Wednesday, July 31, 2013

'Caring' Greens unveil asylum policy to increase nation's refugee intake

The Greens would strip away all deterrents from refugee policy and aim to stop deaths at sea by dramatically increasing Australia's refugee intake and boosting the capacity of the United Nations refugee agency to process claims in Indonesia.

The pre-election policy to be released on Wednesday would also shut down detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, give work rights to those in the community and lift the ban on people in refugee-producing countries coming directly by air to seek asylum.

It would also appoint an Australian ambassador for refugee protection to help broker a regional co-operation response modelled on the approach of Malcolm Fraser with Vietnamese asylum seekers in the 1970s.

The policy has been criticised by Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison who says it "won't stop the boats". Meanwhile, bad weather had delayed the transfer of the first asylum seekers to Manus Island under the Rudd Government's agreement with Papua New Guinea.

Buoyed by polling showing only one in three voters trusts the major parties to "handle refugees with care", the Greens will market themselves as the only party offering "compassion, legality and the only model for saving refugee lives at sea that has ever really worked".

"If you want to stop the people-smuggling business, you have to undercut it, and that means providing a viable option that does not force refugees into the hands of people smugglers in the first place," says the party's spokeswoman on asylum, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Greens leader Christine Milne will propose a doubling of funding to the United Nations refugee agency to speed up assessment and resettlement of asylum seekers in Indonesia and Malaysia, and a 10,000 increase in Australia's refugee intake. One in three places in the 30,000 program would be set aside for refugees assessed by the UN agency in the region, including at least 3800 in Indonesia.

Senator Milne said the Parliamentary Budget Office has costed an increase in the humanitarian program to 30,000 at $2.5 billion over four years, a fraction of the amount spent on offshore processing.

A Galaxy poll commissioned by the Greens found that almost 50 per cent of voters did not trust either Labor or the Liberals "to put caring for refugees before political interest". The same proportion did not trust either of the major parties to "handle refugees with care".

"Both parties are moving so far to the right, it's difficult to imagine the next level of cruelty they could possibly engage in," Senator Milne told Fairfax Media. "They are bringing shame on Australia in a national and global sense."

Spending an extra $70 million a year to boost the UNHCR's capacity in the region was in line with recommendations of the Gillard government's expert panel and would "take pressure off people feeling like they have no other option than to be on boats".

The policy commits the Greens to restore Australia's migration zone "to match our land and sea territory"; to guarantee legal review and community detention options for refugees who receive adverse ASIO security assessments; and to replace the immigration minister with an independent guardian for unaccompanied children seeking asylum.

Coalition critical

But Mr Morrison said he did not agree with the Greens plan, telling ABC radio that with so many refugees worldwide, increasing the intake would not make a difference.

"We don't agree that increasing the intake at the end of the day when you've got less than one per cent of the world's refugees actually getting resettlement . . .  moving that dial by 4 or 5,000 either way is going to make any real difference," he said.

The Coalition's policy is to reduce the current humanitarian intake from 20,000 people a year to 13,750 a year, including 11,000 reserved for offshore applicants.

"Not one of those visas will be given to someone who has arrived illegally by boat," he told ABC Radio. 

Mr Morrison said the risk of the Greens policy is "you don't want to create Indonesia as a magnate for people to move into either".

He said the Coalition's "Operation Sovereign Borders" was designed to stop people coming to the region.

Earlier on Wednesday, Senator Milne criticised the major parties for their asylum seeker policies, saying it was not a military or border security issue but a humanitarian one.

She also said that deterrence did not work when it came to dealing with asylum seeker flows. "We've seen an absolutely horrible and farcical raising of the stakes," she told ABC Radio.

PNG solution

Under the Government's policy, all boat arrivals will be sent to Manus Island for processing and eventual settlement in Papua New Guinea if they are found to be refugees.

The first asylum seekers bound for Manus Island had been scheduled to leave Australia on Tuesday evening, arriving some time on Wednesday morning, but a spokesman for the Department of Immigration on Wednesday confirmed the transfer had been delayed due to poor weather.

Arrangements were being made for the group to be sent to PNG as soon as possible.

They will be the first arrivals since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his PNG counterpart, Peter O'Neill, agreed to expand asylum seeker processing two weeks ago.

The initial group is likely to consist of only men, with women and children to be moved at a later date.

The fourth and final flight carrying equipment destined for Manus arrived in PNG earlier this week, with work continuing to expand the facility.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke said on Wednesday that it would take about a day for asylum seekers in Australia to be transferred to Manus Island. People will not be sent from Australia, however, until health checks are complete.

The minister said the facilities at Manus Island were not yet ready for family groups, as he wanted them separate from single adult males.

"At the moment, I'm only comfortable with single adult males going across," he told ABC radio. "I want to get the standards to a point where more can go across and I don’t believe it will take a long time to do that."


Carbon credits market is neither free nor worth anything

THE paradox du jour: people who like free markets don't want a carbon market, and the people who don't trust capitalism want emissions trading. So why are socialists fighting for a carbon market? Because this "market" is a bureaucrat's wet dream.

A free market is the voluntary exchange of goods and services. "Free" means being free to choose to buy or to not buy the product. At the end of a free trade, both parties have something they prefer.

A carbon market is a forced market. There is little intrinsic incentive to buy a certificate for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. It says a lot about the voluntary value of a carbon credit that when given the option to pay $2 to offset their flight emissions, 88 per cent of people choose not to. A few do it as a form of green penance to assuage guilt, and others do it for their eco public relations campaign or branding.

To create demand for emissions permits, the government threatens onerous fines to force people to buy a product they otherwise don't need and most of the time would never even have thought of acquiring. Likewise, supply wouldn't exist without government approved agents. Potentially a company could sell fake credits (cheaper than the real ones) and what buyer could spot the difference? Indeed, in terms of penance or eco-branding, fake credits, as long as they were not audited, would "work" just as well as real ones.

Despite being called a commodity market, there is no commodity: the end result is air that belongs to no one in particular that has slightly less of a trace gas. Sometimes it is not even air with slightly less carbon dioxide, it is merely air that might have had more CO2, but doesn't. It depends on the unknowable intentions of factory owners in distant lands.

How strange, then, that this non-commodity was at one time projected to become the largest tradeable commodity in the world - bigger even than the global market for oil. In 2009, Bart Chilton, chairman of energy markets at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, estimated global carbon markets would be worth $2 trillion within five years.

The UN may claim that carbon is "tracked and traded like any other commodity", but if I buy a tonne of tin, I either get a tonne of tin or I get $20,000 because I onsold it. Fraud is easy to spot.

Unfortunately, fraud has been a big, ongoing problem with emissions trading. This market needs auditors, and the auditors need auditing (the top two auditors in the EU emissions trading scheme were suspended in 2009 for irregularities). The EU has already lost €5 billion to carbon-trading value-added tax fraud. The mafia is laundering money in Italy through renewables schemes, and after one tax loophole was closed, market volume in Belgium dropped by up to 90 per cent.

The carbon market also depends on the honesty of people claiming: "We wouldn't have built that dam without that carbon credit." How would we know? The Xiaoxi dam in China was already under construction two years before the owners applied for credits "to build it".

Since an ETS exists by government fiat and has no intrinsic value without it, it is technically a fiat currency rather than a tradeable commodity. Supply and demand is set by bureaucrats in the EU. If the price is too high, politicians will issue more credits, and if it's too low they will delay them (as the EU is planning to do). Bureaucrats can also give exemptions to trade-affected industries (or their friends, and to their fans in marginal seats).

Those who say that a carbon market is "like" other derivatives markets are wrong. Derivatives markets are sometimes quite disconnected from actual products such as pork bellies or gold bars, but eventually the supply and demand for real goods will determine the price. In some places the size of the derivatives market exceeds that of the commodity market, but that's a reason to question those schemes, not to set up a market in an atmospheric nullity or something as frivolous as an "intention" not to build a dam.

So, who profits from the carbon market? The brokers in a carbon market - almost every large investment bank - make money on every trade. The global carbon market turned over $176bn in 2011. These groups have been lobbying for a market, not a tax, and the reasons are obvious.

Most of the key factors in a carbon market are misnamed. The market is not free. An essential plant fertiliser is called pollution. The aim of the market is not to make clean energy but to change global temperatures by an amount that rounded to the nearest degree, equals zero. The US has no market but has reduced emissions (largely thanks to shale gas), while any reductions in EU emissions were largely due to falling gross domestic product. Yet the government wants to join the EU scheme.

Ironically, the reason for having any carbon scheme at all comes from monopolistic research. There are virtually no grants specifically available for sceptical scientists, but funding galore for unsceptical ones.

We need a free market in science before we even discuss the need for a free market in carbon.

But don't hold your breath - the global warmers prove to be mostly global hypocrites.


Sir Lunchalot was corrupt

Among others

TWO former high-profile Labor MPs, Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, have been found by the NSW ICAC to have acted corruptly and referred for possible criminal charges. More to come.

Earlier, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he was "disgusted" by revelations that have been aired at the hearings of the Independent Commission Against Corruption into members of the NSW Labor Party and anyone found guilty of illegal behaviour should face the full force of the law.

"That's what I want to see happen," the Prime Minister said. "I've been disgusted by what I have seen in ICAC hearings so far and my view is anyone who is responsible for corruption or illegal behaviour should face the full force of the law."

Ahead of the release of three reports from ICAC today into former NSW Labor ministers, Mr Rudd said he would not tolerate corruption.

He hoped the federal intervention into the NSW branch of the Labor Party would help clean it up.

"I would say it was for no idle reason that I took a virtually unprecedented step of directing federal intervention in the NSW branch of the Labor party," Mr Rudd said.

"This set of reforms are anchored in one core principal - zero tolerance for corruption - and I expect that to be fully reflected in the intervention we have taken."

ICAC will today present three reports relating to the business dealings of Ian Macdonald, Eddie Obeid and Eric Roozendaal.

The findings of ICAC's Commissioner David Ipp are expected to be damning - and will reveal whether recommendations will be referred to the DPP for criminal charges.

Mr Rudd has demanded ALP reforms to loosen the hold of factional warlords in a bid to pre-empt a voter backlash should the ICAC recommend charges against former party figures.

The Prime Minister and ministerial colleagues, particularly those in western Sydney, will be careful to distance themselves and the party from central characters in the ICAC probe.

These are the three reports and five things you might need to know about each of them:

OPERATION JARILO: In which a massage didn't have a happy ending...

1. Sometimes referred to as the Tiffany Report or the "neck massage" incident after the former NSW resources minister Ian Macdonald met a woman in a Sydney hotel room who, ICAC heard, stripped down to her underwear. Mr Macdonald testified he had gone there for a neck massage and fallen asleep.

2. In July, 2009, the then head of state power company Country Energy, Craig Murray, was invited by Mr Macdonald to a dinner at Tuscany, a restaurant in Sydney's inner-west Italian quarter of Leichhardt. Mr Murray went with a fellow executive for back-up, a worthwhile precaution.

3. Suddenly Mr Medich and another businessman sat down at a table which had been added to the one Mr Murray was sitting at, and made an uninvited pitch for business from Country Energy as Mr Macdonald looked on.

4. Mr Macdonald ordered four bottles of wine costing $130 each, but because Country Energy had strict rules barring gifts from business suitors, Mr Murray had to pick up the $850 dinner bill.

5. ICAC heard Mr Gattellari, an associate of Mr Medich and involved with him in a separate murder case, later paid $400 for a hotel room where Mr Macdonald later turned up (See Tiffany).

OPERATION JASPER: In which properties miraculously increased in value...

1. Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid has declared his income was his pay as a member of the NSW Upper House but his sons ran a wide range of businesses, from cafes to roadside poles, and also had interests in coal leases.

2. Eddie Obeid, who had remarkable influence even as a back bencher, helped the career of Mr Macdonald, a left-winger, through his faction.

3. In 2007-08 the Obeids and acquaintances bought property in a valley about 250km north of Sydney as rural retreats. This changed in 2008 when Mr Macdonald agreed to open a mining area in the Bylong Valley for coal exploration, which greatly increased the value of the Obeid holdings.

4. Some of Eddie Obeid's profits, estimated to be in the several millions, from the property dealings went to the lease of a $300,000 Mercedes.

5. Mr Macdonald was given the nickname Sir Lunchalot because of his fondness for dining out, including his 2008 lunch of pork and beef and a magnum of pinot noir.

OPERATION INDUS: In which a remarkably cheap car was procured...

1. In May 2007 Amanda Roozendaal, wife of Labor MP and former treasurer Eric Roozendaal wrote off the family Honda and the search for a replacement led to Eddie Obeid, who passed the matter to son Moses who was able to find a $44,800 Honda which would cost the Roozendaals just $34,000.

2. The Roozendaals didn't have the ownership papers at first and it was only Mrs Roozendaal's car accident - and her decision not to stop to pay for the damage - that revealed the trail of people who on paper owned the car but had never seen, raising suspicions in ICAC they were used to pretend the Honda was cheaper because it was second hand.

3. There is at least one good citizen in this saga. A professional musician who had business in Surry Hills saw the bingle-and-run incident and took down the Honda's licence number to give to the owner of the parked car which had been hit. The Roozendaals had been driving their new car for just two days.

4. Mr Roozendaal, a former ALP state secretary, was a supporter of the Obeid faction known as the Terrigals after the NSW coastal resort town. The Terrigals ran the state party and their support was needed to get ministerial jobs, and to become Premier.

5. ICAC has investigated whether the provision of a cheap vehicle played a role in any consultation by the Obeids with Mr Roozendaal when he became State Treasurer.


Cleaning up NSW Labor is seen as crucial to Mr Rudd's chances at the upcoming federal poll. The government needs to hold on to a host of western Sydney seats to retain power.

On July 4, Mr Rudd gave NSW ALP secretary Sam Dastyari 30 days to report on cleaning up the branch, and sought changes including the expulsion of any member found to be corrupt or engaging in improper conduct.

But Liberal MP Jamie Briggs said the Rudd "intervention" was all for show, as many of the key powerbrokers pulling the strings within the ALP were still in senior positions.

He said many of those who helped Mr Rudd return to the Labor leadership had strong ties with the ALP secretariat and had since been promoted by the prime minister.


Court-ordered parole, suspended sentences may be dumped as Qld.  gets tough on criminals

CRIMINALS currently walking free from court face being sent to jail and others locked up for longer amid Government concerns crooks are being let out too early.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie told The Courier-Mail offenders who made no attempt to rehabilitate were being released, and he was not afraid to change the law to better protect the community.

The Government is looking at dumping court-ordered parole and suspended jail sentences which would see Queensland's prison population of about 6000 almost certainly increase.

Mr Bleijie said offenders were being given too many chances and judges could soon lose the power to decide when criminals are released from jail.

Highly placed sources told The Courier-Mail that the Attorney-General had lost faith in court-ordered parole, suspended sentences and the system's ability to deal with recidivist offenders.

Of the 53,952 prisoners sentenced in Queensland courts in the past three years, more than 41,000 received a wholly suspended jail sentence or received court-ordered parole.

Mr Bleijie admitted there were problems with the system.

"I am certainly questioning whether court-ordered parole and suspended sentences still have a place in our legal system," he said.

"I'm well aware of concern and anger in the community over offenders committing more crimes after either walking straight from court or getting let out of jail on court ordered parole."

Privately, prison boards and police have lamented the fact they have to release some prisoners into the community on court-ordered parole.

Sources say a 25-year-old man went from "maximum security to the street" this year, despite Corrective Services staff and the Parole Board believing he should not be released on the parole date set by a judge. Within a week of being released, the Gold Coast bikie was charged with allegedly firing a gun inside a taxi, attacking two drivers and a police officer.

Court-ordered parole is a release date set during sentencing by the sentencing judge. It can include immediate parole, which means an offender is sentenced but walks free straight away.

Under the current system, the Parole Board has no say on an offender's release if they are on court-ordered parole unless they commit a criminal offence in jail or there is an imminent risk.

Criminals aged between 18-24 years are causing the greatest headaches for policy makers, with internal Corrective Service statistics revealing 70 per cent of the cohort will return to jail at least one more time before they reach 35 years.

About 300 offenders a month are suspended and returned to prison for breaching their parole. In 2011-2012, the two regional Parole Boards suspended or cancelled 3548 court-ordered parole orders because offenders committed another offence or breached their parole orders.

Mr Bleijie said some offenders knew how to work the system. "For some, court-ordered parole means they just have to wait their sentence out, without even trying to rehabilitate themselves," he said.

"If offenders were only eligible for parole and had to prove themselves to the Parole Board, it might motivate them to rehabilitate and change their offending behaviour.

"We're committed to getting tough on crime and people who think they can get away with repeatedly thumbing their nose at the law.

"We are not afraid to change laws if they will better protect the community."

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman disputed Mr Bleijie's claim court-ordered parole was not working and asked how the Attorney-General would know given he scrapped the Sentence Advisory Council.

"The more you say no more second chances the more you push up recidivism," Mr O'Gorman said.

He predicted the judiciary would not be happy about any moves to limit their sentencing options.

Police Union president Ian Leavers said the Parole Board should be able to overrule a

court-ordered parole date if they thought a criminal should remain in prison.

"(It should be) until the Parole Board is satisfied they should be released or until they've served their full sentence, whatever comes first," Mr Leavers said.

Yesterday, Mr Bleijie ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal against the sentences of three young offenders, aged 16, 15, and 12, who took part in a violent crime spree on the Gold Coast last year.

The 15 and 16-year-olds, who committed robberies, received two years probation and 40 hours community service. The 16-year-old driver received 18 months probation and was disqualified from driving for six months. No convictions were recorded.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG offers a theory of why Kevvy did not get shot during his trip to Afghastiland.

Feminism as a form of racism

Below are some angry and foul-mouthed comments from Clementine Ford, an Australian feminist.  She is fired up about women getting more "recognition".   But how is that different from racism?  She sees herself not as an individual, but as a member of a valued group.  In her Fascist mind, people are divided into two groups: Men (evil) and women (virtuous):  Not all that different from Hitler.  Men by contrast don't think of themselves as primarily "men".  They think of themselves in much less broad categories.  My most common self-description, for instance, is "a born academic".  It never occurs to me to mention that I am a male.

And this refusal to treat people as just people, but instead  obsessing over what lies between their legs, is irritating. Feminist assertion tends to produce a backlash. Mostly men just shake their heads at it but, given anonymity, they may say what they really think of it and of the shrews who utter it.  Many people object to racism.  It is equally reasonable to object to feminism

Note her use of "we" in the last paragraph. It could have come from a Hitler speech and is equally deluded and equally angry. She just can't think of herself as an individual. Her illusory "tribe" is all. Women are in fact quite prone to hating one-another, as we see here. And read here the scorn that a female literary critic heaps on Jane Austen!

When UK journalist and co-founder of The Women's Room Caroline Criado-Perez spearheaded a campaign to replace Charles Darwin’s image with Jane Austen’s on a British banknote, her efforts were rewarded by a sustained Twitter attack from some of the more repugnant turds excreted by society’s sulphurous bottom.

Within hours, Criado-Perez’ experience reinforced what female users of Twitter have known since its launch - that the social media site woefully fails to support the vast network of women who are subjected to abuse (often graphic and violent) simply for daring to have claim space in the ‘conversation’ that Twitter positions itself as being the locus of. She is now leading a campaign similar to the #fbrape one conducted a few months ago, with the intention of having Twitter become more accountable for the way their platform is used. Twitter has been threatened with a mass boycott on August 4 from prominent celebrities, MPs and writers should they continue to sidestep responsibility over the issue. (So far, Twitter UK general manager Tony Wang has responded by stating that they are looking at simplifying the process of reporting offensive tweets.)

The question of what can be done to counter gendered online abuse is routinely painted as a woman’s problem to solve with the most frequently offered directive being to ‘just ignore it’. Having experienced such unwelcome intrusions on repeated occasions, I am familiar with those responses aimed at discrediting the justifiable anger of being told, for example, that even though you’re too ugly to rape, you probably still deserve it. ‘Don’t pay attention to them’, such advice dictates. ‘You’re only giving them the attention they want.’ Or, ‘You have X number of followers, and this person only has a handful. Why are you abusing your power like this?’

Occasionally, I have been lectured on my attempts to ‘shut down free speech’ - as if it is my objection to sexual assault being used as a warning that threatens the fabric of society, and not the fact that some people still find it a useful tool of debate.

Criado-Perez quite rightly calls bullshit on this tactic, advocating instead a commitment to ‘shout back’. Ignoring abuse doesn’t make it go away. Believe me, I know. What it does is make you feel invaded, powerless and (if the troll in question seems to have a greater than usual insight into your online activities) vaguely paranoid. Too often, trolls are left untended simply because they are invisible. They are the Peeping Toms of the online world - they can peer through your windows, but you can’t see their faces. So to stop them from salivating over your distress, you become weathered against their hatred.

These misogynists ejaculate their rage all over the internet, using their threat of both a rutting penis and the denial of it to try and keep women in their place. It happened to Lindy West when she criticised the abundance of jokes about rape. It happened to Marion Bartoli when she won Wimbledon, and viewers decided she was too ugly and unf--kable to deserve this honour......

Well, women aren’t going to roll over and ignore it. We’re not going to enable their entitlement by keeping our mouths shut. Like Criado-Perez says, we’re shouting back - and if these misogynist troglodytes don’t like the sound of one banshee standing up for herself, they’re going to really hate it what it sounds like when millions of us do it together.


Coalition proposes tent city as Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison inspects Nauru riot damage

HOUSING thousands of people in tents and leaving refugees in Nauru's slum district on small welfare payments indefinitely are the centrepieces of the Coalition's offshore asylum policy.

After touring the Government's riot ravaged camp, Opposition immigration spokesman Scott

Morrison said he would immediately erect a 2000-person tent city under a Coalition government.

He said almost 5000 asylum seekers could eventually be housed on the tiny Pacific Island, which has a 17km ring road around its perimeter, under a five year plan that would be struck if the Coalition wins the election.

The plan would see Nauru's "Location," a slum disctrict housing more than 1000 people, refurbished to accommodate people with successful refugee claims.

They would move out of processing camps and live alongside residents of "Location" on meagre welfare benefits in line with living costs in Nauru, where average workers are paid $75 a week.

Anyone processed on Nauru who was found to be a refugee under a Coalition government would be invited to apply to move to countries other than Australia, Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said Nauru's intelligence capabilities would need to be boosted after he saw evidence the rioters who caused $60 million worth of damage to the government's camp had pre-planned the night of violence.

"They packed their bags and got their stuff out of their rooms before they burned the place down," he said.  "It underscores the need for better intelligence."

Shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison says he saw evidence that the rioters who caused $60 million worth of damage had planned the night of violence. Picture: Bradley Hunter
He said a Coalition government would train Nauruan security forces.

Welfare payments to refugees housed at "Location" would be in line with Nauru's cost of living to prevent tensions with locals, Mr Morrison said.

He said housing for the refugees would later be handed to Nauruans, many who live in tiny, rundown concrete boxes near Nauru's hospital. 

"There would be no guarantee or resettlement in Australia," he said. "People would be invited to make application for resettlement elsewhere. While they are doing that they would have accommodation, it would be like a bridging visa program in Nauru.

"You can provide the accommodation in terms of any allowances, they would have to be at Nauru levels, not Australian levels, you wouldn't want to create any tension around those sorts of things."

The Nauruan landholders had indicated to Mr Morrison it would vacate a camp known as "State House," which was used to house families under the Howard Government.

It has since hosted a school, government agencies and community groups and could house 2000 people with the tent city and capacity for around 900 in government's camp taking total accommodation to almost 5000.

The Opposition's pledge to leave people in Nauru indefinitely came as Immigration Minister Tony Burke said the first asylum seekers sent to PNG for resettlement would be flown to Manus Island this week.

A tent city is being built on the remote island for the almost 1300 asylum seekers who have arrived since the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced his policy lurch.

"I've always said they'll be sent when the health checks are complete," Mr Burke told Sky yesterday.

"The health checks take in the order of about two weeks so, you know, that two week period that I originally flagged would take us through to Friday."

He acknowledged it could be months before the camp is ready for families.


Regulator fired up over fuel discounts

No discounts for YOU, apparently

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission boss, Rod Sims, looks set to take legal action against the two major supermarket chains in an attempt to stop or at least curtail the controversial discount fuel dockets.

He heralded the possibility of taking action when the investigation into petrol dockets is completed in a few months.

If this is just a case of regulator bluff it is not working.

Having publicly reminded (read warned) the supermarket chains twice that these schemes are being being closely examined, the response from Woolworths and Coles has been to increase the size of the discount and the frequency of their use.

The latest offer (albeit a limited one) allows some supermarket shoppers to receive 45¢ a litre off petrol. When Sims started to get worried about the effects of fuel discount dockets the supermarkets were offering just 8¢ off a litre.

"Even at the level of 8¢ it would be difficult to see how an unsubsidised fuel retailer could compete on a sustainable basis," Sims said.

Fuel discounts are a particularly effective way for the supermarkets to entice loyalty and at the same time mine their customers for data.

If they were of only marginal benefit the supermarkets would have ditched them to appease the regulator, which is already fighting the two industry giants on their treatment of suppliers and potential abuse of market power.

The ACCC has always been sensitive to the perceptions of the general public and how the media portrays the effectiveness of its bite. The behaviour of the big supermarket chains is one that has caught the attention of the media and Canberra. Sims has long wanted to make some inroads into curtailing their power.

The treatment of suppliers was the obvious channel but getting them to break ranks and complain publicly has frustrated the regulator's investigation.

The non-supermarket aligned service stations should be another matter entirely. They should be desperate for redress. But they need to be careful given most independent service stations are also hooked up with independent supermarkets to provide some kind of (much smaller) discount.

The noisiest critic has been Metcash, whose new chief executive, Ian Morrice, recently suggested Coles and Woolworths ramped up the price of petrol to make their discounts appear more generous. But getting between consumers and a discount is always a tricky issue for the competition regulator. The possible breaches of competition legislation won't get support from the general public.

Thus the ACCC has to tiptoe around the issues and be doubly sure that the long-term detriment outweighs the short-term benefits.

It has to mount a successful legal argument that discount fuel dockets will retard non-supermarket service stations or smaller independent supermarkets - potentially putting them out of business and thereby reducing competition which would lead to increased prices over the longer term.

"The ACCC has no power to ban shopper docket offers," Sims says. "As an enforcement body, however, the ACCC can investigate market activity and, where appropriate, take court action seeking injunctions to stop the conduct and seeking penalties in appropriate cases."

Sims has certainly turned up the rhetoric - having mentioned it several times before and most recently at the Budget Estimates Committee hearing in February.

Perhaps his statement that the ACCC has no power to ban shopper dockets is a message to the government (whoever they may be by the end of the year) that legislation needs to be toughened.

The ACCC and the supermarkets are engaged in regular discourse (Sims will be seeing Wesfarmers in a few weeks) at which time his concerns about fuel dockets will be made clear. It appears more likely the supermarkets will respond to the challenge and argue their case in court.


Australians becoming less envious?

Australia is supposed to be the land of the tall poppy syndrome, where the successful are cut down to the same size as everyone else, quick smart. You're not supposed to stand out for intelligence, achievement or, worst of all, wealth.

Less prettily, tall poppy syndrome is "an Australasian modernism for envy, jealousy and covetousness that has been labelled a notable anti-talent", according to a pair of academics from Auckland University, V. Suchitra Mouly and Jayaram K. Sankaran.

But if conspicuous intelligence, achievement and wealth are so socially unacceptable, how do we explain the standout popularity of a pair of national leaders who embody all three?

Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull are the most persistently popular leaders in politics. Each is the preferred leader of his party, according to opinion polls. Yet they are manifestly intelligent. Neither need rely on memorised "talking points" to make a case.

Each has achievements outside politics, Rudd as a Mandarin-speaking diplomat and Turnbull as a barrister and businessman.

And both are monied, Turnbull in his own right while Rudd married one of Australia's most successful businesswomen. Both families count their worth in the tens of millions.

"If the tall poppy was working, then these people should be cut down because of it," says a political scientist at the Australian National University, Ian McAllister.

The Fairfax pollster, Nielsen's John Stirton, says: "It's fair to say that Turnbull has been the preferred Liberal leader since he lost the leadership", which was more than three years ago. As for Rudd, "there's a case that he was the most popular of the postwar prime ministers," says Stirton. And after losing the post in 2010, apart from an initial honeymoon for Julia Gillard, Rudd was so decisively the people's choice as Labor leader for so long that even the Labor caucus had to bow to reality.

What's going on here? Is the tall poppy syndrome a relic of a bygone Australia? Or is there some other factor at work?

"It's fascinating and, on the face of it, it implies that Australians have grown up a bit," suggests Rebecca Huntley, who studies public opinion for Ipsos Research in focus groups she convenes every seven weeks.

She offers two reasons why this might be so. One is economic. "People understand that we are at a crucial point about what sort of economy we evolve into, and about where education fits in. This is something people talk about.

"They want a contest of ideas, a proper, serious discussion between two alternatives."

Second is despair. "Perhaps things have been so bad in recent years that we need a different kind of leader. Rudd and Turnbull both benefit from being compared to leaders who are deeply unpopular," referring to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

"Whereas previously it was a problem to be a silvertail" - the Herald's editorial page cartoonist, Alan Moir, draws Turnbull as a plutocrat in a top hat and tails - "or being too smart for your own good" - a common stereotype of Rudd - "people are no longer worried and just want someone who's not a freaking idiot."

Neither Abbott nor Gillard is a "freaking idiot." Abbott is a Rhodes scholar and Gillard a lawyer. But both speak to the public in scripted "talking points" and use heavy-handed repetition in such an obvious way they demean people's intelligence.

Galaxy research pollster David Briggs also puts heavy emphasis on the explanation of popularity as a matter of contrast: "Rudd and Turnbull had both fallen considerably in their public satisfaction ratings at the time they were deposed. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in both cases voters never warmed to the people who replaced them.

"So what was the point of replacing them? Let's have the old ones back."

But does Rudd's and Turnbull's appeal also tell us something about a change in Australian society?

Towards the end of his prime ministership, John Howard told me that in an earlier Australia, a young man watching someone drive past in an expensive car might have felt resentful. But today, said Howard, he was more likely to think "that could be me one day".

Australians had become more "aspirational," he said, a view that gained increasing currency. And where Julia Gillard had "gone the class warfare" , it failed spectacularly to gain any traction.

If the tall poppy syndrome requires envy and resentment as its motive force, is it fading as these sentiments are retired from active service in Australian politics?

McAllister doubts it: "Egalitarianism is still there in Australia. When you ask people in surveys about redistribution of wealth, there is support for it, and there's less tolerance for inequality of wealth than . . . in other countries." In explaining the appeal of Rudd and Turnbull, he says: "I think it's that people see something else other than money and something other than people who got ahead."

And what is that "something else"?

McAllister, who conducts the Australian Electoral Study, says: "The values that voters respond to most strongly are leadership and integrity. I think they see something else they value in Rudd and Turnbull, and I think that makes them exempt from tall poppy syndrome."

If these analysts are right, leadership, integrity, even obvious intelligence are in demand as valued commodities for our leaders. Who said you never read any good news in the newspapers?


Monday, July 29, 2013

Carbon tax raises costs, cuts jobs, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry audit reveals

THE carbon tax has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from company profits and forced struggling manufacturing firms to shift production - and jobs - offshore.

A national survey of Australia's $110 billion food processing industry has revealed nearly 30 per cent of businesses reported cost increases of 5 per cent or more since the carbon tax was introduced.

And 67 per cent of companies - including many small businesses - have been unable to pass on these higher costs to their customers.

Instead, they have been forced absorb the price hit on their bottom line.

Another audit by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry reveals 82 per cent of businesses report the carbon tax has reduced profits - a year since the greenhouse scheme was introduced.

Around 30 firms were surveyed by AFGC with several deciding to shift production overseas to escape the carbon impost.

While higher energy bills is the biggest expense, the carbon tax has also added to rising packaging, transport and other expenses.

One food processing firm said the carbon tax had added nearly $5 million to operating expenses - including $500,000 in packaging and $240,000 in freight and storage fees.

Murray Goulburn, Australia's largest dairy firm, says the carbon tax has added $14 million to its annual expenses for the year to June 30.

Robert Poole, general manager, shareholder relations, said Murray Goulburn "cannot pass on these costs" because the price of dairy was "primarily" set by the global market.

But higher energy bills remains the biggest cost burden for manufacturing with nearly 50 per cent of those firms surveyed reporting their electricity bill had jumped 15 per cent or more.

One of Kevin Rudd's first decisions after ousting Julia Gillard as Prime Minister was to accelerate by a year plans to shift to a floating carbon price - in order to reduce the impact on business.

But AFGC chief executive Gary Dawson said it was already too late for a number of companies who are "reassessing their production planning in response to high costs".

"For a big energy user the additional cost of the carbon tax on their energy bill alone runs to millions of dollars a year so of course it forces an assessment of whether there are lower cost options (offshore)," Mr Dawson said.

ACCI chief economist Greg Evans lashed out at the carbon tax and other green programs which he said "have encouraged a de-industrialisation trend in the economy".

"We are already seeing an impact on jobs and investment in industries reliant on energy. This includes food processing, plastics and chemicals, metal manufacturing and oil refining, where we have seen successive announcements of winding back investment or relocating production facilities offshore," Mr Evans said.

Innovation and Industry Minister Kim Carr said the Government's decision to move from a fixed to a floating carbon price one year early "will link Australian businesses with international markets, reduce carbon liabilities from 1 July next year and provide certainty for firms looking to invest in Australia's future".

"The food processing sector stands to benefit substantially from the Asian Century and Labor will do everything it can to see business realise the opportunities on offer," Senator Carr said.


Economy set to bounce back

After big job losses at car makers and as the Rudd government wrestles with politically poisonous budget cuts, there is a glimmer of good economic news with a report suggesting manufacturing will bounce back from the mining investment boom.

The Grattan Institute report says that far from being permanently damaged, industries sensitive to the exchange rate, such as manufacturing, tourism, education and agriculture, "survived the boom in reasonable shape".

The findings come as the government prepares to reveal a downgrade in its economic forecasts and a fresh round of budget cuts perhaps as soon as this week.

The Rudd government's expenditure review committee is expected to finalise spending cuts on Monday, despite the political risks with the federal election this year.

The Reserve Bank may cut interest rates again when it meets next week. Another cut in rates, which are already at a half-century low of 2.75 per cent, would take the cash rate to the lowest level since the 1950s - and well below the so-called "emergency low" of 3 per cent that prevailed during the global financial crisis.

About 400 Holden workers took voluntary redundancy on Friday. The remaining 1700 workers at the Adelaide car assembly plant are considering a management proposal for reduced pay and conditions to keep the plant open.

The Grattan report, titled The Mining Boom: Impacts and Prospects, concedes Australia runs the risk of a recession as the resource investment boom fades. But it says "recession is far from inevitable", in part because Australia has avoided the high inflation that accompanied previous booms.

Figures released in the past week show that excluding the effect of the carbon price, Australia's annual inflation rate is less than 2 per cent, easily low enough to allow the Reserve to cut rates further.

The report says that rather than killing manufacturing, the mining boom "temporarily accelerated" its long-term decline as a share of gross domestic product.

Manufacturing has been sliding as a share of gross domestic product since the 1970s.

A survey of exchange rate rises in 16 countries similar to Australia shows manufacturing grew particularly rapidly after the exchange rate came down.

"Within three years, manufacturing exports as a share of GDP had risen by more than a third on average," the report finds.

"Therefore temporarily high exchange rates in economies comparable to Australia have not had long-lasting effects on export volumes and the added value of manufacturing,'' the report concludes. "Manufacturing exports usually bounce back rapidly and reach trend within a few years."

The president of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Andrew Dettmer, said he would "have to believe in the tooth fairy" to think that "once an industry has been devastated, suddenly a few economic indicators return and therefore it will somehow return to production''.

Ford was leaving Australia and Holden was considering its future. "The international thinking is that once manufacturing dips 5 per cent of the total economy it is fundamentally lost," he said.

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said there were reasons for optimism. "The currency has come off about 15 per cent since April. If it is held down or falls further, those companies that have been able to stay afloat will be very globally competitive," he said. Manufacturing constitutes about 8 per cent of the economy.

The report finds that neither the Howard nor the Rudd and Gillard governments saved enough of the proceeds of the boom.

"Tax decreases and spending increases have been larger than Australia can afford in the long run," it says. "Some spending was justified by the response to the global financial crisis and some has been invested, but underlying budget deficits now need to be repaired in more difficult times."


Productivity is more than industrial relations
It's not often that I agree with a unionist, especially one like ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver who has vocally advocated increased government intervention in the automotive industry. But Oliver's recent comments on productivity have some validity; specifically, the idea that productivity is more than just industrial relations.

While there are undoubtedly some issues that need addressing in industrial relations, focusing the productivity debate on unions and workers misses the biggest impediment to growth in this country - government.

It is not unions who have massively increased spending on recurrent, consumption programs at the expense of developing new infrastructure.

It is not workers who have introduced rafts of new environmental regulations and green tape that have impacted Australia's competitiveness.

It is not industrial relations that cause serious delays in the approval process for new projects.

The most recent Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry quarterly survey of small business found that 'Business Taxes and Government Charges continues to constitute the top barrier to investment for small businesses for the ninth successive quarter.'

In addition, between August 2011 and May 2013, Federal Government Regulations and State Government Regulations each featured in the top 10 limitations for small and medium business no less than seven times.

Rich countries occasionally ignore productivity issues. They focus instead on redistributing wealth (because business should supposedly be taxed more to 'pay their share') or regulating behaviour (because corporations have 'corporate social responsibilities').

However if we want to maintain and increase our standard of living, wages and real economic growth in the future, government activity has to be better targeted and the share of GDP that government takes must be reduced. We must grow the pie, not just slice it more finely.

It brings to mind something else that Oliver said: 'Productivity growth matters. The main driver of real economic growth, it's how we keep improving the standard of living for working people.'

As we are proving in our TARGET30 campaign: the real debate about future prosperity in this country begins with the role of government.


The cancer of government advertising strikes back

According to our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, government advertising is a 'cancer on democracy,' but when an election is on the line, the cancer strikes back with a vengeance. 

Our government is spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on what can only be described as blatantly partisan advertising, or what is now dubbed 'information campaigns.' 

The issue came to a head this week with the government's $2.5 million advertising campaign supposedly to convince asylum seekers that they won't be resettled in Australia by targeting Australian readers of The Daily Telegraph.  

The cancer has metastasised and infected other parts of government spending.   

Around $5.5 million has been spent advertising the Schoolkids Bonus - a payment which you don't need to apply for because it is automatically paid to eligible parents - which in turn renders the advertising campaign pointless. 

Famously, the government is continuing to spend $8 million telling us the Child Care Rebate is not means tested and that millionaires can get an annual $7,500 subsidy on their out-of-pocket child care expenses. 

Another $10 million is being spent to 'ensure that businesses, research institutions, individual employers and employees are aware' of the government's plan 'for Australian jobs' - which is really just a cleverly disguised plan for more protectionism and corporate welfare.  

Apparently the government needs to spend $10 million on its Medicare for All campaign 'to inform Australians about the benefits of Medicare and health-related services, including Medicare Locals, Medicare rebates and safety nets.' 

You may have seen advertising for the Better Schools education reform package. Reports place the cost of that campaign at $50 million.  

On top of all this spending (which is by no means a comprehensive list), don't forget the millions spent advertising the government's new Clean Energy Payments, the carbon tax compensation package. 

Despite the tens of millions government is spending on these advertising campaigns, it is important to note this is just a fraction of the multi-billion dollar cost of the policies they are telling us about.   

This suggests that government advertising may not be the 'cancer on democracy' that Prime Minister Rudd said it is. Rather, it is merely a symptom of a greater and more troubling cancer - that of excessive and unsustainable government spending.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Labor mulls boot camp for young job seekers

Young job seekers would be forced into tough army-style boot camps to qualify for the dole, under an election policy being considered by the Rudd government.

The Youth Start Boot Camp was tabled as a future election policy in a submission that has been leaked to Fairfax Media. It was put to the Labor government's powerful expenditure review committee by ministers Bill Shorten and Kate Ellis in May.

Senior government sources said the army-style camps - which are designed to impose strict disciplinary regimes - remained on the table as an election policy for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The idea was framed as a possible vote winner for the government and was slated to be announced before August 15, if accepted.

Fairfax has an outline of the written submission, which was discussed during a meeting of then Gillard government ministers putting up election campaign strategy proposals to the committee. Although the submission and initial meeting took place while Julia Gillard was prime minister, high-ranking government sources insist the proposal is still on the table.

Asked if the proposal was still under consideration, a spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said: "The government does not publicly discuss the submissions that come before the expenditure review committee of cabinet."

Mr Shorten, who is now Education Minister, and Ms Ellis, who remains Workplace Participation minister, also declined to comment.

But a senior government source said the submission was still alive. "Whatever the official word, this has not been taken off the table," the source said. "Not everything has been thrown out with the change of leadership."

The proposal calls for $70 million over four years to be reallocated from Jobs Services Australia providers into other programs to "assist young job seekers and provide campaigning opportunities".

Early school leavers aged between 15 and 21 are the target.

A wide variety of wilderness and adventure boot camps are in place across Australia, ranging from those teaching discipline, presentation and attitude to those aimed at young repeat offenders.

The Queensland government is testing an early intervention youth boot camp that will focus on young people at risk of long-term offending.

In Sydney, BoysTown mixes adventure-based learning, sport and outdoor activities with employment programs to help people aged 15 to 25.  More than 84 per cent of the youths in BoysTown programs have not completed year 10.  Nearly half have never had a job or came from families that had a history of welfare dependency.

"Employers tell us there are two major things that they look for: competence and character," said John Perry, BoysTown's employment, education and training manager.

A study by Monash University found 61 per cent of participants in BoysTown programs found full-time employment, and nearly 12 per cent found part-time or casual work.

The Brahminy Foundation's wilderness camp, 200 kilometres from Darwin, is for some of society's most troubled and unemployable youths, including some from NSW.

Founder Allan Brahminy said his camps were tough and intense. But he stressed there was a therapeutic element to the programs. They included stays of up to a year, with 21-day wilderness hikes comprising five days' kayaking and more than 100 kilometres of walking.

Mr Brahminy is negotiating with NSW Police and others to open a residence west of Bourke.

As he spoke to Fairfax Media on Friday, a troubled youth was digging his fourth hole one metre deep and one metre wide.

"We're not a holiday camp," he said, adding that his wilderness camps had "zero tolerance" for poor behaviour.

In the ministerial submission, the ministers highlighted in bold their proposal for a Youth Start Boot Camp and explained that: "Unemployed young people will participate in an army boot camp and pre-employment training."

Other options mooted were community work experience for unemployed youth, first job programs for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, and a combination of all of the measures including rigorous boot camps.

The submission complains about poor recognition for the existing program, which funds providers to deliver targeted assistance in the form of structured activities of up to 25 hours a week to build life, study and employment skills. It says there is "scant data on delivery rate and outcomes".

Boot camps were proposed as a better option.

"Youth unemployment is a growing problem that we need to address," the submission reads. "There are opportunities to partner with business, particularly big business, and to end intergenerational unemployment for young people."


Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison flags Coalition support for PNG solution

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says a Coalition government would be prepared to keep Labor's Papua New Guinea asylum seeker policy.

Mr Rudd announced on July 19 his plan to send asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea for assessment.

The arrangement sees asylum seekers who are assessed to be genuine refugees resettled in PNG.

When the policy was first announced, Mr Morrison said the Coalition would try to salvage parts of the proposal.

He told Insiders this morning that he remains sceptical about whether the plan can be implemented, but gave a stronger indication the Coalition would be prepared to keep it.

"We will salvage everything from this arrangement and we will do everything we have said we can do," he said.

"At the end of the day, it's implementation of policies that counts, not big, bold announcements."

Mr Morrison said the arrangement would only be a part of a much larger suite of policies that would be implemented, including intercepting boats and the use of temporary protection visas.

"The PM can't actually say that that (the PNG solution) can be achieved at the moment and he hasn't got an agreement for it ... he hasn't got any legislation in Papua New Guinea to back it up," Mr Morrison said.  "It is not a done deal. It is just not in that situation.

"The claim he's making at the moment is not one that he can substantiate.

"Why won't Kevin Rudd do this (the PNG solution) and turn-backs, why won't he do this and expand offshore processing on Nauru, why won't he do this and coordinate 15 agencies that are trying to work in this area?  "That's what we're saying."


Big black brawl in Melbourne

Police have arrested a 27-year-old man after a large brawl broke out in Melbourne's west early this morning.

Officers say more than 80 people were involved in the fight outside a function centre in Albion, where crowds had gathered to celebrate Liberia's independence day.

"People at the party informed us that... people from another African country had attended the scene and caused the trouble," Sergeant Mick Downe said.

Two men were rushed to Sunshine Hospital, one with facial injuries and the other with a stab would to his chest.

He has since been taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital and is in a serious condition.

Police arrived at the site at 3am but the fight was already over and the crowd had largely dispersed.

"No units were able to attend at the time because there was no units available... (we) had to get units from the city to come," Sergeant Downe said.

"The units attended en masse, about 15 units, the fighting had stopped at this stage."

He said police were not aware that the function was on.

Police arrested a 27-year-old man from Western Australia who is helping with their investigations.


America is not the land of opportunity. Australia is

Surveys of income mobility reveal that for all the rhetoric of being a "land of opportunity", America's poor have less chance of becoming rich than Australia's poor do.

The great mythology of America, of rags to riches, is actually statistically more likely to happen here. Australia, the land of the free.

A 2007 study by economist and federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh found the income of Australian sons are less determined by their fathers' pay packets than American sons.

Not only is Australia home to less extremes of wealth and poverty, it is also easier for Australians to move between the two extremes.

Australia has managed to achieve this despite our high influx of migration. In America, around one in ten Americans was born oversees. In Australia, it's one in four. We have managed to absorb great waves of immigration and come out the stronger for it.

It's harder to look at a person in the street in Australia and know, just by their ethnicity or the colour of their skin, how rich they are. According to the study by Leigh, it is this difference in the income mobility of immigrants in Australia that makes us so much more mobile than Americans.


Saturday, July 27, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is having a laugh at Julia Gillard's strange desire to be black.

Arab values in multicultural Australia

Inaizi is an Arab surname so I think we can guess Harbi's religion.  And we know what that religion teaches about women.  So Harbi is a perfectly upright citizen by his own predatory values.  He probably feels quite hard done by.  "Harbi" does mean "unbeliever" so he may not be a Muslim but he has clearly absorbed the culture

HE is accused of making sleazy comments to female passengers, lying about his driving history, overcharging, snubbing a customer with a guide dog and running a cyclist off the road then deliberately reversing over his bike.

But, despite on paper being a candidate for Sydney's worst cabbie, Harbi Inaizi still thinks he should be able to keep his taxi licence.

The 48-year-old yesterday made a last-ditch plea in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal to overturn a decision to strip him of his cab licence.

Roads and Maritime Services took Mr Inaizi's licence away after a woman, referred to only as Tracey, came forward about his "inappropriate comments of a sexual nature" during a taxi trip last year.

She claimed when she got in his Silver Service cab the driver kept veering across the road while trying to look at her in the back seat.

She said he started asking, "do you have a man at home waiting for you?" before telling her he "had sex with a girl from New Zealand four months ago ... it was good".

"I f ... better at 47 than at 20," he allegedly said before his passenger asked him to stop and she jumped out of the taxi.

Mr Inaizi earlier appealed the ban, saying he needed to keep his licence because he had a family of five to support.

He claimed there was no proof he was the driver in the Tracey incident, despite GPS records showing his cab made the trip, and said he would never speak to a woman that way.

But, in a decision earlier this year, the tribunal believed the woman's version of events and declared the cabbie unfit to keep his licence.

Mr Inaizi had previously been given a warning after a series of complaints dotted throughout his decade-long taxi history.

In 2011 a woman complained the driver told her "no, don't do that - I like it" after she pulled down her skirt while getting into his cab.

He was accused of running into a cyclist then backing his cab over the man's bike and destroying it when the rider caught up to him.

He also failed to reveal a string of traffic offences, including three in one four-month period, on his licence renewal forms and kept driving his taxi after failing to return his suspended permit.

In a letter to the RMS, Mr Inaizi said he remembered the complaints and none of them were true, noting most of them came from ethnic minorities, not "Aussie people".

He said he told the other woman who complained that he liked "short fares" not "short skirts" and she had probably made up the comments.

Yesterday his lawyer David Wetmore said Mr Inaizi had never actually touched Tracey or "directly" suggested any sexual conduct.

The tribunal will give its final decision at a later date.


An inquiry will hear young African men are assaulted and taunted by police

Given the high rate of violent crime among Africans, the police SHOULD be paying close attention to them

VICTORIA Police officers stop young African males for no reason and subject them to assaults and racial taunts such as "rat", "terrorist" and "monkey", lawyers claim.

Racial profiling by members of the police force is endemic, staff from community legal centres around Melbourne will advise a Victoria Police inquiry.

Evidence to be submitted to the inquiry suggests young men of African descent are told by police "f--- you", "I will kill you" and "your Koran is 's---'."

One African man told staff at the young people's legal right's centre, Youthlaw, "they see that you're black, and they come straight for you".

Racist taunts shame our police force

The inquiry into police practices and cultural attitudes is part of the settlement of a race discrimination case in the Federal Court.

The action was initiated by six African men who claimed they were subject to racial profiling by police.

Evidence provided to the inquiry by Youthlaw suggests young men are picked up by police for no reason and then dumped some distance away.

Many are physically assaulted, the African Communities Foundation Australia will tell the inquiry.

One man reported he was stopped by police officers five times in 20 minutes for no reason, and another that he had been questioned 200 times in recent years.

The Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre will provide evidence going back to 2005 of innocent young people being punched and kneed by officers, beaten with torches or batons, grabbed around the neck, pushed and having their teeth knocked out.

The centre has received 65 complaints of alleged police misconduct since 2005.

Three-quarters of these complaints were from people of African descent. This group comprises only 4 per cent of the local population.

Anthony Kelly, executive officer of the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre, said racial profiling by Victoria Police was "endemic" because of a perceived "black crime stereotype".

Hugh de Kretser, executive director of the Human Rights Legal Centre, said police leaders were "trying to effect change but there is a lack of awareness about these racist subconscious attitudes".

Victoria Police communications officer Lisa Beechey said a response would be made by the end of the year.


Brain-dead politicians want new laws to cut the power of scalpers

People who buy from scalpers complain about high prices.  But without scalpers they would have to do without tickets altogether

NEW laws cracking down on ticket scalpers will be introduced to protect sports and music fans from dramatically inflated prices to events like the NRL Grand Final and Pink's rock concerts.

The O'Farrell government is close to finalising an aggressive new approach as the world's biggest online ticket exchange, the Swiss-based viagogo, ramps up operations in Australia to sell scalpers' tickets.

Viagogo began selling NRL grand final tickets this week at double the official price - even before tickets were released to the general public.

Tickets to rock star Pink's shows in Sydney are "sold out" through the official agent Ticketek, but dozens of different ticket options are available online, as long as you don't mind paying hundreds of dollars extra.

Cricket chiefs also face a fan backlash, with Ashes tickets to the first three days of the Sydney Test, which sold out in two hours last week, now selling on viagogo for twice the price.

An angry Sports Minister Graham Annesley has launched a stinging attack, telling The Daily Telegraph scalpers were "unscrupulous profiteers motivated only by greed".

Frustrated NRL bosses yesterday cancelled 100 grand final tickets that sprung up on eBay, where a scalper was trying to reap a quick $9500 profit by selling $165 tickets for $260 each.

But scalping is notoriously hard to police - one scalper claimed yesterday he purchased 20 State of Origin tickets from a team official before one of the matches in Brisbane last year. The scalper, who declined to be named, said he gained preferred access to grand final tickets this week by buying dozens of different NRL season ticket programs from different clubs throughout the year.

Under the proposed new laws, sports organisations and event promoters would be given the power to set and enforce their own terms and conditions on ticket sales to different events.

NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said the promoters would be given the legal power to refuse entry to fans who purchased tickets in breach of the terms. Promoters would have the flexibility to allow fans to onsell tickets at a capped mark-up price or ban the practice all together.

Ticket sellers using websites such as eBay and viagogo would have to post a photograph of the ticket, clearly showing the seat number, enabling promoters to trace the source of scalped tickets.

"We're looking for a light approach from government by passing responsibility over to the sports codes and promoters," Mr Stowe said.

Sports organisations including the NRL, the Australian Rugby Union, Cricket Australia and the Football Federation of Australia are hailing the proposed laws as "best in class".

Ticket scalpers also targeted the recent Lions rugby tour and last week's Manchester United match in Sydney, which sold out in seven minutes late last year. FFA officials told the state government between 200 and 300 ManU match tickets were regularly on sale on eBay at inflated prices at any one time.

Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts and Mr Annesley, who pushed for anti-scalping laws as a former NRL employee, are planning to announce the crackdown during September's football finals series, although it is unlikely legislation would be passed in time for the grand final.

"We want to give fans a fair go at buying tickets, while also protecting fans from rip-offs and fraud," Mr Roberts said.

Mr Annesley said the government did not want to attack the secondary market providers, such as eBay, which helped genuine fans offload tickets if they were unable to attend the event.

Several official ticket agents, including Moshtix, Ticketmaster and Showbiz, believe the industry should be self-regulated, but required to provide important customer protections, such as tools to enable fans to transfer tickets to friends and sell-back tickets.

"I haven't seen the proposals but I don't believe governments should be involved in a free market," Showbiz chief executive Craig McMaster said.

eBay is also opposed, pointing to the 2010 Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council study into scalping which found additional consumer protection laws were not merited because reselling tickets in Australia "does not cause significant consumer detriment".

eBay argues that sometimes promoters limited tickets to the public due to commitments to sponsors and corporate partners, pointing to a Justin Bieber concert in the US in February in which only 7 per cent of tickets went on public sale.

Tanya Ilkiw, 22, a Sydney advertising executive, said she purchased tickets to electronic performer Flume on eBay in April because it was convenient and she paid no more than the official price.

"I trust sites like eBay or gumtree as opposed to purchasing on the street because you can track it," she said.

Some ticket operators say cracking down will drive "scalpers back to the pubs", wiping away protections that exist online. Anti-scalping laws in Queensland have proven to be ineffective - dozens of different ticket options are available for Pink's shows in Brisbane on, while Ticketek is only offering a limited number of $400 VIP packages.

Viagogo has eluded government control in other countries. When the British government banned the resale of Olympic tickets last year, it simply packed up its UK operation and moved to Zurich where it was exempt from the law.


South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi spells out his six F-word solutions to save Western civilisation

THE pillars of Western society are under threat, and Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has a plan to prop them up.

Mr Bernardi has written a Bible for conservatives based on the ‘f words’: Faith, Family, Flag, Free enterprise, Federation and Freedom.

“I believe we need to re-establish the primacy of the family, the social and economic virtues that seem to have been neglected for at least two generations, yet are as innate within the human spirit today as they have ever been,” he told The Advertiser.

TELL US: What do you think of Senator Bernardi’s solutions?

“Only by returning to conservative principles can our nation confidently confront the significant challenges that face us, endure times of hardship and prosperity with equanimity, and work towards an Australia which is dynamic, confident and growing in international stature.

“This will require a radical departure from the growing and all-pervasive acceptance that critical and discerning moral judgement is somehow unfair.”

Senator Bernardi is number one on the Liberal’s Senate ticket, but moved to the backbench after a furore over his views on same-sex marriage.

He is a prolific blogger and has written the book under the working title of The Conservative Revolution.

He said it details why the pillars are important and need to be restored and the “possible consequences if they are not”.

“I hope it will spark debate about our nation’s future and encourage people to become more active in contributing to public policy,” he said.

In today’s Advertiser Senator Bernardi also discusses some of the more controversial topics that have propelled him into the headlines.

While he has been accused of being anti-Islam - particular after he called for a ban on burqas - Senator Bernardi said his criticism of the religion is based around its fundamentalist principles, and that if he was born into a Muslim country he would be Muslim himself.

He said he was first confronted by women being “hidden away” when he was working in Northern Africa, which helped shape his views.

“(The burqa) is a flag of fundamentalism, a symbol of oppression. We had men in Afghanistan fighting to liberate women from this oppression yet we’re allowing it to flourish here,” he said.

During the lunchtime conversation he also spoke about his comments on polyamory and bestiality, saying his points - which seemed to link them to same-sex marriage - may have been “clumsily made” but were also “wilfully misinterpreted”.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Model of a clunky subsidy system

CLIMATE change might not be absolute crap, as Tony Abbott once suggested, but the modelling used to justify "climate action" typically is.

As pundits ponder what Australia's carbon price will be if a local emissions trading scheme gets under way next July, it is worth remembering we have no idea how curbing carbon emissions will affect the climate, let alone the economy.

Renowned economics professor Robert Pindyck of Massachusetts Institute of Technology has recently canvassed the value of so-called "integrated assessment models", which attempt to calculate the optimal social price for emitting a tonne of carbon given its ultimate impact on the climate and the economy.

"They are of little or no value for evaluating alternative climate-change policies" he concludes, "completely ad-hoc with no theoretical or empirical foundation."

The economic justification for Australia's carbon price -- be it a fixed or floating -- stems from one of various IAMs conducted here and abroad. Introducing Australia's response to climate change, the Gillard government warned that unless Australia and the world acted, average temperatures would increase across Australia by 2.2C-5C by 2070. The 2008 Garnaut review said Australia's gross national product would be about 2 per cent lower in 2050 and about 7 per cent down by 2100 from the economic damage of unmitigated climate change.

Statements such as these, Pindyck implies, create a "perception of knowledge and precision, but that perception is illusory and misleading". The problem is that "climate sensitivity" -- the speed and size of the response of temperatures to a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere -- and the "damage function", how the subsequent temperature changes affect the economy, are completely unknown.

Take the first. Since 1850 the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by about 40 per cent and will likely have doubled by 2050 unless countries change their energy habits. Science can say temperatures will increase, not when or by how much. As Pindyck observes, the "feedback loops" between CO2 and the climate are largely unknown, perhaps even unknowable. Drawing implications for economic growth -- assuming we know the sensitivity -- is even more heroic. The professor says "damage functions" are "completely made up".

"There is no economic theory that can tell us how temperature changes affect economic growth," he argues. A little amusingly, the official 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates arose from a survey of contemporary IAMs, which now tend to cite the IPCC's parameters as gospel. Given these difficulties, the G20's promise at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2C is an extraordinary example of vain statist ignorance.

On top of this, how do we value the welfare of future generations? Discounting their utility in the same way most economic models do -- reflecting how individuals tend to treat their own futures -- suggests inaction on climate change is the best policy. Of course, the fetish for phony precision is not unique to climate-change models but rife in economic analysis, from interest rate settings to social costs of smoking.

Simply because modellers cannot ascertain with any accuracy how carbon should be priced doesn't mean it should not be priced at all. Even conservative climate boffins reckon the science is well developed enough to detect a very small probability of a catastrophic rise in temperatures -- about 7C-8C on average -- by 2100. Pindyck, a professor famous among economics students for fleshing out the economic value of delay, argues that is enough to warrant action.

As individuals and businesses insure their premises against the small probability they will burn down, countries should pay a premium against a disastrous rise in global temperatures.

In Australia's case, it is too bad we are spending the proceeds of our carbon tax on prosperity-sapping handouts and corporate subsidies rather than using all the money to cut less efficient taxes.

That way, even if climate science turned out to be junk we would still be better off. Alternatively, we could have ploughed the permit revenues into developing an Australian nuclear industry. Is it not odd that a country with one-third of the world's accessible uranium reserves has only one paltry nuclear reactor?

To be sure, Canberra's carbon tax and proposed ETS is seriously flawed, given their limited scope and the raft of accompanying anti-market subsidies, restrictions and targets.

The sad part is that rather than axing the latter and using permit revenue wisely, Australia's free-market party proposes to replace an ETS with a clunky system of feckless subsidies.


Fine dodgers can lose house or car

Unpaid fines could cost fine dodgers their house or car under a law just passed by S.A. parliament

THE homes and vehicles of serial fine dodgers can be sold by the government to recoup money in extreme cases, even if they are not owned by the offender, now that new laws have been approved by Parliament in South Australia.

The laws allow officers of a new government fines recovery unit to sell a debtor's home or place of residence if they owe more than $10,000.  This includes properties that may be jointly owned by another person.

They can also clamp, impound or sell vehicles used to commit crimes that attract a fine, regardless of the owner.

This could mean employers, parents, children or partners of offenders could lose their car if someone they know or employ breaks the law and is caught while driving their vehicle.

The new laws, which passed Parliament's Upper House this afternoon, are expected to receive final approval from Lower House MPs before becoming law soon.

They create the Fines Enforcement and Recovery Office, which will employ about 85 full-time staff to recover unpaid fines, many of whom will be transferred from the Courts Administration Authority.

They will have the power to withdraw money from the bank accounts of serial fine dodgers or dock their weekly wages.

The total money owed to government has reached about $287 million.

The Law Society of SA has raised concerns that the laws will "unjustly impose a burden on someone who was not responsible for the debt".

In a letter to Attorney-General John Rau Society, president John White called on the government to retain its original policy that a debtor's house cannot be sold no matter how much was owed.

Greens MLC Tammy Franks tried to move an amendment to protect a person's primary place of residence from the measures, but it was voted down.

In relation to cars, the Law Society says the measures apply to any vehicle the offender "owns or is accustomed to drive or that was used in the commission of an offence".

"Plainly this allows the clamping, impounding and ultimate sale of vehicles that belong to someone other than the debtor," Mr White said.

Government Minister Gail Gago said "any vehicle involved in an offence that led to the debt (fine)" could be subject to the law "irrespective" of who owned the vehicle.

This could potentially apply to stolen cars, but that was "unlikely" in practice, she said.

Independent MLC John Darley said he did not support the legislation because the penalties it proposed were too harsh. However, it received the support of Liberal MPs.

During debate on the laws, it was revealed the value of unpaid fines owed to the State Government by South Australian debtors has risen to $287 million.

This includes court fees, victims of crime levies, police expiation notices, overdue council rates and parking fines.

About half the money owed is overdue. The remainder is being paid off under time-payment arrangements or must be paid soon but not yet overdue.

When Mr Rau announced he would introduce the laws in March, $267 million in unpaid fines was owed.

Opposition justice spokesman Stephen Wade said the current figure was more than double the $142 million owed six years ago, despite $171 million in debts being written off between 2010 and last year.

Mr Wade said Opposition calculations predicted that on current trends unpaid fines would top $416 million in four years.

The amount written off between 2008 and 2017 was predicted to be almost $510 million, he said.

"When the average increase in unpaid fines in recent years is more than $32 million per year, Labor has clearly sent up the white flag on fines," Mr Wade said.

"The rate at which the debt has been growing since this Bill was introduced is $6 million a month or $203,000 a day.

"It is distressing because the money that could have been collected could  have gone a long way to deliver much-needed services that South Australians have gone without."

In January last year the Government called in private debt collectors Dun &Bradstreet to recover more than $40 million in unpaid fines.

This morning Ms Gago confirmed only $2.1 million had been recovered over 12 months.

This was because many of the debts were now more than 10 years old and many debtors had changed address and could not be contacted.

Ms Gago said the more than $40 million was owed by about 50,000 people.

She said the Government would not be continuing the arrangement with Dun &Bradstreet.

The company was paid a commission of less than 50 per cent for its work.

Mr Rau has said the new fines enforcement taskforce is expected to recoup about $2.8 million in unpaid fines each year.

However, it is expected to spend $10.4 million each year from 2015-16.

This includes $1.4 million in new funding and $8.6 million in funding already going to the Courts Administration Authority.

The state's largest debtor owes $171,000.


Brisbane business wins Supreme Court case against Allianz over stormwater insurance rejection

FLOOD victims have been urged to check their insurance policies in the wake of a Supreme Court decision overturning an insurance company decision not to pay out.

In a ruling last week, a judge found that damage from water that backed up from swamped stormwater drains was covered by a Milton business's insurance policy, rejecting its insurer's bid not to pay out.

LMT Surgical, at the corner of Castlemaine and Black streets, near Suncorp Stadium, sued Allianz Australia, the country's fourth-largest insurer, for rejecting a payout on its industrial special risk policy, which covered water inundation but not flood.

The policy defined flood as the inundation of normally dry land by water "overflowing from the natural confines of any natural watercourse or lake, reservoir, canal or dam".
insurance court case

Allianz argued the water that did the damage was river flooding that came up stormwater pipes, which it said met the definition of a "canal" and so meant it did not have to pay out.

But Judge David J. Jackson said the flooding of the business was not from a canal.

"In my view the context of the flood exclusion `canal' does not include the pipes," he said.

Maurice Blackburn insurance lawyer Paul Watson said the flood exclusion wording in the Allianz policy was fairly standard even in homeowner policies, meaning homeowners could have a shot at challenging any insurance knock-backs.

Allianz controls 10 per cent of Queensland's general insurance market.

Flood victims have six years from the inundation date to take legal action.

"What this shows is insurers get it wrong and it's not hopeless for those who had their claims declined," Mr Watson said.

Insurance law expert Peter Mann, a partner in Clayton Utz, said the decision had "some precedent value" especially for nearby victims who had similarly worded policies.

Campbell Fuller, spokesman for the Insurance Council of Australia, said only that it was a "matter for the insurer involved".

Allianz Australia spokesman Nicholas Scofield said the company was reviewing the case and whether to appeal.  "We're considering the judgment and taking advice," Mr Scofield said.

LMT Surgical's director and legal representatives declined comment.

More than 20,000 homes and businesses in the Brisbane area were flooded in January 2011. Some were damaged by drain backflows rather than directly from overflows of rivers and creeks.

Maurice Blackburn is still pursuing a class action, "no-win, no fee" lawsuit against the state's dam operators for alleged negligence.

More than 4000 people have registered an interest in joining that suit, expected to be filed by year's end.


Weird flight attendant forced on Virgin airline by regulator

Australia's male flight attendants: let your hair grow long. But only if you've got a mental illness, and the medical evidence to prove it.

Virgin Australia has lost an appeal to stop a flight attendant, sacked for not conforming to the carrier's hairstyle bible, from getting his job back.

Flight attendant David Taleski now hopes to be back in the air by next week, his lawyer says.

Early this year, Mr Taleski won an unfair dismissal battle against Virgin, which the airline appealed.

The airline had struggled for 15 months to get Mr Taleski to comply with the company's personal grooming manual, The Look Book, before sacking him in October 2011.

But Mr Taleski provided medical evidence to the Fair Work Commission to show that he felt compelled to wear his hair long because he was suffering from a body-image disorder.

He had even taken to the skies in a wig to try to solve the impasse.

The struggle over Mr Taleski's hairstyle involved many meetings with senior airline management and at one point Virgin chief executive John Borghetti was asked to intervene.

The unfair dismissal case before the Fair Work Commission took a year, two failed marathon conciliations and reams of evidence, much of it relating to haircuts, The Look Book and wigs.

After Mr Taleski emerged victorious in January, the airline took the case back to the commission to appeal.

This morning, the commission's senior deputy president, Jennifer Acton, refused Virgin's appeal, writing in her judgment that she was not convinced there were any errors in January's decision to reinstate Mr Taleski.

"No significant errors of fact have been established and we do not consider it is in the public interest or otherwise to grant permission to appeal. We decline to grant Virgin permission to appeal in this matter," she wrote in her judgment.

The commission had heard evidence in the original hearing from a Virgin manager denying the haircuts authorised by The Look Book were too conservative and that it simply "reflected how a typical guest expects a male employee to look".

The manager conceded, though, that the manual "reflected the most conservative interpretation of what the typical guest would expect".

The trouble started in July 2010 when the attendant told his bosses he would be growing his hair longer than the stipulated collar-length for religious reasons, but soon afterwards said the new hairstyle was due to a medical condition that he was uncomfortable discussing.

During the next 13 months, Mr Taleski provided Virgin with five medical certificates which, he argued, proved he was suffering from body dysmorphia disorder, relating to the length of his hair.

But Virgin never accepted that the certificates provided a diagnosis that explained the attendant's persistent refusal to cut his hair.

After he was grounded because of his hair in April 2011, Mr Taleski suggested a slicked-back ponytail look as a compromise, only to be rebuffed by airline managers because The Look Book has no male ponytails.

The section in The Look Book for females, however, describes a ponytail as "sleek, practical and shows off healthy hair to its full advantage".

At haircut talks held with his bosses the following month, a new alternative style was also scotched after one manager formed a belief that Mr Taleski had used bobby pins to achieve his latest look.

The cabin crew member was allowed to return to the skies wearing a wig between July and October 2011, despite his worries the hairpiece would expose him to ridicule and interfere with his hair transplant.

But Virgin sacked Mr Taleski in October 2011 claiming that he had failed to provide medical evidence when asked for, that he persistently refused to conform to The Look Book, and had behaved improperly by trying to involve the airline's chief executive.

Fair Work commissioner Anna Lee Cribb in January found Mr Taleski's hairpiece could confirm with The Look Book because the manual was effectively silent on the matter of a wig.

She also found that the attendant had provided medical evidence to back his claims of body dysmorphia disorder and although Mr Taleski was not entitled to go over his managers' heads in the dispute, his conduct did not warrant dismissal.

She ordered Virgin to give Mr Taleski his job back.