."

The Courier-Mail revealed this month how the CMC had helped UQ deal with the reputation fallout from the nepotism scandal by tipping it off about media inquiries.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Gillard renews gender push

Pissing off male voters seems to be her shtick.  That half the voters are men seems to have escaped her.  Does Kevvy harp about  discrimination against men?  There's plenty of it.  See the divorce laws.

Her rant against Tony Abbott for his conventional views about sex differences got her adulation from feminists and puffed her up so next time she went all out against any man who wears a blue tie!   Quite insane and perceived as such

This latest push (below) will further reinforce her image as an obsessed feminist and confirm doubts among men about her fitness to lead the nation as a whole

She is just an angry screecher.  At least Kevvy smiles sometimes.  The ALP have got to  dump the shrew and bring  back Kevvy

The Gillard government will make a new pitch to female voters by announcing an inquiry into workplace discrimination against women taking parental leave when they are pregnant or caring for a baby.

Concern that women are being demoted, sacked or having their hours unfavourably "restructured" while on parental leave, or after their return to work, has prompted the inquiry by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

It will be announced on Saturday, less than three weeks after Prime Minister Julia Gillard tried to put gender at the centre of the election by suggesting women would be marginalised under an Abbott government.

The commission will conduct a national survey on the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination relating to pregnancy at work and return to work after parental leave.

After taking evidence from industry, employers, unions, other groups and victims of discrimination, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick will make recommendations on whether new laws are needed.

Ms Gillard said the inquiry, will be "pivotal" in assessing the scale of the problem and what should be done.

"It's very concerning that there are even anecdotal reports that people, particularly women, feel discriminated against when they are caring for young children," she told The Saturday Age.

The inquiry follows pressure from the ACTU to respond to evidence that one in three Australian women leaves the workforce permanently while pregnant or after having a child.

The chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter Anderson, welcomed the inquiry, saying: "Provided it is not a witch-hunt with preconceived views, this is a timely investigation."

It was supported by former attorney-general Nicola Roxon before she left the portfolio earlier this year. It will be announced on Saturday by her successor, Mark Dreyfus, Families Minister Jenny Macklin and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten.

The Prime Minister's standing with male voters dropped significantly in an Age/Nielsen Poll this week after Ms Gillard warned in a speech at the launch of the Women for Gillard support group that abortion could become the "plaything" of male politicians if there were a change of government.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the inquiry was needed because too many families were struggling under a system that had "not evolved to take into account the modern family".

Ms Kearney said women continued to experience discrimination in the form of job loss, missed opportunity for promotion and training and even demotion when they returned to work "because many bosses out there just don't get it".

An ACTU survey of 42,000 women last year found that employer unwillingness to consider flexible work arrangements to help women return from parental leave was a primary cause of stress, forcing many to quit their job.

"It's illegal to discriminate against women for being pregnant but this hasn't stopped one in five women reporting that they have been disadvantaged in the workplace," Ms Kearney said.

A national online survey will be conducted in August ahead of an interim report by the commission in October. After three months of consultations with affected groups and individuals, the commission's final report will be presented in May next year.


The racism that adopted children endure in Australia (?)

I imagine that most of what the self-righteous woman below reports is roughly true, if exaggerated, but the issue is one of perspective not of truth.  All kids get picked on by other kids any time they are different.  I used to be abused at school for having no interest in sport, an almost criminal offence in a small country town.  But it was like water off a duck's back.  There is no stress-free life.  You just have to learn to cope with adversities that are beyond your control.  That she has so little to actually report shows in the fact that her last 3 paragraphs refer to things that happened in the 19th century!

And if people looked at her askance while she was changing a baby in the middle of a plane might there not be reasons for that other than the shape of the baby's eyes?  She is just a whinger determined to proclaim what a do-gooder she is

Susan Murphy

Changing a nappy on a plane isn’t easy and it didn’t help to know we were being watched. The eyes of our fellow passengers bored into the backs of our heads - the novice moves of new parents; alternative entertainment to the in-flight film. Our newly adopted son looked over my shoulder, and through eyes that might have been painted on with two strokes of black ink and a calligraphy brush, he watched them back. I like to imagine he was thinking, “Who are you to make judgements about me?”  Strapped into seats in a mass of genetic sameness, the cargo of people remained anonymous.  But we had committed a public act.  No longer protected by our middle Anglo ordinariness, we had adopted a baby from another country and joined a minority group.

At new mothers’ group Cherie liked to talk about the size of her baby’s penis and her sister’s plastic leg. She was good for me. She gave me insight into how some people think and I learned to refine my answers to the questions we would be asked for years to come about our children; to find a balance between lightness and brevity. I tried not to take myself too seriously. When she asked me: “How do you know he doesn’t have AIDS?” or “Was his mother a prostitute?”  I answered her patiently and refrained from snarling in return, “How could you call your child Talon?” When I saw her husband’s death notice in the paper a few years ago, I remembered Cherie and the early lessons she’d taught me.

But the lessons weren’t all about me. Racism emerged early when my son was called Ching Chong boy in the toilet block during his first week of primary school. He sensed that this was unchartered territory and was reluctant to tell me what had happened. The grade six perpetrator's path would intersect with ours again years later, in the inevitable way of country towns; with mine as a teacher of students who had dropped out of school and with my husband’s as the young man’s defence lawyer in court. The primordial urge to tear the boy apart with my bare hands, as I might have done had I got to him at the time of the  attack on my child, had subsided by then.

Racist comments have peppered the children’s school years and ranged from old favourites (I learnt as a child that ‘Chinamen’ kept coins in their ears), to the more creative, ‘Koreans fuck dogs to make bread’. My son has been called an Asian faggot on Facebook and told to go back to where he came from by strangers in the street. I have witnessed people talking to our children in the loud slow voice some people use when talking to people who don’t speak English, sometimes despite having just heard them speak. I have seen drastic improvements in helpfulness when someone on the other side of a counter realises we are together.  My son doesn’t leave the house on Australia Day; the Cronulla riots of 2005 struck a particular chord with him.  

People who live within the confines of an Anglo-Celtic world (many politicians for example) don’t believe Australia is a racist country because they don’t see it up close. We see it; sometimes blatant, often subtle. Ethnicity is worn like a national costume with judgments and assumptions attached. Negative stereotypes are slapped on the wearer like an armband. We squirm when we see North Koreans goose-stepping in a military parade or people destroying chickens during an outbreak of bird flu in China. We cringe when we hear politicians banging the populist drum about asylum seekers or 457 visas. Our hearts sink when we see footage of a woman on a train screaming at two young men that her grandfather had fought in the war to “keep black c---ts like you out of the country”.

In 1886 the anti Chinese cartoon named ‘The Mongolian Octopus’ reached across the pages of The Bulletin, his tentacles poised to squeeze the life out of ‘white’ Australian men, women and children.

The body depicts a menacing Chinese character with shaved head and bad teeth; the tentacles labelled with names of diseases, debauched pastimes and drugs. One of them is wrapped around a piece of furniture and labelled ‘Cheap Labour’.

Racist policies in Australia are no longer enshrined in laws such as the White Australia Policy but scratch the surface of commonly held views and the octopus still lurks. So spare a thought for the non-Anglo-Celtic Australians who live here too, particularly children; and remember: dog whistlers don’t bother whistling if there is no-one to whistle.


NSW criminals back on streets after five-minute parole hearing

The State Parole Authority is deciding to release murderers, sex offenders and other serious criminals based on initial deliberations lasting only five minutes "at the most", it has been claimed.

Noel Beddoe, who voluntarily left the authority at the end of last year, has written to Attorney-General Greg Smith outlining concerns that the "safety of the community wasn't always uppermost" in the parole process. On Friday NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell said he would like to see violent offenders locked away forever after a woman was allegedly assaulted by a criminal on parole, Terrence John Leary, on Wednesday evening.

A former secondary school principal of 20 years, Mr Beddoe said it was increasingly difficult to give complex cases the attention they deserved.

After "a minute's deliberation" at private meetings, authority members would make initial decisions on whether prisoners should be given parole. "The more complex ones [take] five minutes at most", he said. On one day before Christmas last year, authority members examined 106 matters in three hours.

Initial parole decisions for serious criminals who have served 12 years' jail or more go to a public hearing, where the Crown, Corrective Services, victims and the offender can make their case.

However, the authority makes the final decision.

For less serious criminals, the authority's earlier recommendation can lead to their release.

Mr Beddoe, who was appointed to the authority in June 2009, said the focus seemed to be getting inmates out of jail rather than whether they still posed a danger to the community. He also questioned the efficacy of inmate rehabilitation programs.

"The majority of inmate re-habilitation programs had never been evaluated," he said. "I raised the issue in policy planning meetings more than once only to be rebuffed. It always bemused me why a clear educative process wasn't entered into."

Terrence Leary, 46, is back in jail over the alleged attack on Wednesday, which happened while he was on parole for the murder of a 17-year-old girl in 1990. The parole authority had denied his bid for parole six times, believing he had not dealt with his offending behaviour.

However, he was released in August as he approached the end of his sentence.

"It's an appalling situation," Mr O’Farrell said. "Like members of the community, I’d like to see these people locked up forever and the key thrown away.

"But unfortunately, that’s not how the legal system in this country works."

After the Jill Meagher murder case in Melbourne, Mr O’Farrell said that Mr  Smith had asked Corrective Services NSW for a review of the handling of serious sex offenders on parole and other related matters.

Mr Smith has also asked retired Justice James Wood, QC, to examine the circumstances of Leary’s release. “I also have put the State Parole Authority on notice of the community concern,” Mr Smith said.

Martha Jabour, who has spent six years on the parole authority representing the interests of victims, said she believed the decision to release Leary was the right one.

She defended the parole release assessment. "It’s a very transparent process," she said.


Tony Abbott to detail plans to 'substantially increase' population of northern Australia

Shades of Albury/Wodonga and Whitlam's decentralization!  Still, it is true that Northern Australia is spectacularly under-used.  It is an enormous potential asset in theory but turning theory into practice is another thing.  Don't hold your breath

AUSTRALIANS could be offered new tax perks to move to north under a Coalition plan to "substantially increase" the populations of cities including Cairns and Townsville.

Public servants from the CSIRO and AQIS could be forced to move north and defence facilities in the region expanded as part of the plan.

Funds from Australia's foreign aid budget could also be used to pay for research into tropical diseases to tackle the risk of malaria and tuberculosis entering the country.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will today outline a raft of options to dramatically boost investment in northern parts of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

A Coalition policy options document sets targets to double Australia's agricultural output, attract two million foreign tourists a year to northern Australia and boost energy and resource exports. 

The plan does not commit the Coalition to any changes or provide any costings.  But Mr Abbott will pledge to produce a white paper with detailed proposals within 12 months if the Coalition wins the election.

The calls to boost investment in the north come as the Liberal National Party is actively wooing preferences from Bob Katter's party, especially in regional Queensland seats.  Mr Katter is a strong advocate of increasing population and economic activity to turn the north into a "food bowl" for Asia.  [Obsolete thinking.  Asia is now a net food EXPORTER.  It is its own food bowl.  Bob knows the North but he doesn't know the world well]

Options in Mr Abbott's plan include investigating new dams and groundwater projects to support an expansion of farming in northern Australia.

Infrastructure Australia could audit of all major projects in the region to set priority improvements over the next 15 years as part of the plan.  The Coalition will also soon commit new funding to the Bruce Highway, along with a faster timetable of upgrades.

Cairns, Townsville, Darwin and Karratha are targeted for massive population boosts, with a review of existing relocation payments and regional tax perks planned to encourage people to move to these cities.

Premier Campbell Newman and his WA and NT counterparts will be consulted on the plans and will be asked to audit regulations that discourage people from moving north.

"For too long, families have been reluctant to move to northern Australia because of the absence of adequate infrastructure and governments and the private sector have been reluctant to invest in major projects because of insufficient population," Mr Abbott said.

The Opposition Leader said developing northern Australia was the best way to tap into the booming economies of our Asian neighbours.

"We want to capitalise on northern Australia's existing strengths and natural advantages in agriculture, cattle, and energy as well as to seize opportunities in tourism, education and health services," he said.

"We are determined to break the ongoing development deadlock that has held northern Australia back for so long."