Sunday, August 04, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is getting a bit rude about the huge deficit just revealed in Australia's finances

A Queensland university accused of spying on student whistleblower who made claims of research misconduct

A nasty little tale of crookedness and attempted coverup.  The VC of QUT is Peter Coaldrake, a Leftist bureaucrat rather than an academic, so putting the organization first is to be expected of him.  He has a track record of suppressing dissent to protect his organization

QUT has been accused of "spying" on a student whistleblower whose allegations of research misconduct have caused a scandal involving the university's vice-chancellor, the Federal Government and the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

Life sciences postgraduate student Luke Cormack, 30, attended counselling sessions organised by QUT after last year presenting allegations of apparent falsification of research in a scientific paper by some lab colleagues.

Mr Cormack claims that at the second one-on-one session in April 2012, the counsellor admitted he had been briefing QUT's Registrar's office on their meetings.

"I went in there with the impression that my meeting with him was confidential," Mr Cormack told The Courier-Mail.

He said that at the second session, he had told the counsellor he was writing to the editor of the journal that had published the paper to alert him to the alleged problems.

"It was then that I asked him if our meeting was confidential," Mr Cormack said.

"He said 'no'.  "He told me, 'Based on the nature of your concerns I've had to report this to the Registrar's office. However, if there's something that you don't want me to say, then you can tell me'.  "I was just shocked. I had told him everything about my situation."

Mr Cormack's complaint prompted an internal inquiry, which found "inadvertent" errors acknowledged by the researchers but cleared them of misconduct. The CMC accepted that finding.

But the US journal that published the paper in 2010 retracted it this year.

The National Health and Medical Research Council, the federal agency that provided a $275,000 grant to the research team, this week declared it was not satisfied with QUT's handling of an investigation into how the grant was obtained.

The agency said it wanted to bring in the Australian Research Integrity Committee, a body set up in 2011 to ensure research misconduct is investigated properly, to review the procedures used by QUT.

The NHMRC is also investigating a separate allegation of "one purposeful exaggeration" of data that is not part of the QUT inquiry.

The Courier-Mail has put Mr Cormack's allegations to QUT.

University Registrar Shard Lorenzo said: "The University does not provide information on matters relating to individual students."


Another huge budget shambles - now we're $30 billion in the red

UNEMPLOYMENT will return to its highest levels in more than a decade, with the government warning of a slowing economy and an unprecedented $100 billion collapse in revenue.

As Labor officials prepare for the Prime Minister to call a September 7 election this weekend, the nation was warned we are headed for a crisis.

More than 800,000 Australians will be out of a job by the middle of next year, the highest level since 2002. The budget will fall further into the red, with the revelation it had already blown out by $12 billion in just 80 days.

Invoking desperate measures to cushion the economic shock, Treasurer Chris Bowen announced a further round of tax hikes and budget cuts worth $17 billion to limit the damage.

He blamed the economic slowdown on China for a further $33 billion in revenue losses, bringing writedowns to almost $100 billion over the next four years. Almost $18 billion of that, however, was caused by lower income tax receipts as workers' wages continue to stagnate.

The May budget forecast a $18 billion deficit for this year will now reach $30.1 billion, Mr Bowen revealed. And the national debt will soon surpass $300 billion. But he suggested any attempts to stem the revenue losses in the face of slower economic growth with more savage spending cuts risked killing the economy and adding to further job losses.

Unemployment is set to rise from 5.45 per cent to 6.25 per cent this year, with economic growth also expected to contract from 2.75 per cent this year to 2.25 per cent.

Citing optimistic Treasury forecasts, Mr Bowen claimed things would improve by 2015-16, with a return to surplus of $4 billion for 2016-17 and a miraculous drop in unemployment to 5 per cent.

Claiming the economy was not in crisis but in "transition", Mr Bowen released the government's economic election plan yesterday by allowing the budget to book $54 billion in deficits over the next two years.

Mr Bowen admitted his statement was the economic plan Labor would take to the election. He challenged the Coalition to adopt the measures.

"This is our economic plan. It has our bottom line in it, it has our costing and our funding proposals," he said.

"The government is doing this in a transparent way. The alternative government should be doing the same. Australia is undergoing an economic transition, not a crisis, a transition which needs careful economic management. The world is growing more slowly and is having an impact on Australia."

Coalition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey accused the government of losing control: "The budget is in freefall. The budget has fallen $3 billion a week over the last 10 weeks.

"It's blatantly obvious - Labor has lost control of the budget and is losing control of the economy."

New taxes and spending cuts worth $17 billion were also announced, including the 0.5 per cent bank levy, an FBT tax crackdown, 60 per cent rises in tobacco excise and a raid on un-used superannuation accounts.

Families were spared any cuts to welfare payments or family benefits. Instead foreign aid and defence spending was targeted.

The public service will also be targeted for a further $2 billion in savings through an increase in the efficiency dividend from 2 per cent to 2.25 per cent.

Treasury will also pocket $582 million from idle superannuation accounts after raising the minimum inactive claim threshold for the third time in a year.

ATO figures suggest 120,000 accounts will be hit by the decision to raise the threshold from $2000 to $6000.

Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia CEO, Pauline Vamos last night accused the Rudd government of "desperately grabbing for any cash they can".

"It's bizarrely opportunistic. They're now looking for any revenue they can," she said.

Financial Services Council CEO John Brogden said: "Labor should be consolidating peoples' superannuation, not putting it into consolidated revenue."


Stamp duty hobbling housing mobility, economists say

THE huge cost of stamp duty is stopping nearly 40,000 Australian home moves each year.

Research has found abolishing the tax could help ease the housing squeeze, allowing younger families and older retirees to more easily find more suitable housing.

The total loss to the economy from reduced sales is worth around half a billion a year, according to the study by two prominent Australian economists based on millions of property transactions.

State governments receive around $12 billion a year in stamp duty revenue, but this has fallen in recent years because stagnant house prices have led to fewer transactions.

People who do move are now paying more, on average, because higher house prices push them up into higher stamp duty tax levels.

"The average stamp duty rate on house sales rose from 2.4 per cent in 1993 to 3.3 per cent in 2005 largely due to 'bracket creep' during a period of rapid house price growth rather than legislated increases in rates," the study by economist and Labor MP Andrew Leigh and Ian Davidoff, a former adviser to Julia Gillard and now an economist at the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, found.

Every 10 per cent increase in stamp duty was found to lower property turnover by 3 per cent in the first year and 6 per cent over three years.

"Impeding housing mobility may cause individuals to forego better job offers in other regions (thereby reducing productivity of co-workers), or to commute overly long distances to a new job (thereby increasing road congestion)," the study finds.

"Housing transaction taxes may lead to misallocation of the housing stock, by effectively discouraging young families to upsize their housing and by discouraging retiree households from downsizing."

The study found that while property purchasers technically paid stamp duty, really the effect was to reduce house prices by the same amount, meaning property sellers really bore the cost of the tax.

Abolishing stamp duty would lead to property prices rising by the same amount. But increasing property turnover would be of benefit to both buyers and sellers, Dr Leigh said.

"The most important thing is that some trades that were killed by stamp duty now take place. They benefit both buyer and seller, and the value of that happiness we estimate at around $500m per year."

State treasurers took a proposal to the federal government in late 2011 to abolish their stamp duties in return for a bigger share of federal government revenue. They were dismissed by the then federal assistant treasurer David Bradbury as "ridiculous".

Stamp duties on other transactions were abolished as part of the introduction of the GST in 2000.


Understanding the Left

From an Australian Jewish viewpoint

I might have finally understood the Left. The stance of the Left is best explained by one of my favourite jokes – the social worker joke:

"Two social workers are walking down the street late at night. As they turn a corner, they see a man lying in the gutter. He is bruised and bleeding, his clothes torn, and he is moaning with pain; clearly he has been attacked. He sees the two people and calls to them “Please, someone help me!”

And one of the social workers turns to the other and says: “Whoever did this to him needs help!”"

This joke epitomizes the seemingly inverted attitude of the Left towards so many things today.

The Left love the victim or underdog in any conflict. In particular, they love someone they think they can help (whether they can is another question). In the joke, the man lying in the gutter is clearly a victim but can he be helped by a social worker? What he needs is urgent medical assistance. Instead the social worker wants to seek out the ‘root cause of the conflict’ and fix that. Why did the perpetrator of the attack do such a thing?

In the world of the Left there is no absolute good or bad. There’s actually not much free choice either. People are a product of their upbringing and the circumstances they find themselves in. These circumstances are what forces people to do what they do. So the perpetrator is the one truly deserving of help – that person is the true victim of their circumstance who was forced into crime. If only we can fix that person and people like them, crime would disappear!

For the Left, there is no such thing as a terrorist. They are ‘militants’ or ‘freedom fighters’ – heroes fighting for the most noble cause of freedom. Can there be a greater calling? Being ‘freedom fighters’ means their enemy are those who are depriving them of freedom, which in turn causes their ‘despair’, which forces them to do terrible things, like murder innocent civilians by blowing themselves up.

If Islamist leaders hate Jews and Israel and openly declare their intent to destroy them, the view of the Left is that it could not be because they have some twisted ideology, or are just plain bad folks. Rather, it must be because of something Israel did which causes them to be radicalized. Therefore, the onus is entirely on Israel to change, and/or to appease them. Whether it’s truly in Israel’s power to do anything about this is irrelevant. Nothing is ever asked of a victim. Israel is expected to free convicted murderers in order for the Palestinians will agree to come to the negotiating table!

In 1948 and 1967, Israel was the victim. That ‘plucky little country’ was surrounded by enemies seeking her destruction. The Left rallied behind Israel back then, but not any more. Why? Israel made the terrible mistake of defeating her enemies at war, then building a successful country instead of wallowing in self-pity and victim-hood. Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries made new lives for themselves. They can no longer be helped – they fixed themselves! What’s the Left to do except turn the tables and turn David into the new Goliath?

Asylum seekers try to reach Australia by the boat-load. They take huge risks to escape their home countries and seek out a safer, better life in a first world country like Australia, which is signatory to conventions governing the way we must deal with refugees. So if only they can get here, all will be well. We have a view of the tail end of their journey – the final boat leg across treacherous waters from Indonesia and thereabouts. But in fact, their journey starts well before that. We have no idea how much they have paid, how many have died along the way and what they have been told by people smugglers. Yet the view of the Left is that we are entirely responsible for providing first world refugee settlement services wherever they need them. Their view is that they are forced by their circumstance to take a dangerous boat ride and we must do whatever we can to help them.

Is taking out full page ads in newspapers declaring that they will not be settled in Australia the answer? I doubt it. For all we know, they may choose to believe the people smugglers instead. Will establishing refugee assessment centres in Asia fix the problem? It will fix it for some, but is unlikely to make a serious dent nor to stop the people who don’t want to be processed in Indonesia from taking a boat. Because as many refugees as we help, there will always be many more we cannot. But the Left will not stop campaigning until they help everyone in the world.

This bizarre inversion comes from from a fundamental view on the nature of people. If you believe that all people are essentially good, then you are stuck with a question: why do good people do really bad/dangerous/risky things? The only possible answer is that it’s because they have been provoked; because some ‘root cause’ has led them down this path.

By maintaining this view of people the Left believe they can fix the whole world. But in a world where there is no shortage of bad, what if the Left’s view of the world is flawed? What if there are people who are genuinely evil? People who view appeasement as weakness and either pounce on it, or shift the goalposts so that consensus is never reached, or until their true motives are revealed? What if wars must be fought and won to defeat those who wish our destruction? Unfortunately, we cannot count on the Left to fight these wars.


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